How frequently you suds up your scalp is a hot topic: Some people prefer to shampoo their strands several days a week at most, while others clean their mane daily. But how often should you wash your hair for healthy strands?
The answer is that it depends. Unfortunately, there's no hard and fast rule to follow for shampoo frequency because every person's scalp and hair needs vary (more on this later).
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Finding your shampooing sweet spot might require some experimentation. That's why we consulted with Annie Gonzalez, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, for guidelines to help you figure out how frequently you should be lathering up your locks for optimal hair and scalp health.
Here are the factors you should consider when it comes to building a shampoo schedule:
You may have to wash your hair between one and four times per week depending on your age, hair type, the products you use and how often you work out.
1. Your Hair Type and Texture
Your hair type and texture will largely determine how often you should wash your hair.
If you have fine, straight hair, you might need to wash and condition as often as four times per week. "This hair type tends to be greasier, and lack of washing can produce natural oils that weigh down the hair and make it limp, dull and difficult to style," Dr. Gonzalez says. Lathering with a protein-rich shampoo can help promote volume in each hair strand, she adds.
For those with normal-to-dry straight or wavy hair (that isn't fine in texture), Dr. Gonzalez suggests shampooing and conditioning two to three times per week with products that balance moisture levels in the hair and scalp.
And how often should you wash curly hair? Coarse, tightly coiled hair requires more moisture and oils to stay hydrated and healthy and needs less frequent washing (one to two shampoo sessions per week should suffice), Dr. Gonzalez says. When you have this hair type, washing too often can strip the hair of its natural protective barriers, she explains.
2. How Often You Sweat
Working out will affect how often you should wash your hair. "If you exercise to the point where your hair has gotten sweaty, you should shampoo each time," Dr. Gonzalez says.
That's because dried sweat can coat your scalp and lead to irritation, inflammation and dandruff.
3. Use of Styling Products
Maybe you turn to some type of styling product to tame your mane, even if it's just a spritz of hairspray. But the amount and frequency of product usage will determine how dirty your locks are, and consequently, how often your strands need to be scrubbed.
The best way to analyze when you need to shampoo is by examining the crown of your head. "If you feel or see buildup [i.e., hair product residue] on the scalp, this is a signal that it's time to wash," Dr. Gonzalez says. "Also pay attention if the area is itchy or oily."
4. Your Age
"As people get older, their scalp/hair tends to be less oily, and they can go longer periods without washing," Dr. Gonzalez says.
For example, people who have already gone through menopause will experience a decrease in androgens (a type of sex hormone), which results in reduced oil production, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Snacking on certain vitamins and minerals may support strong tresses. Some of the best foods for healthy hair include oily fish, seeds and eggs.
Signs It's Time to Shampoo
When your hair is dirty and due for a shampoo, you'll likely notice the following telltale signs, Dr. Gonzalez says:
- Your hair feels greasy
- Your hair has an unpleasant odor
- You have an itchy, irritated scalp
Over time, not washing your hair frequently enough can also cause:
- Ingrown hairs
- Slowed hair growth
Signs You’re Over-Washing
Finding a balanced shampooing schedule is essential, as cleansing your crown too much can create unwelcome consequences.
"Over-washing your hair can lead to brittleness, dryness and even loss of hair, especially when combined with tight hairstyles or chemical treatments," Dr. Gonzalez says.
What's more, shampooing too often can make your strands susceptible to breakage, dullness and dandruff. And ironically, your hair can even become oilier if you suds up too frequently, she says.
How Can You Safely Extend Time Between Washes?
If you're washing too often, you may wonder how you can whittle down your shampoo days for improved scalp and hair health. Dr. Gonzalez says it's best to cut washes incrementally to help your hair become accustomed to less frequent shampoo sessions.
"First, start by washing your hair every other day (if you don't already do this)," she says. "After a few weeks, your hair will get used to being washed less."
Then, lather your locks every three to four days for a few weeks, and eventually, you may even be able to wash your hair once a week, depending on your lifestyle and hair type and texture, she says.
Using dry shampoo can also help absorb your hair’s oils and extend time between washings, per the Cleveland Clinic. Still, dry shampoo should not be used as a substitute for regular shampoo. Like any product, it can build up on your scalp and, over time, cause dandruff and irritation.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.