A recent report of a cancer-causing chemical in some dry shampoos may have you rethinking your hair care routine. But experts say there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should wash your hair, or what you can do to maintain it on your days off.
“Some people think they have to wash their hair every day or they’re going to have really greasy hair,” said Dr. Anthony Rossi, an assistant dermatologist and fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Society of American Academy of Dermatology. “If they give themselves a chance, they might not have that oily skin or hair to tell the truth. And, on the other hand, they may not be able to tolerate going too long or too little, because they feel that the skin is too oily.’
How often you should wash your locks depends on a number of factors, including your hair type and style, how oily your scalp tends to be, and your activity level.
“It’s a personal effort,” Rossi said. Over-washing can make your hair dry and frizzy, and under-washing can cause oil build-up to cause odor and flakes.
Here’s how to find out what works for you.
Rossi generally tells his patients to wash their hair once or twice a week. But if you’ve had chemical treatments that can dry out your hair (such as bleach, perms, or relaxers), you may want to wash less than once a week to avoid breakage or brittle hair or split ends, she said.
If your skin is very oily, you may need to wash as often as once a day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association website. Your age may also play a role.
“During puberty we have this surge of hormones, so the oil glands can get bigger. It’s one reason people get teenage acne,” Rossi said. Children can have oilier scalps during their teenage years, so washing their hair more often can help, she adds.
As we age, our skin produces less oil, according to the association.
Your hair may be more prone to dryness or breakage if it’s curly or curly, the association says. Over-washing can exacerbate this, so thick, curly hair generally shouldn’t be washed every day or every week, according to the association.
But you should wash it at least every two to three weeks to keep your skin and hair clean and healthy.
Hair and skin care doesn’t just happen in the shower. Between washes, there are a few things you can do to maintain cleanliness and appearance, and to protect against damage.
“I think it’s important to have skin hygiene. Just like beard hygiene, you want to take care of the skin underneath,” Rossi said. “Take care and comb (the hair). This loosens dead skin cells, debris. You want to soak it if you can.
“At least massaging your scalp will help loosen debris. So you don’t necessarily need to shampoo, but keeping it clean is very helpful,” adds Rossi. “You can also use products that help nourish and moisturize your scalp.
If you sweat regularly from exercise, you don’t need to shampoo your hair every time, unless there’s an overgrowth of bacteria or your hair or scalp starts to smell, Rossi said. If you want, you can wash it with water.
Most dry shampoos are considered safe for hair, but they’re not often trusted, Rossi said. “If you’re super oily, it’s good for a while. But you want to clean that up. You don’t want to build that into the skin either.’
If you notice excess oil around your hair, you can wipe it off with cosmetic papers, she added.
If you swim in the pool with your hair in the water, the chlorine can make it dry and brittle. Protect your hair by pre-wetting and conditioning, wearing a comfortable swim cap, and immediately replacing lost moisture with a shampoo and deep conditioner specially formulated for swimmers, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
If you have ongoing skin or hair problems (such as dandruff, hair loss or brittle hair), you should see a board-certified dermatologist who treats conditions in those areas, Rossi said.