Hair Care 101: To Wash Or Not To Wash

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Oil is Not Your Enemy

Although we can probably all agree that sebum is something that’s universally disliked, one thing that people fail to realize is the difference between a healthy versus an excessive amount of sebum. Contrary to what’s commonly portrayed in shampoo commercials, sebum is essential to strengthening and keeping your hair follicles shiny.

oil hair

In fact, washing your hair too regularly can actually be the cause of bad hair days! Some readers might be in disbelief right now, but if you think about it logically, it makes sense. Shampoos are primarily designed to clean the scalp and strip away excess oil, therefore using too much of it or too regularly will consequently dry out your scalp greatly. An overly-dry scalp will lead to rough and dull hair.


While washing our hair daily has been instilled in the majority population as an accepted common practice, this rhetoric has been changing as of recent. Now, more people are embracing either forgoing shampoos altogether or using detergent-free conditioning cleansers as an alternative. This trend has been dubbed as the “no poo” movement, encouraging, normalizing, and popularizing people to go shampoo-free. Therefore, subscribers to this movement prefer to let their natural hair oils balance out with the assistance of shampoo substitutes or simply good old plain water.


This movement might seem rather far-fetched at first, but emerging research has shown promising discussions about the benefits of this lifestyle in the long run. While the general rule of thumb to hair-washing is to wash it once it feels oily or unclean, there are a multitude of other factors affecting the frequency that one should wash their hair. Not to mention that they go hand in hand with salon hair treatments; booked using no less for convenience and ease.


Factors Affecting Hair Wash Frequency


1.     Oil

Now, this is arguably the biggest culprit of making our hair feel oily and grimy to the touch, making our hair feel clumpy and tangled. Additionally, oil is shown to be closely correlated to age, genetics, gender, and environment. In general, the age groups ranging from teenagers to working adults are more prone to sebum production. However, children and older adults are shown to be the opposite and produce relatively less sebum. Thus, this demonstrates that while sebum might be a current problem for you, you can rest in the hope that it might one day subside considerably as your scalp becomes drier with age.


For individuals with fragile and damage-prone hair, regular washing (daily, every other day, weekly) is not recommended. Instead, washing every other week might be more beneficial. This is because they probably don’t produce sufficient oil, thus necessitating frequent washes. However, it should be noted that this group falls largely within the minority as most people would at least require a good scrubbing once every few days. This proves that oil still poses as probably the biggest factor affecting hair cleanliness.

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2.     Hair Type

Depending on the texture of your hair, the frequency of hair washes can vary too. Straighter and thinner hair require more frequent washes whereas curly or wavy hair tends to be more voluminous and requires fewer washes. Due to their thickness, oil has a harder time coating each individual strand. In fact, sebum plays an important role in keeping curly and wavy hair lush and well-defined because it helps retain moisture and prevents the hair tips from drying out and becoming frizzy.

hair blowout




Apart from that, African-American hair falls at the extreme end of the spectrum. Oftentimes, given their unique afro texture, over washing can damage their hair significantly and cause hair loss over time. This is compounded by the fact that their ethnic or heritage hairstyles include tight and forceful braids like box braids that are stressful on their roots. Therefore, it’s highly advised for African-Americans to refrain from washing their hair more than once a week or every couple of weeks.



3.     Sweat

Now, this should be no surprise. Nobody enjoys the feeling of a sweaty and sticky scalp, especially when sweat accumulates and spreads sebum, resulting in the dirty look, smell, and feel that is less than ideal. Therefore, if you’re prone to a sweaty scalp, do your due diligence to wash your hair more frequently to prevent massive stink-ups and reduce the chances of itching scalps.



4.     Force of Nature

When it comes to more natural elements like pollen or dirt/dust, those tiny particles can be a real burden to hair care 101. Dirtier tasks such as cleaning or gardening undoubtedly make one more susceptible to dust, dirt, and pollen finding a home in their hair. If not carefully managed, this may also trigger allergies.



5.     Experimental Hairstylist

If you’re a keen practitioner of hairstyling, you should be well aware of the buildup of products with every spray or dollop of product that you put in your hair. It goes without saying that excessive products in your hair and scalp will lead to irritation and damage over time. Therefore, washing your hair frequently is a must for such individuals.

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Shampooing Tips and Alternatives

I think by now, it’s evident that excess shampoo usage can dry out one’s hair immensely. Thus, one tip to mitigate this would be to focus the shampoo only on your roots and leave your ends untouched. Since you can’t avoid shampooing your roots, avoiding your ends can at least minimize your hair from being overly dried out. Your ends will naturally be cleaned as you rinse the shampoo out of your scalp. This is especially pertinent to older folks in their 40s and 50s with more delicate skin.


Dandruff is also another cause of concern signaling an overuse of shampoo. Essentially, dandruff is produced because your scalp is dry and irritated, causing it to flake and feel itchy. Thus, dandruff is another indicator to cut back on shampoo frequency or switch to dandruff-specific shampoo to treat it.


If you’re keen on switching over to alternatives, you can also consider options like dry shampoo, co-washing, or even simply relying on water alone.


Dry shampoo is a form of powder or spray cleaner that works well in absorbing oils from your follicle roots, preventing it from clumping. This method is advised for those incapable of physically washing their hair or want to train their hair to rely less on shampoo.


Co-washing refers to using conditioners or “cleansing conditioners” specially made to wash and condition one’s hair without traditional detergents. An emerging fad, L’Oreal, and Pantene are key pioneers in this realm. This method is recommended mostly for those with curly, wavy, or dry hair. Furthermore, keep in mind to avoid using any silicon-based hair care products subsequently to prevent unnecessary greasing.


Lastly, using only water is quite self-explanatory. While it gets the basic job done of removing dirt from hair, it potentially misses out the moisturization step of one’s hair care routine. Thus, that’s one downside to take note of.






All in all, I think it’s pretty clear that hair care is an extremely personal process and everyone’s routine is different. What works for one individual might not necessarily work for another; even if they share the same hair type. The culmination of different factors are huge determinants in affecting one’s hair health and should therefore never be taken lightly. Do your own proper research and test out different hair products and treatments. Your hair will thank you for that.