You’ve been washing your hair your entire life, so of course you know what you’re doing! You pour shampoo on your head, lather, and rinse; then throw some conditioner in and rinse again. Finish with a firm towel dry and move on with your life. Hair experts are aware of the typical person’s hair washing routine, and it makes them cringe. What they want you to know is that even though washing your hair isn’t complicated, there’s a method to cleaning your hair the right way that will help you avoid scalp irritation and bad hair days—and might even help you grow your hair faster and longer. Still think your tress issues have nothing to do with your washing ritual? Read on to find out about the washing mistakes that most of us had no idea we were making.
Washing Hair Every Day
You wash your face every day, so you should do the same with your hair, right? Wrong. When you wash your hair too often you strip away its natural protective oils. When you do this, it signals to your scalp that it should start producing more oil, which is counterproductive. Your hair will then get greasy faster. The basic rule is simple: Wash your hair when you need to. Don’t wash it because you feel that you must. If you work out really hard and you sweat like crazy, you’re going to need to wash it more often. On non-sweaty gym days, take a break and skip the shampoo; just condition it. It’s good to note that experts agree that just like washing every day is not great for your hair, going more than five days without giving it a scrub is equally bad. Keep in mind also that weather can make a difference in how often you need to wash your hair. Frigid, dry winter air can give you a couple of extra days between washings; hot and humid days may call for more frequency. For days where your hair is feeling extra oily, try using dry shampoo instead of washing your hair. If you don’t have any on hand, you can use baby powder as a substitute.
Scrubbing Your Scalp
Scalp massages are great for increasing circulation, strengthening your hair, and relaxing your scalp. But if they’re done the wrong way, your hair can end up damaged or broken, and your scalp can become oily. Since wet hair tends to be weaker, it’s important to be gentle. The experts at the salon know what they’re doing, and we at home tend to be not so good. Want to give yourself a great massage? Professionals recommend that you “stroke your scalp from forehead to nape, on the sides, and along the hairline rather than rubbing aggressively.”
Using Too Many Shampoos
Are you noticing that your hair is changing? Do you think that maybe your hair has gotten “used to” your current shampoo and conditioner? Hair doesn’t acclimate to the formulas in these products. It’s actually easier and better on your hair if you stick to just one. What you may not realize is that hair texture changes based on the weather, and your hair maybe shifting slightly in response. Instead of haphazardly switching your product, research the one that is best for your hair type during the current season.
Conditioner sometimes gets a bad rap because many people think that it weighs hair down, making it look limp and lifeless. This only happens if you use the product wrong. Most people mistakenly dump conditioner on their roots and then spread it to the rest of their hair. Experts claim that conditioner belongs anywhere on your hair except the roots. After you shampoo, your scalp replenishes its natural oils, but the oils usually stop there—leaving your ends dry. Conditioner helps to keep the ends of your mane flexible and moisturized. It also serves to protect your hair from breakage when you’re brushing it. Professionals recommend that you apply conditioner to the ends of the hair first (where hair splits and breaks the most) and then spread it up to the middle.
Still Using a Shampoo With Sulfates
Oy, those gosh darned sulfates… This nasty ingredient in many shampoos is a surfactant that makes the shampoo foam and lather. Sulfates are not particularly good for your hair because they strip your hair and scalp of its protective oil and leave it dry and vulnerable to damage. If you’ve got curly or colored hair, you should definitely be using a sulfate-free product. Sulfate-free shampoos are much gentler and keep the cuticle tighter so color doesn’t fade as quickly.
Using a Fancy Shampoo With Silicone
Shampoos that contain silicone will make your hair feel silky and smooth instantly, but unfortunately they end up drying your hair out over time. The problem is that in their pursuit of a smooth texture, they can block hair follicles, which can impede new hair growth or even cause your hair to fall out! Experts agree that shampoo has just one job: to clean hair. That’s it! You can use silicone-based hair products (like conditioners and pomades), just make sure that your shampoo doesn’t contain it. What should you look out for when choosing a shampoo? Avoid any that contain the ingredient dimethicone.
Washing in Super Hot Water
Hot water may feel good on your skin and for opening up sinuses, but it’s awful for your hair and scalp! It not only dries your hair and skin, it also opens your hair cuticle, which allows keratin proteins, natural moisturizing factors, and color molecules to escape, so hair loses strength and the color fades. Also, when hair cuticles are opened, hair tends to frizz. Cool water keeps the hair cuticle sealed so hair stays controlled and the color stays put. If you want to lock in moisture for a smooth style without frizz, try turning the water to lukewarm or cool after you wash to close the cuticle.
Not Soaking Your Hair
If you’re rushing around like crazy, you may be tempted to just quickly dampen your hair and throw some shampoo on. But quickly dunking your head isn’t the same as fully wetting your entire head. Your hair needs 30 seconds to a minute to rinse out all of the product that has accumulated in your hair and prep for the shampoo. Also, when your hair is half damp the shampoo can’t lather and properly clean your hair—which will eventually lead to nasty buildup. Additionally, you need to make sure that you’re soaking your hair when rinsing out shampoo and conditioner. If your scalp is feeling a little itchy or your hair is looking a bit limp post-wash, residual product is probably to blame.
Always Applying Shampoo to the Same Spot
Examine your bathing routine. Do you always apply your shampoo to the same spot, every time? Most of us pour it on the crown and work from there. This can irritate your scalp and cause it to become dry and flaky. Experts recommend alternating applying shampoo to the nape of your neck and then work it in a lather up from there. Also they warn that dousing your head with too much shampoo can make it hard for you to rinse out all of the product. Start with a little at a time, and add more as you need it.