How Often You Should Wash Your Hair

It’s well established that shampooing every day can cause major hair problems for many of us: dryness, breakage, frizz. It’s tougher, though, to answer the next natural question: If not every day, how often should I wash my hair? We asked top hairstylists and dermatologists, and they say it depends—on hair texture, hair style, and scalp condition. Get the details on how often to wash hair.

Why You Shouldn’t Wash Your Hair Every Day

The scalp produces oils that travel down the hair shaft, locking in hydration. Shampooing too frequently washes away these oils before they go anywhere, leaving your hair dry. “Excessive dryness then leads to significant breakage,” said Dr. Michelle Henry of Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York.

How Often You Should Wash Your Hair Based on Texture

Vernon François, celebrity hairstylist and founder of the Vernon Francois Collection, says the answer depends on both hair texture and lifestyle. “Everyone’s hair is unique,” he says. “If you’re regularly at the gym, that will influence how often you should wash. Try out a few different options and go with what suits your hair and fits with your lifestyle best.” Also, texture matters. The curlier hair is, the more difficult it is for oils created by the scalp to travel down the hair shaft (because of strands’ twists and bends). These oils are natural moisturizers, keeping hair hydrated and healthy. Curly and coily hair is naturally drier and therefore more sensitive to excessive washing.

Curly and Coily Hair: Once a Week
Jessica O’Brien, artistic educator and stylist at Ouidad in New York City, says instead of looking for a strict guideline, wash hair when it’s dirty. “Dirty—with actual dirt or build up,” she emphasizes. “Sweat and oil are not dirt.” Otherwise, simply rinse with water. Curly hair has a raised cuticle (not flat, like straight hair) because of the bends in the hair. This allows natural moisture to escape, said O’Brien, so it’s almost always naturally dry. Those with curly hair should use a moisturizing shampoo, like Ouidad Ultra-Nourishing Cleansing Oil, every time they wash.

Straight and Wavy Hair: Every Two or Three Days
Straight and wavy hair will vary in its oiliness. Davide Marinelli, Oribe educator and owner of Davide Hair Studio, says creating a customized routine is key. “Find a system that gives your hair texture without weighing it down,” he said. “You may have to test out what works best for you to get the results you want—a leave-in conditioner, a volumizing shampoo, a clarifying shampoo or any combination of all.” To maintain a healthy scalp and hair, it’s good to keep your natural oils and not over cleanse. But for workout fanatics or those with excessively oily hair and scalps who really want to wash frequently, try using a 2-in-1 non-foaming cleanser, like Oribe Cleansing Crème for Moisture and Control, which will clean the hair without stripping its natural oils.

How Often You Should Wash Your Hair Based on Skin Type

In the never-ending battle for attention, the scalp almost always loses out to hair. But every time you shampoo, it’s the scalp that should be getting the TLC. Focus the washing there, instead of on the hair itself. Your hair will get clean enough as soapy water glides down the shaft. An oily scalp can often make hair oily, too, especially for those with straighter hair (since the sebum produced by the scalp can easily travel down the hair shaft).

Normal to Dry: Every Three to Four Days
Marinelli suggests washing every three to four days, but if you feel like you may need to wash more often, incorporate a “conditioning rinse” every other day (instead of a full wash). Apply conditioner to your hair and rinse with tepid water. If your scalp in on the drier side of normal, apply a few drops of hair oil, like Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil, for a moisture boost.

Super Oily
The key to keeping a very oily scalp happy is regular clarifying shampoo treatments—at least every other week, says Marinelli. An oily scalp can equal oily hair. Marinelli recommends using volumizing shampoos to help remove excess oils. And instead of using a traditional thick, rinse-off conditioner, use a lightweight leave-in conditioner post shower. Leave-ins won’t weigh your hair down.

Super Dry and Dandruff
There are so many underlying causes of dry scalp—dermatitis, excess yeast, even sunburn—that it’s difficult for experts to pinpoint exactly how many washes is the goal. But don’t confuse dry scalp with dandruff, which is actually a result of excess oil on the scalp. If you have yellowish flakes that arrive a few days post wash, odds are it’s dandruff. Shampoo with dandruff-specific cleanser about three times a week using cool water to manage the condition.

How Often Should You Wash Your Hair Based on Styling?

If you get frequent blow-outs and use a lot of dry shampoo during the week to make your blow out last, wash your hair according to your hair or scalp type—but add a clarifying shampoo into the routine every two weeks, with a deep conditioner to follow, suggests Marinelli.

If you use a styling product that leaves a heavy, greasy build up, it needs to be washed off the hair and scalp. “Product build-up can dry out the hair and cause it to lose elasticity,” said O’Brien. To remove build-up, cleanse with a gentle clarifying shampoo, like Ouidad Superfruit Renewal Clarifying Cream Shampoo. This one is especially good for textured hair—typical clarifying shampoos are too harsh for curls.

Braids and extensions also cause some confusion about shampooing. Though it might be tempting to ease up on your wash routine because the scalp is covered (and in an effort to preserve the style), try to maintain at least an every other week washing schedule. Focus on the scalp when you shampoo and make sure you’re washing underneath the braids.

How Often Should Men Wash Their Hair?

Because men’s hairstyles are typically much shorter, the sebum produced by the scalp has a shorter distance to travel to thoroughly moisturize the hair. Men’s hair is generally not as dry and can therefore tolerate more washing, said Dr. Henry. But that doesn’t mean men necessary need to wash more. Frequency really depends on lifestyle factors, like working out, and scalp and hair condition.