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Does Not Washing Your Hair Cause Hair Loss?
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Updated on February 20, 2024

There’s a lot of debate about how often you should wash your hair to keep it strong and healthy [1]. Some believe washing your hair everyday can make your hair fall out, while others worry that not washing your hair will cause hair loss.

So what’s the truth? Does not washing your hair cause hair loss? Find out how frequently you should wash your hair to minimise hair loss and maintain healthy, shiny hair.

Table of Contents

Is it normal to lose hair after not washing it?

While the research into hair washing frequency and hair loss is minimal, one study has found that low wash frequency may be associated with increased hair loss [1]. That’s because washing your hair less often can increase sebum (the natural oil produced by your scalp) and scalp sensitivity.

This chart shows how hair loss and texture can be affected by wash frequency. Washing your hair less than once a week resulted in the highest levels of hair loss:

chart showing how hair loss and texture is affected by hair washing

 

Meanwhile, daily washing resulted in the lowest perceived rates of hair loss. This suggests it’s better to wash your hair more frequently if you’re concerned about hair loss.

While hair texture is affected to a lesser extent, this also suggests hair that’s washed more often is less brittle (although hair smoothness is associated with less frequent washing).

Lower shampoo wash frequency may also lead to conditions like dandruff [2]. It can also lead to seborrheic dermatitis, particularly in those with Black hair types.

How often should you wash your hair?

Washing your hair regularly keeps it clean and promotes good scalp health. Most people should wash their hair at least every two to three days. (Dry shampoo may not cause hair loss, but it’s no replacement for a proper hair wash.)

How often you wash your hair can depend on your hair type, texture, and styling preferences. Those with tightly coiled hair may find their hair becomes drier with more frequent washing.

Additionally, if you’ve had chemical treatments or a hair transplant, you may be advised to wash your hair on a specific schedule. Find out more about washing your hair after a hair transplant.

It may seem like washing your hair makes your hair fall out in the shower. But remember that it’s normal to lose some hair: people with healthy hair lose up to 100 hairs every day, many of which are loosened and removed in the shower [3].

100 short hairs vs. 100 long hairs
100 hairs from a person with short hair (left) and longer hair (right).

 

However, if you see a sudden or gradual increase in the amount of hair coming out in the shower, you may have a hair loss condition. Note that this probably isn’t triggered by hair washing — it’s much more likely to have another underlying cause.

How often should you wash your hair if you have hair loss?

If you’re already seeing the early signs of hair loss, it can be tempting to avoid washing your hair or reducing wash frequency to prevent more hair from coming out in the shower.

Unfortunately, not washing your hair won’t stop your hair from falling out if you have male pattern baldness. Your hair will shed regardless of whether you wash it, and as the research shows, washing your hair regularly may actually reduce hair shedding.

If you’re concerned about hair loss, consider switching to a medicated shampoo to help minimise shedding and promote regrowth. The following options may improve symptoms of hair loss:

Is it better to go longer without washing your hair?

No, it’s generally better to wash your hair more often. 

One study found that increasing hair wash frequency could result in less flaking, redness, itchiness, and scalp fungi that lead to dandruff and other scalp problems [1].

What happens if you don’t wash your hair for 3 weeks?

Not washing your hair for three weeks or more will result in a buildup of oil, grease, and hair products on your scalp. This is a reason why your hair looks greasy and may make your scalp feel tender, itchy, and even painful. You may find your scalp hurts more when you move your hair.

This image shows the difference in buildup after a week of not washing your hair, and daily washing:

Does Not Washing Your Hair Cause Hair Loss?, Wimpole Clinic

 

The “no-poo” hair-washing movement is growing in popularity. This involves washing your hair with products other than standard shampoos, such as baking soda, apple cider vinegar, or just water.

However, there’s currently no evidence that this removes scalp buildup effectively, or that it’s better for your hair and scalp than regular shampoo.

Can a dirty scalp cause hair loss?

While having an unclean scalp can feel uncomfortable, it’s not a direct cause of hair loss.

However, scalp buildup can cause infection that leads to folliculitis, or hair follicle inflammation [4]. Severe folliculitis may result in hair loss and even scarring on the scalp, so regular hair washing is important to remove excess oil and scalp buildup.

How often should you wash your hair for hair growth?

Research shows that washing your hair more frequently is less likely to result in hair loss. But how often should you wash your hair if you want to stimulate growth

Unfortunately, there’s limited research into wash frequency for hair growth. But it appears that more frequent washing is better for hair in general, so it’s a good idea to wash your hair at least once every two to three days to keep your hair and scalp healthy.

If you’re using a medicated shampoo, use it as instructed by your doctor.

What causes hair loss?

Those who don’t wash their hair often may see more hair shedding than those who give their scalp a regular scrub. But it’s unlikely that this is the only or even main cause of hair loss.

Some common causes of hair loss include:

  • Androgenetic alopecia — Genetic hair loss, also known as male and female pattern hair loss, is the most common trigger for permanent shedding.
  • Emotional triggers — Stress, anxiety, and other emotional or traumatic physical events can all cause temporary hair loss known as telogen effluvium.
  • Health conditions — Autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata, seborrheic dermatitis, and lupus may lead to hair loss. Hair loss may also be a symptom of other health conditions or a side effect of certain medications.
  • Vitamin deficiencies — A chronic lack of essential nutrients can contribute to hair loss. Iron deficiency, for example, is particularly common in women, and can play a part in the development of female pattern hair loss.

If you’re not sure what’s behind your hair loss, it’s time to speak to a professional. Consider speaking to your GP to rule out any underlying conditions, then book a free consultation at the Wimpole Clinic to diagnose and treat your hair loss.

Does Not Washing Your Hair Cause Hair Loss?, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)Updated on February 20, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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