How often should you wash your hair? The answer depends on your hair texture and type. Find out if you should be washing every day or once a week in our complete, informative guide!
How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?
You’ve probably heard that washing your hair every day is a bad idea. Shampooing often strips your hair and scalp of its natural oils, causes frizz, and fades color fast.
But going too long between washes has its own problems. Excess oil, clogged pores on the scalp, and product buildup can all result from washing too infrequently. So what’s the happy medium?
The Short Answer
You should wash your hair 2 to 3 times a week on average. You might need to shampoo every day if you have fine, thin hair that tends to get oily fast. If you have thick, curly, or damaged hair, spacing your washes out a bit more is beneficial.
You might only need to wash your hair 1-2 times a week if you have very thick, curly, or coily hair. But there’s more to it than these general recommendations.
Getting to know your hair’s type and needs helps you create a hair-washing schedule that prioritizes the health and appearance of your locks. Learning about shampoo alternatives to use between washes can help you go longer without washing (and still have clean, fresh-smelling hair).
Read on to learn how often you should wash your hair and see the best shampoo for your hair type. We’ll cover everything you possibly need to know, plus much, much more.
The Long Answer
Deciding how often to wash your hair starts with knowing your hair’s characteristics. This includes both the texture – the thickness of your hair strands – and your hair type – how straight or curly it is.
Fine, straight hair needs to be washed a lot more frequently than coarse, curly hair. Here’s how to determine your hair’s texture and type.
How to Determine Your Hair Type
Determining your hair type starts with looking at your hair’s texture, then the wave/curl pattern (or lack thereof). The texture of your hair refers to the thickness of each individual strand. Your hair type refers to its general shape, whether straight, wavy, curly, or coily.
Determining Your Hair Texture
Hair texture can be compared to the thickness of a single thread. If you happen to have a spool of thread lying around, grab it and compare the thickness to a strand of your hair.
Note that hair texture – fine, medium, or coarse – is different from hair density (thin, average, or thick).
Fine hair is thinner than a piece of thread. You’ll know you have fine hair if your hair doesn’t have a lot of volume, is generally smooth, or is light-colored.
This type of hair hair has a smaller diameter than medium or coarse hair because it’s missing the medulla, the innermost part of hair strands. If you lay a strand of your hair next to a thread and it’s thinner, you have fine hair.
Medium hair is about the same width and thickness as a piece of thread. Most people have medium hair texture. Medium hair does contain the medulla, the innermost part of the hair strand.
This makes it a little thicker than fine hair. If you lay a strand of your hair next to a piece of thread and it’s about the same thickness, you have medium hair.
Coarse or thick hair is thicker than a piece of thread. This hair texture is noticeably more robust than fine or medium hair. Coarse hair always contains the inner medulla.
It’s known for tolerating heat and chemical processing well. However, it also tends to get frizzy and takes longer to dry. If you lay a strand of your hair next to a piece of thread and it’s visibly thicker, you have coarse hair.
Determining Your Hair Type
Now that you know your hair’s texture, let’s find out what your hair type is. Your hair type refers to the general shape of your hair strands.
Type 1: Straight
Straight hair doesn’t have any bends, waves, or curls. It dries naturally straight. You might notice that your hair gets oily fast. This is because, without the bends and turns present in wavy or curly hair, sebum (an oil) is free to travel down your hair strands faster.
Type 1 hair can be divided into subtypes:
- 1A: Pin straight and very fine hair texture
- 1B: Straight and medium hair texture
- 1C: Straight and coarse hair texture
Type 2: Wavy
Wavy hair is considered type 2. It’s not quite straight, but the bends in the hair don’t form complete curls. Wavy hair tends to get oily faster when the hair texture is fine.
Wavy hair can be divided into 3 subtypes according to the extent of the wave and the texture of the hair:
- 2A: Slightly wavy and fine or medium texture
- 2B: Wavy, possibly frizzy, and medium texture
- 2C: Very wavy, tends to be frizzy, and coarse texture
Type 3: Curly
There’s no mistaking type 3 hair – it’s curly! Curly hair tends to be frizzier than straight or wavy hair. It may look straight when wet, but it always regains the curl as it dries. Curly hair tends to be drier than straight or wavy hair as well.
It can be divided into 3 subtypes:
- 3A: Curly, slightly frizzy, and can have fine or medium texture
- 3B: Tightly curled, frizzy, and can have medium or coarse texture
- 3C: Very curly, frizzy, and usually coarse texture
Type 4: Coily
Type 4 hair is curlier than type 3. This type is sometimes called coily or kinky hair. Coily hair is usually fragile, dryer, and coarse in texture.
The subtypes are based on the extent of the kink and curl in the hair:
- 4A: Tight curls, soft to the touch, and coarse texture
- 4B: Very tight curls, soft, and coarse texture
- 4C: Extremely tight curls that may not look like traditional curls
How Often to Wash Each Hair Type
Now that you’ve identified your hair’s texture (fine, medium, or coarse) and type (1, 2, 3, or 4), let’s look at how often you should wash your hair based on your type. Your hair’s texture plays the most important role in how often you should reach for the shampoo.
Check below to see how often your specific texture should be washed for the best hair and scalp health. We’ve also included a spot-on shampoo recommendation for each hair texture so you can get the most benefits when you wash it!
How Often to Wash Fine Hair
Fine hair has a smaller diameter than other hair textures. It’s easily overwhelmed by the natural sebum, or oil, that the scalp produces. Fine hair should be washed every day (fine, straight hair) or every other day (fine, wavy hair).
This frequency is required to keep the hair from appearing greasy. Since oil travels unimpeded down straight strands of hair, it might need daily washing to look its best. Waves slow the travel of oil down a bit, so you can wash every other day.
Best Shampoo for Fine Hair
Since fine hair needs to be washed more often, a gentle shampoo that builds volume without weighing down already fine strands is in order. That’s exactly what Biolage Volumebloom Shampoo delivers.
It’s paraben-free and makes hair more voluminous and shiny. It has a subtle lilac scent that will leave your tresses with a dainty fragrance.
How Often to Wash Medium Hair
Medium hair is a bit thicker in diameter than fine hair, so it can stand to go a little longer between washes. Medium hair should be washed every 2 to 4 days.
If your hair doesn’t have any of the signs, it’s time to wash (see the section at the end of this guide), feel free to wait another day or so before washing. If you have medium straight hair (type 1B), aim to wash it every 2 days.
If you have medium wavy hair (2A or 2B), you should try to wash every 3 days since your hair won’t get oily as fast. For curly hair with a medium texture (type 3A or 3B), you can go up to 4 days between washes.
Best Shampoo for Medium Hair
When you wash medium hair, aim for a shampoo that cleanses deeply and delivers plenty of lightweight hydration for strands. Since you’re going 2-4 days between washes, you need a shampoo that supplies your hair with enough moisture to last.
Lightweight Maui Moisture Shine is the best in this regard. It’s formulated to be silicone, paraben, and sulfate-free and won’t weigh medium hair down. It contains tons of natural goodness to make hair shiny, healthy, and deeply hydrated.
How Often to Wash Coarse Hair
Coarse hair doesn’t get oily as fast as fine or medium hair. This means you can go even longer in between washes if you have coarse hair. Hallelujah! You should wash coarse hair every 3-7 days.
Your hair type really matters here. Straighter hair should be washed more often (around every 3 days), while curly and coily hair might only need one wash per week.
If you have straight, coarse hair (type 1C), you should wash your hair every 3 days. This gives your hair a good rest in between washes, but doesn’t wait long enough to let your hair get oily.
For wavy, coarse hair (type 2C), aim for washing every 4-5 days. This will keep your strands clean without overly stripping them of natural oils.
For curly, coarse hair (type 3B or 3C), you should wash your hair every 5-6 days. Coily hair (Types 4A, 4B, and 4C) should be washed every 6-7 days for optimum hair health.
Best Shampoo for Coarse Hair
Coarse hair is thirsty hair. It’s almost impossible to over-hydrate coarse hair, so opt for a shampoo that really brings the moisture. We like Tea Tree Lavender Mint Moisturizing Shampoo best for this hair texture.
Why? Because it deeply cleans without stripping, richly hydrates strands, and strengthens hair with amino acids for reduced breakage. Plus, the spa-like minty lavender scent is incredible.
Hair Washing Alternatives
For those days in between your normal washes, you still want your hair to look its best. You can “wash” your hair with shampoo alternatives that won’t strip your natural oils, fade hair color, or cause frizz. Here are the best alternative shampoo products we’ve found.
The ol’ standby, dry shampoo, can help you lengthen your time between washes without looking like you’re on a shampoo strike. Batiste Original is, without a singular doubt, the best dry shampoo on the market.
It’s lightweight, plumps hair up with fresh volume, leaves a nice scent, and soaks up any oil to make it look extra clean. There are other great scents available, like Bare, Tropical, Fresh, and Rose Gold. It’s super affordable, but grab the value size for the best deal!
Hair and Scalp Refresher
Hair and scalp refreshers are easily one of our favorite products to maintain your hair’s freshness in between shampoos. Micellar cleansers target dirt, oil, and grime on the hair and scalp to clean them up and leave your hair feeling clean.
We like Aveeno Rinse-less Refresh Micellar Hair and Scalp Refresher because you don’t need to rinse it out. Just spritz it into your hair, massage it in with your fingers, and air-dry or blow-dry. Your hair will look like it’s been freshly shampooed!
Cleansing foam is another great alternative to shampoo. These waterless formulas don’t feel dry or grimy on the hair like dry shampoo sometimes can. Instead, they are formulated to soak up excess oil while adding a slight sheen to the hair that looks squeaky clean.
Try Batiste Waterless Cleansing Foam for a quick-drying (60 seconds!), residue-free shampoo alternative. The foam smells wonderful, and the scent seems to linger longer than dry shampoo.
Coarse hair may not get visibly oily in between washes, but it will begin to smell if you’re waiting 6-7 days as recommended. If you want your locks to smell fresh all week long, try Pacifica Beauty Indian Coconut Nectar Hair and Body Mist.
This mist gets incredible 5-star reviews because it smells amazing. It’s alcohol-free and contains essential oils, so it won’t dry out coarse hair.
Signs It’s Time to Wash Your Hair
We’ve laid out some recommendations on how often you should wash your hair, but not everyone can follow these guidelines. Some can go longer between washes than we’ve recommended.
Others can’t make it to the 2-day mark. It’s best to watch your hair and scalp for signs that it’s time to wash your hair. Here are the signs to look for.
Your hair will develop a natural odor after a few days sans-shampoo. That’s because of the normal bacteria and fungal growth that happens on your scalp. These tiny living things break down your natural sebum, sweat, and skin cells.
In the process, they create acids that are responsible for the tell-tale dirty hair smell. Once you start catching a whiff of your hair in an unpleasant way, it’s time to wash.
An itchy scalp can mean it’s time to wash your hair. Anything from oil production to product buildup can cause your scalp to itch and begin to flake. More frequent washing can help slough off scalp flakes and restore moisture to your scalp.
If you have a very dry scalp and believe that’s the cause of itching, you might want to switch to a moisturizing shampoo or try a hair mask.
When you start to see that your hair is getting oily, it’s time to wash it (or use a hair wash alternative like dry shampoo). Your scalp naturally produces sebum (oil) to keep your scalp and hair healthy, but it’s not a good look once the oil starts creeping down your strands.
To avoid this problem, hair that tends to be very oily might need to be washed every day. To wait longer between shampoos, try one of the alternatives we listed above.
If you’ve been sweating, you need to wash your hair. Sweat feeds the bacteria and fungus that live on the scalp as part of the clean-up crew.
When they dine on the sweat, they produce an odor that makes your hair smell funky. If you’ll be exercising or out in very hot, humid weather, plan on washing your hair afterward.
Finally, if you’re experiencing any scalp pain or tenderness, or if it feels like your hair hurts, it could be a sign that it’s time to wash your hair. Dry shampoo is great to lengthen your time between washes, but it can easily build up on your scalp.
Once your scalp’s pores are clogged, it can get inflamed and cause pain and tenderness. Fortunately, washing your hair should relieve the pain. If it doesn’t, see your doctor.
So, How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?
As we’ve shown, this isn’t a simple one and done answer. In short, it’s best to wash it every 2-3 days. But the exact number depends on your hair type, level of activity, and products you use.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide. While you’re here, be sure to check out our other articles to learn about the best hair styles, hair products, and much more.