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Hair looking dull and lifeless? Instead of giving it a rinse right away, it’s a good idea to consider whether you actually might be washing it too little or too often.
There’s no black and white answer to how often your hair needs a wash.
It’ll depend on your own personal preference, as well as several things specific to you individually, including dryness, hair type and even hair colour.
In this article, you’ll discover:
Let’s get started with the basics. Why do we need to wash our hair?
The main reason is hygiene, and washing our hair prevents it from getting too dirty, greasy or even odourous.
Whether you’ve been to the gym for a high intensity workout or you’ve been relaxing with friends by a bonfire, chances are our hair will have taken a bit of a battering.
So to help get rid of the smoky smell or the swear from our workouts, we wash our hair!
Everyone has different hair, meaning they will each have their own set of recommendations when it comes to washing.
In general, a person with a thick, curly mane won’t need to wash their hair as frequently as someone with thinner, finer hair.1
Similarly, those with dry hair will likely need to clean it less than a person who has naturally oily hair.
What hair care products you use are actually a huge factor when it comes to washing.
Things like hair gels and mousses will make hair appear dirtier quicker, as they can build up around your roots and cause greasiness.
The same goes for conditioner; while it’s vital for keeping your hair healthy and shiny, it should only be applied to the tips of your hair.
The type and amount of shampoo you use can often play a role in how often your wash your hair, too.
Ideally, aim to use a small amount of shampoo and only apply it to your scalp.
Overusing shampoo can actually cause hair to become brittle as most contain sulphates which may dry out hair and strip it of its natural oils.2
If you can, use a natural shampoo and read all labels of hair products to see if they’re the best match for your unique hair type.
If you have a job that’s quite physical and causes you to sweat a lot, it’s likely that you’ll need to wash your hair more.
That’s because sweat quickly clogs up your pores and hair follicles, making it appear greasy a lot quicker.
Similarly, if you’re a regular gym goer or you play in a sports team, you’ll probably need to wash your hair after every time you exercise.
This is particularly important if you’ve been swimming as chlorine and salt water can drastically dry hair out.3
Most people have differing opinions on how often you should wash your hair – but that’s okay. This is because the answer depends on a variety of different factors!
So how often we wash our hair can differ from one person to the next. But in general, how much you wash your hair should be as follows:
If you have dry hair, it may be a result of prolonged damage such as bleaching or heat styling.
Equally, dry hair could come about if you shampoo your hair too often due to the stripping of its natural oils so it might be time to tone it down a notch.4
As dry hair generally produces less oil than other hair types it only needs to be washed roughly two times a week.
On the other hand, oily hair can afford to be shampooed a little more often than dry hair.
Colour specialist Laura Collins states that people with greasy prone hair should aim to wash it every two days, and gradually build up the days in between so your scalp gets used to not producing as much oil as normal.5
If you think you have a ‘normal’ hair type, this generally means that it is shiny, soft to touch and easy to manage.
Therefore how often you wash your hair somewhat falls down to personal preference, but as a rule of thumb between every three days or so is recommended.
Curly hair is said to be oilier at the scalp but drier in the fibre6 which can make it difficult to know how often to wash curly hair a week.
Generally speaking though, the strands of curly hair itself are said to be drier than fine, straight hair as it’s harder for the oil to travel to the ends of corkscrew curls.7
So in order to preserve the natural oils, people with curly hair should try washing it only a couple of times a week.
It’s recommended that people with thin hair should wash their hair a little more frequently. This is due to the natural oils having less hair to be absorbed by - so try washing every other day depending on how greasy it looks and feels.8
This depends on how many times you exercise a week and the intensity of your workout.
A good benchmark is to check and see if your hair feels wet from sweat afterwards, if it does you’ll probably need to wash it. So aim to shampoo your hair after every intense workout (such as running or HIIT training).
Taking in all of the above, only a small group of people will have to wash their hair every day – including those with extremely fine hair and those who exercise intensely every day.
But if you’re washing your hair every day and you don’t fall under those categories, there’s a chance that the use of sulphates in your shampoo could be stripping your hair of its natural oils and making it more reliant on shampooing each day.9
As mentioned previously, the amount of times you should wash your hair in a week depends on a lot of different factors.
Use our handy table as a reference for your hair type and activity level:
Three to four times
Once or twice
Two to three times
Three to four times
So, what happens when you don’t wash your hair? Essentially, what happens will depend on your hair type.
If you have curly or dry hair, you may be able to go longer without washing due to a lesser level of oil production.
However, there are a few things that could happen to any hair time. For example, if you style your hair often you may experience product build up.
Equally it could start smelling bad as a result of sweat mixing with the dirt on your scalp or a sebum build-up.
There’s actually not a lot of difference between how often men and women should wash their hair.
The answer depends on hair type, activity level and styling rather than gender influenced factors.
Ever heard of the ‘no-poo’ method? While the name might sound peculiar, it essentially means keeping your hair clean without using traditional ingredient shampoos.
One of the key benefits of the ‘no-poo’ method is reducing the number of ingredients used on your body and allowing it to produce a natural amount of oils without stripping them each time you wash your hair.
Shampoo bars use less synthetic ingredients, and are also an eco-friendly option.
Some other benefits of not washing your hair as regularly as normal include longer-lasting colour, longer time in between washes and saving on time in the morning!
Conditioners are used to make freshly cleaned hair glossy, easier to manage and may also have anti-static properties.10
There are also different types of conditioner available.
It’s recommended to use rinse off conditioner after each wash, however this differs slightly with leave in conditioner.
If someone with straight, virgin (uncoloured) hair uses products like leave-in conditioner, it may lead to it looking oily and greasy.11
Looking into some alternatives to washing your hair with shampoo? Thankfully there are other ways you can clean your hair without having to jump in the shower.
If you’re running short on time and can only afford to take a quick body shower, you might want to consider spritzing your roots with some dry shampoo.
Dry shampoos are typically designed to absorb oil, cover up odours and make your hair appear less dirty than it is.
Dry shampoo shouldn’t be used as a substitute for washing your hair, though, but rather to help lengthen the time between washes.
Some options, such as Naturtint Dry Shampoo, are made from 100% natural ingredients and suitable for all hair colours and types.
Not sure what co-washing is? It’s basically the same as regularly shampooing your hair, just without the shampoo and using conditioner instead.
It’s a good alternative if you’re looking to reduce the amount of chemicals used in your hair care routine, while still keeping your hair clean and silky smooth.12
However, this may not work for people with finer, oily hair.
Best for in-between shampoo washes, washing with water alone will still cleanse your hair to some extent so if you want to take a break from the ingredients in shampoo – this could be the alternative for you.
Just be aware that you won’t have the same fresh-smelling locks like you do post shampooing!
Whether you’re living a busy lifestyle or you’re overthinking your haircare routine, it’s important to get back to basics and know the key signs that you need to wash your hair.
Things to look out for include:13
Another important aspect to consider is the act of washing your hair itself. So to try and get the best results, we’ve got some top tips for you below:14
How often you wash your hair really does depend on a variety of different factors – from hair type to activity level. So it’s important to understand your hair type before deciding how many times you should wash your hair a week – as you could end up doing more harm than good.
Last updated: 5 July 2021