Washing your hair too often can strip it of its natural oils, resulting in dry locks and split ends. But waiting too long before washes can result in a greasy scalp. So what's the magic number? The answer is different for everyone.

Hair washing removes excess oil, called "sebum", along with dead skin cells and dirt. Most of us should probably be washing our hair no more than two to three times a week. But people with coarse or tight curls may find that they can wait a week between washings, while people with oily hair may want to wash it every day. Here's how to find the right balance for your hair type:

  • Talk to your stylist. They can help you identify your hair type and recommend good products and a routine. Be honest about your budget, but decent products should be available at all price levels. Don't have a stylist? Ask a friend or family member whose hair seems similar to yours.
  • Shampoo smart. Use a protein-based shampoo that's formulated for your hair-type. Be sure to change it every few months or so to avoid a build-up of residue on your hair. For oily hair, you may want to try an acid rinse of lemon juice and water once a month.
  • Space washings apart. Most of us tend to over-wash. An excess of oil can, in fact, be present because the scalp is trying to over-compensate for a dry scalp. Try adding an extra day between washings for a few weeks and see if that helps your hair achieve moisture balance.
  • Brush deliberately. Don't forget that every time you brush or comb your hair, you're re-distributing your scalp's oil. For dry hair, this can help moisturize split ends, but for oily hair, this can exacerbate the problem so you may want to just brush the ends without touching the scalp.

RESULT:  Still Too Oily.


  • Leaving shampoo on your hair for 5 minutes before rinsing, then repeat
  • Skip the conditioner (or apply only to the ends, not the scalp)

RESULT: Still Too Dry.


  • Skip brushing hair; use a comb in wet hair with conditioner in it
  • Using a thicker, leave-in conditioner formulated for dry hair
  • Taking a break from coloring, perming, curling and/or blow-drying your hair
  • Spacing out your washing another day





Columbia University Health Services