I’ve never benefited from a trend more than the return of the slick-back bun. Give me and my oil spill of a scalp a mere 48 hours post-wash, and I can execute the style sans product. All this to say, I’ve long struggled to make my hairstyles last despite my many attempts to adhere to infrequent washing, which is often touted by experts as being better for your hair. So I felt particularly vindicated (and relieved) while at beauty events, not one, not two, but three different trichologists suggested I start washing my hair daily. But I had to do a double take when they clarified the recommendation wasn’t just for those of us with overactive oil glands; it was for everyone.
This advice doesn’t explain the hoards of hairstylists and experts who herald infrequent cleansing as a golden rule of hair care, on par with avoiding heat damage and scheduling regular trims. So, who’s right and who’s wrong? And more importantly, should you really wash your hair every day?
According to Anabel Kingsley, consultant trichologist and brand president of Philip Kingsley, the scalp is, at the end of the day, skin. More specifically, it’s technically an extension of the face, exposed to the same daily stressors, like dirt, oil, pollution, and sweat. Much like washing your face daily, she recommends doing the same for your scalp.
“If you have coarse hair, it may behave better on day two or three post-shampooing, but your scalp is a different matter,” she explains. “It’s a living tissue and, being skin, it contains oil and sweat glands, and sheds dead skin cells, so it needs frequent cleansing to be as healthy as possible. Long term, looking after your scalp is essential in the growth of strong, healthy hair.”
And given that an impaired scalp can impact both the rate of hair shedding as well as the quality of hairs that emerge from the scalp, frequent cleansing is really as much about hair health as it is scalp health.
Ahead, TZR explores why trichologists and hairstylists have conflicting opinions on hair washing, and why it might be worth re-thinking your attitude towards shampooing your strands every day.
The Great Hairstylist-Trichologist Divide
The discrepancy in recommendations between hairstylists and trichologists can largely be attributed to different perspectives and areas of expertise. As L’Oréal Professionnel Global Ambassador and Colorist, Min Kim, explains, hairstylists often focus on styling and maintaining hair appearance, whereas trichologists specialize in hair and scalp health.
Shab Reslan, trichologist, healthy hair expert, and founder of Leona, is perhaps best suited to bridge the gap of understanding between the two professions and perspectives — after all, she was practically raised in hair salons and subsequently spent years in the industry before transitioning to trichology.
Beyond the disparate points of view, we also have to consider education, she explains. Scalp microbiome, hair growth, and hair loss simply aren’t part of cosmetology training — it’s the exact reason she wanted to study trichology. “Hairstylists believe infrequent washing will allow the scalp oils to run down the hair strands and provide moisture,” she surmises. “In reality, sebum can cause build-up and irritation sometimes undetected by the naked eye.”
OK, So How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?
Kingsley does recognize it’s not always easy to wash hair daily — and circumstance is ultimately key in determining your perfect hair washing schedule.
“If you have long, coiled curls, shampooing daily or every other day is probably not going to be realistic — and you may prefer how your hair looks and behaves a few days after shampooing,” she says. “Also, if you are heat styling your hair after every shampoo, the good of cleansing could be outweighed by the damage done afterwards.”
As a general rule of thumb and “for the health of your scalp, which is vital to healthy hair and healthy growth,” she suggests waiting a maximum of three days between washes. Meanwhile, Reslan recommends washing hair every other day to keep scalp clear of build-up that could impact the quality of hair growth.
“If you go longer than two days between washes, I absolutely recommend a supplemental shampoo that will give you that extra bit of cleansing that your scalp will require at that point,” Reslan shares.
For Kim, there’s no single straightforward answer — she says it’s important to consider your hair type, scalp condition, and personal needs to find the right schedule for you.
A Final Note On Hair-Washing Methods
Both trichologists are quick to mention that it’s not just about when you wash your hair but also how you wash it. Sure, we all know the general mechanics it takes to wash hair, but there are a few more things to keep in mind.
According to Reslan, the first rule of Hair Washing 101 is to apply shampoo only to the roots — “The only time you may want to run the shampoo down your ends is if you’ve been using heavy styling products like oils and creams that have created a dull coating on your hair.”
Be sure to take your time shampooing; Kingsley says the process is often rushed. “Spend approximately one minute gently but firmly massaging your scalp when you shampoo,” she explains. “Carefully squeeze the suds through your hair a few times, and rinse well.”
Reslan’s a fan of double-shampooing (think double cleansing, but with shampoo). The first application will break up buildup, while the second will actually cleanse hair. She also suggests squeezing any excess water out of the hair out of the hair prior to applying conditioner.
“Hair only has the ability to absorb so much moisture at a time, so if it’s too wet, your conditioner won’t be absorbed enough and you won’t be satisfied with the end results,” Reslan says. “Our cuticles are delicate like silk fibers in that if you don’t handle silk carefully, it will lose its sheen and smoothness; it needs to be washed gently to maintain a healthy structure.”