Whether you are just beginning your natural hair journey, you’ve been natural your whole life, or somewhere in between, you understand the struggle known as “wash day.” Wash day can seem overwhelming as it is, but we want to help ease that by answering some of your most common questions about washing natural hair. We will break down why having a solid wash routine is so important and explain the steps you can incorporate into your wash day routine to help maintain healthy hair. Natural hair is not a monolith, so we’re here to help you find what works best for your unique hair type and hair texture. It's time to redefine wash day into a day and act of self-care! Ready to learn the answer to the question, “How often should you wash natural hair?” Let’s dive in!
Why is it important to have a wash routine?
Washing your hair and establishing a good cleansing routine is one of the most important parts of maintaining the strength and health of natural hair. Cleansing your hair with shampoo removes buildup like product, dirt, oil, and sweat that have accumulated in your scalp in between your wash days. Buildup can lead to damaged hair that is characterized by split ends, dryness, and thinning. Further hair breakage can even prevent hair growth.
How often should I wash my hair?
Even though wash day can be time consuming for a lot of us, at least we're doing something beneficial to help us and our hair look and feel good. Natural hair doesn't need to be washed as often as straight hair textures but we do need to wash our hair consistently to keep it healthy. As a general rule, natural hair should be washed about every 7-10 days, however, everyone’s crown is different, so the frequency truly depends on the needs of your hair. Here are a few things to consider when determining how often to wash your hair.
How many products you use
The number of products you use can create buildup in your scalp slower or faster. For example, if you are a fan of the LOC method to achieve a wash and go, you are using three products in your hair versus if you were to use just a gel product to achieve the style. Using those three products will typically accumulate a thicker layer of buildup than if you were to use just one product. If your scalp has more product buildup, you will need to cleanse your hair more often. You should aim to wash your hair once every one to two weeks.
How often you apply products to your hair
If you switch your hairstyle up a few times during the week, this may require more products. If you are wearing your hair in a slicked back ponytail with a braid for a few days, you may not need to apply a lot of product to your hair throughout the week. If you have styled a wash and go, you may need to wet and restyle your hair with more product throughout the week. If you are applying more products each day to accommodate a new style, the more buildup you can expect. This means you will want to wash your hair more often to maintain a healthy scalp.
How much you sweat
Being sweaty can be annoying and inconvenient, but it's totally normal and it's our body's way of protecting us from overheating. If you sweat easily or you’ve been getting it in at the gym lately, the sweat in your scalp will begin to build up quicker, so it’s best to wash your hair more often.
Your hair porosity
Hair porosity is one of the least talked about topics but one of the most important parts of learning how our natural hair operates. Hair porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture, and can be determined by following a simple hair porosity strand test. There are three categories of porosity, including low, normal, and high:
- If you have low porosity hair, the cuticles of your hair are tight which can cause products to sit on your hair without absorbing. Since it’s hard for products to pass the cuticle layer, it sits on the hair shaft and makes the hair more susceptible to buildup. More buildup means you will need to cleanse your hair more often.
- If you have medium porosity hair, the cuticles of your hair are loose, which means moisture can easily reach inside the hair shaft and remain moisturized. This type of porosity is easiest to manage but still requires maintenance to keep its balance.
- If you have high porosity hair, the cuticles of your hair have a lot of space between them, causing your hair to absorb moisture well but not retain the moisture for long. Your wash day routine will require you to use a moisturizing shampoo that isn’t too harsh and contains softening ingredients like oil.
When considering how often to wash your hair, it will depend on how much product you use and to what frequency, how much sweat you may build on your scalp, and your hair’s porosity. Be in tune with the needs of your hair by looking out for the following signs that it’s time for a hair wash:
Your curls or coils feel oily
Simple. If you find yourself experiencing oily hair or greasy hair, then it’s time for a scalp cleansing.
Your hair is very tangled
When it’s beginning to take longer than usual to get those knots out of your hair in the shower, you'll know it's time. The buildup on your scalp will cause the hair to knot up, which is why it’s very important to know how to detangle hair properly.
There’s an unpleasant smell
All of the product and sweat building up in our scalp can start to create an odor. If your hair is beginning to smell unfresh or unusual, you’re due for a wash.
The hair texture seems unusual
If your hair typically has a lot of elasticity, but you’re noticing your strands are limp and not as bouncy, treat your curls, coils, or kinks to a hair washing.
What type of shampoo should I use?
One size fits all is untrue when it comes to hair care products. We need to be on the lookout for the most common ingredients to avoid in shampoo like sodium lauryl sulfate and parabens. Look for a shampoo wash specifically formulated for natural hair. PATTERN’S selection of shampoo and conditioner for curly hair contains the ingredients to remove debris and buildup without stripping your hair of total moisture.
Should I use a clarifying shampoo?
You might've heard about clarifying shampoos, but maybe you don’t know if you’re using them correctly. A clarifying shampoo contains stronger cleansing ingredients than a regular shampoo to give your scalp that extra cleanse to remove buildup. Clarifying shampoo is great for those times your hair is feeling lifeless, dull, or limp. It shouldn’t be used as frequently as your normal shampoo but can be used about every few weeks to restore your hair's elasticity and shine. Try out PATTERN’s Clarifying Shampoo to help give your hair and scalp the refresh it needs, without stripping your hair’s natural oils.
Is it possible to wash my hair too often?
Yes. One of the quickest ways to dry out your hair is to wash it too often or use the wrong type of shampoo. Shampoo products contain chemicals called surfactants that help to remove product, dirt, oil, and sweat on your scalp. Those chemicals can also strip away natural oils that your hair needs to remain hydrated and prevent breakage. If you have been washing your hair more than once a week and you’re experiencing dry hair, try cutting back. Another alternative might involve the No Poo method, where you cut out traditional shampoos completely to reset your hair and scalp.
What type of conditioner should I use?
You can’t forget the conditioner on wash day! Nobody understands how much conditioner we go through more than us. Conditioner is a saving grace, so finding which conditioner is right for you is key to detangling your curls and restoring their moisture. There are many different types of conditioners, but choose one that has at least one butter or oil to nourish your strands and boost hydration. Take a look at our collection of shampoo and conditioners for curly hair types to find what works best for you and your hair type. While conditioning your hair, gently detangle and then use some of PATTERN’S curly hair products to achieve your favorite natural hairstyles!
Washing your hair no matter the texture, type, or length is an opportunity to practice self-care and self-love. Our hair is fragile, yet powerful, so it’s important to treat it with the respect and care it deserves. Washing hair when necessary and using the proper cleansing products are two ways we can honor our crown and maintain its health. Avoid shampoos with harsh ingredients, keep track of how much product you use, and learn more about your hair’s porosity to maintain a proper wash routine for your natural hair. Most of all, pay attention to the needs of your hair by monitoring if its texture is unusual, if there's an odor, or if your hair feels very oily. These are all factors to pay attention to as you begin to establish the perfect hair care routine. Have an amazing hair wash day!
- Haircoach. "15 Harmful Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid". Nutrafol. Apr 16, 2018. https://nutrafol.com/blog/15-shampoo-ingredients-to-avoid/
- Janell M. Hickman-Kirby. "How to Ace Your Wash Day". Allure. Oct 23, 2020. https://www.allure.com/story/how-to-wash-natural-hair-expert-tips
- Simone M. Scully. "How to Wash Your Hair, Because It Turns Out There’s (Kinda, Sorta) a Right Way to Do It". Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/how-to-wash-your-hair#:~:text=Know%20that%20natural%20washes%20are,maintain%20your%20hair's%20natural%20moisture.