The truth about how often you should wash your hair

The news that a carcinogenic chemical has been detected in some dry shampoos may have caused you to rethink your hair care routine. But experts say there’s no one answer to how often you should wash your hair or what you can do to maintain it on rest days.

“Some people think they have to wash their hair every day or they’ll have very greasy hair,” said Anthony Rossi, assistant dermatologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology Association. . “If they give themselves a chance, they can see that they don’t really have oily scalp or hair. And on the other hand, they may not handle too long or infrequent use because they have l the impression that the scalp becomes very greasy.” .”

How often you should wash your head depends on several factors, including your hair type and style, your scalp’s tendency to become oily, and your activity level.

“It’s kind of a personal effort,” Rossi said. Washing your hair too often can make your hair dry and dull, while oil buildup from underwashing can also lead to odor and dandruff.

Here’s how to find what works for you.

when to wash

Generally, Rossi tells his patients to wash their hair once or twice a week. But if you’ve had chemical treatments that can make your hair drier — like bleaching, perming, or straightening — you might want to wash your hair less than once a week to prevent hair breakage. , become brittle or split, he pointed out.

If your scalp is very oily, you may need to wash it once a day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. Your age can also play a role.

“During puberty, we have a surge in hormones, so the sebaceous glands can get bigger. That’s one of the reasons people get acne in adolescence,” Rossi recalls. Children may have oilier scalps during puberty, so washing their hair more often can help, he added.

Our scalp produces less sebum as we age, according to the American Academy.

Hair can be more prone to dryness or breakage if it’s curly or frizzy, he also says. Washing your hair too often can make this worse, so thick, curly hair usually doesn’t need to be washed daily or even weekly.

But you should wash it at least every two to three weeks to keep your scalp and hair clean and healthy.

What to do between washes

Hair and scalp care doesn’t just happen in the shower. Between washes, there are things you can do to maintain its cleanliness and appearance – and protect it from damage.

“I think it’s important to have scalp hygiene. Just like beard hygiene, you have to take care of the skin underneath,” Rossi said. “Take care of it and comb it (your hair). It loosens dead skin cells, debris. If possible, you should get it wet.”

“At the very least, massaging the skin of the scalp will really help loosen the debris, so you don’t necessarily need to shampoo it, but keeping it clean is very helpful,” Rossi added. “You can also use products like leave-in conditioner or scalp oils that help nourish and hydrate the scalp.”

If you sweat regularly from exercise, you don’t need to wash your hair unless there’s an overgrowth of bacteria or your hair or scalp starts to smell bad, said Rossi. If you wish, you can rinse your hair with water.

Most dry shampoos have been found to be safe for hair, but don’t rely on them too often, Rossi warned. “If it’s super oily, it’s good for an emergency. But it’s better to wash your hair. You don’t want to build it up on your scalp either.”

If you notice excess oil around the hairline, you can wipe it off with a cosmetic tissue, he added.

If you swim in a pool with your hair exposed to water, the chlorine can make it dry and brittle. Protect your hair by pre-wetting and conditioning it, wearing a comfortable swim cap, then immediately replenishing lost moisture with a shampoo and deep conditioner specially formulated for swimmers, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

If you have persistent issues with your scalp or hair — such as dandruff, hair loss, or hair breakage — you should see a dermatologist who treats issues in those areas, Rossi said.

*Jacqueline Howard contributed to this article

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