- What happens if you stop washing your hair?
- Your hair could smell nasty or stop growing
- Your hair could experience a total breakthrough
- 6 Reasons Why You Actually do Need to Wash Your Damn Hair
- What happens if you stop washing your hair for a year
- 5 Reasons to Skip Your Next Hair Wash
- Wait, What Do You Mean No Washing?
- 5 Reasons To Skip Your Next Hair Wash
- How Much Money Can You Really Save by Washing Hair Less Often?
What happens if you stop washing your hair?
If you stopped washing your hair for several weeks, your hair could respond in a couple of vastly different ways that might surprise you.
Faced with busy mornings, we skipped washing our hair for a day, maybe two. But what happens when we string a shampoo fast out for several days, even weeks, at a time?
Tales abound online of people claiming they stopped hair washing for as many as five years . The scalp, they say, unhindered by shampoo, makes its own oils that eliminate the need for expensive conditioners or time-consuming wash routines.
In reality, just what happens when hair goes unwashed depends on you, said Angela Lamb, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
“Certainly people probably could get away without washing their hair as much,” Lamb said. “But it depends on your genes. It depends on your hair texture. It depends on how much you exercise.”
It all comes down to oil glands that exist on nearly every area of our skin. Yes, the scalp's oil glands do naturally coat the hair, Lamb said, but everyone’s scalp does so at different rates. That means not washing can improve one person’s hair while making another’s smell sour milk.
“Hormones affect it. Medications affect it,” she said. “Some can do four, six, seven, eight, nine weeks without shampooing. But it’s detrimental for others.”
Here’s what could happen if you stop shampooing, depending on your lifestyle and hair type.
Your hair could smell nasty or stop growing
Hair traps moisture, Lamb said, meaning that built-up bacteria on unwashed scalps can start to pick up a mildewy or sour smell after several days or a week, especially if exercise is involved.
“If you run five miles a day, you can’t go three months without washing your hair,” said Lamb.
Odors build up easier in thicker hair, too, making it key to really dig and clean the scalp during washings.
Prolonged periods of not washing can cause cause buildup on the scalp, damaging hair and even impeding its ability to grow, Lamb said.
Grime from dirt, oil and hair product can show up within four to six days for people with finer, straighter hair. Those with coarse or curly hair can buy a bit more time, she said, as many as 10 days.
If itchy dandruff or a scaly scalp occurs, it may feel tempting to scratch. But that could further damage your scalp or hair. “That’s never particularly helpful,” Lamb said. “You want to try to treat the underlying problem.”
Your hair could experience a total breakthrough
Many who forgo washing describe experiencing a certain breakthrough after several weeks where their hair seemed to readjust from lack of washing, going from grimy and slimy to thicker or naturally voluminous.
“Certainly there is some truth to that, that if you overdry any skin surface by shampooing or harsh detergents, that it will make more oil to try to compensate,” said Lamb, but she does call for balance.
Non-washing advocates invoke simpler times, when the hair of ancients existed free from chemicals or soap. Those people also dealt with matted hair and lice, she said, conditions less accepted today.
While no scientific studies exist the topic, Lamb said, she has seen that people with thin, fine or less oily hair tend to experience greater success with prolonged non-washing.
“For them, frequent washing and shampooing was probably too damaging for their hair,” she said.
It helps if you don’t sweat much or live in a drier climate, too. Cosmetically speaking, people with curlier hair can get away without washing longer than most before it visibly affects the hair, Lamb noted.
How do you know if not washing is right for you? Try going three to four days without a wash, Lamb said. If the hair just feels a bit greasy or dirty, keep going. You’re probably not harming your hair. If itchy scales or redness start to form, though, reach for the shampoo.
“That’s your body trying to tell you that it needs more frequent washing,” Lamb said.
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6 Reasons Why You Actually do Need to Wash Your Damn Hair
Three days, five days, a week… The number of days one goes without washing their hair and just getting by with dry shampoo has become a point of pride these days. We even hear colleagues brag about how many workouts their most recent blowout has lasted through.
(Congrats?) But even though over-washing is indeed harsh on strands and can strip their natural moisture, experts tell us that, depending on your hair texture, there actually can be such as thing as going too long between suds.
Without regular shampooing hair can become lackluster, smelly, and worse.
So, today, in honor of National Shampoo Day (which falls on either the twentieth, twenty-first, or twenty-second day of October—the true date of the made-up holiday is a point of contention in the beauty industry), we asked hairstylists, colorists, dermatologists, and hair experts for the quick and dirty on coming clean.
1. Shampoo Is, You Know, Basic Hygiene
How do you the sound of “microfauna” in your hair? Us, neither.
“Sebum, which is nature’s hair conditioner, is constantly secreted the scalp and onto the hair, and it will build-up without washing. This can leave the hair looking and feeling oily, but worse still, this sebum can act as a food source for microfauna whose action can lead to dandruff and, in extreme cases, can cause hair loss.
In addition, product build-up residue from conditioning and styling ingredients will also occur without washing, which collectively can dull the hair and weigh it down. A good cleaning with a good shampoo will prevent all of these issues. In short, this new ‘no poo’ movement really is a crock of …. well, poo.
”— Trefor Evans, cosmetic chemist and technical consultant to the hair-care industry
2. It Acts Skin Care
You know what happens when you don’t wash your face—and the same goes for your scalp.
“Dry shampoo will bind and pull the oil away from the scalp, but doesn't remove it and can leave hair dry.
That, along with dead skin on the scalp, and hair products, oils and volumizers, need to be removed intermittently, otherwise they can block follicles and lead to inflammation. Some newer shampoos are even designed to strengthen the hair.
My favorite is Julien Farel Hydrate Restore, which includes resveratrol and antioxidants, and sits on the scalp for a few minutes before rinsing.”— Doris Day, a New York City dermatologist
3. It’s the First Step in Style
Every good blowout starts in the same place: the shampoo bowl.
“Using the right shampoo for your hair type resets hair and gives you a good foundation for any style. If you have thin hair, a volumizing shampoo cleanses hair of volume-deflating build up, while a shampoo for thick coarse hair is designed to hydrate and coat the cuticle to weigh down flyaways.
And if you were to skip shampoo altogether, your hair wouldn’t be prepared to hold the style you’re looking to achieve. Lastly, it’s plain-old good hygiene. No one wants to talk to someone whose B.O. enters the room before they do, and no amount of fragranced dry shampoo is truly going to mask it.
”— Greg Ruggeri, stylist, colorist, and owner of Salon Ruggeri in New York City
4. Healthy Hair Starts at the Roots
The health of your scalp directly translates to the health of your hair.
“Since skin turns over approximately every 28 days, the build up of [dead skin] scales can grow more pronounced if you don’t wash your scalp.
Washing hair has been shown to significantly reduce the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, in hair follicles and this hormone has been associated with increased hair thinning in women.
Female patients often admit they're afraid to wash their scalp because they see hair in the shower drain afterwards. But we normally have about 100 hairs fall out every day and about 100 hairs grow back, so the more days we wait, the larger the number of dislodged hairs grows.
Regular cleaning with well-formulated shampoo will not damage hair. In fact, some studies show that it may help fragile hair by decreasing grooming force.”— Carlos K. Wesley, a New York City-based cosmetic surgeon specializing in men's and women's hair loss
What happens if you stop washing your hair for a year
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: There's a movement that is upending shower routines across the country.
Reporter 1: There's a new trend in the beauty world. It's called the No Poo Method.
Reporter 2: The secret could be not shampooing.
Narrator: Skip the shampoo. Your hair's better off without it. At least that's the slogan for the No Poo Movement that's got people claiming they haven't used conventional shampoo in years.
And their hair looks amazing. But is this just a fad? What would really happen if you didn't shampoo your hair for an entire year? To find out, we asked dermatologist Angela J. Lamb, MD, from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Dr. Angela Lamb: So what shampoos do mostly is they do what's called saponification. So the actual shampoo comes along and wraps around oil and dirt, and when you rinse, it kinda comes out with the shampoo. You kinda rinse out both the shampoo and the oil and dirt.
Narrator: But most conventional shampoos are too good at what they do, stripping away too much oil from your hair to the point where you start producing extra oil to compensate. As a result, after the first few days without using shampoo, your hair will look and feel way more oily than normal, especially if you have straight hair.
Dr. Angela Lamb: So for people that have straighter-patterned hair, and I said, what happens with that patterned hair is the oils, the sebum, tend to progress down the hair shaft faster, so their hair is going to feel oilier, dirtier sooner.
Narrator: After a month of no shampoo, that oil will have caught a good amount of dead skin cells, dirt, and possibly even bacteria, which could start to make your scalp itchy and even smell kind of funky.
Dr. Angela Lamb: I would say if you go longer than about a month, that you may see some, again, what you would get is sometimes odor, you would get some trapping of bacteria on your scalp.
Narrator: After six months to a year, all that gunk can clog up your hair follicles, which can prevent new hair from growing and, over time, ultimately lead to hair thinning or even hair loss. There's also a risk of your scalp getting infected from all the bacterial buildup.
Dr. Angela Lamb: So the signs you want to look for that would be problematic that are telling you you're not washing your hair often enough are scale, odor, sometimes pimples that lead…that are basically saying you're getting an infection or bacteria. Those would be the signs that you would know that you're not washing often enough.
Narrator: But here's the thing: rinsing your hair with gentle cleaning agents baking soda or even just plain water is often enough to prevent itching, hair loss, and infection. So how often should you be rinsing?
Dr. Angela Lamb: So to not wash at all, to use no water, no cold washing, no detergent, shampoo, I think the cut off for how long you can go really does depend on your styling pattern.
So many people can do that for a couple of days, some people can do it longer, I would say two to four weeks, for example if your hair is locked or if you have any kind of prosthetic in your hair a weave or a braid, you often can go a little bit longer just because of the way the hair is kind of tied down and not getting as disrupted. So if you would to wash your hair less frequently, try to go maybe I'd say about three days to a week and see how you do.
Narrator: So you should still wash and rinse, but you don't have to repeat every single day. Just try it out, and see how you do.
5 Reasons to Skip Your Next Hair Wash
Wet hair is The Worst, am I right?! I hate that it makes my clothes wet while it dries. I hate how it feels. And I hate the amount of time it takes to restyle. I’ll regularly go to great lengths to skip washing my hair for just one or two more days.
No surprise, I’m a fan of the growing trend to wash hair less frequently and prescribe to many of the reasons used to support less washing.
I’m not up for “no poo”; 5-6 days is about my limit before I start to experience side effects of not washing itchy scalp or greasiness.
Also, do you feel the roots of your hair start to hurt a bit after too many days of not washing? Maybe that’s just me…
Wait, What Do You Mean No Washing?
Depending on how dirty your hair is, no washing may be as simple as tying your hair up in a towel or shower cap while you shower, keeping it dry during your shower. If it feels it really needs a rinse, you might get it wet but not use any shampoo or conditioner.
If you’re committed to daily hair washing, you may think washing only once or twice a week is gross and could never work for you.
Daily washing, however, is a self-reinforcing cycle whereby excess washes strip natural oils from your head, encouraging generation of more oils.
Slowing the cycle might lead to a few days with dirty hair, but in just a week or two, I suspect you can “re-train” your hair to not need such frequent washing. Without further ado, let’s discuss five reasons you don’t need to wash your hair as often as you might think.
5 Reasons To Skip Your Next Hair Wash
Your Hair Isn’t That Dirty ~ Unless you work out daily or live in a very humid climate and get really sweaty, your hair doesn’t get all that dirty in a day.
By washing too frequently, you strip natural oils from your scalp (which your scalp uses for moisturization and skin protection), encouraging your scalp to create more natural oils.
If your hair feels a little dirty or needs a quick refresh, you can always rinse without using any products. This could buy an extra day or two of no washing. Over time, you won’t even need the rinse.
As I mentioned above, washing daily may result in more greasy hair as the scalp produces more oil in an effort to replace what is striped from your head by shampoo. Thus, you may need to endure a week or two of dirty hair while your scalp recalibrates to less frequent washing, but having been down that road, it’s totally worth the short-term challenge.
Dry Shampoo Better Manages Natural Oils ~ Un regular shampoo that removes natural oils from hair and your scalp, dry shampoo absorb oils from hair without drying out your scalp.
Thus, dry shampoo better manages oiliness for the first few days after washing because it gives the benefits of oil absorption without the stripping effects of shampoo.
Also, it generally smells good AND gives hair added volume and texture .. BONUS!
If you’re new to dry shampoo, I shared a Complete Beginners Guide to Dry Shampoo that includes how to use it, which brands work best, and about a dozen dry shampoo hacks to add to your beauty routine.
Save Yourself Time ~ Washing and conditioning hair takes time (thanks Captain Obvious). It’s a no brainier that fewer washes saves you time during the shower when you skip the cleaning.
This is particularly helpful for those showers that are shoved into busy periods of our days, mornings before work.
Skipping the wash reduces time spent drying hair, styling hair (because yesterday’s style is still looking great) and using products that recondition over-washed and over-dried hair.
Conserve Water ~ Plain and simple, showers including hair washing and conditions take longer and, thus, use more water than those that don’t. Go Green and Save The Fishies. More importantly, we need to conserve drinking water for ourselves as so much of it around the world continues to be polluted.
On average, a shower uses 2.1 gallons of water per minute and we take 8-10 minute showers. Quick and dirty math makes an average shower a consumer of 17-20 gallons of water or so. Remember when I mentioned we need about 182 gallons of drinking water per person per year? Cut out one shower per week and you’ve saved a year’s worth of drinking water for yourself in just about ten weeks.
Isn’t it interesting how we value the volume of water usage when we change the perspective and think about washing our drinking water down the drain? (Or maybe that’s just me nerding out.)
Shhhower Cap ~ The shower cap has been reinvented friends, and now we have a modern shower cap that takes advantage of current technology in materials science to make a prettier, more functional, longer lasting, better-smelling, plastic-free shower cap.
Before using this shower cap, I usually wrapped a towel around my hair while I showered (on days I planned to skip the wash and rinse). However, when the towel gets wet, it still transfers some of the moisture to my hair, so it wasn’t a great alternative. The Shhhower Cap (I own this one) comes with a somewhat steep price tag upon initial investigation.
But if it protects our styled hair and allows us to wash less frequently, saving money on products and resources, we’ll ly recoup our investment over time.
Save Money ~ Speaking of saving money, hair products can be pricey, especially good shampoos and conditioners. Fewer washes mean your products last so. much. longer. The cost of dry shampoo will offset some of the savings from less frequent use of shampoo, conditioner and other styling products, but it ly will be a net gain overall for most people.
How Much Money Can You Really Save by Washing Hair Less Often?
Even if you cut your washes from 3 per week down to 2 per week, that’s a reduction in product usage by 33%. If, for example, you generally use six bottles of shampoo and conditioner per year, now you’re only using four of each one.
If each bottle of shampoo and conditioner costs $10, you save $40/year (and maybe more if you also use other styling and conditioning products).
You could easily recover the cost of the shower cap and dry shampoo while saving water, saving time, and reducing energy usage to heat less water for shorter showers.
If you haven’t tried dry shampoo and less frequent washing, I highly recommend it. I love getting the shower with dry hair, knowing I don’t have to think about restyling it or drying it.
My hair has become accustomed to less frequent washing and doesn’t start to feel or look dirty for at least a few days.
A dose of dry shampoo buys me another day or so and wearing my hair up (or at least in a half bun and with daily dry shampoo sprays) buys me another day or two after that.
Seriously, I can’t rave enough about the beauty of dry shampoo and less hair washing. You’ve got to give it a shot.
If this all seems a little intimidating, try taking small steps first. Maybe just use dry shampoo to get one extra day your hair. Throw on a hat, if that’s your style, or toss your hair in a pony tail to get just one more day of wear before washing.
All of our small changes add up. Give it a go and let me know what you think? Are you a dry shampoo fan? How often do you wash your hair and what are your tricks to make your mane last an extra day or two?