Here’s How Often You Really Should Be Washing Your Hair

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Do you really know how often your hair needs to be washed? Experts say it all depends on your hair type and texture.

Washing your hair

You probably don’t give much thought to washing your hair. Just wash it daily the same way you brush your teeth, right? Not so fast—how often you should wash your hair can depend on a few factors, such as your hair type and texture, or even how active you are. (Avoid making these healthy hair mistakes.)

If you don’t pay close attention to your hair type and its particular needs, you may not be giving your hair the TLC it needs to stay strong and shiny. (Check out how to get healthier and more attractive hair.)

Here, our experts offer a breakdown on how to keep hair healthy and thriving.

How often you should wash your hair

According to Catalina Drouillard, hairstylist and owner of Three Sixteen Hair Haven in Kihei, Hawaii, how often you should wash your hair depends on your hair type and texture—if you have an oily scalp or fine hair, you’re likely best off shampooing every day. Coarse or dry hair, meanwhile, may be better off only washed once a week to prevent further damage.

Every other day or every three days is usually often enough for most types of hair. You may think you’re doing your locks a favor by washing as often as possible to help them stay extra clean, but “it’s possible to wash your hair too often and washing every day is too much for most people,” she says. “You could be shampooing too often if your hair feels dry and brittle, or it’s possible you may be using the wrong type of shampoo for your hair.” (Have psoriasis on your scalp? Here are the best shampoos for scalp psoriasis.)

After you wash your hair, be gentle when towel drying, as your hair is weakest when wet; rubbing it vigorously can cause breakage. This can also rough up the outermost layer of your hair—the cuticle—creating frizz, Drouillard says. She recommends avoiding heat tools like blow dryers as often as possible and air-drying whenever possible. If you must blow-dry, use a heat protectant styling product such as Paul Mitchell Neuro Prime HeatCTRL Blowout Primer or Aveda Brilliant Damage Control every time.

Woman bathing and washing her hair relaxed.torwai/Getty Images

How much should you lather?

The saying “lather, rinse, repeat,” has been debated for decades. Is it really necessary, or is it just a ploy to get you to use up shampoo faster? Turns out, there is some truth to it.

According to Drouillard, if you’re not shampooing every day—or you’re shampooing after a sweaty workout—you should always lather up and rinse out your shampoo twice with each use. (Here’s what these hair health clues can reveal about your overall health.)

Should you use conditioner?

Once you’ve lathered up and rinsed out your shampoo, you should always follow it up with some conditioner, Drouillard says. If you don’t have oily hair, you can opt to just condition on days you don’t wash your hair to give your locks some added moisture.

“No matter what type of hair you have or how long your hair is, everyone should be using conditioner when they shampoo,” Drouillard says. “If having limp or fine hair makes you want to skip this step, the conditioner you’re using may be too heavy for your hair’s texture.”

When massaging in your conditioner, focus on applying it to the body of your hair, especially close to the ends. Make sure you’re never putting conditioner on your scalp and rinse out every bit of conditioner to prevent it from weighing down your hair or creating build-up on the scalp, Drouillard says. Use cold water to rinse it out, which will help close the cuticle and promote smoother, shinier hair.

How to choose a shampoo and conditioner

If you’ve ever been overwhelmed at the shampoo and conditioner options lining drugstore or salon shelves, you’re not alone. You’re likely also aware that hair products can vary widely in price. According to Drouillard, you can generally expect to get what you pay for with hair care, so it can be worth it to devote some extra cash to your hair care routine. More expensive products tend to be made of higher quality ingredients, she says.

Many people avoid products made with preservatives known as parabens and foaming agents called sulfates; both have been linked to health issues. The good news is that you can easily find shampoos and conditioners that don’t contain them at the drugstore.

Choosing a shampoo and conditioner largely depends on your hair type and texture, Drouillard says. If you have color-treated, dry, damaged, or thin hair, it’s key to find products specifically for these characteristics to keep your locks shiny and damage-free. She recommends the Paul Mitchell Clean Beauty line, which is made of natural and sustainable vegan ingredients and offers options for dry, damaged, frizzy, and normal hair.

(Make sure to avoid these habits that cause thinning hair.)

If your hair is very dry, Drouillard strongly advises against using extra-strength shampoos such as “clarifying” products more than once a week. She also typically doesn’t recommend two-in-one shampoo and conditioner products, especially if you have an oily scalp. This is because a conditioning shampoo will just increase moisture levels and oil instead of cleansing your locks. (Here’s what you need to know about clarifying shampoo.)

A word about dandruff or other conditions

Dandruff can be both physically irritating and just plain unsightly when flakes appear on your clothes. While it can often be remedied with inexpensive drugstore shampoos such as those by Head & Shoulders and Selsun Blue, you may be best off seeing a dermatologist if you’re not seeing improvement.

Additionally, if you’re experiencing an itchy scalp and greasy scale, you may have a very common skin disease called seborrheic dermatitis, points out Adele D. Haimovic, MD, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center. Seborrheic dermatitis causes a red rash, scaly patches, and itchy skin. With this condition, dermatologists recommend shampooing more frequently, and avoiding products containing harsh sulfates, she says.

If you’re experiencing any type of scalp irritation, it’s also important to be mindful of your technique. “Aggressive scrubbing can be detrimental, so make sure you’re gently massaging the shampoo into your scalp with your fingertips and not your nails,” Dr. Haimovic says.

Finally, if you’re experiencing persistent itching or irritation, persistent hair loss, or significant hair thinning, Dr. Haimovic recommends seeing a dermatologist to rule out other underlying conditions or to potentially try a prescription remedy.

Medically reviewed by Jessica Wu, MD, on February 26, 2021

Emilia Benton
Emilia Benton is a Houston, TX-based freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in Runner's World, Women's Health, Self and Pop Sugar, among other publications. An avid runner, she has finished eight marathons and a couple dozen half marathons. She also enjoys country music, baking, and traveling.