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How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?

This is a question people ask me all the time. It’s a great question and one that I’m more than happy to answer which is why I decided to devote a blog post to it.

First, a little bit about me and my hair wash history! I have a lot of hair, as you might have noticed. It wasn’t always as thick as it is now though. You may have heard me talk about my “hair story” in person at a public seminar or perhaps you read about it in my first book, Joyous Health.

Here’s the short version of the story…

In my early twenties, I had dry thin hair from nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalance . In fact, I had about half (no joke) the amount of hair on my head than I do now. I didn’t lose it in patches, so it wasn’t obvious to most people that I was losing my hair. I used a lot of hair care products to make it look thicker and I also used to dye my hair a variety of colours, regularly.

To make matters worse, I told my hair stylist to make me look like Jennifer Lopez (no joke) with her famous caramel highlights she had in the 1990’s, except she ended up bleaching my hair and it turned green! Yep, that was NO FUN! After a few failed attempts to fix the colour, my hair stylist and I decided it was best to dye it black to hide the mess she created. It was a terrible experience.

Fast forward to today and contrary to what most people think, I do not dye my hair and I haven’t in over 15 years. The greys are slowly creeping in, so maybe in another decade, hair dye is something I will investigate, but not yet. The greys are a sign my body birthed a beautiful human which used up a shit ton of my minerals and now I’ve got the hair to prove it (at least that’s what I tell myself cause the greys didn’t start until Vienna was born!).

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Anyhow, back then my hair was thin, it looked unhealthy and it was not great for my self-esteem which was mediocre at best.

When I changed my diet and my lifestyle, my hair changed too. It became thick, shiny and my scalp was no longer dry and flaky. However, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I started experimenting with going longer without washing it. I had a hunch that the more I washed it, the greasier it became. So I wondered if the opposite would be true and it is!

The more you wash your hair, the more oil your scalp will produce. Typically, the oil is produced in relation to how often you strip away those natural oils.

You see, your hair is shiniest when it’s dirty!

Of course, that’s providing it’s not full of hair product like hair spray and gel making your hair dull. But it’s shiny because that waxy oil is produced in the sebaceous glands just beneath the skin of your scalp. This oil lubricates the skin and helps provide a natural shine for your hair too. The oil secreted by these glands is truly the best natural moisturizer and hair shine, better than anything that money can buy!

Since this oil is a mix of triglycerides, cholesterol, squalene, wax esters and keratin, it’s not surprising that your diet greatly impacts the shine of your hair, especially consuming good fats like hormonally balancing omega-3 fatty acids.

On the flip side, if you eat too many refined carbohydrates and sugars, these get converted into triglycerides by the liver. This is why your hair may still be very greasy even if you are following the tips I'm about to share below. You may be eating too many bad fats and producing too much oil in the sebaceous glands.

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Dry flaky scalp and dull dry hair is another common symptom in those with a poor diet, especially disordered eating. The sebum oil released onto our scalp essentially makes our hair waterproof because of the keratin (a key component of hair) which prohibits water from penetrating or breaking the strands of hair that have adequate sebum. Without this oil, your hair would have no protective barrier and can easily become very brittle, dry and break off easily.

The importance of eating healthy fats cannot be underestimated. If you don’t eat good fats, you don’t produce healthy oils to lubricate your skin and hair. If you eat many refined carbohydrates, sugars and bad fats, you may overproduce oils and have greasy hair.

Here’s the formula for a hair detox you can follow. This is for those of you who wash your hair every day:

Week One

Day 1: Wash your hair. Avoid or limit hair care products.

Day 2: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 3: Wash your hair. Avoid or limit hair care products.

Day 4: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 5: Wash your hair. Avoid or limit hair care products.

Day 6: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 7: Wash your hair twice. Avoid or limit hair care products.

Week Two

Day 1: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 2: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 3: Wash hair twice to get it squeaky clean.

Day 4: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 5: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 6: Wash hair twice to get it squeaky clean.

Day 7: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Week Three

Day 1: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 2: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 3: Wash hair twice to get it squeaky clean.

Day 4: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 5: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 6: Use dry shampoo as needed.

Day 7: Wash hair twice to get it squeaky clean.

This can take several weeks up to a few months to get to a point where you are able to go more than one or two days without washing your hair.

I wash my hair 1-2x per week, or about every 5 days. In the summer it definitely gets greasier faster, but then I use more dry shampoo and put my hair up in a bun more often. Who am I kidding ... 90% of the time, my hair is in a bun because it's just easier! 

Other considerations:

  • The conditioner you use to wash your hair could be weighing your hair down and making it greasy. Either try a lighter formula or use less of it. My Natural Volumizing Lavender Conditioner would make a great option here!

  • If you really can’t stand your greasy hair, tie it back (if it's long) or wear a hat! You can make it through a couple of days. You need to do this so those sebaceous glands start to figure out they don’t need to produce as much oil.

  • If you’ve followed my advice and you still have very greasy hair, then I would highly recommend looking at your diet. Do a 14-day food journal and assess how much sugar or refined carbohydrates you're eating. These foods should only be for special occasions or a truly occasional treat!

And I know you might be thinking, "This is great and all, but Joy, I go to the gym and my hair gets sweaty!" Well I have a solution for that too ... my DIY Dry Shampoo ! This is the best Dry Shampoo ever and free of the harmful chemicals you'll find in conventional dry shampoo. You can also watch a video of how to make it over here.

I realize that depending how much you sweat, the only solution may be to wash your hair, but if you can avoid it daily, it will go a long way and ultimately help you achieve the beautiful, shiny hair you've been looking for! 

Want to learn other ways you can continue to support and nourish your hair and get healthy, luscious locks? Join my Natural Hair Care Challenge! It's completely FREE and starts on July 9th! You can get on the waitlist by clicking the image below.

38 Comments
Danielle   •   June 14, 2018

Yess! Always love reading posts on natural hair care :) is it best to brush hair more often? And how do you keep your hair for bedtime? Thanks!

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Joy McCarthy   •   June 14, 2018

Veny   •   June 14, 2018

Soooo helpful and full on good info, thank you so much,will start the week plan right away ☺🌼 You are a walking proof that our good health is in our own hands and choices,everyday. Sending much love your way💚

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Joy McCarthy   •   June 14, 2018

Ali   •   June 14, 2018

Thanks for the hair tips! I’ve been following your advice for years and am down to washing my hair every 4 days ... the only reason being that it does get oily after 4 days and I find the DIY dry shampoo takes away my natural gloss and makes it look so dull looking. Otherwise I love the tips of my hair on day 4! I have strawberry blond hair, and use the DIY shampoo with arrowroot powder and cinnamon to get the right colour. Does dry shampoo have this dulling effect on everyone?

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Joy McCarthy   •   June 14, 2018
Ali   •   June 14, 2018
Joy McCarthy   •   June 15, 2018

Ntia Ntia   •   June 15, 2018

Wonderful, my girl will really love what I have for her this time. You see, she’s kinda the type who’s upset with her hair and her outlooks. That aside, I do also think this is a nice idea to practice myself. I mean which guy doesn’t want either a fine hair or a beautiful beard. Hair basically gives beauty you know.

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Natalie T   •   June 15, 2018

Joy, this is a great post! I only wash my hair once per week and have been doing this for years! I have super thick, super curly hair, and since curly hair is already dry, washing it more often strips those natural oils away and causes it to frizz like crazy. I also do not towel-dry my hair (just squeeze it out after washing), and always let it air-dry to avoid damage from heat styling tools. I would recommend these tips to all my curly-haired girls out there ;) I also just wanted to say that I've been following your blog for 3 years now, ever since I heard you speak at a conference and bought your first book on the spot. You do amazing work, and you're so inspiring! Keep it up :)

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Joy McCarthy   •   June 15, 2018

Rebecca   •   June 18, 2018

This is a great post. I recently made the decision to stop dyeing my hair after years of experimenting with every colour under the rainbow. I am also growing out a pixie cut so product is a hard thing to cut out at the moment. Do you have any advice for going natural for those of us with short hair? Thanks! Rebecca

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Joy McCarthy   •   June 19, 2018
Rebecca   •   June 21, 2018

Hannah   •   June 19, 2018

Hi Joy! I'm going to definitely be following this plan so I don't have to wash my hair so often! Just wondering if your Diy dry shampoo is the one you always use yourself or if there are other natural ones you would recommend?

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Joy McCarthy   •   June 19, 2018

Sheena Scott   •   June 19, 2018

Does the same apply to women with PCOS? I deal with hair loss and very thin hair as a result, which I’m working hard at through nutrition, but I can’t imagine being able to go more than 2 days without washing. I’ve also heard that if you have PCOS, letting your hair get too greasy can actually make hair loss worse? Not sure how true this is!

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Joy McCarthy   •   June 19, 2018

Manon   •   June 20, 2018

On days that I should not wash my hair, is it acceptable to get it wet in the shower but not shampoo it? As a runner, I have to at least rince my hair after a run outside (especially in the summer heat and humidity). Thanks for the great post! I made “your” dry shampoo your recipe and it works well!

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   June 21, 2018
Erin   •   June 21, 2018

Helen T   •   June 20, 2018

Hi Joy! Can't wait to try the DIY dry shampoo! Wow...five days, it's okay to wash my hair that much less often, huh? Is there an advantage to brushing my hair versus combing? I blowdry my hair every time I end up washing my hair late, even though I know it's bad. Is it true that sleeping with wet hair is bad or promotes headaches? Or is that some urban legend?

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Joy McCarthy   •   June 21, 2018

Veronica   •   June 20, 2018

I have really enjoyed all the joyous blogs, but unfortunately today my experience was different. I was really very shocked to come across a swear word and I’m sorry to say that I was very disappointed.

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Joy McCarthy   •   June 21, 2018

lori   •   June 21, 2018

How do you style your hair without adding hair care products? What happens when you have an issue with frizzy hair?

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   June 22, 2018

Lisa   •   June 26, 2018

I've been doing "week 2" for over a year now and I find that my hair has become much less oily in between shampoos. The diy dry shampoo that you've created is wonderful! I put in a few drops of peppermint essential oil and it smells just like chocolate mint. Divine! Thanks for this valuable post. :)

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   June 26, 2018

Natalie Ellis   •   June 28, 2018

This sounds completely strange to me 😂 Hmm, I don't think I'm gonna try for it but I would like to read other's experiences about this program :) - Natalie Ellis

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   June 28, 2018

Jen W.   •   July 3, 2018

Hi joy I have ezcema and my scalp is often dry. If I don’t wash my hair at least every other day my scalp gets so itchy! Is there an oil you recommend for my dry scalp? I’ve tried putting coconut oil onto my scalp at night before I go to bed but I wake up with my scalp being even flakier. Any suggestions?

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Angela   •   July 7, 2018

What’s dry shampoo. I wash my hair one a week

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Joy McCarthy   •   July 8, 2018

Amanda   •   August 1, 2018

Hi...I've gotten to the point that I only need to wash my hair every 4-5 days without being greasy or needing dry shampoo (which is amazing...thanks for the tips!), but despite this I'm finding after the first day or two that my hair just looks BLAH! My hair isn't naturally curly or straight, so it ends up just looking messy and I resort to pony tails most days. Do you have any suggestions for styling several days post-wash?

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Rachel Molenda   •   August 2, 2018

Mary   •   October 17, 2018

What other ideas do you have for greasy days for medium length hair. Buns not possible and can't wear a hat to work! Thx! Also I currently have captain blackenship, urban barn and morroco method dry shampoos. Are they ok? I tried the diy recipe but didn't like smelling like chocolate! Thx again!

Reply
Rachel Molenda   •   October 18, 2018

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