How do I not shampoo every day?
December 2, 2012 4:22 PM   Subscribe

My hair stylist told me I should shampoo just 2 times a week, and use conditioner at least that often. I usually shampoo every morning and only occasionally use conditioner. I have two questions about this.

1. Is this good advice? A quick Google search suggests that this is controversial — many people do recommend shampooing less than once a day, but others say you should shampoo every day to avoid dandruff. I don't have a major problem with dandruff, but I do occasionally have some, and I wouldn't want to do anything that would lead to more of it.

2. How is this supposed to work considering that I use product (pomade) every day? My stylist said even when I don't shampoo, I should still wash my hair thoroughly with water. I would expect this to remove some, but not all, of the product. So it would seem like I should apply new product every day to still have enough. But having 3 or 4 days worth of product in my hair sounds like it would get overly gunky/dirty.

(The answer is not "Don't use product." I've tried that before and the results are not good.)

I'm a man with medium-short, wavy hair that's very coarse and thick.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
posted by John Cohen to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (38 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I wash my hair three times a week. I use product (mousse) on it daily. It seemed weird at first but now I can see that my hair is healthier. Not as many split ends.
posted by eleslie at 4:26 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wash my hair without shampoo for weeks at a time; I usually use either a light, inexpensive conditioner (it doesn't lather up, so it seems strange at first, but I just work it into my scalp like shampoo and then rinse) or a rinse made of apple cider vinegar and water (50:50; don't let it get in your eyes!).
posted by scody at 4:27 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could try something more gentle like doc bronners between shampoo days to remove product and keep hair clean without the full effect of shampoo.
posted by Strass at 4:28 PM on December 2, 2012

Best answer: I would say try it out and see what it does to your hair. If it turns out your hair is now oily and full of gunk, ignore stylist and keep doing what you were doing. If your hair looks great, your stylist was correct.

I wash every day, and anything I've ever tried to reduce washing has not worked and left my hair a nasty oily mess. So I tend to ignore anyone who tells me to wash it less.
posted by Sara C. at 4:30 PM on December 2, 2012 [12 favorites]

Best answer: It will take a couple weeks for this to work -- your hair will over-produce oils for a while, and it will seem gross and like it's not working. Give it at least 3 weeks or so for your hair to get used to it, and then your hair will, in all likelihood, be much better and cleaner and healthier -- and you'll probably need less product.
posted by brainmouse at 4:40 PM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Doctor Bronners really dries out your hair and scalp, FYI.

What brainmouse says though. It will take a couple weeks for your hair to adjust, and it might feel gross, but your hair will probably be healthier. I used to wash my hair every other day, but stopped after bleaching it and dying it because my hair was like straw. I haven't bleached my hair in years but only use shampoo once or twice a month, but wash it with hot water every day. Sometimes I remember how greasy it would feel after a day, but now that my hair and scalp are acclimated, it's nothing like that.
posted by kendrak at 4:51 PM on December 2, 2012

I wash my hair about twice a week. I think it's worth a shot. I have dandruff and it really doesn't matter how frequently I wash my hair - I need to use the T/Gel (or other generic with coal tar) shampoo to decrease it. If I use that each time I wash my hair then it stays under control.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:53 PM on December 2, 2012

Best answer: I am a man with hair like yours. I stopped shampooing 6-7 years ago at my stylist's recommendation.

Now I shampoo maybe once a month at most, usually either because I am getting a haircut or I just did something really dirty like insulating a crawlspace.

I use pomade daily. It pretty much washes out in hot water in the shower.

I used to have really bad dandruff and probably some kind of scalp psoriasis or eczema, which was only sometimes made better by medicated shampoos. Since stopping shampooing it is better. Still a bit of dandruff but way less itchy and painful.

I do use a scalp brush in the shower, though, which helps with flakiness. They are about $0.99 at the drug store and look like a flat oval of plastic with tiny plastic spikes on it. There is no handle; you just slip a loop around your hand.
posted by MonsieurBon at 4:54 PM on December 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

I cut shampoo entirely nearly ten years ago when I was having an horrific allergic reaction to some medication at that time, and my skin was basically undergoing systemic failure.

I had always heard that "your hair gets used to it after a few weeks", but never believed it. It is, however, true. Once I stopped that medication and my skin went back to normal, I found I didn't need shampoo, my hair never dries out now.

I am a guy with shortish hair. I do not know how this would hold for long hair.
posted by smoke at 4:54 PM on December 2, 2012

Response by poster: OK, I'm convinced.
posted by John Cohen at 4:55 PM on December 2, 2012

I had a big nasty skin cancer cut out of my head a fortnight ago (benign, woo-hoo!), on a Monday. I wasn't supposed to get it wet, but by Thursday, my greasy hair was making me scratch like a lice-infected urchin from a Charles Dickens novel. I was used to shampooing every couple of days.

My mother tipped me backwards over the laundry sink and shampooed the rest of my head, leaving the wound dry. I then didn't need to wash my hair until the following Friday, 8 days later.

My hair adjusted very quickly to not being washed so often. YMMV, but why not give it a go?
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:56 PM on December 2, 2012

I have very thick, course, curly hair as well and my hair stylist told me to only wash as needed. She says she has some clients who wash once a week, other who haven't washed their hair in 6 months (getting it wet with conditioner daily). I wash mine about once a week or when it starts looking greasy. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

Some people have thin, fine hair and this would be crazy. My hair stylist says she personally has to wash her hair every day since it is fine and straight. It just depends on your hair. And I don't have any problem with product building up.

Also, I've heard you can crush up asprin in your shampoo to prevent dandruff.. maybe you could put it in your conditioner? I get dandruff but it's controlled by using dandruff shampoo when I do wash my hair, it's not necessary every day for me.
posted by kerri13 at 4:56 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I not only use pomade, but I use old-school men's pomade. I have short, very wavy, thick hair.

I shampoo my hair about twice a week, the rest of the week I just "wash" it with hot water in the shower. There is a little bit of buildup, but it doesn't really build up exponentially -- there's just a certain amount that "sticks" to the texture of my hair a bit until I shampoo again. I still need to add pomade to style it, I just need to use a little more if I've shampooed that day.
posted by desuetude at 4:57 PM on December 2, 2012

The no shampoo thing is really different for everyone, but you might as well give it a try and see if it works for you. However, if it doesn't seem to be having a good effect, don't stick with it for more than about 6-8 weeks or so, because you will probably be wasting your time.
posted by elizardbits at 4:59 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Came in to say what elizardbits just said. I'm a lady and I hear this all the time and it absolutely would not work for me at all. If it doesn't work for you, it's not necessarily because you're doing something wrong. I wash my hair every day of my life and it's healthy and fine.
posted by something something at 5:03 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

FWIW I once dated someone who was doing the No-Shampoo thing and insisted his hair was "less oily", "healthier", "just as clean", etc.

Oh god his hair was fucking disgusting.

I am convinced that the No-Shampoo thing is some kind of mass delusion. Maybe after three weeks you forget what it was like to have clean hair.
posted by Sara C. at 5:10 PM on December 2, 2012 [34 favorites]

My husband used to wear a lot of gel in his hair everyday, and also shampoo everyday (nay, he used SOAP to wash his hair! Shudder.)

I got him to try shampooing only once a fortnight or so, rinsing in plain hot water daily. His hair is now no longer as frizzy or fuzzy, and he doesn't use gel at ALL since the natural oils keep it looking nice. He hated it at first and then grew to love it.

I have fine straight hair and I find my hair goes better over the no-washing period when I DO use product in it - it keeps it full of shape and is easier to style. On the weeks when washing daily is unavoidable (swimming/traveling), I find it takes a couple of no-shampoo periods to regulate the oil production again. Basically the more I wash it, the oiler it gets.
posted by shazzam! at 5:11 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, for me the clue that no shampoo was not for me was when my hairline and scalp broke out with such pustulent acne that my head would bleed when I brushed my hair. And everyone who proselytized the no shampoo thing to me kept saying I was just doing it wrong, totally unwilling to admit that people have different body chemistries and sometimes what works for some people will demonstrably not work for others.
posted by elizardbits at 5:13 PM on December 2, 2012 [9 favorites]

It works for some people, and it doesn't work for others. I'm in the latter camp-- I've tried many times and stylists always tell me to give it more time and my scalp will balance out, but seriously, it doesn't. My hair just gets oily really fast and looks/feels a million times better with daily washing. So, sure, give it a try but don't feel like you're doing something wrong if it doesn't work out.
posted by joan_holloway at 5:16 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a girl with short hair and also style with pomade, and I shampoo every other day, and condition most days (when I don't, it's mostly just I want my hair to dry in a hurry). 3rd day my hair is pretty oily. I think some people who would otherwise have no problem not shampooing kind of convince their scalps that it is necessary because they're taking away a lot of the oils that should be there and the scalp has to produce more to keep up -- thus why the first several days are kind of icky and then your body readjusts. If you're naturally pretty oily anyway, you'll have to shampoo more often than someone who isn't as oily. (IANAScientist/Cosmetologist/etc. but this is my understanding of it - someone correct me if I'm wrong here.)
I find I end up using less product because really what the pomade is doing is making your hair act like it's dirty. Oftentimes stylists doing updos for special occasions etc. will ask clients to come in with "dirty" hair because it's easier to style.
posted by jorlyfish at 5:16 PM on December 2, 2012

I wash my hair only about every 4-5 days; I only notice my dandruff getting worse if I wait longer than that to wash. FWIW, I too use product/pomade. That said, I am a woman with thick, long, curly hair, so YMMV. Everyone's hair is different.

Honestly, my best advice is this: when your hair feels like it needs to be washed, wash it.
posted by krakus at 5:25 PM on December 2, 2012

I am a woman with hair like yours and I do use some product. I shampoo once every couple of weeks. My scalp is not oily and my hair is very healthy.
posted by michellenoel at 5:37 PM on December 2, 2012

If you use hair products that are water-soluble, they'll wash right out when you shower. This means no silicones, which unfortunately are common hair product ingredients, and I'm assuming your pomade is probably chock-full of them.

If you want to go hardcore with this, you should quit using shampoo with sulfates or conditioner with silicones. I use a silicone-free hair conditioner (Garnier Pure Clean) every time I shower, and shampoo with a sulfate-free shampoo every few weeks, whenever I feel like my hair needs it. I use silicone-free hair gel. I've been doing this very happily for several years. Caveat: I have moderately curly hair, which is apparently drier than other types of hair, so maybe straight-haired folks would get greasy with this regimen.
posted by baby beluga at 5:49 PM on December 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

It all depends on your hair. I stuck out the no-shampoo thing for 3 or 4 months a few years ago, and my hair was pretty much gross. (woman, just longer than shoulder length hair). Now I wash + condition it every 2-3 days and it looks and feels fine.
posted by gaspode at 5:57 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I used to wash my (short, thick) hair every day, and it was fine - my hair guy was always "Your hair looks great! Good scalp!" Then I stopped, and now I shampoo maybe once every ten days, if that, and use a little dab of conditioner once it's toweled dry to make it behave....and my hair guy is all "Your hair looks great! Good scalp!"

So, give it a shot. If it doesn't work for you, it doesn't. Can't hurt to try.
posted by rtha at 6:06 PM on December 2, 2012

When I had very short hair, 0-4" or so, the no shampoo thing was wonderful, and really worked for me. As my hair got longer, it became actually disgusting. Now that I'm a bonafide longhair, I wash my hair with water every 1-3 days, and with shampoo and conditioner about once a week, or sooner if it seems to need it.
posted by tapir-whorf at 6:14 PM on December 2, 2012

I shampoo and condition every day, and I love how it looks. Nobody will ever convince me to do something that looks different than what I prefer.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:15 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

baby beluga has it just right. I learned about the curly girl method, which is what she is describing, right here on Ask Metafilter. Just because you shampoo only twice a week doesn't mean you only wash your hair twice a week. On the non-shampoo days, use a cheap silicone-free conditioner (the Suave Naturals line fits the bill, but there are many others as well) to clean your hair. On the days you shampoo, you'll probably want to use a silicone-free conditioner to restore some of the moisture. For this regimen to work, though, your pomade has to be silicone-free or it will definitely build up between shampoos. And the twice a week you shampoo, you can get by with a very mild shampoo because there's no silicone for it to remove.
posted by DrGail at 7:00 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Since some people have mentioned the pomade ingredients, I should point out that I use American Crew Pomade. The label says: "Water based formula rinses clean." Ingredients:
Water, PEG 25 Hydrogenated Castor Oil (Castor Bean), Oleth 10, Lanolin, Oleth 20, Diisopropyl Dimer Dilonoleate, Glycerin (Coconut Oil), Hydroxypropyl Distearyldimonium Chloride, Alcohol (Mixed Grain), Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) Extract (Ginseng Roots), Sage
posted by John Cohen at 7:20 PM on December 2, 2012

kerri13: "Some people have thin, fine hair and this would be crazy. My hair stylist says she personally has to wash her hair every day since it is fine and straight."

FWIW, my hair is ridiculously fine and straight (although also ridiculously thick as well). I've been shampoo-free for a couple of years now — conditioner-wash only — and get compliments on my hair from total strangers fairly frequently.
posted by Lexica at 7:34 PM on December 2, 2012

Lexica: Interesting, I suppose it more has to do with the amount of oil your scalp is putting out, and I do know that the less you shampoo the less oil you have. (works for whole body, too. I stopped putting moisturizer on my face, and at first it was very dry but eventually my skin got used to it and it doesn't need it anymore)
posted by kerri13 at 8:06 PM on December 2, 2012

Try to get conditioner without a ton of silicone products in it. Put a bunch on, and scrub your scalp as though you're washing your hair. It's not exactly the same as "get hair wet with only water" that some people mean when they say "no shampoo."
posted by barnone at 9:00 PM on December 2, 2012

I am female and I have been shampoo-free since I grew my hair out a few years ago. I used to wash my hair every day when it was short, and I would blow it dry, and it always looked great, but that stopped working when my hair grew past my shoulders. All of a sudden my hair felt like straw. I've been shampoo-free since 2009. Scrubbing my hair with conditioner works great. I defy anyone to smell or feel my hair and tell me it is not clean.

My boyfriend (long on top, short on the sides) is shampoo-free but does not scrub with conditioner. I think he just rinses his hair out and doesn't use any product at all. Conditioner would make it look a lot better, though.

I did not have any success with the oil-cleansing method for face, however.
posted by aabbbiee at 9:52 AM on December 3, 2012

others say you should shampoo every day to avoid dandruff.

I used to shampoo every day and couldn't understand why I had such bad dandruff. Of course, it was the shampoo that was causing the dandruff. I shampoo once or twice a week, sometimes use a water-soluble product, and my head's in great shape these days. The idea that shampooing every day is for everyone is a marketing ploy.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:02 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I haven’t shampooed my hair in 6-8 years. I didn’t believe it would work either, I’ve always had very oily skin and hair. I didn’t tough it out, and haven’t let my hair get very long since, so I don’t know about that.

I buzzed off all my hair for summer that year. I’m in the pool all the time during the summer, so no shampooing. In the Fall I let it start growing again and just realized I didn’t need to shampoo. I thought that would change if I started putting stuff in it, but it didn’t.

When it gets longer (still short) it is often now too fluffy so I put grease or pomade in it. When it’s shorter I don’t use anything. I do rinse it, and swim in the summer. If it gets a lot of junk in it I rinse with hot water. I sometimes even use Dax in the red can (thermo-nuclear level gunk) and it still works itself out surprisingly quickly. It’s like when you get something on your skin; it’s not going to stay, even Gorilla Glue.
posted by bongo_x at 10:35 AM on December 3, 2012

I really think it depends on what kind of hair you have. Anecdata follows: I have medium-dry, coarse, curly, chin-length hair that is prone to dandruff. I shampoo it 3x weekly and put conditioner on the ends only, then I use a curl definer and mousse, again on the ends. My husband has very long, coarse hair and he only needs to shampoo it every two weeks.
posted by Lynsey at 10:45 AM on December 3, 2012

Nthing what scody said above - even just as a transition, the VO5/Suave (certain scents) conditioners have cleansing agents in them, so even though you're not using shampoo, you can get a bit of a lather going. And it's $0.99 a bottle!
posted by getawaysticks at 4:53 PM on December 3, 2012

Can I ask why the stylist recommended this? Was it to solve a particular scalp problem you are having? Because I'd suggest that if you're generally happy with your 'head health', there's no particular reason to change your routine.
posted by modernnomad at 7:49 AM on December 6, 2012

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