Washing hair may not be as simple as lathering, rinsing and repeating. Here’s how to properly wash your hair with the right technique and products.
Do’s and don’ts for washing hair
Washing and conditioning your hair seems like a simple concept. You lather, rinse and repeat. But if you don’t pay close attention to your hair type, you can make common mistakes with healthy hair that can cause damage.
Which products and technique you should use depends on your hair type and how often it gets dirty. Here, a haircut and a dermatologist give their tips for getting healthy, beautiful hair.
How often should you wash your hair?
For the knowledge how to wash your hair properly, you need to know: how often you have to wash it. The answer: It depends on your hair type and texture, says hairstylist Catalina Drouillard, owner of Three Sixteen Hair Haven in Kihei, Hawaii.
“Oil scalps and fine hair may require daily shampooing, while coarse, dry hair may only need to be washed once a week,” she explains. “In general, though, every other day or every third day is often enough for most hair types.”
At the other end of the spectrum, you may think you are doing your locks a favor by washing them as often as possible and giving them extra cleaning. But it is possible to wash your hair too often. Washing your hair every day is too much for most people, says Drouillard.
“If your hair feels dry and brittle, you could be washing too often with the wrong type of shampoo for your hair,” she says. (Avoid these habits that cause thinning hair.)
How do you wash your hair properly?
Before you get started, brushing out all of the tangles will help prevent tangles when you wash in the shower, says Drouillard. Apply shampoo and then massage your hair down to your scalp with your fingertips. Let the shampoo rinse down the hair shaft instead of piling hair on your head as you apply the shampoo. This prevents it from tangling.
Make sure the water isn’t too hot, as hot water can dry out the hair and scalp, causing brittle hair and/or dandruff, says Drouillard.
“It’s also important to take care of the scalp,” adds Rajani Katta, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Houston and author of Glow: The Dermatologist’s Guide to a Younger Skin Diet With Whole Foods. “You don’t want to scratch your scalp, so it’s important to use your fingertips and not your fingernails.” (Here are some reasons you may have an itchy scalp.)
How much shampoo to use?
There is some truth to the saying, “lather, rinse, repeat.” According to Drouillard, if you don’t wash every day or if you wash your hair because you exercised and your hair has become sweaty, lather and rinse your shampoo twice.
How much conditioner to use?
After lathering and rinsing your shampoo, massage in some conditioner, says Drouillard. If you don’t have oily hair, you can choose to only use conditioners on days you don’t wash your hair. That gives you a boost of extra moisture.
“Everyone with any length of hair needs a conditioner every time they shampoo,” she says. “If the risk of limp hair makes you want to skip conditioner, use a conditioner that’s not too heavy for your texture and never apply conditioner to the scalp.” (If you have scalp psoriasis, check out these best shampoos for scalp psoriasis.)
Make sure to rinse out every bit of conditioner to prevent it from weighing down your hair or building up on the scalp, says Drouillard.
“A final rinse in cold water really makes a difference, as it closes the cuticle, resulting in smoother, shinier hair.”
How to choose shampoos and conditioners?
From salon shelves to drugstore aisles, there is a wide range when it comes to shampoos and conditioners. In general, you get what you pay for with hair care, so it may be worth investing a few extra dollars in your products, says Drouillard.
“Priceier products usually mean higher quality ingredients,” she says. “But if your hair is healthy, I wouldn’t argue that your products aren’t good; your hair will speak about it.”
Just like how often you should wash your hair, the type of shampoo and conditioner you should look for depends on your hair type and texture, says Drouillard. You also want to avoid products that contain parabens and sulfates, which can be harmful and drying. She’s a fan of the Paul Mitchell Clean Beauty line, which is made with natural, vegan ingredients and has options for dry, damaged, frizzy and normal hair.
“Most brands have separate lines to meet different needs,” she says. “If you have colored, dry, damaged or thin hair, you should find a shampoo and conditioner for that type of hair.” (Try these home remedies for dry hair.)
If your hair is very dry, Drouillard recommends using anything that claims to brighten no more than once a week. She usually doesn’t recommend two-in-one shampoo and conditioner products, especially if you have an oily scalp, because a conditioning shampoo just puts more moisture on top of your oil instead of cleansing.
How should you dry your hair?
Whether you’re blow-drying or air-drying your hair, you’ll probably want to pat it dry with a towel first. If you do this, be careful because your hair can get damaged when wet: Rubbing vigorously can lead to breakage and roughness of the cuticle, causing frizz, says Drouillard. (Here’s what you need to know about sleeping with wet hair.)
“Since your hair is weakest when it’s wet, it’s also not the best idea to tie it up right after a shower as that can lead to breakage of the hair tie/ponytail holder,” she says. “A turban towel like this one from Target Room Essentials is my favorite thing because it helps absorb moisture and stays on my head while I get dressed and do my makeup.” Another great option is the Aquis Microfiber Hair Towel.
When it comes to blow drying, Drouillard recommends using as little heat as possible. But if you must, let your hair air dry for as long as possible. Follow this up by using a heat protectant styling product such as Paul Mitchell Neuro Prime HeatCTRL Blowout Primer or Aveda Brilliant Damage Control to prevent damage.
What to do if you have dandruff?
Dandruff can be a nuisance for a variety of reasons, from scalp irritation to unsightly flakes. Dandruff can often be remedied with inexpensive drugstore shampoos from brands like Head & Shoulders and Selsun Blue, but for extreme irritation, see a dermatologist, says Dr. katta.
“For most people who notice excessive flaking of their scalp, it’s usually due to a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, which is inflammation of the scalp,” she says.
She adds, “While this condition looks like the scalp is dry, it’s actually inflamed. For this condition, it’s really helpful to wash more often to remove the oil from the scalp.
dr. As a treatment for dandruff, Katta recommends gently rubbing medicated shampoo (again, with your fingertips and not your nails) on the scalp and leaving it there for 10 to 15 minutes before washing it off.
When to See a Dermatologist?
If using over-the-counter dandruff shampoos doesn’t help your dandruff, Dr. Katta recommends seeing a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis. Even if it’s just dandruff, your doctor may be able to prescribe a medicated shampoo that may be more effective than what you’ve already tried. It’s also important to see your dermatologist if you’re experiencing hair loss, as dandruff is not usually a cause of hair loss, she adds.