Coming clean

By now you probably know you don’t have to follow the “lather, rinse, repeat” instructions on shampoo labels, but other misconceptions about the cleansing process linger. Here are a few:

Myth: you should hit the shampoo bottle daily
“One of the biggest misconceptions I hear from women is the idea that washing your hair has to be daily habit”, says Kathy Neu, owner of Shear Love Salon in Wappingers Falls, New York. “Not only is it not necessary, but who has the time?”

Here’s the reason you can skip lathering up: the cleansing agents in shampoos by definition remove dirt, product buildup – and natural oils. “The downside of shampoos is they remove naturals oils that protect your scalp and keep your hair healthy”, say Amneh Saleh, owner of Lacquer London Nail & Hair Lounge in Houston.

Frequent washing can also fade your hair color and cause damage due to wear and tear, New explains. “I try to talk people into washing every other day”, she says. “But”, say Saleh, “I do advse washing at least once a week”. If oils build up over prolonged periods of time, thick, scaly crusts can develop and may require physical removal.  

While shampoo-skipping may seem like a struggle for those with oily hair, standard in-shower shampoos aren’t your only option. Dry shampoo can help you skip a wash or two. These powders, often sold in aerosol cans, contain starches that absorb oil and freshen hair with fragrance, explains Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist in Chicago and co-author of The Beauty Brains. Spray the powder on your roots at night and brush it through, suggests Jet Rhys, owner of Jet Rhys Salon in San Diego. In the morning, do another application to add volume and remove any remaining oils.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, however. “Skipping washes can worsen conditions like seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff) and psoriasis”, says Jeremy Green, MD, a dermatologist in Coral Gables, Florida. “People with these conditions often assume that washing more often will make matters worse. On the contrary, washing daily with a medicated soap can reduce inflammation and improve symptoms.”

Myth: you should always start with shampoo
Don’t let the shampoo label boss you around. While bottle instructions often say to follow your wash with the corresponding conditioner, some new products are designed to flip that time-honored practice. The idea is to apply conditioner throughout the hair, then wash it out with shampoo. “I call this a 50/50 shampoo”, Rhys says. She notes that this method may deliver more volume and softness for those with fine hair.

“Part of the problem with shampoo is that the detergents can be stripping and damaging”, Neu says. “Changing the pattern by conditioning first can keep hair feeling clean while maintaining moisture.” Another option to consider: applying to a pre-shampoo masks or treatment to dry hair before washing. These balms or oils deep-condition to hydrate and help protect hair from damage. “These new treatments are genius ideas because dry hair absorbs more of the conditioning ingredients that it would wet”, Rhys says.


Myth: You don’t really need conditioner
Adding a second step may sound gim-micky, but conditioning does have benefits. “Applying conditioners is absolutely a necessary step”, Saleh says. “It protects hair from the elements and keeps hair looking shiny and healthy.”

Especially if you‘re prone to dry hair, be sure to include a conditioner in your hair-care regimen. All hair is vulnerable to daily damage; conditioner is crucial for preventing this. And the drier your hair, the less natural lubrication it has in the form of natural oils, Neu explains.