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Should You Wash Your Hair Before a Haircut? | Yes & No

It’s the night before your haircut appointment and you’re working with second-day hair – not super dirty, but not squeaky clean, either. Should you bother washing your hair before your appointment? 

After all, your stylist may be washing and styling your hair at your appointment anyway. But is it rude or gross to walk in with dirty hair? We found out by asking stylists if they prefer clients to come in with clean or dirty hair. Their answers may surprise you. 

Should You Wash Your Hair Before a Haircut? Stylists Answer

Should you wash your hair before a haircut graphic

Teresa Fulcher, a licensed cosmetologist, notes that many of her clients don’t come in with squeaky clean hair before a haircut. 

“I’d say about 75% of my clients prefer getting shampooed here at the salon and don’t wash their hair right before the appointment. We see a lot of second- and third-day hair, but it’s rare to have someone come in with hair that is actually dirty.”

When asked if they mind cutting unwashed hair, here’s what other stylists had to say:

“I personally don’t have a problem if a client comes in with very oily or greasy hair, especially if they’re going to have it washed anyway for a cut or blow dry.” -Mairead Buckley, colorist

“Honestly? No. I’ll either wash it or ask in the consult questions as to why their scalp is oily and try to figure out how to decrease the oiliness in the scalp. In a perfect scenario we prefer fresh clean hair while cutting, but not everyone knows that.” -Jennifer Adams, licensed cosmetologist

“No not really, it’s just part of the job. I’d rather my customers would wash their hair day before. I have some older ladies that have trouble doing their hair. I’m happy to help!” -Kaydi Rogers, licensed cosmetologist

So far, it looks like most stylists agree that it’s fine for clients to come in with unwashed hair – so long as it isn’t truly dirty. But what about hair that is sweaty, smelly, or extremely greasy? Do stylists get grossed out or annoyed when clients come in with dirty hair? 

“If it is naturally prone to be oily and has been washed recently, no. If it is dirty I will not cut it until it is shampooed (at clients cost if not included in hair service). It is rude to expect me to perform my work on dirty hair and I don’t see how the client would feel comfortable with that.” -Kat Howe, licensed cosmetologist

“I live in an area where a lot of men work in the oilfield or similar work environments. They would get dirty, really dirty, at work and then want me to give them a haircut without a shampoo first. Or we would get a teen or someone who was just completely unhygienic who hadn’t shampooed their hair in days come in, again, oily flaky hair wanting a haircut and no shampoo. I did find it annoying. I often found it gross. I had no option but to do their hair.” -Victoria Elder, licensed cosmetologist

“I refuse to cut dirty hair. Explain to him that it puts undue wear and tear on your shears and when we spend $400 plus on them, we will not put them through that!” -Tina Sauers, licensed cosmetologist

As you can see, there are definitely extreme circumstances when stylists will consider hair too dirty to cut. In these cases, they will either shampoo the hair (included free with the haircut or added on as an additional service) or inform the client their hair is too dirty to proceed. 

If you feel ready to die of embarrassment just thinking about being asked to leave a salon due to dirty hair, know that this applies only to the most extreme cases. It’s important to note that hair stylists have seen it all when it comes to dirty hair and scalp conditions.

So they’re not going to look at your relatively clean third-day hair and gag. But if you haven’t washed it in a week, it’s stinky, and your scalp is covered in visible flakes or crust…then you might run into problems. When in doubt, wash it out.

Read Next: The Best Shampoo

When You Should Shampoo Before a Haircut

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It’s not always easy to determine if your hair should be washed right before your haircut appointment, though. If you’re worried about embarrassing yourself or annoying your stylist with dirty hair, look below to see the scenarios when you should wash your hair before a haircut. 

If You’re Getting a Dry Cut

Do you usually get your hair cut when it’s dry or wet? Your preference (or your stylist’s preference) may dictate whether or not you should wash your hair before your haircut appointment. 

Dry cuts typically do best on clean, recently washed hair with no products in it. That includes dry shampoo, which creates a thin layer of buildup on the hair and scalp. 

“Build up on the hair can weigh it down and the hair may lay differently than it does when it’s fresh and clean. Many stylists will select to wash your hair prior to cutting since most prefer to cut the hair wet rather than dry.” -Gina Rivera, stylist and salon owner

So if you prefer dry cuts, or if that’s what your stylist typically does, make sure you wash your hair within 48 hours of your scheduled haircut. This ensures your hair will be nice and clean, giving your stylist the best fresh canvas to work with. 

If you usually get a wet cut (done while your hair is wet), there’s no need to shampoo your hair right before the appointment. Just make sure it’s relatively clean and your stylist will take care of the rest! 

If You Have a Lot of Product Buildup

Most of us use hair products to help our hair look its best on a daily basis – dry shampoo, mousse, hairspray, serum, leave-ins, gel, wax, etc. If you wash your hair the night before your haircut but use a lot of product in the morning, you’ll show up for your appointment with hair that looks clean but feels dirty due to all the product on it. 

Product buildup weighs down your hair, which can affect layers and the final length of your hair after the cut. So when you’re scheduled for a haircut, try to avoid using any heavy or sticky hair products after washing your hair the day before your appointment. This gives your stylist the cleanest slate to work with. 

“It’s fine to use products you normally use for your everyday blowdry, but stay away from a lot of hairspray.” -Leza Duncan, licensed cosmetologist 

If Your Hair Gets Oily Fast

The same goes for oiliness. If you know your hair gets oily fast, you might need to shampoo a little closer to your appointment time to avoid arriving with greasy hair. 

Oily hair can start becoming limp and weighed down with grease at the roots as soon as a few hours after washing. If you struggle with oily hair, you know that your hair hangs and lays differently when it’s greasy. 

Oil doesn’t make it impossible to cut your hair, but it can change the appearance of your hair. If this is your first time visiting a specific stylist, arriving with oily hair will affect your pre-cut consultation and the way your haircut turns out. Your stylist might mis-identify your hair’s texture and type if you arrive with greasy hair. 

And if your stylist usually does wet cuts, hair that is too greasy can literally repel water and make it harder to thoroughly wet with a spray bottle. The result might be taking you back to the shampoo bowl for a shampoo before the cut. 

Think you may be washing your hair too often – or not enough? Check out our guide: How Often Should You Wash Your Hair? 

If a Shampoo Isn’t Included With Your Haircut

Many salons include a shampoo in the price of a haircut service. If that’s the case at your salon, there’s usually no need to wash your hair first. But if a shampoo isn’t included with your haircut, your stylist expects you to come in with reasonably clean hair. You’ll want to wash your hair at least the day before your appointment if you won’t be getting it shampooed at the salon. 

If You’re Donating Your Hair

This is something many women don’t consider ahead of time, but if you’re going to donate your hair, you need to make sure it’s extra clean with no product residue before your haircut. It’s important that the hair be clean and dry when it’s cut off and packaged up for donation. 

Wigs4Kids notes “Hair must be clean and stored/packaged completely dry. Wet hair will mold in shipping and will be thrown away.” Wig and headwear company Headcovers echoes the same sentiment, saying “Before donation, hair should be freshly washed, in its natural state, and free of styling products.” 

Ask Your Stylist to Be Sure

The best way to find out if you need a pre-appointment shampoo is to just ask your stylist. They will be able to put your mind at ease by letting you know if you need to ensure you shampoo right before an appointment. 

If your stylist doesn’t give you a clear answer, use the general rule: If your hair feels dirty or gross to you, it will for your stylist, too. Wash your hair before your appointment if it’s feeling greasy, dirty, or overly textured due to products. 

When Not to Wash Your Hair Before a Haircut

When not to wash your hair before a haircut graphic

In some cases, it’s not necessary to wash your hair before your haircut appointment. Here are the most common scenarios when stylists don’t expect you to arrive with freshly washed hair. 

If a Shampoo Is Included With Your Cut

If your stylist includes a free shampoo in the price of a haircut, there’s no need to go out of your way to wash it before your appointment. After all, it’ll be washed as soon as you arrive at the salon, anyway. 

If your stylist does offer a la carte haircuts without shampoo, you might consider opting to skip the salon shampoo in favor of doing it yourself at home. While the price difference may only be a few dollars, it’s one way to save money on your haircut. 

Talk to your stylist ahead of time about what’s included in a haircut service. You might be surprised to learn that haircuts include a free shampoo and scalp massage, or that those services are completely optional and an a la carte haircut is cheaper. 

If Your Hair Looks, Feels, and Smells Clean

Some people are lucky enough to have low-maintenance locks that can go days (or even a week) without shampoo and still look fresh and clean. If that sounds like you, you might not need to wash your hair before your haircut appointment.

Use your senses to determine if a shampoo is needed. Does your hair look clean? Does it feel clean? Does it smell clean? If the answer to all 3 of these questions is yes, you’re fine to head to your appointment without shampooing first. 

The Final Word

rule of thumb for washing your hair before a haircut

So, should you wash your hair before a haircut or not? Usually, the answer is yes, you should shampoo before your appointment. Try to shampoo within 48 hours of your haircut appointment to ensure your hair is clean enough to allow your stylist to see the natural texture and shape of your hair. 

Make sure to wash your hair 24-48 hours ahead of time if a shampoo isn’t included with your haircut service. If shampoo is included with your haircut (and you can find out for sure by asking your stylist when you book your appointment), don’t worry about washing first.

And if you haven’t washed within the last 48 hours but your hair still looks, feels, and smells clean, you’re good to go in without shampooing first. If all else fails and you’re not sure what to do, take a cue from your stylist. We love how one Reddit user put it: 

“My rule of thumb for haircuts is the same one I use for gum and breath mints – If someone offers you gum, you take it. Your breath probably stinks. So if they ask if I want a shampoo, I just say yes.” 

And if you’re really keen to follow proper salon etiquette, don’t forget to leave your stylist a good tip to show your appreciation!  

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