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Let’s unpack a beauty myth together. For a long time, we’ve been lied to about how often we need to wash our hair. Worse, for years I’ve been slapping bottles of shampoos out of people’s hands, shouting, “Stop stripping away your natural oils! You only need to shampoo once a week!” Well, consider this my formal apology. Here, two trichologists, aka hair and scalp experts, break down some misinformation.
Is it unhealthy to wash your hair every day?
“Absolutely not!” says Anabel Kingsley, brand president & consultant trichologist for Philip Kingsley. “Washing your hair daily is one of the best things you can do for your scalp health.” Part of the mentality around incorporating scalp products like hydrating serums and hair growth oils into your routine is to realize that the skin on our scalp is just that–skin. But it seems like that mentality ends when it comes to cleansing. “I always like to compare your hair care routine to your skincare routine,” says trichologist and celebrity hairstylist Helen Reavey, who founded the scalp-focused brand Act+Acre. “Would you leave your makeup on your face and not wash it for two or three days?”
However, before you whip out your bottle of hydrating shampoo, there is one thing to be aware of. “It is, however, a balancing act when it comes to styling,” says Kingsley. “If every time you wash your hair you heavily style with heat, this can counteract the goodness of daily washing.” In other words, if you use heat every time you wash your hair, then it’s probably best you don't wash your hair every day. The heat will be more damaging than a few extra days of no washing.
Is it ok to wash your hair once a week?
Because you can’t see your scalp clearly, it can be hard to understand why it’s unhealthy to not cleanse it. “Dead skin, pollution, and sweat can all contribute to the hair shaft weakening, which causes unhealthy hair growth,” says Reavey. “Additionally, the natural sebum we produce is not able to moisturize the hair as the molecule is too big to penetrate, so washing regularly helps to moisturize the hair sufficiently for growth.”
Keep in mind that if we’re waiting a long time between washes, the odds are that we’re also using more products to keep us looking fresh throughout the day. “Whether you’re adding on dry shampoo to combat sweat or grease, or just going about your day, pollutants, product and oil build up on the follicle, leading to weakening,” adds Reavey. If you suffer from dandruff, under-washing your hair may be the culprit. “Under-washing your hair can cause a breeding ground for bacteria which often can result in scalp issues such as dandruff and even lead to hair loss,” says Kingsley.
How many times a week is healthy to wash your hair?
There isn’t a definite answer, just an answer based on your hair type and your lifestyle. “If you’re not using heat tools to style afterwards, then washing daily is optimal as most of the damage is done from styling not from cleansing,” says Reavey. If you can’t bring yourself to wash and re-style your hair that frequently, two to three days is the general goal. “You shouldn’t leave it longer than 2-3 days depending on your hair texture,” adds Kingsley. “People with fine hair have more hair follicles on their head and every hair follicle has an oil gland attached to it so they have the oiliest of all hair textures and will often feel the need to wash their hair daily. People with coarse hair textures have thicker strands and thus there are less hair follicles producing oil which is why they will often find they can go for longer between washes before their hair looks greasy.”
Is shampoo bad for your hair?
If you’ve been taught that shampoo strips your hair of necessary oils, think again. “It really is a myth that you shouldn’t wash your hair too often,” says Reavey. “Your scalp constantly is producing sebum, when you wash your hair, oil is simply secreted again at a continual rate to keep your scalp supple and if you are using a shampoo suitable for your hair texture it will not be stripping,” adds Kingsley. Depending on your hair type, you may opt for a hydrating shampoo, or a detoxifying shampoo.
How can you keep your scalp healthy?
If you’re committed to improving your scalp health, there are a few easy steps to take, according to Reavey. Adding a clarifying product, double cleansing, gentle shampoos, and a scalp massager are all great add-ins to your routine.
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