People with oily hair or who use hair care products daily should consider washing their hair once every 1–2 days. People with dry hair can wash their hair less frequently. Those with textured or coily hair should only wash it once every 1–2 weeks.
Many people include hair washing as part of their regular hygiene routine. However, how often a person needs to wash their hair can vary.
In this article, we examine how often a person should wash their hair depending on certain factors. We also discuss shampoo alternatives and the risks of overwashing hair.
Hair washing is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Some people may need to wash their hair daily, while others wait several days or even weeks between washes.
Most people should wash their hair when it becomes oily, dirty, or when a lot of product has built up on the scalp.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) notes that:
- If a person has oily hair, they may want to wash it daily.
- If a person has chemically treated hair, they may want to wash it less often.
- If a person has textured or coily hair, they may want to wash it once a week, or every other week.
As a person ages, the scalp produces less oil. As a result, a person may not need to wash their hair as often.
How to tell hair needs washing
Since everyone has different types of hair and oil levels, it can be difficult to generalize when a person should wash their hair. However, a person can look for signs that they should wash their hair.
- a matted, oily look
- hair appearing dirty
- a dull appearance
- the scalp having a noticeable buildup of products
People with oily hair or who use products regularly will likely need to wash more frequently than those with drier hair or who do not tend to use products in their hair.
Contrary to popular belief, hair does not need daily cleaning. Some people may wash their hair daily, and others may be able to go a few days without washing their hair.
- length of the hair
- individual preferences
- social pressure
A person with oily hair may consider washing their hair daily. Other people will likely only need to wash their hair every few days and should avoid daily washing.
The authors state that regular cleaning with a well-formulated shampoo will not cause damage to the hair. As a result, there is no limit to how often a person can wash their hair, particularly if a person regularly uses conditioner.
They also state that the use of shampoo will not interfere with hair growth.
How often a person’s hair needs washing can depend on several factors, such as what is in their hair.
Some factors that indicate washing with shampoo could be necessary include:
- The presence of sweat: A person may consider washing their hair following a workout or after wearing headwear for an extended period. Sweat can cause the hair to have a foul odor, as well as result in it looking and feeling dirty.
- The presence of pollen or dirt: When pollen or dirt gets into a person’s hair, they should wash it to get it out. Leaving dirt or pollen in the hair can worsen allergies and make the hair appear unclean.
- The amount of oil in the hair: Some oil in the hair is common and normal. However, some people may produce more oil than others. As oil builds up in the hair, it can give the appearance of being dirty and matted. People with an excess of oil may want to wash their hair more frequently.
- The presence of styling products: People who use several products to style their hair may need to wash or rinse their hair regularly to remove those products. The buildup of products can also irritate the scalp.
Hair type plays a role in how often a person should wash their hair. For example, those with textured or coily hair should avoid washing more than once a week to prevent damaging their hair. Curly, thick hair typically needs less washing than straight and thin hair.
According to a 2019 review of studies, scientists use varying classification systems to describe the type of hair a person has. Some types they describe in the literature include:
- small or big curls
- stick straight
Hair may also be thin or thick.
The authors provide the following guidelines to help people choose the best shampoo type for their hair:
- Normal hair shampoo: This is for hair that has not undergone chemical treatments and for those whose scalp produces a moderate amount of oil. These shampoos use lauryl sulfate, which provides minimal conditioning and good cleaning.
- Dry hair shampoo: This shampoo is for those who have undergone chemical treatments and harsh styling procedures. It typically provides good conditioning and mild cleansing.
- Oily hair shampoo: These shampoos do not contain conditioners, and are suitable for those who have oily hair.
- Everyday shampoo: This shampoo type is for daily cleaning. It contains mild shampoos and rarely contain conditioners. If a person uses everyday shampoo, they should also use a separate conditioner.
- Deep cleaning shampoo: This is suitable for those who often use styling products, such as gel, mousse, or hairspray. These shampoos also contain lauryl sulfate to remove the polymers that build up on the hair shaft. A person can use this product weekly.
- Baby shampoo: These shampoos contain a mild detergent.
- Medicated shampoo: These shampoos can treat scalp conditions, including psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and bacterial or fungal infections. They contain active ingredients.
- Professional shampoo: A person should not use these shampoos daily. They are used before cutting or styling the hair.
A person can follow these steps to help prevent damaging their hair when washing it:
- Use a non-harsh shampoo if possible.
- Use a small amount of shampoo and massage it into the roots.
- Avoid directly washing the hair shafts.
- Allow the shampoo to run over the shaft during rinsing.
Black hair is often thick and curly.
A person should use care to not overwash their hair, with some recommending washing it no more than once every week or every other week.
The AAD provides the following recommendations for Black hair. A person should:
- Always use conditioner after washing their hair.
- Wash no more than once every 1–2 weeks.
- Use a hot oil treatment two times per month.
- Avoid making weaves, cornrows, or braids too tight.
- Use a heat protecting product before styling.
- Use relaxers with caution.
There are several alternatives to using a shampoo that a person can try. These products can help prevent the scalp from drying out or damaging the hair. Some common options include:
- Cleansing conditioner: Cleansing conditioners provide some cleaning properties with the benefits of a conditioner. People may be able to replace shampooing with conditioning with no issues.
- Shampoo without detergent: Many shampoos contain sulfates, which can damage the hair and dry out the scalp. A person could consider using natural or “no-poo” shampoos.
- Dry shampoo: Dry shampoo can help people with oily or fine hair prolong the time between washing. However, it has some drawbacks, including not removing dirt or other debris and creating a buildup of a powdery residue that can cause irritation.
Shampoos cleanse the hair and scalp by removing excess oil and debris from the hair.
Though this can help the hair retain a clean look, using harsh shampoos can dry out the hair and the scalp and cause damage and irritation.
People have different types of hair. The differences can influence how often a person needs to wash their hair.
In general, people with oily hair may need to wash their hair more frequently than those with drier hair. People who use products in their hair may also need to wash their hair more regularly to remove residue.