How often and how thoroughly you wash your hair shows in your crowning glory

Most of us dunk our head under water, scrunch some shampoo into our hair, wash it off with just as much water we think we need, and we are done. This is actually, the wrong way to wash one’s hair. Most of us also follow that old rule of thumb: we wash our hair every time it feels it’s limp and greasy. However, for a healthy head of shiny hair, you need to get the frequency of washes right, too. Stylists across the world are united in saying the scalp does not usually need to be cleansed every day. Too heavy use of shampoos, followed by large glops of conditioner which is not properly washed off, can leave too much product on your head, causing hair to go greasy within 24 hours. For the most part, most people need to wash their hair only every other day or so.

The sebaceous glands in our skin secrete an oily/waxy matter called sebum which lubricates our skin and hair. These glands are connected to the hair follicle, thus either stripping the hair of moisture or keeping it well conditioned. Since the oil found in hair plays a significant role in protecting it from damage, daily washing, it is felt, can deplete this oil, leaving hair vulnerably dry. Then, many hair products could end up irritating the skin on the scalp.

There are factors that determine our wash cycles, like our lifestyle, the products we use and the climate we live in.   Since all rules are in any case meant to be broken, the hair wash frequency chart, too, comes with its own caveat. Trichologist Philip Kingsley, doyen of hair care in the UK and US, actually recommends washing one’s hair daily. If you must do that, however, remember to use the mildest, the most lightweight, the most gentle shampoo you can find. The wiser among us calibrate their shampooing days to when the hair really calls out it. This goes for people with very short haircuts, people who sweat it out on the sports field women with gloriously long tresses. The exception is swimmers must wash the chlorine off their hair after every session in the water; a rinse should work well, sans shampoo.

Curly hair does not accumulate oil too easily, so the general wisdom is that it can be washed every three days. Less oil also means less dirt, so a judicious use of hair product can keep curly hair looking good till the next wash.

Long hair can be washed less often because the sebum produced at the roots can take a while to travel down the full shaft of the hair. As long as the hair has less oil, it also has less dirt since the latter usually attaches itself to oil. Those with an overly oily scalp need to wash it more often.

The climate also plays its part in keeping hair well moisturised or dry as straw. During the colder months, one can safely leave off hair washes to once in three days; this holds good during a spell of windy weather, too. However, if you live in a humid climate, with smog and dust in the air, more frequent washing can help keep hair cleaner. One related tip: brushing one’s hair just before a shampoo helps dislodge sebum and dirt particles, which can then be washed off.

So much for the frequency of hair washing. Now to the technique of proper hair washing. Washing your hair incorrectly can lead to scalp irritation, scalp infection, dandruff, even lice. Rinse your hair well before you apply shampoo. Use just one large blob of shampoo but see that it is distributed all over the scalp.

Use a gentle knuckling motion and work the shampoo into the scalp, concentrating on the roots because that is where hair gets greasier. Don’t apply shampoo to the ends of your hair, it can dry out the already fragile area drastically. Wash thoroughly, and don’t rush it. Product build-up can mean the ruin of a healthy hair.

In between your shampoos, if you feel you need to wash your hair, go ahead and do so…give it a water wash. Water washing means that you massage your scalp using just water, no shampoo, cleanser or conditioner. This is ideal to wash the smoke that got into your hair at the crowded pub, or to wash off the gel you used to style your hair the evening before.

Ultimately, your hair will reflect your life choices: what you eat, how you live, as well as how well you wash your hair. Hair that gets too much product residue left in it, hair that has been washed too thoroughly, hair that has been washed with too severe or too mild cleansing product is not going to turn heads. So set your hair wash patterns right and do a good job of the washing process.