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How Often You *Really* Need to Wash Your Hair, Based on Your Hair Type

Ah, yes. The million-dollar question: How often should I wash my hair? Honestly, hate to break it to you, but there’s no quick, easy answer. I, too, wish there was a universal rule of thumb or formula to follow, but because every single scalp and hair type is different from the next person’s, you could see how the response to that question would also vary. Your ultra-fine, grease-prone hair won’t follow the same rules as your friend’s combination curls—ya get me? Although it’ll still require experimentation of your own to figure out how often to wash your hair, we consulted the experts, dermatologist Iris Rubin, MD, and founder of Seen hair care, and celebrity hairstylist Miles Jeffries to get a basic guideline—and the best shampoo—for every hair type.

How often should you shampoo your hair?

Dr. Rubin says, in general, finer, straighter hair needs to be washed more often than coarser, curlier hair, but instead of relying on a calendar schedule, look for the signs that it’s time for a good scrub down. Washing too frequently can lead to stripped, straw-like hair, dried-out scalp, inflammation, and irritation, so let your scalp and hair strands tell you what they need each day. Dr. Rubin says whenever you experience any itching, flaking, product buildup, greasy strands, or unpleasant smells, it’s not a bad time to consider cleansing.

How long can you go without washing your hair?

So even though you’ve probably heard that it’s best to wash your hair as infrequently as possible, that’s kinda BS. While products like dry shampoo can help reduce scalp oil, you still need to wash your hair regularly for optimal scalp and hair health because not washing your hair enough can cause hardcore dandruff, irritation, clogged pores, breakouts, and even hair loss.

When you go too long without washing your scalp, Dr. Rubin says you can get a build-up of sebum, hair product residue, and dead skin cells. “All of this can potentially result in clogged pores, which is not good for your scalp health or your hair health,” Dr. Rubin explains. “The follicles on your scalp are literally the manufacturing plant for your hair, and for your best hair health, it is important that they are not clogged.”

Now that we have the general basics covered, let’s get a little more specific. Here, the best shampoo to use for your scalp and hair type and how often to use it.

1

If You Have Dandruff

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Daily Shampoo

💧WASH YOUR HAIR: daily or at least 3 times a week

One instance where it can be helpful to wash more frequently, according to Dr. Rubin, is if someone is experiencing seborrheic dermatitis (aka dandruff). Dr. Rubin explains that seborrheic dermatitis is thought to be associated with an inflammatory response to malassezia, a yeast that naturally lives on the skin (yep, the same yeast responsible for your fungal acne). To kill the extra yeast, use a dandruff shampoo that contains zinc pyrithione, like this one here. Oil on the scalp can create an ideal environment for that yeast to overgrow, so washing more often would also help your scalp itch sitch.

2

If You Have Scalp Acne

Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo-Scalp Build-Up Control

💧WASH YOUR HAIR: every 2 to 3 days

Much like treating zits on your face, if you have scalp acne, Dr. Rubin suggests using a medicated shampoo, like one with salicylic acid, an anti-inflammatory ingredient known for fighting acne. Avoid applying products that contain excess oil, and make sure to wash your scalp regularly (especially after a sweaty workout) with a fragrance-free, scalp acne shampoo, like this one.

3

If You Have “Normal” Hair

Seen Skin-Caring Shampoo Fragrance Free

💧WASH YOUR HAIR: every 2 to 3 days

K, so let’s get something straight: There’s no such thing as “normal” or “abnormal” hair, but if you’re not trying to address anything in particular and want to maintain healthy hair and a healthy scalp, try a hydrating, sulfate-free shampoo. This formula (which was created by Dr. Rubin and is, I can attest, incredibly good) is silicone-free, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, which means it’s great for breakout-prone and sensitive skin, too.

4

If You Have Flat, Fine Hair

Pantene Nutrient Blends Volume With Bamboo Shampoo

💧WASH YOUR HAIR: every other day

The one slightly annoying thing about fine hair? It shows grease and oil more than other hair types do, which means that even if your hair isn’t that greasy, it’ll sure show it. It may be tempting to shampoo every day, but you’ll just end up stripping the hell out of your hair and potentially leading to even more oil. Instead, wash your hair every other day with a gentle, volumizing shampoo like this one, and then blast your roots with dry shampoo to curb day-two grease.

5

If You Have Thick Hair

Hask Tea Tree & Rosemary Shampoo

💧WASH YOUR HAIR: 1 to 2 times a week

Fun fact: Denser hair follicles tend to disguise oil better than thinner hair, which means that “if your hair isn’t very oily, try to wash it only once or twice a week,” says Jeffries. If you’re prone to buildup or itchiness, try a shampoo filled with the pore-clearing and inflammation-zapping tea tree oil (hi, Hask) to will your roots clean without feeling stripped.

6

If You Have Wavy Hair or Loose Curls

Kinky-Curly Come Clean Shampoo

💧WASH YOUR HAIR: 2 to 3 times a week

Waves and looser curls can get weighed down by the butters and oils in curly hair shampoos, especially if your hair is fine. To keep them voluminous and defined—without the straw-like dryness—wash every other day (for oil-prone scalps) or every two days (for “normal” scalps) with a sulfate-free cleanser that’s formulated with lightweight moisturizers. This organic shampoo helps remove hard water buildup weighing your hair down and uses sea kelp to help your hair maintain its moisture balance.

7

If You Have Type-4 Hair

Briogeo Be Gentle Be Kind Avocado Quinoa Co-Wash

💧WASH YOUR HAIR: 1 to 2 times a week

If you have type-4 hair, you’re either dealing with itchy roots and product buildup, or just dryness all over. And it makes sense: “Scalp oils can’t make their way down curly hair shafts as easily as they can with straight hair shafts, which is why coils are drier than other textures,” says Jeffries. He suggests co-washing every three days for moisture, then using a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo every two to three weeks to remove buildup.

8

If You Have Damaged Hair

Virtue Recovery Shampoo

💧WASH YOUR HAIR: every 2 to 3 days

When you damage your strands (thanks to heat-styling, coloring, chemical treatments, etc.), it roughs up the cuticles, leaving your hair dry, dull, and brittle. To help get damaged hair back on track, try this sulfate-free, color-safe shampoo that uses plant-based proteins and lightweight oils to gently cleanse and hydrate. Dr. Rubin says naturally drier or chemically treated hair needs to be washed less often to minimize drying it out. Then, once a week, douse your hair in Olaplex, a holy-grail treatment that uses keratin to repair the broken bonds in your fried hair.

9

If You Have Oily Hair

Amika Reset Clarifying Gel Shampoo

💧WASH YOUR HAIR: every other day

I know, I know—it’s super tempting to wash your hair every single day if you have naturally oily hair (trust me: I tried training my scalp to be less greasy, so, like, I get it), but drying out your scalp does more harm than good. Instead, keep your washing to every other day and suds up with a gentle, sulfate-free clarifying shampoo that’ll break down oils without stripping your hair. Dr. Rubin suggests also opting for oil-free products going silicone-free since the silicones can potentially trap other ingredients on the skin, including oils.

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