Opinions vary widely on how often we should be washing our hair—do a quick Internet search and you’ll find every answer from “once a day” to “never.” (Yes, never. There’s a blog post by a woman named Jacquelyn who has decided to never wash her hair again—just a water rinse a few times a week—and she couldn’t be happier.)
Most dermatologists and hair stylists we talked to, however, seem to agree that once per day is usually not necessary and can actually damage hair. The scalp produces an oily substance, called sebum, that is actually essential for healthy, shiny hair. If that oil is completely stripped away, hair becomes dry, lifeless, and breakable. When most of us see any oil at all glistening in our locks, we head straight for the shower so we can wash it away, yet overwashing the hair—especially if you’re using a harsh shampoo—can actually damage hair and cause hair loss.
How often you should wash your hair actually depends on several crucial factors:
The type of hair you have. Those with thick, curly or wavy hair have a slight advantage here—they normally need to wash less frequently than those with straight, thin hair. With straight hair, the oil is much more noticeable, while thick, curly or wavy hair is normally drier since the oil has a hard time getting to the ends. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people with very tight curls should wash their hair no more than once a week, or even ever other week.
The chemical treatments you use. Those who have their hair chemically colored, straightened, or curled, or those who frequently favor hairstyles (like tight braids) that pull unnaturally at the roots, should not wash their hair every day or even every other day.
The amount of oil your scalp produces. Here’s the oil issue again. The fact is, the amount of sebum on the scalp varies greatly from person to person and also varies based on age. Teenagers and young adults (in their 20s and 30s)normally produce more sebum than children or older adults, so even if your hair was excessively oily when you were going through puberty, it doesn’t mean it will be as oily when you get older. If your hair is excessively oily, you may be someone who needs to wash your hair every day. But for most people, their oil production means they can probably wash every few days or so.
The amount of sweat you generate. Some of us are super sweaty, and some aren’t. Some of us live in humid climates, and some don’t. Sweat can spread the oils and cause hair to look dirty or smell stinky. Hats and helmets, especially when worn during sweaty workouts and bike rides, can also produce more sweat and oil. Always shampoo after a super-sweaty workout or after a long bike ride.
The use of styling products. If you use chemical-based products in your hair like mousse, gel, and hairspray, you might need to shampoo more frequently. These products cause harmful buildup over time and can irritate the scalp.
The type of shampoo you use. If your go-to shampoo is full of harsh chemicals and other unnatural ingredients like parabens and sulfates, then it’s probably doing your hair more harm than good; you’ll likely end up washing your hair more than you need to, perpetuating a cycle of dryness and damage. Switch to a shampoo formula that’s better for you and for the planet, like the Red Flower Ocean Cleansing Shampoo in the fall Yuzen box. Red Flower infuses their shampoos with essential oils that cleanse and nourish hair without drying it out. Check out www.redflower.com for other uplifting hair-wash scents, like Spanish gardenia and French lavender. Red Flower also offers lotions, serums, organic perfumes, and just about everything else you need for healthy skin and hair.