'How often should we actually be washing our hair?' It's a debate that has been raging for decades, with answers ranging from everyday without fail to once a week at most.
Of course, the texture and condition of your hair plays a significant role, but with conversations about scalp health increasing and the temptation to skip a day or two due to our current (rather unique) working conditions, we spoke to the experts to discuss whether we should be reassessing our shampooing habits.
First of all, before deciding what hair washing regime is best for you, you need to confirm your hair type. The below tricks can help you discover it and it's worth doing them even if you think you know your hair texture, as you might be surprised and it could save you a lot of time and money by ensuring you are buying the right shampoos and washing your hair the right amount.
"Take a moment to assess your hair type like you do your skin," agrees the hairdresser Michael Van Clarke. "Many of my clients are disappointed with hair products because eight out of 10 people do not assess their hair type properly when buying products."
- The Strand Test (for thickness)
- Take a single hair in between your fingers. If you:
- Cannot feel it: you have fine hair
- Can feel it: you have medium hair
- It feels thick or coarse: you have thick hair
It's important to look at individual strands, as you can actually have 'a lot' of hair but it can still be fine, or you might have very thick hair that is, in reality, relatively sparse.
- The Stretch Test (for condition)
- Take a single hair in between your fingers and stretch it out. If it:
- Breaks immediately: you have low elasticity indicating your hair isn't as healthy as it could be
- Stretches to 50 per cent of its original length: you have high elasticity and healthier hair
If your hair is 'weak', you might want to look to strengthening treatments and also consider whether frequently getting it wet or brushing it through after washing is the main cause of your problems.
That said, "be aware that hair type is never a constant," explains Van Clarke. "It is also sensitive to climatic changes, health and emotional disruption, and can become finer, coarser, oilier, drier, frizzier and smoother at different stages of our lives." So, you may need to repeat these tests when you suspect a change.
"I recommend people with fine textured hair shampoo it daily," says Van Clarke. "This is because people with finer hair have more oil glands on their scalp, and their hair therefore becomes greasy faster."
"Many people think it’s bad to wash their hair everyday as this will dry it out, but that's n0t true if you are using high quality shampoos and conditioners and then gently drying the hair. But, more frequent use of hot styling tools will have an impact on condition so try air drying on alternate days, especially if you are staying at home."
If you hair isn't super fine you might feel like you can go longer without reaching for the shampoo, although the experts suggest looking to your environment before holding fast to any rigid schedules.
"You take your hair and scalp to the same places you take your face and they get just as dirty," argues the trichologist Anabel Kingsley. "You wouldn’t go for days on end without washing your face (especially if you live in a city) – so why would you do that to your scalp?If you have medium textured hair, try to shampoo every other day at least."
Unlike other hair types, coarse hair doesn't become (or show) as much greasiness, meaning it doesn't fall flat under the weight of scalp oils as quickly. It can also become drier and less easy to manage if over-washed.
That said, "I think not washing your hair is really bad in the long term," says the celebrity hairdresser and creative director of Virtue Labs, Adir Abergel. "You should wash your hair regularly to remove impurities and product buildup. And let’s not forget that your scalp is skin, and just like pores, product buildup can clog your hair follicles. Wash your hair at least a couple of times a week."
"Women with afro hair type 3a to 4c should routinely shampoo their hair every two weeks," advises the hairstylist Dionne Smith. "Afro hair types tend to be quite dry and even brittle at times and although our hair produces natural sebum we don't want to be stripping that out too frequently as it only makes the hair even dryer."
"Shampooing can be different for different individuals with afro hair depending on lifestyle, as if your a gym-goer, for instance, you may want to shampoo on a weekly basis, because sweat can build up in the hair, producing salt which clogs up the hair, pores and scalp. Leaving it in can go completely the other way and lead to breakage and damaged hair."