Rinse and Repeat: How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?

How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?
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Featured image from: mnn.com

You might think it serves very little purpose other than aesthetic, but hair has a bigger importance in your life than you might imagine. A bad hair day can ruin your mood for hours and affect your confidence and performance throughout the day. Scholars have researched the cultural and sacred religious meanings of hair dating back to the early ages. It’s also a way of expressing ourselves, and every color or trim serves a purpose to define who we are.

This is why it’s only natural that we try to take care of our hair on a daily basis. But what we do to protect our hair and keep it clean and healthy could be damaging it in the long run. Back in the early ’20s, it was natural for women to wash their hair once a month. It seems like an unhygienic practice today for some people, but back then, it was a normal practice. But today, women wash their hair more often, with some cultures washing their hair once or twice a day. So, what changed?

Some would say that it’s no one’s business how often a person chooses to shampoo their hair, but excessive washing comes with negative side effects. This is why many hairstylists and hair experts have often debated about the right frequency. However, only a few pieces I’ve read online are ever willing to admit this: no one can say for sure how often you have to wash your hair, but the factors you expose your hair to can help you determine how often you should.


Hair Washing: What Happens When You Apply Shampoo

To understand how much you should be washing your hair, you need to understand first what happens when you wash your hair with shampoo. All your body hair contains sebum, which is an oil secreted from your skin or scalp to lubricate your skin and hair. In normal amounts, sebum can give your hair a natural shine. When you don’t wash your hair for a certain amount of time, that sebum builds up and it starts to give your hair a greasy appearance. Sebum also attracts pollutants such as dirt, dust, and pollen, and the build-up also makes your hair look and feel dirty after a while.

applying shampoo
Source: Shape

Sebum, unfortunately, is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. You can’t wash off sebum and the dirt it traps just by standing under the shower and letting the water run, which is why you might feel the oil and dirt still trapped in your hair after rinsing. This is where shampoos and its ingredients come in.

Shampoos are similar to soaps and detergents by the way they trap dirt. Shampoos lower the surface tension of water through its hydrophobic and hydrophilic molecules. One part of the molecule absorbs the hydrophobic molecules of sebum, taking the oil and dirt with it, while its hydrophilic molecules allow shampoo to be rinsed off by water, dissolving the dirt and oil from your hair.

That’s how shampoos work, basically, but there are products on the market offering various features such as heat control, conditioners. These may be necessary, especially given that the way shampoos work removes everything — including the oil needed to keep your hair healthy — so it could use the added features that some products promise. This is also why some hair experts argue that if you’re washing your hair every day you risk drying out your hair or producing too much sebum to compensate for the frequent oil loss.


How Often Should You Be Washing Your Hair?

On one hand, some hairstylists would recommend washing your hair every day to avoid sebum build-up, while some, on the other hand, recommend going long periods without washing your hair to avoid drying out your hair. However, when it comes down to all the external factors, the shampoo you’re using, and your hair type, there really is no single recommendation that can fit everyone.

Some of you may live in areas where they are prone to sweating and attract a lot of pollutants and dirt. Others may live in cold areas where they rarely sweat and expose ourselves to as little dirt as possible. The truth is, only you can gauge how long you can go to the point where you cannot stand the feeling of unwashed hair.

To help determine how often you should wash your hair, we recommend going one week without using shampoo. Within a few days, you may find that your hair looks dirty and greasy, or you might find that a week has gone by and your hair still looks good and feels manageable. If the latter happens, continue to do this until you do feel the need to wash your hair. I’ve read of some people who have gone washing their hair once a month, only using dry shampoo to keep it manageable.

Based on Hair Type

Paul Cucinello, celebrity stylist and founder of Cucinello Studio NYC, found that different hair types could last for a certain amount of time before it was necessary to wash it with the appropriate shampoo. For thick hair, for example, women should shampoo around every three days, while fine hair could be weighed down by sebum and pollutant build-up and needed to be washed every other day.

Based on Hair TypeCoarse hair could survive washes twice a week while thinning hair needs to be washed more often with shampoos that could stimulate growth. Colored hair should be limited to three washes a week to avoid drying or discoloring the hair quickly. Damaged hair needs two washes a week with a strengthening shampoo, while hair with dandruff may have too much sebum and needs to be washed every other day.

Using Cucinello’s recommendations, you can gauge how often you might need to wash your hair. But if you feel more comfortable washing it a certain amount of times more or less than his recommendations, feel free to try out a schedule that works for you (and let us know in the comments how often you wash your hair). It’s your hair, after all, and only you know what works for it and what you feel comfortable with. Just try not to overdo your washes to prevent it from drying out.

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