Reading time: 9 min.
How Often Should I Wash My Hair to Keep It Strong and Healthy?
Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani
Updated on May 9, 2024

It is a common misconception that washing your hair too frequently causes hair loss. In fact, studies show that doing so can lead to a decrease in dandruff, scalp itchiness and dryness, strand greasiness and hair shedding [1]. So how often should you wash your hair to prevent hair loss and keep your scalp and hair healthy?

Dermatologists, hair specialists and influencers can dole out conflicting advice regarding the optimum frequency with which you should be cleaning your hair. But research reveals that  hair quality satisfaction is highest among people who wash it 5-6 times a week [1].

However, there is no universal best hair washing frequency. It depends on your scalp and hair properties, on whether you have common scalp problems such as seborrheic dermatitis and on your lifestyle and preferences. While cleaning your hair regularly is generally recommended to avoid oil and dirt buildup, the optimal frequency is up to you. 

This article will tell you everything you need to know about:

  • Why washing your hair regularly is important
  • The research regarding hair cleaning and hair loss
  • Whether it is safe to wash your hair daily
  • The best shampoo advice for healthy hair
Table of Contents

Why is washing your hair regularly important?

It is obvious to most people that washing your hair is necessary to remove the dust and dirt it collects from the environment. However, some believe that if they don’t leave the house, their hair doesn’t need cleaning, as it’s not exposed to much debris. That is not accurate because your scalp secretes its own oil, called sebum, which can build up if not washed off. 

Oil buildup on scalp after a week
Oil buildup on scalp after weekly (up) and daily (down) wash [1].

Sebum is very useful for coating, lubricating, and protecting your strands and moisturising your scalp, preventing dryness. However, excessive amounts that build up over time can make your scalp oily and clog your pores. This can lead to conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, acne, or scalp folliculitis. Thus, removing some of this oil with a gentle shampoo can preserve your scalp health.     

How often is it the healthiest to wash your hair?

A double-blind clinical trial [1] performed in 2021 on 1500 healthy men and women revealed some interesting findings. Based on patient self-reports, the authors concluded that washing your hair more frequently can:

  • Significantly reduce scalp flaking (dandruff)
  • Make your hair stronger and less brittle
  • Considerably reduce hair thinning due to scalp problems or hair breakage
  • Improve your scalp odour
  • Increase your number of good hair days
  • Decrease hair greasiness
Graph with data - hair washing frequency vs scalp issue
Dandruff, itching and dryness evolution with washing frequency [1]

The same study revealed that participants were most satisfied with the properties of their hair when washing it 5-6 times a week. Abstaining from doing so for over a week led not only to perceived dissatisfaction but also to documented negative effects on their hair greasiness. 

Hair strand greasiness after a week
Hair strand greasiness after weekly (up) and daily (down) wash [1]

Most dermatologists, trichologists, and hair stylists recommend washing your hair at least weekly. However, depending on your hair type, several times a week would be preferable. People with greasier hair normally need to clean it more frequently, so they can even do so daily if necessary. 

A good rule of thumb to know when it’s time for a wash is to check for one or more of the following tell-tale signs:

  • Your hair is flat, clumps together and/or has a greasy shine.
  • There are white or yellow flakes in your hair and scalp (if they are yellow and greasy, it is likely a sign of seborrheic dermatitis).
  • Your scalp is itchy and doesn’t feel fresh.
  • Your scalp and hair give off an unpleasant smell.
Man washing hair

Is it okay if I wash my hair every day?

You don’t need to wait for your hair to get very dirty to give it a rinse. If you simply enjoy a warm bath after a long day and treat your hair to the best shampoos for hair growth, you can safely do so daily. And it can even be beneficial for your hair health. 

The origin of the hair loss treatment myth that washing your hair too frequently strips off its natural oils comes from a time when shampoos contained harsh surfactants, which made your hair dry and brittle with overuse [2]. However, nowadays, you can get gentle shampoo formulas and conditioners that will moisturise and nourish your hair and scalp instead of damaging it. 

If you have dry hair but like to wash it daily, it is a good idea to use some additional moisturising products, such as hair growth oils or hydrating hair masks, for extra precaution. 

How many times should I wash my hair in a week?

As long as you wash your hair at least once per week, the frequency is up to you. You can do so as often as you want, up to daily. Just be sure to pay attention to the signals your hair and scalp are giving you. If unsure, you can always try several frequencies for a month and document the results to see which one works best for you. 

Is 3 times a week too often to wash my hair?

No, washing your hair three times a week is not overdoing it. Your strands and scalp should be fine unless your trichologist recommends that you do things differently. In fact, cleaning your hair several times a week has been proven to be beneficial for most people. 

If you have been washing your hair 3 times a week and have been unhappy with the results, you can always change your hair cleaning products to gentler ones or try a different frequency until you find the one that suits you best. 

Man with dirty scalp and itchy hair

What happens if I don’t wash my hair often enough?

Washing your hair less than once per week can lead to dirt, oil and hair product buildup, which can clog your pores and hair follicles. That can lead to:

  • Hair and scalp greasiness
  • Scalp folliculitis
  • Scalp acne
  • Dandruff
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Bad hair odour
  • Flat, clumpy-looking hair
  • Scalp itching that can lead to hair breakage
Man washing hair and having hair loss

Can how often I wash my hair cause hair loss?

Yes, but perhaps not in the way you might expect. Many think that washing it too often can dry out your strands and make them brittle. Picking hair out of their bathtub drain can strengthen this conclusion. But some hair loss is normal in the shower – a healthy adult naturally sheds 100-150 strands each day. And washing your hair gently mostly removes the already loose hairs rather than causing healthy ones to fall out.  

In fact, not washing your hair enough can cause hair loss, usually through the development of yeast infections on the scalp. They can cause inflammation which damages your hair follicles and at the same time, they make you want to rub or scratch the affected area, leading to hair breakage at the crown.  

Any concerns related to hair loss caused by a dry scalp which was stripped of its natural oils by your shampoo can be easily addressed by using conditioners and moisturisers regularly. Moreover, if you are worried about hair thinning, you can always try some of the best shampoos for hair loss, which can both clean your strands and stimulate hair growth.

Woman applying dry shampoo on hair

Can I use dry shampoo instead of wet washing?

While some people think that dry shampoo can cause hair loss, there is no evidence that this is true. In most cases, this product is harmless if used appropriately, and it can help you out of a hair pinch when you’re in a morning rush. 

However, dry shampoo does not really clean your scalp or hair. What it does is absorb the excess oil and give your strands some lift, making them look less greasy. It is not made to be used more than 2-3 days consecutively. So you still need to wash the dirt, oil and hair products off your scalp regularly if you want to have healthy hair. 

Woman with dry and brittle hair

What mistakes to avoid when washing my hair?

There are some common mistakes people make when washing their hair that can lead to hair breakage. You may want to avoid the following practices:

  • Rubbing your hair too vigorously when lathering with shampoo
  • Using too-hot water that can damage the hair, accelerating loss of moisture. It can also inflame or scald the scalp
  • Foregoing the conditioner, which is needed to moisturise your strands
  • Using the wrong kind of shampoo for their hair type
  • Wringing your hair to remove excess water from it
  • Combing your hair when wet
  • Blow-drying using high heat that can damage your hair
Woman shopping for the best shampoo

What is the best shampoo for frequent use?

The best shampoo and conditioner for hair growth depends on your hair type and any preexisting scalp conditions. Be sure to choose a gentle formula, avoiding substances that can dry out or damage your strands (and in some cases, harm your health), such as:

  • Sodium lauryl/laureth sulphates
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Silicone
  • Sodium chloride
  • Alcohol

Once you have made sure that your shampoo is hair-friendly, you need to choose one that is appropriate for your hair type, which can be [2]:

  • Normal
  • Greasy
  • Thin
  • Dry
  • Damaged
  • Coloured
  • Permed 
Hair with excessive dandruff

The best shampoos for dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis

If you are experiencing dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, you may want to try a medicated formula, such as Nizoral shampoo. The most helpful substances these shampoos can contain are as follows [3]:

  • Ketoconazole
  • Salicylic acid
  • Zinc pyrithione
  • Selenium sulphide
  • Coal tar
Man with thin hair

The best shampoos for thinning hair 

If you have begun to notice what could be the first signs of hair thinning and balding, you may want to try a special hair growth shampoo. You should be aware that there are very few studies regarding the effect of hair loss treatments when in shampoo form. So they may not be as effective as the topical solutions used in clinical trials.

However, if you are interested in finding out for yourself, here are some of the best shampoos for thinning hair you can try:

Regardless of the shampoo option you choose, always remember to use conditioner and, if needed, a moisturising hair mask or essential oils for hair growth to keep your scalp and hair hydrated. 

Woman hair loss after brushing hair

Are you concerned about hair loss?

If you are looking for ways to change your hair cleaning routine because you are worried about hair shedding, it is best to book a consultation with one of our experienced trichologists. That is because while it is true that improper haircare can sometimes lead to hair breakage, there could be other, more serious causes. 

Your hair may be falling out due to a type of alopecia such as male pattern baldness (or female pattern baldness), alopecia areata, telogen effluvium and more. While some of them resolve themselves in time, others require a timely diagnosis and treatment to prevent them from progressing. 

A hair specialist can perform specific trichology tests (e.g a dermoscopy, a hair pull test, blood tests for hair loss, etc.) and reveal the exact cause of your problems. Then, according to their diagnosis, they can then recommend the most appropriate treatment for your condition, tailored to your hair type, needs and preferences.

If your hair thinning is mild or moderate, this can include medication, such as Minoxidil, Finasteride or steroid creams. Or various proven therapies such as derma-rolling for hair growth, PRP hair treatment or red-light therapy for hair growth.

However, if your hair loss progresses and becomes advanced, non-surgical hair restoration options may no longer be enough, and you may require a hair transplant. Getting a natural-looking hair transplant at one of the best hair clinics in the UK can be a great investment in your appearance since a hair transplant is permanent. However, it is best to identify the cause of your hair loss early on to keep your treatment options open.

How Often Should I Wash My Hair to Keep It Strong and Healthy?, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by Dr Mir MalkaniUpdated on May 9, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

Book a consultation

Simply fill in your details in the form below and we'll get in touch with you shortly.