I was raised by a woman who religiously washes her hair every single day, despite me trying to persuade her of the magic of dry shampoo. She just doesn't feel ready to face the day unless her strands have been shampooed, conditioner and blow-dried. I, on the other hand, have gone from washing my hair every other day to being firmly in the once-or-twice-a-week camp.
There were a few reasons why I embarked on the journey to extend the number of days I could go between hair washes. Namely, I'm lazy, and my short hair takes absolutely ages to style and dry after washing it. Another reason was that I'd heard mixed messages over the years about frequent hair washing making your strands reliant on a regular shampoo by causing your scalp to overproduce oil.
To find out, I asked a few of my favourite hair experts and celebrity stylists for their opinion on how often we should actually be washing our hair and how to re-create that squeaky-clean feeling I only ever seem to enjoy at the hairdresser's. Keep scrolling for the lowdown.
How often should you be washing your hair?
Sadly, there isn't a straightforward answer to this. "How often we should wash our hair is really dependent on a few factors—namely hair type and lifestyle," explained Adam Reed, UK editorial ambassador for L'Oréal Professionnel. James Earnshaw, Amika UK artist ambassador, agrees: "It all completely depends on your hair type. Each hair type is different, and the requirements are different."
So far, so confusing. There does seem to be a general consensus that overwashing definitely isn't a good thing. "Usually I would advise between two to three times a week," said Bruno Marc, director at Marc Antoni. "This will allow you to get rid of any product buildup on a frequent enough basis but will also prevent you from stripping your hair of any natural oils and drying it out."
Basically, if your hair needs a wash, go for it. But every day might be erring a bit on the frequent side. (I'm talking to you, Mum!)
What's the secret to a professional hair wash?
So we've worked out that the frequency of your hair wash is down to you, but what I really wanted to know is how to get that squeaky-clean feeling at home. "It's because [salons] always do two shampoos," explains Earnshaw. "The first one cleanses the hair of impurities, and the second one does the job of the shampoo." Reed refers to this as a double-cleanse, a technique that can be replicated at home.
Turns out your rinsing technique is also key: "In the salon, we rinse for a long time to ensure shampoo and conditioner has been removed. If the product has not been removed thoroughly, it can cause hair to go lifeless and dull a lot faster," said Bruno. "Make sure you massage your scalp [too], as you're not just washing your hair; you're washing and cleansing the scalp to get rid of any product buildup and sebum."
What's the deal with conditioner?
I'd never shampoo my hair without following it up with a generous slathering of conditioner, but I have friends who never use it (and whose hair still looks great), and I know people who avoid it for fear of it greasy strands. I wanted to know if every hair type needs it and where exactly we should be applying it.
"Personally, I think [everyone needs it]," said Earnshaw. "If you're scared of using conditioner because you think it's too heavy for your hair type, invest in a leave-in conditioner spray that will not weigh the hair down. If using regular conditioner, I would usually say only apply it to the mid-lengths and ends of your hair."
"As a general rule for conditioner, the amount of product that you should use should be the diameter of your ponytail," explained Reed. "Take your thumb and first finger and wrap it around your ponytail. This will give you the quantity you should use on the length and ends of your hair." Simple.
What hair washing mistakes are we all making?
"People wash their hair too often," said Earnshaw. "Invest in a really good co-wash if your hair is wavy or curly. This will refresh your hair without the 'shampoo feeling,' and is also great if your hair is feeling dry and you don't want to over-shampoo."
Just FYI, a co-wash (also known as a conditioning wash) is kind of like a shampoo-conditioner hybrid. It can take a bit of getting used to, as they don't lather up as much as traditional shampoos, and you don't need to follow with a conditioner, but they're fantastic for curly hair types.
Marc agrees: "Your scalp produces natural oils and sebum, and washing your hair too much can strip this away, leaving your hair and scalp feeling dry and brittle. You also tend to style your hair with heated styling tools more often when you over-wash your hair. When your hair is clean, you blow-dry it and then tend to style with curling tongs or straightening irons, which can cause damage."
How should you choose the best shampoo and conditioner for your hair type?
"Do your research, check online, and see what shampoo is best for you and your problems," advised Earnshaw. "I'd recommend sticking to ranges like Amika, which are paraben- and sulphate-free, as this can make your hair feel dry and lack shine."
"If your hair is dry, I'd recommend using a shampoo with nourishing ingredients to repair the damage," said Marc. "Look for ingredients like keratin, which helps to treat all hair types while enriching its elasticity, strength and shine."
Of course, you can always take advantage of your local hair experts too: "I always recommend speaking to your stylist in a salon to talk through the best shampoo and conditioner for your hair type," said Reed. "They will be able to advise on a range that suits you best."
Keep scrolling to shop the best expert-approved shampoos and conditioners