We used to think lathering up our locks every day or two was the norm. Then, with the dawn of dry shampoo, we were allowed some wiggle room between washes (OK, maybe a lot of wiggle room). And while shampooing less frequently has been ideal for our sleep schedule, we weren’t totally sure how the habit was affecting our scalp health. So we decided to do some investigating and find out: How often should you wash your hair? The long and short of it is every day for most hair types, with a few caveats (which we’ll get into below).
To help set the record straight, we tapped celeb hairstylist Helen Reavey, cofounder of Act + Acre (a hair-care brand that specializes in scalp health). Reavey proceeded to not only tell us about our dry, neglected scalps but also show us what happens when you don’t shampoo often enough (or incorrectly)
Using a microscopic camera, Reavey inspected the manes of a few PureWow staffers (and, spoiler, our scalps are not exactly sparkling clean). The closeup view reveals an uncomfortable amount of dust, dead skin, dry shampoo and product buildup coating our strands (likely from conditioners that contain silicones, says Reavey).
It doesn’t help that many of us don’t wash our hair often enough—or correctly, for that matter. To help illustrate this point, we polled our office to see how often everyone lathers up. The results were widely varied, from those who rinse their roots religiously once a day to those who suds up every two weeks (!).
Two words: Double cleanse. Yep, just like you would your face.
Ever notice how your blowout seems to last longer after a trip to the salon? Part of that can be attributed to the way your stylist shampoos your hair, which is typically twice, thoroughly, spending some extra time massaging the suds into your scalp.
As Reavey explains, “We double cleanse on our skin, and we should always double cleanse on our scalp, because the first wash takes care of any oil, pollution and product remnants, while the second go-around actually cleans our scalp.”
Any other tips for washing our hair?
Yes. According to Reavey, you should start at the nape of your neck and work your way forward.
Think about the way you wash your hair. You probably plop some shampoo right on the top of your head and maybe do the back of your head—if you get there at all—which is why most of us end up with buildup in those spots.
OK, got it. So should I really wash my hair every day?
For most hair types (other than curly or processed hair), every day or every other day is recommended. For curly or processed hair, Reavey says once or twice a week is best.
As for the concerns about whether or not shampooing daily will dry out your hair? Reavey assures us that as long as you’re using a sulfate-free shampoo and being smart about heat styling afterward (i.e., air-drying whenever possible and keeping any hot tools, like curling or flat irons, below 375°F), your strands will be just fine.
You can watch all the action in the latest episode of The Glow Up, as Reavey probes our roots with a microscopic camera, demystifies hair oil and, yes, tells us exactly how often we should shampoo. Share your hair-washing schedule in the comments (no judgment, promise).
And with that, here are a few of our favorite sulfate-free shampoos.
Odele Smoothing Shampoo
As if we needed another reason to love Target, our latest hair-care obsession is a new exclusive to the retailer. Meet Odele (which, fun fact, is a riff on the Norwegian phrase “å dele,” which means “to share”). It’s a clean line featuring natural ingredients, neutral scents and understated packaging, and everyone in your family can use and enjoy ir. The smoothing shampoo, in particular, is our go-to for daily cleansing without stripping our strands.
Herbal Essences Bio: Renew Potent Aloe + Mango Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Ah, who doesn’t have a soft spot for Herbal Essences? The memorable fragrances scented our strands throughout most of our adolescence (and who can forget those commercials?). But the storied brand has made some major upgrades to its formulas since the early aughts. Most notable is their Bio:Renew line, which is EWG-verified and features botanical ingredients that are responsibly sourced and endorsed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, no less. Our favorite is this rich, sulfate-free shampoo that cleanses even the coarsest and curliest of strands without stripping them dry, and true to the brand’s heritage, it smells absolutely divine.
Act + Acre Hair Cleanse
This is not your ordinary shampoo. Rather, it’s a hair wash or cleanser, as it’s aptly named. As such, it feels more watery—even slightly diluted—when you first pour it out of the bottle. To get the best results, wet your hair and rub the cleanser in your palms with some water until it forms a dense lather before applying it to your head. This will ensure you get an even spread across your scalp. Repeat once more for that second cleanse Reavey told us about. Packed with cold-pressed ylang-ylang, vetiver, amaranth oil and rosemary, it gently cleanses and conditions your strands without the addition of sulfates.
Oribe Shampoo for Brilliance and Shine
Make no mistake: This shampoo is definitely an indulgence, but it’s a worthy splurge (in our humble opinion) that pays off every time you wash your hair. Part of that can be attributed to the iconic scent, which features a blend of bergamot, white peach and cedarwood that lingers long after you step out of the shower. The other part is, of course, how it makes our dry, lackluster strands instantly softer and shinier. As of earlier this year, the shampoo is officially sulfate-free, opting instead for gentler cleaners derived from coconut, corn and oat.
Living Proof Full Shampoo
Fine hair got you down? This sulfate- and silicone-free shampoo works double duty to clear away any oil or product residue (both of which can cause your locks to fall flat), while depositing hydrolyzed wheat proteins that add bulk to each strand. Hey, if it’s good enough for Jen Aniston...
Additional reporting by Jenny Jin.