The idea of washing your hair less may seem counterintuitive. After all, we’re always encouraged to wash our hands, bathe regularly, and remove all makeup before going to sleep…even leaving dishes unwashed is generally frowned upon.

Yet the idea of hair washing, in the way that we know it, is a relatively recent one. In fact, shampoo wasn’t even invented until the early 20th century. Before that, people simply used water, with some adding fragrant oils or herbs for a pleasant aroma.

Today? The hair care market is worth around GBP£1.4 billion, according to research from Statista. And although many people love the sensation of a daily wash, the practice of ‘training’ your hair to go for a few days without being washed has gained popularity in recent years.

So what are the benefits of going longer in between hair washes? And how can you do so while keeping your hair as clean and fresh as possible?

1. What are the benefits of going longer between washes?

Michael Douglas, celebrity hairstylist and partner to Davina McCall, points out that going longer between hair washes is time-saving. “Most people don’t need to wash their hair every day, unless it’s very fine and is prone to going greasy,” he says. “With thicker hair, you’ll often find that it can really start to look nice and behave well two to three days after washing it.”

Jonathan Andrew, celebrity hairdresser and Fudge Professional Global Hair Ambassador, agrees that “textured, curly, or coily hair won’t need daily washing – once or twice a week will be ample. Those with thin hair, however, may need to wash more frequently to create volume.”

Lifestyle may have an impact too. If you’re someone who exercises daily, you’re probably more likely to want to wash your hair – yet you don’t necessarily need to use shampoo, as it may well be enough to simply rinse your hair with water while showering to get rid of the sweat, and let it dry naturally.

Another reason for skipping washes is that the scalp produces natural oils, which help to keep hair moisturised and protected. While shampoo removes dirt and debris from hair, it removes these oils too – which is why hair that’s washed very frequently can end up feeling dry and brittle.

Washing your hair too often can also create a cycle. This is because the oil-producing glands in your scalp can go into overdrive, producing even more oil to make up for what’s been removed by the shampoo.

The result? Feeling as if you have greasy roots – and wanting to wash your hair yet again.

Depending on how you treat your hair post-wash, another benefit of washing less frequently could be that hair will be less exposed to treatments, such as blow-drying and straightening, which can cause damage. Even towel drying can be a stressor.

2. How can you ‘teach’ your hair to go for longer between washes?

How can you ‘teach’ your hair to go for longer between washes

If you’re used to washing your hair several times a week, it can take some time to ‘train’ your hair to need fewer washes. Jonathan Andrew suggests, “starting when you have nothing planned and don’t need to leave the house, so you can leave your hair to rest without worrying about what others may notice.”

Another option? “On the second and third non-wash day, put your hair in an up-style, so you’re masking the look.”

Michael Douglas has similar advice. “If you have a hair type that doesn’t need frequent washing, you could, for example, wash and blow dry your hair on a Monday morning. On Tuesday, you could use a wand or hair tongs and add some waves to dry hair.

“Come Wednesday, you could put it up in a loose ponytail, followed by a messy bun on Thursday. Friday could be the day for some kind of French braid. This would give you five days of different hairstyles, with just one shampoo on Monday.”

He suggests using a dry shampoo on the other days, to keep hair feeling clean and smelling fresh.

As you slowly begin to break the cycle of daily washing, your scalp will start to slow down on sebum production, making it gradually easier to go for longer between washes.

3. How long does it take to ‘train’ hair to go longer between washes?

Again, it depends on your hair type, with experts saying it can take between a few weeks and a few months.

It will also depend on how you approach the change to your washing habits. For some people, the ‘wash it on Monday and then style it five ways’ advice from Michael Douglas may seem like a more rapid shift in routine than they’re comfortable with.

Another option might be to drop washes more gradually. For example, if you usually wash your hair daily, you might change to washing every other day. After a couple of weeks, you could switch to every couple of days.

Whether you use products on your hair will also have an impact, as gels and sprays can weigh hair down and make the need to wash feel more urgent.

If you’re training your hair to go for longer between washes, try limiting the amount of product you use, and applying it only very lightly to the roots. Again, wearing hair up on a non-wash day can be helpful here, leaving you less reliant on styling products.

Another trick that helps with skipping washes is resisting the urge to touch your hair, because the oils and sweat from your fingertips will transfer to your scalp and strands, which will, again, contribute to that ‘need a wash’ feeling.

If your scalp starts to feel oily, try brushing your hair from top to bottom to distribute the oils more evenly, and allow that oil to perform its protective function on the hair.

A boar bristle brush, such as this one from Eco Bath London can be useful. Not only are they rich in keratin, which helps with detangling and shine, but they are also considered effective at redistributing scalp sebum along the hair shaft so that hair retains a better balance.

4. What products are best for lengthening the hair washing cycle?

What products are best for lengthening the hair washing cycle

While sulphates in shampoo help to create that ‘lather’ effect, they can also strip the hair and scalp of those naturally produced (and essential) oils, so experts recommend switching to sulphate-free products.

According to Eve Avis, Senior Colour Director at Central London’s House of Sassoon, to gradually increase the number of days between washes, using the right products to care for your hair and scalp is key. “A clarifying shampoo is a must to prepare the hair and provide a deeper clean,” she says.

“I recommend K18 to unclog hair follicles and remove product buildup and excess oil. This should be followed by a lightweight conditioner such as Sassoon Advance Condition, applied to mid-lengths and ends only.”

Kieran Tudor (@kierantudorhair) is a freelance hairstylist and co-founder of Centred. He advises introducing a weekly scalp routine into your haircare regime, which will help to maintain a healthy scalp while going longer between washes.

“Using something like our En-Root Scalp Oil once a week as a pre-wash cleansing treatment can really help nourish your roots,” he says. “It helps to boost blood flow which is great for healthy growth, whilst also cleansing away dirt and build-up, banishing flakes and dryness.”

Kieran also recommends using a “squishy scalp massager to massage the oil into your scalp for 3-5 minutes. The soft silicone bristles gently stimulate oxygen-rich blood to the surface of the scalp, feeding follicles. It also helps to relieve tension, which is often held in our scalp after stressful days.”

A win for both hair and well-being, then!

Many who avoid daily hair washing also swear by dry shampoo. Why? “Using a dry shampoo such as Oribe’s Gold Lust a couple of days into your hair wash cycle will help absorb excess oil,” says Eve Avis – and this will, in turn, extend the wash cycle.

5. What is the ‘no poo’ method?

Many people who start by leaving longer between hair washes can eventually dispense with shampoo altogether.

This isn’t quite as scary as it sounds and doesn’t involve leaving hair completely unwashed. Rather, it’s a way of washing hair without using store-bought shampoo and, instead, cleansing hair solely with water or store cupboard ingredients, including apple cider vinegar and baking soda.

One of the greatest benefits of going ‘no poo’ can be cost savings: there’s no denying that money spent on haircare products can mount up. But advocates of the method say that it has even more upsides – notably where scalp and hair health is concerned.

For example, people who suffer from an itchy, flakey scalp may feel that using an anti-dandruff shampoo is their best course of action – but such products generally contain harsh chemicals, which can dry out and irritate the scalp, stripping it of those natural oils, which we’ve mentioned above.

A kinder solution, according to ‘no-poo’ devotees, might be baking soda, which also has anti-fungal properties. It’s used by many as a gentle cleansing agent, to remove product build-up and excess oil. Baking soda’s grainy texture may act as an exfoliant on the scalp, lessening scaliness and itching, and removing dead skin cells – just like a facial exfoliant does. Plus, because it has antifungal properties, baking soda may limit the growth of Malassezia, a fungus linked with dandruff.

For those with coloured hair, reducing the frequency of washes or transitioning to the ‘no-poo’ method may also help with the longevity of their colour, since many shampoos can strip or dull the efforts of the salon.

As always, what works well for one person may not be so beneficial to another. One consideration when assessing whether the ‘no poo’ method works for you may be the kind of water in your area: hair subjected to hard water may require a little extra TLC. Hair type can also make a difference. For example, curly hair may take well to the ‘no poo’ method, as oils have a harder time travelling down spirally staircases than down straight ones.

This means that frequently washed curly hair may end up being dry, whereas, if it’s left to its own devices, the oils from the scalp will have time and opportunity to travel down the hair shafts, giving it moisture and body.

As mentioned above, diluted apple cider vinegar is popular with those who practise ‘no poo.’ As well as having the ability to cleanse both hair and scalp, apple cider vinegar (or ACV, as it’s commonly known) can help seal hair cuticles, making it look softer and shinier. Some also believe that ACV stimulates the scalp and promotes hair growth.

While it’s not advised to wash with ACV every day, users can boost their hair by making their own spray according to wellness retailer Holland and Barrett, who advise combining one part ACV with five parts water. Spritzing the roots with this formula, and gently working it into the scalp, may help against oiliness and dandruff.

For a more pleasant smell, you can also add a few drops of essential oil.

Final thoughts …

While the haircare industry is huge, there are plenty of ways to save time and money on your routine and products – and leaving more time between washes may be a viable option for many.

Ultimately, how much time you leave between washes will be down to personal preference, as well as hair type, lifestyle, and home water quality. Equally, the time it takes to ‘train’ your hair to get used to less washing will vary from person to person.

If you decide to ease back on hair washing frequency, remember to use quality products when you do wash – choosing sulphate-free shampoo, which is far gentler on the scalp and hair. Different styles can mask the initial appearance of unwashed hair too.

And if you have short hair? A spritz of apple cider vinegar solution can help to combat oil before the next wash. You may even decide that this is one of the only products you need in your haircare arsenal and eventually go ‘poo free’.

How much time do you leave in between washes? Have you successfully ‘trained’ your hair? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.