When it comes to beauty routines (and most things in life, for that matter), one size rarely fits all. You’ll often see recommendations for best practices — making sure you’re drinking enough water and getting enough sleep is a good start — but you should always take your own body and lifestyle into consideration when curating the right routine for your life. So even though my younger sisters may be genetically blessed with normal scalps that let them only wash their hair a few times a week, those of us who lean toward having excess oil on their scalp would view that routine as a one-way ticket to many bad, greasy hair days ahead. But then these questions remain: is it okay if I wash my hair every day, especially when it feels extra oily? Is this helping, or actually making the situation worse? How do you find the perfect balance of wash days and days off?
First, let’s pause for a mini biology lesson. We know that oil and build up gradually appear on your scalp, but where does it come from? As we discussed in our post on how to get rid of oily hair, the sebaceous glands in your skin are responsible for helping to maintain balance — when everything is in order, the sebum that the sebaceous glands produce ensures that your hair is shiny and healthy. These nourishing natural oils work their way from your scalp down the shaft of the hair, distributing the sebum necessary to keep your hair looking vibrant.
Then along comes shampoo — when you find the right washing routine, you’re removing unnecessary excess dirt and oil, leaving you with the right amount of sebum to achieve balanced, healthy hair. But if you’re washing your hair too frequently, the shampoo will strip your hair and scalp of the necessary oils it needs, giving you dry and damaged locks. That’s why it’s important to curate the right routine for your specific needs.
Photo by @karlibobarley
There are obviously other outside factors to consider when choosing the right washing routine for you: how often you work out, what your hairstylist recommends that you try, or even the amount of styling products that you’re applying that day. So feel free to use this as a general starting point, and adjust as necessary. Once you know how often you should be washing your hair, make sure you’re stocked up with the right shampoo and hair care for your hair type.
I’ve seen a lot of conflicting information on how to care for fine or thin hair, but the best advice is to stick to a wash routine of every other day. That’s because letting oil and dirt build-up on your scalp is the easiest way for fine or thin hair to appear limp, and potentially even thinner-looking than before. When it’s time to wash, choose a sulfate-free delicate daily shampoo, or volumizing shampoo to help lift your roots and add body while you cleanse.
If you have thicker hair, oil buildup can be masked for longer. When it’s time to wash your hair a few times a week, use a moisturizing shampoo, and swap in a clarifying shampoo once or twice a month for an even deeper clean. And if you have wavy or loosely curly hair, try a moisturizing curl-enhancing shampoo that helps to add necessary nutrients to keep your locks defined and bouncy. Depending on how dry or oily your hair tends to be, choose the right shampoo for your needs (more moisturizing, more clarifying, more repairing, etc.).
It takes a lot for coarse, textured hair to show greasy build-up, which is why you shouldn’t need to wash it too often — it’s also the hair type most at-risk to over-stripping, leaving you with dried-out strands. Make sure that the sulfate-free shampoo you’re using is moisturizing and nourishing your strands while it cleanses, to help further protect against over-stripping your hair. And as a seasonal bonus, be sure to check out our previous post on summer curl tips for naturally-textured hair.
Photo by Cassell Ferere
Let’s start with the basics: the general job of your shampoo (regardless of the individual bonus benefits it promises) is to trap and remove dirt and oils from the surface of your hair and scalp, which are then washed away when you rinse. Normally, this is a very good thing, especially if you’re prone to an excessively oily scalp — letting gunk build up on your scalp blocks hair follicles, which can cause dandruff, irritation, and even hair loss. But if you’re shampooing too frequently, you run the risk of stripping your hair of the essential oils it needs to maintain a healthy balance. Then that could lead to dry hair and scalp, which can cause further issues like breakage, frizz, or damage. The key to maintaining hair harmony is sticking to a washing routine that works for your specific hair and scalp needs, and adjusting it if you notice any negative changes in your hair.
Long before there was shampoo, people still had to clean their hair. Alternative remedies for washing your hair include apple cider vinegar (because its pH is close to human hair), baking soda (it cleanses while softening), and co-washing (washing your hair with conditioner — this is a preferred method for many people who have coarser, more textured hair).
Of course, there’s also dry shampoo — you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t had to turn to this essential beauty product at least once in their life. Many times an intended wash day has turned into a dry shampoo day, instead… and maybe even the day after that, too. Dry shampoo works to absorb the oils and dirt that build up on your hair and scalp, leaving you with a clean hair slate. While usage varies depending on your hair type, the general rule is that after 3 consecutive days of dry shampoo use, it’s time to shampoo for real. We’d suggest using a clarifying shampoo to remove any potential product build-up, which can weigh down your hair and make it look lifeless and greasy. If you’re still unsure of how often to turn to the savior that is dry shampoo, be sure to check out our post on how to use dry shampoo that covers all of the basics.
And finally, let’s not forget another important part of this haircare equation: a sulfate-free conditioner! Once your hair has been properly cleansed, you’ll want to supplement your routine with a conditioner that compliments your shampoo of choice. If you have fine or thin hair, consider using a lightweight conditioner or one that adds life and elasticity to your hair. Depending on your hair texture, those with thick hair can try a smoothing or moisturizing conditioner to pair with their preferred shampoo. If you have curly or coarse hair, try a moisturizing curl-enhancing conditioner — those with coarser hair should also try adding in a replenishing hair mask to restore moisture as an additional part of your weekly rotation.
Photo by Lindsay Del Colletti
So while there’s no definitive answer as to how often you need to wash your hair, trying the recommended routine for your hair type is a great starting point. Maintaining a good washing routine is the key to ensuring your hair and scalp have a solid stock of those precious oils, which are needed to distribute shine and vibrancy all throughout your strands. But we’ll never judge you for turning to a dry shampoo day… just as long as you end day three with a scalp-resetting shampoo. And if you’ve mastered a wash routine that’s worked really well for you (especially if you have any additional tips), be sure to share in the comments!
By Lauren Hannel, staff contributor
cover photo by Cassell Ferere
March 17, 2023
I HAVE BEEN USING MO MO SHAMPOO. IS IT SULFATE FREE? ALSO USE OI CONDITIONER. LOVE IT.. ALSO IS IT SULFATE FREE.
I HAVE KERATIN TREATMENTS FOR MY HAIR. ONE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO USE PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN SULFATE.
COULD YOU ADVISE WHICH OF YOUR PRODUCTS ARE SULFATE FREE.
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