How many of you reading this wash your hair every 5 days without fail?
If you responded “yes,” I’d venture to guess (though I may be incorrect) that you wash your hair that often because its currently at a length you consider manageable, or your scalp accumulates oil necessitating a wash, or you wear wash and go styles. However, for those of you who don’t have to wash your hair due to an oily scalp or any other issue, what is the maximum amount of time you should go without washing your hair? Everyone’s hair and scalp are different but I offer a few guidelines that I’ve used in my hair regimen.
Washing vs. Cleansing
First things first: When I say “washing,” I am specifically referring to the use of a cleansing agent (preferably a mild one) which aids in the breakdown and removal of oil and dirt from the hair and scalp. For me, this means using my Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter shampoo or African black soap. My scalp doesn’t produce much sebum; so it really isn’t necessary for me to wash my hair every single week. I add moisture by spritzing water and sealing the length of my hair with oils. You may find that you can also go longer than one week without using a shampoo or other cleansing agent. Still, considering the polluted environment in which most of us live, washing your hair with a gentle cleanser at least twice a month, or every two weeks, will remove build up that accumulates over time. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should not cleanse your hair sooner.
I refer to “cleansing” as the use of only water to clean your hair and scalp. Conditioner can be used to soften the hair, but I prefer to cleanse with only water and then apply a leave-in conditioner after. Why can cleansing be useful in between washes? Well, think of your hair as a fabric. Unless you keep it covered, it is regularly exposed to the elements, absorbs odor, dust and dirt. Cleansing your hair can be as simple as sectioning your hair, rinsing it in the shower and then applying a leave in moisturizer. If you are not going to vigorously rub the scalp (as usually done during washing), you might be able to avoid lengthy detangling sessions and simply remove shed hair with your fingers. Ideally, I think it’s a good idea (though not necessary for everyone) to lightly cleanse your hair in between washes if you wait more than 10–14 days to wash your hair.
Why Wait to Wash?
Some of you may read this article and wonder: Why would anyone wait longer than a few days to wash? Well, if you have highly textured hair, the longer your hair grows, the more time consuming it can be to wash and style your hair. Deep conditioning twice a week when you have a TWA is one of the benefits of shorter hair that I miss. I washed my hair at least three days a week when I first went natural. Now, with waist length hair, it simply takes too much time to wash multiple times a week if not necessary. Moreover, I’ve found that washing my hair too frequently can leave my hair feeling brittle and dry. It takes a few days for my hair to absorb the natural oils produced by my scalp and I find that this benefits the health of my newly grown hair without the need to add other oils like jojoba directly to my scalp.
Like any part of your hair routine, you want to balance your lifestyle with a regimen that suits your tastes and needs. Going beyond two weeks without washing or cleansing the hair might have a negative impact on most women, due to scalp or hair dryness. In my opinion that would be considered “too” long. Some of you may disagree. Share your thoughts.
How often do you wash your hair? What is the longest you can comfortably go without a wash?