How often do I need to wash my hair? This question is such a vexing one. In fact, it’s so common that it’s the third suggestion that pops up when typing the words “how often” into Google.
Outside the shower. Our scalps slowly get shinier, darker, and oilier. So why does this happen, and how often should you wash to keep the grease at bay?
The Root of the Issue
Your hair gets greasy for the very same reason your face gets oily: glands in the skin produce an oily substance known as sebum. This is what moistens hair and prevents it from drying out.
The glands that produce sebum (sebaceous glands) are located next to hair roots in the layer of the skin called the dermis. Channels from the sebaceous glands leading to the hair follicle, which is how sebum gets out of the skin and onto your scalp.
The key thing about sebum is this: Each of us produces a different amount of it. Everything from genetics and hormones affects how much sebum we produce. The hormones that are responsible for extra sebum production spike during puberty, which is what caused so many of us to have extra greasy hair and acne during that lovely period.
How Much Washing is Right for You?
While the answer to this question is different for everyone, no one needs to wash their hair every day. In fact, washing your hair too often can do more harm than good. Lynne Goldberg, a dermatologist and director of Boston Medical Center’s hair clinic, says that “it’s paradoxical, but people who wash their hair a lot to get rid of oil are drying out their scalp and producing more oil.”
Besides not washing your hair every day, there are other things to keep in mind when trying to determine the right amount of washing for you. Here are the three main important factors:
If your skin and hair are anywhere from normal (not super oily and not super dry) to dry, you probably only need to wash it once or twice a week. If you have a greasy scalp, you’ll need to wash it more often.
Texture matters because it affects how quickly sebum works its way from your roots through the length of your hair. For example, coarse or curly hair slows down sebum’s spread, so if your hair is like this, then you probably only need to shampoo once a week.
On the other hand, those of us with fine, straight hair will likely need to shampoo twice a week or more.
Another thing to consider is the paces that you put your hair through styling and treating it. If your hair is processed or damaged by styling, you should wash it less frequently.
But this is something you’ll need to figure out yourself, so don’t be afraid to experiment a bit. Don’t shampoo your hair for a couple of days and see if you like the result.