One of the more controversial beauty questions is how often you should wash your hair. Some people insist on using shampoo and conditioner on their hair daily, others say every other day and then some think once a week is best. So, which one is it?
We spoke to hair experts to find out and there isn’t a clear answer. It depends on various factors — like your hair texture and scalp condition. Below, we asked experts to explain what you should consider when determining how often your hair should be washed. We also share highly rated shampoos or NBC Select staff favorites for you to use on wash day.
SKIP AHEAD How often should you wash your hair? | What happens if you overwash your hair? | How to wash your hair properly | Highly rated shampoos and dry shampoos
How often should you wash your hair?
When it comes to how frequently you should be washing your hair, the answer depends on your specific hair type. Most people don’t need to wash their hair daily, says Angelo David, and owner of Angelo David Salon. “Generally, washing every two to three days will be sufficient. However, texture and lifestyle should also be taken into account.” For example, if you go to the gym daily and sweat a lot, you may need to wash more frequently (like every other day).
Regarding hair type, David says textured hair can go anywhere from four to seven days between washes, while finer hair should stick to the two to three-day rule. In between washes, a dry shampoo can help prevent hair from looking greasy. Then, when you do wash, it’s important to use a quality shampoo to remove all the built-up oil — starting with a clean base can help you get the most time between washes.
What happens if you overwash your hair?
Cleaning your scalp hair is good, but overcleaning your scalp and hair? It can actually be detrimental to your hair health. “When you wash your hair, you are essentially removing any buildup of natural oils and product on the scalp and hair,” says Michelle Cleveland, hairstylist and owner of Hair Addict Salon & Extensions Bar. “This works wonders on the hair when there is a buildup. But if you are washing your hair when little to no buildup exists, you will strip your strands of essential oils that are crucial in strengthening and protecting your hair.” The end result: Overwashing your hair can lead to dry, brittle hair.
How to wash your hair properly
Starting with really clean hair will help you go longer between washes. Cleansing hair properly is simple. “I always teach my clients that shampoo is for the scalp,” says Cleveland. “You should be applying it only to the scalp area and massaging it in. When you rinse the shampoo gets diluted with water and runs down the hair shaft, which is more than enough to remove buildup on strands.” Equally as important as the way you shampoo is how you apply conditioner. If you apply it to your roots, it will look greasy sooner. “Conditioner is meant to replace the essential oils that may have been removed during the wash and it should only be applied to your hair, not the scalp,” says Cleveland.
Highly rated shampoos and dry shampoos
To help you extend the time between washes, experts we spoke to say that cleansing with a good shampoo will set you up for success, then they suggest using dry shampoo in between cleansing.
Highly rated shampoos
Briogeo Matcha + Apple Replenishing Superfood Shampoo
The NBC Select staff awarded this the best overall shampoo in our 2023 Wellness Awards. It has ingredients like matcha, apple and vitamin C to support your hair and scalp against free-radical and UV damage, according to Briogeo. Free from sulfates, silicones and parabens, this shampoo works on all hair types and textures. “Each time I use this product, my hair feels soft, smooth and healthier than before,” NBC Select editor Mili Godio says. “I notice a big difference once my hair dries — it adds some life to my very dull hair and makes it feel fuller and shinier.” The brand’s Kale + Apple Replenishing Superfood Conditioner also earned a top spot on our list of wellness winners.
RevitaLash Thickening Shampoo
Another 2023 NBC Select Wellness Awards winner, this shampoo earned high marks from those with finer hair because it is formulated to make hair feel fuller and thicker. This RevitaLash shampoo contains loquat leaf to help with thinning hair, biotin to improve hair volume and strength, willow bark to gently exfoliate the scalp and panthenol for hydration, according to the brand. It’s oil- and paraben-free and safe to use on color-treated hair.
Ouai Detox Shampoo
This clarifying shampoo from Ouai uses apple cider vinegar to cleanse away dirt, oil and product buildup, and hydrolyzed keratin helps strengthen hair, according to the brand. It won a Wellness Award for best shampoo for curly hair and is color-safe and scented with rose, bergamot, lychee, cedarwood and white musk. The brand recommends using this shampoo once a week — using clarifying shampoos more than that can dry out your hair and scalp, experts told us in our guide to clarifying shampoos. “If you’re like me and use hair products daily, it’s a great shampoo to use once a week or so almost to reset your hair,” says Zoe Malin, an associate updates editor at NBC Select.
SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo
If you have natural hair, consider this shampoo that uses water, coconut oil, aloe vera and shea butter (among other ingredients) to cleanse, moisturize, reduce frizz and define curls, according to the brand. Reviewers say this creamy shampoo, which has a 4.5-star average rating from over 19,700 reviews on Amazon, is gentle on the scalp and even helps create soft and shiny curls without adding conditioner.
Highly rated dry shampoos
Amika Perk Up Plus Extended Clean Dry Shampoo
NBC Select’s editorial director Lauren Swanson says this dry shampoo has a lovely scent and made our list of best dry shampoos. According to the brand, it’s intended for use on all hair types and doesn’t leave behind any white residue. The formula includes ingredients like AHA mandelic acid and peptides to help nourish your scalp as it absorbs excess oils, according to Amika.
Olaplex No. 4D Clean Volume Detox Dry Shampoo
This is a solid go-to for color-treated hair. The formula is lightweight so it doesn’t weigh down hair and it’s delivered via a nozzle that dispels a micro-mist so you get an even layer of the dry shampoo, according to the brand.
Moroccanoil Dry Shampoo
Uyehara says she became a fan of the Moroccanoil Dry Shampoo after getting a few free samples from Sephora — she likes the smell of the formula and the fact that it doesn’t leave a white cast on her dark hair. Made with fine rice starches to absorb oil and reduce buildup, this dry shampoo is infused with argan oil — which can help moisturize the hair — and is available for both dark and light hair to prevent the white residue that’s typically left behind after using dry shampoo, according to the brand.
Meet our experts
At NBC Select, we work with experts with specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
Why trust NBC Select?
Bethany Heitman is a contributor at NBC Select and a journalist who regularly covers topics like beauty, home and lifestyle. For this story, she interviewed two hair stylists to gather their guidance on how often you should wash your hair.
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