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Style SOS: How often should I wash my hair?

Style SOS: How often should I wash my hair?

I was under the impression you should wash your hair every time you shower, but my girlfriend seems to get away with leaving it for almost a week. Am I wrong, or is she? - Mikey, via Instagram

We’re not here to drive a wedge between you and your girlfriend, but if you ask us, washing your hair only once a week isn’t going to cut it, and the experts back us up. “Men should ideally wash their hair daily (that means using a shampoo and not just rinsing with water when showering),” says trichologist (read: hair expert) Lisa Gilbey, from The Northants Hair & Scalp Clinic. “You wash the skin on your body and face to keep it clean every day, and you should do the same for your scalp.” 

The reason has to do with those microscopic details we rarely think about. “Unbalanced yeasts and bacteria can thrive off a warm, alkali scalp, causing skin irritation and scaling in susceptible individuals,” Lisa says. See, not something you want to think about.

But what about all your friends who claim that if you stop washing your hair for a while, it will wash itself naturally? Lisa advises against giving this theory a go. “Sebum (grease) is a lipid (fat) excreted from the sebaceous gland, which helps protect the skin in many ways but does not have a cleansing property,” she says. “If you don't wish to be itching and smelling and want to avoid dirt, dust, and pollutants adhering to the sebum of your hair and scalp, it is best avoided to maintain a good scalp microbiome by washing it with shampoo.”

You can also tune out those who claim all shampoos have damaging effects. According to Lisa, it depends on which kind you use. “With the correct products, it will not harm you to regularly shampoo your hair, but the incorrect choice of shampoo can lead to itchiness, painful spots, or an irritant dermatitis, possibly from a fragrance or another ingredient,” she says. If your hair doesn't get oily too quickly, then stick with the stuff labelled 'normal'. If it does, you need a shampoo that will remove all that greasy sebum from the scalp surface. If you have sensitive skin or other scalp-related issues, you can see a registered trichologist who will advise as to the best type of products for you. 

Other things to avoid to maintain a healthy scalp and hair: using shower gel in lieu of shampoo, as the ingredients differ for cleaning the body. You also don’t need to waste extra money on conditioner if you have short hair. “Rubbing conditioner onto the scalp can irritate some individuals, as the pH level is too acidic and strong,” Lisa says. “Conditioner can also make the hair too soft and is too heavy for thinning hair, so styling issues can be difficult.”

And what about the scare story that if you wash your hair every day, you’ll go bald? “Absolute myth,” Lisa says. “Balding comes down to a combination of factors, such as having a genetic predisposition, sensitivity to testosterone, and other external factors that can proliferate the onset or advance the progression.” So stick with your routine, and keep washing your hair every morning. And pick a scent that your girlfriend will like, while you’re at it. 


Words: Allison Pavlick
Illustration: Ryan Gillett