Here's What Happens When You Go Too Long Between Hair Washes

Sometimes, having a good hair day can seem like spinning a roulette wheel and hoping for the best. What kind of product should you use? What's the best curling or straightening technique? And, perhaps most importantly, how often should you be washing your temperamental locks? Once upon a time, most people might have assumed that it's best to shampoo daily, but now we know the answer isn't so black and white. Depending on your hair type, over-washing can lead to dryness, frizziness, dullness, split ends, and dandruff (via Health Shots).

It's no wonder, then, that we keep hearing about second- or third-day hair as the ideal styling situation. Forget the freshly-washed look — people are even inventing hacks to get the volume and texture of second-day hair without waiting the extra 24 hours (via L'Oréal Paris). And with the meteoric popularity of dry shampoo, some folks are stretching their shampoo schedule out longer and longer, opting to simply spray and go. However, this approach of shampooing once in a blue moon has its own risks.

The risks of rarely washing your hair

We love the no-poo method as much as the next person, but if you aren't careful, neglecting a regular wash can have an unfortunate effect on the health of your hair and scalp. When you go for several days without washing your hair, whether with shampoo or your favorite DIY concoction, you aren't removing any of the nasties that naturally gather on your scalp. These can include not only your hair's natural oil but also yeast, bacteria, and dead skin cells. Left alone for too long, these impurities can contribute to skin irritation and other issues, from hair loss to a scaly scalp (via Verywell Health).

If you're a dry shampoo enthusiast, you may be damaging your hair even faster. Yes, as much as we love and rely on our dry shampoo, you can have too much of a good thing. Setting aside the fact that this second-day pick-me-up doesn't actually clean your hair, it can also cause scalp buildup, clogged hair follicles, and hair breakage (via Healthline). Plus, all that dry shampoo isn't banishing oil; it's just trapping it against your scalp. And since an oily scalp contributes to dandruff, letting that oil residue sit on your skin for days at a time may make your flaking worse (via Mayo Clinic).

How often should you wash your hair?

Your shampoo schedule is like your hair: personal and unique. So, there will probably be some guess-and-test involved in finding your perfect hair-washing schedule. Contrary to popular belief, certain hair types may even thrive with daily shampooing without fear of dryness from overwashing. "There isn't one answer when it comes to how often you should be washing your hair," dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco tells Insider. "But in general, taking all skin types and hair types into consideration, a minimum of once a week is enough. Now, if you tend to have a really oily scalp, then it's okay to shampoo every day. You can really tailor it to yourself and with the number of products on the market, you can pick the one that works best for your hair and scalp type."

So, when trying out different shampoo schedules, where should you start? "People who highlight or relax or color-treat their hair may be more prone to damage from repeat washings because the hair is already more porous," Nicole Rogers, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University, tells Health. So, your heavily treated hair probably doesn't want to be shampooed every day. Meanwhile, people with straight, fine hair types tend to need to wash more often to prevent a flat and oily look, while thick, textured hair can get by with a more irregular schedule. 

Of course, if you have concerns about washing due to harsh shampoo ingredients or issues like skincare allergies, there are also alternative methods to keep your hair so fresh and so clean. Consider washing your hair with baking soda or trying out other beloved no-poo techniques, like the fan-favorite apple cider vinegar rinse.