Natural hair can be finicky to take care of. There are so many elements that affect each naturalista’s hair care routine, including hair porosity, curl type, hair density, and more. Even something as simple as washing your hair can come with its own set of rules. Should you use a cowash? Which products are best for your hair type? And how often should you even be washing your hair? For many natural girls, “wash day” can seem like a nightmare to avoid. That’s why we’re here to help.
In this article, we’ll help you understand how often you should wash your natural hair depending on a variety of factors, including tips and tricks to making wash day a breeze.
So…how often should you wash natural hair?
It’s usually recommended to wash straighter hair types like Type 1 and 2 every other day at the most; however, curly and natural hair types like Type 3 and 4 get away with washing once every 7-10 days. And the kinkiest of them all, Type 4C hair, can be washed once every 2-3 weeks. This is because these hair types are naturally drier due to their wavy and coily nature. With these hair types, oils from the scalp can’t easily travel down the hair shaft, leading to dry hair strands. The coilier the hair, the drier its nature. By washing more frequently, you end up drying the hair more, making it dull, brittle, and dry.
Having said this, it’s important to note that this is a generalization. In reality, how often you should wash your natural hair is really dependant on your scalp, your hair’s unique needs, the hair products you use, your lifestyle, and even your hairstyle (ie. whether you have a protective hairstyle or not).
We know this sounds confusing, so let’s break it down further.
Factors that your hair wash schedule depend on
What hair products you use
The hair products you use and amount of product you put in your hair will affect how often you need to wash your hair. If you have natural hair, you’re likely using heaving products that contain butters and oils to keep the hair moisturized and smooth. This naturally leads to more buildup of these ingredients in the scalp, hair follicles, and hair strands. If you use lots of hair products in your natural hair—especially creams and oils like shea butter and coconut oil—you’ll need to wash your hair more often.
How active you are
We love a naturalista who works out! But this usually means you’re going to sweat often, and your scalp isn’t immune to sweat. For our ladies who work out often, your roots will get oily within a few days and you’ll need to wash your hair more. You can certainly get away with applying dry shampoo to your roots after a sweat sesh, but note that you’ll also experience product build up from this eventually and will need to cleanse your hair.
Your hair porosity
Hair porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb moisture. There are three kinds of hair porosity, which will help you understand how often your hair needs to be washed:
Low porosity hair means that your hair shaft has a tight cuticle (outer layer), making it difficult for water as well as moisturizing hair products to penetrate the hair. This means products tend to sit on top of the hair, rather than work their way deep into the hair strand. Because of this, low porosity hair is more susceptible to product buildup, meaning you’ll need to wash your hair more often to get your hair squeaky clean.
High porosity hair means that your hair’s cuticle has many gaps and holes, allowing moisture and product to easily seep through. While this might sound good, it also means that what comes in can easily come out as well. So while your hair might get moisturized easily, it’ll lose moisture quickly as well, leading to dryness. You’ll need to get a good balance of moisturizing products and wash days to keep your hair looking and feeling its best.
Medium or normal porosity hairmeans that your hair cuticle is neither too tightly bound nor has too many gaps and holes. In the words of Goldilocks, it’s just right. While medium porosity hair is the easiest to maintain, you’ll still need to find the right wash schedule and products to maintain it.
How you wear your hair will also affect how often you need to wash it. For example, if you let your natural hair flow free, you may need to wash it more often vs. if you have a protective style. Let’s look further into the various hairstyles that might affect your hair wash schedule.
Like we mentioned before, for kinky, coily hair types, there isn’t much reason to wash your hair more than once a week, and can extend to once every two to three weeks depending on the factors we mentioned above. These drier hair types really don’t need to be washed that often. To extend your time between washes, consider co-washing to inject moisture to your hair and get rid of some of that oiliness on the scalp. Remember, though, co-washing shouldn’t replace hair washing altogether.
Although this article is about how often you should wash natural hair, we do feel it’s important to touch on relaxed hair. If you’ve relaxed your natural hair, this means that you’ve chemically altered the hair’s makeup and you’ve changed your hair type. You might go from Type 4 to Type 2, or Type 3 to Type 1. Either way, your hair will be much straighter than you’re used to, which means oils can easily travel down the hair shaft and it will get oily easily. For relaxed hair, you should wash your hair at least once a week, or more frequently depending on your lifestyle, product use and hair porosity.
Protective hairstyles are meant to do just what they sound like: protect the hair from outside elements. This means you can really extend the time in between wash days. Protective hairstyles could include box braids, twists, locs, fulani braids, and more. On hair wash days, make sure to focus on cleansing the scalp. Remember, you should take a break from protective styles every 3 months to give your hair a break, and do a thorough cleanse with a clarifying shampoo.
How often should I co-wash natural hair?
Co-washing (conditioner only washing) is a method of washing your hair with a cleansing conditioner, rather than shampoo. This avoids using harsh cleansing agents often on already-fragile natural hair, and avoids stripping the scalp of its natural oils, which natural hair craves, while still maintaining a level of cleansing. contain ingredients called cationic surfactants, which pick up small amounts of dirt on the scalp, cleaning the hair without completely stripping it.
While co-washing is great for drier hair types, you should co-wash your hair only once or twice between hair wash days. Co-washing shouldn’t completely replace wash days, as there’s nothing quite like cleansing the scalp and hair follicles properly with shampoo to remove buildup, dirt, and bacteria.
How often should I use a clarifying shampoo?
A clarifying shampoo contains heavy duty cleansing agents to give the extra an extra scrubbing. If your hair is dull, limp, and lifeless, and still doesn’t look or feel quite right after wash day, it might be time for a clarifying shampoo. As a general rule, clarify your hair about every 4-8 weeks. If you wear protective hairstyles, give your hair a break from protective hairstyles every 2-3 months and use a clarifying shampoo in between.
Is there such a thing as washing natural hair too often?
Yes, there is! Washing your hair too often can lead to more damage than good, even if you’re using co-washes, natural ingredients, and the best products and techniques. This is because washing the hair too often strips the scalp of its natural oils. As we know, natural hair types are already susceptible to dryness, so we want to preserve those natural oils as much as possible!
Rules of thumb to follow when determining your hair wash schedule
To summarize, here’s what you should consider when determining when and how often to wash your natural hair:
- What’s your hair type?
- How porous is your hair? Do the strand test if you’re unsure.
- How often do you work out or sweat?
- What types of hair products do you use and how much?
- Are your curls looking limp?
- Do your curls feel oily?
- Is your scalp feeling oily or itchy?
- Does your hair smell unpleasant?
- Is it difficult to detangle your hair? (It’s time for a wash if yes)
Unique hair deserves a unique routine
Although we’ve laid out some rules in this article, it’s important to note that everyone’s hair is unique…especially natural hair! Understanding your hair’s needs and experimenting with your hair products and wash schedule will ultimately lead you to finding the perfect routine to keep your natural hair looking fly at all times.