How Often Is Too Often? Things to Consider Before Washing Your Hair

How often should you wash your hair With shampoos getting such a bad rep lately, a common question ladies ask is how often should you wash your hair?  If you are natural, your main concern is probably the best way to retain moisture. One of the main culprits of dry hair is over washing. Many naturals only co-wash either with conditioner or a co-wash to try to retain moisture during the cleansing process. (See “The Co-Wash Queen: Choosing the Right Conditioners for You”) However, there are also naturals who do Wash-and-Gos daily. Obviously these are two extremes so the question is: how often should you wash your hair?

While washing your hair regularly is necessary to remove built up dirt, oil and product from the hair and scalp many hair experts and stylists recommend not washing your hair daily because shampoo tends to strip hair of its natural oils.

Here are a few things you should consider when trying to decide whether or not to wash your hair:

Do you have oily or dry hair?

Our scalps naturally produce sebum, which naturally lubricates our hair and scalp and keeps it healthy. African-Americans naturally produce less sebum so our hair can be washed once a week and not be stripped of the natural oils. I usually wash weekly but I’ve started stretching my washes since my hair has gotten longer.

Our scalps can overproduce sebum if we apply [too much] product and/or oil directly to it. So, to avoid making your hair and scalp oily – which would require more washing – you should refrain from applying anything to your scalp. If your hair is dry it may be a sign that your hair is damaged. You should use shampoo and conditioner that is specifically formulated for dry hair. These products can help to repair your hair and make it easier to manage reducing your washes.

Hair state: short or long? curly or straight?

Short hair and long, fine hair get greasy fast because sebum travels down the hair shaft quickly – it has nowhere else to go. Hair should be washed at least every other day if that’s your hair state. If you have curly, coiled, kinky hair it’s harder for sebum to travel down the hair shaft so it’s usually only necessary to shampoo once a week.

How often should you wash your hair

Are you an active product junkie?

If you love products and trying new ones as much as I do, it’s easy to accumulate product buildup (especially if you co-wash). Products on your hair can also attract for dust, pollen and dirt so it’s best to wash your hair once a week. Regularly washing your hair will help prevent buildup and make your hair more manageable and easier to style.

Do you have a scalp disorder like dry scalp or a rash?

Dandruff is a common hair disorder. The scientific name is dermatitis and it is caused by a yeast overgrowth which feeds on oils on the scalp. These flakes are not “dry” scalp but the overgrown yeast. If you have dry scalp you should try an over-the-counter medicated shampoo and conditioner BUT you should not wash your hair more because over washing might cause the scalp to overproduce sebum which will not reduce the dry scalp but make it worse. In addition to trying a medicated shampoo and conditioner, you should drink more water and try adding more hair foods to your diet. (See Ten Foods for Healthy Hair”)

How often should you wash your hair

{Non-Naturals} Is your hair processed?

Any hair processing can make your hair more fragile. Hair processing includes perming, relaxing, bleaching and coloring but can also include heat like blow-drying, hot-curling and flat-ironing. This should be taken into consideration when you decide how often to wash. If your hair is regularly processed you should consider washing it no more than once a week.

Tip: Remember to wash your pillows, scarves & bonnets at least once a week,  to eliminate oil and product buildup.

Monet About Monet

Monet is a natural hair contributor to L4L and is also the Head-Curly-In-Charge at curlsandmo.com. Her main goals are to educate other naturalistas so that they don't make the same mistakes she did during her 14 month transition and to discuss new products, techniques and styles that work for her type 4 natural hair.

  • Roni

    Great tips! I wash my hair once every week (sometimes longer) but I focus mainly on my scalp…I used to co-wash all the time but cut back for some unknown reason. I don’t really suffer from a lot of dryness but I’ve been seriously considering working co-washing back into my regimen.

    • http://www.longing4length.com/ EbonyCPrincess

      I wash weekly too, I want to get back to frequent co-washing this summer with my wig regimen…its really just too much for me with my hair out. This is when I get jealous of you naturalistas and your wash n’ gos!

  • charlotte.quevedo

    I do not grasp the concept of co-washing and thankfully my hair is notasking for sonething like that. To avoid stripping your hair you applymore build up to it instead which in the end is far more damaging. Ppl do not seem to suspectthatdry hair could be caused by moisturizing too much? I say get a mild, sulfate free shampoo with just a few ingredients and when you think your hair needs to be “moisturized,” wash off previous product and start anew. Nothing is more moisturuxing than water immersion. Also be sure your shampoo is ph balanced. I use Shikai.