At some point during your journey to embracing your silver hair, you have probably asked this question: How often do you need to wash your silver hair?
Depending on your hair type, you have probably wondered what the answer is. If you have curly silver hair, you might be even more confused due to all the conflicting information out there. Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered.
I’m going to answer that question in this post, and I am expanding on the discussion I started in my video on washing your hair. Additionally, I’m answering some of your most frequently asked questions.
You might have heard different answers to this question depending on who you ask – your stylist, doctor, in a Facebook group, or even Google. But I’m here to give you an evidence-based answer so that you can take care of your hair the best possible way.
Before I dive in, I want to make it clear that there’s no hard and fast rule about how often you should wash your hair. It’s a personal choice, and if you’ve found a routine that works for you, stick with it! However, it’s always good to know the science behind it.
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Why Do We Shampoo Our Hair?
The primary reason we shampoo our hair is to remove sebum, product buildup, and dead skin cells that can make our scalp and hair feel oily or product-y. How much of an issue these are for you is dependent on your scalp condition, how many and what kind of products you use, and your hair type.
What Is Sebum?
Sebum is a protective oily and waxy substance produced in the sebaceous glands of the skin and scalp. Also known as sebaceous gland lipids, sebum is made up of squalene, esters of glycerol, wax, cholesterols, and fatty acids.
Interestingly enough, the sebum that our scalp produces has a slightly different lipid composition than the sebum that our skin produces. This makes sense because the sebaceous glands on our scalp must protect not only the skin on the scalp but also the hair.
The sebum on the hair helps to provide slip, manageability, softness, and sheen. It also is believed to help protect the hair and skin from photodamage and oxidative stress, and it acts as a barrier against the elements.
One of the ideas behind adding oils into hair and skin care products is to mimic and replenish our naturally occurring lipids. That said, studies are still being done to fully understand the roles lipids and oils play for our skin and hair.
Factors That Affect Sebum Production
Depending on the length of your hair, sebum can be present on your hair strands for about the first six inches before it starts to deteriorate. The longer your hair is, the less sebum you have from the midway point down to the ends. This is one reason people with long hair often experience increased porosity and more oxidative stress.
Texture and Ethnicity:
African-American sebum production is normal but the hair can be coarser and drier in general; consequently, you might have more issues keeping sebum in your hair strands. This hair type can usually extend the time between washdays, often for more than a week.
Hispanics tend to produce the least amount of sebum (compared to African-Americans, Whites and Asians). Their hair texture can also be more coarse so maintaining moisture balance is key.
Wavy and Curly Hair:
If you have curly hair, you have even less sebum in the length of your hair because the oils can’t travel down the coil as far as it can on straight hair. Another consideration is that the curlier your hair, the less likely you brush it regularly if at all; with straight hair, as you brush your hair you distribute the natural oils through the lengths.
Age and Sex:
Probably the most important factor to consider is your age and sex. Men naturally produce more sebum than women. This is due to sebum production being controlled by male hormones. As women age and go through menopause, our sebum production decreases. Because we have a limited supply of male hormones, already, this sebum reduction is even more pronounced than it is with men as they age.
Around the age of 40 the production of sebum significantly drops for women and even further after the age of 60. This will likely influence the your desire to wash your hair less to keep your scalp from being stripped of the limited supply of sebum and drying your scalp and hair out.
Your activity level also plays a role in how often you should wash your hair. If you’re active with sports, swimming, your job, or outdoor activities, you might need to wash your hair more often.
Scalp conditions like psoriasis, eczema, or dandruff, can change your shampoo routine. You will want to follow doctor’s orders and medicated shampoo or treatment instructions. Most often this means shampooing daily.
If you have silver hair, heat exposure can also be an issue. Many of us use heat styling tools to achieve our desired hairstyle, which can cause yellowing from heat damage. To limit heat exposure, the less you wash and style the better. And of course, always use a heat protectant leave-in.
Results of My Facebook Survey
Because this is such a highly personal choice, I asked my audience on Facebook how often they shampooed their hair.
As you can see from the following chart, most people found they could was less frequently since they ditched the dye.
So How Often Should You Wash Your Silver Hair?
For most people shampooing less is far more beneficial to your hair than shampooing daily, unless you have a medical condition or an oily scalp. Sticking to a routine is also very good for your hair and scalp.
The curlier or longer your hair is, the more you should focus on conditioning to protect the length of your hair from oxidative stress. Conditioning helps protect your hair from the elements, which is especially important for those with decreased sebum production.
If you are shampooing every day, you are drastically stripping your natural sebum and depleting the lipids on your hair…so make sure you add conditioner to your routine. If conditioning causes scalp irritation or oiliness focus your conditioner application on your ends working it up to about two inches from the scalp.
Tips From Roots to Tips
- Focus your shampoo to cleansing your scalp, and just allow it to run through the length of you hair rather than scrubbing your ends. This helps prevent over stripping your lengths.
- Wash your hair more often with scalp conditions, oily scalp, or really fine hair. These hair and scalp types may need a daily shampoo and condition.
- If you have medium/normal density, texture, and porosity, with no scalp conditions you may find you only need to wash 2-3 times a week.
- If you have coarse, high density, or very curly hair you may only need to wash your hair once a week or even less.
- A note about dry scalps, if you don’t want to wash your hair but your scalp is feeling dry try a light scalp massage with a little squalane oil to help protect your skin barrier until your next full wash day.
- Dry shampoo can also be beneficial for those who need to absorb a little of the oils and add volume back in, in between washdays.
Check out my video on refreshing if you want to learn a little more on refreshing your hair between washdays.
How often should I wash my hair if I have silver hair?
Remember that silver hair is more delicate and thirstier than pigmented hair. Shampooing less frequently is generally more beneficial for gray hair, especially for those with long, silver, and/or curly hair. Use conditioner and leave-in conditioner with UV and Heat protection to protect hair from the elements.
Does scalp training control an oily scalp?
This is a myth, scalp training to reduce oils on the scalp is not a thing. Because hormones dictate how much sebum your scalp produces avoiding washing your hair if it is oily will not slow oil production on the scalp. However, learning to not wash your hair every day can take time, patience, and finding the right products.
Should I adjust my hair-washing routine based on my hair texture?
Yes, the amount of sebum in hair depends on various factors, such as hair length, texture, age, sex, ethnicity, and activity level.
Is there anything wrong with shampooing my hair every day?
No! It’s a highly personal choice. However, shampooing less frequently is generally more beneficial for hair, especially for those with long, silver, and/or curly hair.
How can I protect my hair from heat damage?
Shampoo and style your hair as minimally as possible to reduce the potential for yellowing from heat damage. Always use a Heat Protectant.
How can I protect my hair if I have a scalp condition?
Always use medicated products as directed, to help with any scalp conditions and avoid flaring up any scalp conditions and potentially making them worse.
How often should I use purple shampoo?
To prevent your hair turning purple or drying out, you should limit purple shampoo to at max once a week and only if you have a permanent form of yellowing like sun or heat damage. Check out my When To Use Purple Shampoo post for more information.
I hope you found this post educational and helpful.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share.
As always it is about so much more than the hair.
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