Making it last: extending your time between hair washes

How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, I’d love to only have to wash my hair twice a week, but I have to wash it every night, or it gets really greasy straightaway.” Maybe you are the person who says that? If so, you’re by no means one of the few. It seems most of us think that we need to wash our hair on a near-nightly basis just to keep the grease from settling in, but that’s actually not the case.

Here’s the problem with getting into a far-too-regular hair-washing routine: you’re not allowing your hair to work for itself. Every time you wash and condition it, you’re stripping it of its natural oils (the ones the cause the build-up of grease over time). “Why is that a bad thing, then?” we hear you ask. “Surely the whole point of washing your hair is to get rid of the grease?”

Yes, of course it is. But the problem with frequent washing is that it confuses hair. The faster the grease is stripped from the hair, the faster your hair will think, I’d better make some more natural grease to protect myself. Washing regularly actually causes hair to become greasier, faster- you’ve got yourself into a bit of a bad cycle.

Luckily, all is not lost, and there’s a way to get out of this cycle in the same way that you got into it. If you’re fed up with splashing out on ridiculous amounts of shampoo and conditioner every month, it might be worth putting your hair through this detox, so to speak, to save a bit of money on hair care alone.

In the same way that once upon a time, probably back in your teenage years, you started upping your hair washing routine and getting under the shower every time you noticed even a speck of oil at your roots, you can gradually decrease the number of washes you subject your hair to every week. The trick is to do this in stages- if you’re currently an every-night washer, it may be too drastic to immediately jump to twice a week.

It’s best to start by reducing the amount of washes you do per week by one, and then, once your hair gets used to that, two, and so on. Don’t give in immediately when you see how greasy your hair is when it’s due its usual wash. It takes hair time to adapt to fewer washes and understand that you’re no longer going to strip it of its natural greases so regularly.

Once your hair is adapted, however, it will start to produce grease in a much slower process than when you were frequently washing, meaning you can naturally wait for longer between washes without even needing the wash. Over time, you can eventually reach the point where you’re only washing your hair two or three times per week, saving on the cost of shampoos and conditioners at no cost to the quality or appearance of your hair.

Before we conclude, we should mention that sometimes, understanding the needs of your hair is more important than sticking to a strict washing schedule. There are some instances where hair washing is important for maintaining hair health, such as after you’ve been swimming, or endured a particularly sweaty session at the gym. In these instances, sweat and dirt will clog up your hair and give it that dirty, oily appearance that only a good wash can eliminate. Chlorine from swimming pools can also damage the hair, so it’s important to wash after you’ve taken a dip if you want to avoid split ends.

Getting into a less frequent hair washing routine is a habit that some people think just won’t work for them, but we would advise this: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. You’d be surprised at how adaptable your really is, and a lot of the times, your hair is only greasy because you’ve programmed it to be that way. Obviously, certain hair types may require different approaches to care and maintenance, so if you’re unsure what is best for you, speak to your hairdresser and they can give tips and advice on how to have your hair looking and feeling its best.  

Laura Shallcross