How often you should wash your hair has become quite a hot-button topic lately. First, we were told that we were shampooing too frequently. Dry shampoo became a favorite way to stretch the time between washes just a liiittle bit longer.
But, trends are cyclical, and it wasn’t long before we were back to being told to wash our hair more often. Just 10 days into 2017, The New York times ushered in a new era by suggesting that we might be getting a little too lax with our scalp hygiene.
“Women have been badgered for washing their hair too often, but products are so much better than they were even five years ago,” famous colorist Rita Hazan told The New York Times. “If you are using the right products, they will be gentle enough to use daily, even.”
Feeling confused? Same. So we set out to find what the deal with hair washing is, and it turns out, we shouldn’t feel obligated to shampoo strands every single day.
“Many people tend overwash their hair with harsh shampoos, which strips their scalp and hair follicles of natural sebum,” says Jana Blankenship, founder of the Captain Blankenship all-natural beauty and hair care line. Sebum is a protective waxy oil (it is most similar to jojoba oil) that is naturally produced by mammals and lubricates skin and hair. “When we deplete our natural sebum, it overproduces to compensate; meaning the more you wash your hair, the greasier your hair gets.”
If you’ve ever gone cold turkey from daily hair washing, you’ve probably noticed how nasty your head feels at the end of day one. But throwing your sebum out of whack isn’t the only thing that’s bad about daily hair washing — there are also harmful sulfates lurking in many hair care formulas.
“Sulfates act as foaming agents or detergents, and are made of made of sulfur-containing mineral salts,” says Blankenship. “Among other things, sulfates aggressively strip hair of moisture, leaving it dry and causing damage to hair shaft, hair follicles, and scalp.”
As a result, Blankenship has found a sweet spot for shampooing — not too much, but also not so little that hygiene suffers.
“I swear by washing my hair only 1–2 times per week with a natural, gentle sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to keep a healthy balance of oils on my hair and scalp,” Blankenship says. “I also recommend brushing hair regularly with a natural bristle brush or comb to keep hair tangle free and to evenly distribute oils. I keep my hair fresh in between washes with Mermaid Dry Shampoo ($24), which naturally masks grease and adds volume to unwashed hair.”
So there you have it — you don’t have to wash your hair every single day. But no matter how often you’re shampooing, keep an eye out for those hair-damaging sulfates!