Does Not Washing Hair Cause Hair Loss, Thinning, & Breakage?

A cute black woman with greasy hair since frequent hair dye usage caused poor hair and scalp hair.

For years, people have been debating whether washing hair causes hair loss. Some say that the natural oils produced by the scalp are necessary for healthy hair and that washing your hair strips these oils away.

Others say that not washing your hair leads to the build-up of dirt and excess oil, which can clog pores and lead to scalp infections.

So, which is it? Does not washing hair cause hair loss? In this article, we’ll eliminate all confusion and tell you without a doubt whether washing your hair causes hair loss.

Does Not Washing Hair Cause Hair Loss?

It’s true that not washing your hair can cause hair loss. When you don’t wash your hair, dirt, oil, and sweat build up on the scalp. This can clog pores, jumpstart infections, and lead to poor hair and scalp health.

If you have a scalp infection, it can irritate your hair follicles and lead to excessive hair shedding. In severe cases, scalp infections can even cause permanent hair loss. So, if you’re not washing your hair regularly, you could be putting yourself at risk for hair loss.

A black woman with thinning hair is now experiencing healthy hair growth after treating her fine hair gently.

Washing Your Hair Too Much Can Also Cause Hair Loss

While not washing your hair can lead to hair loss, washing your hair too frequently can also cause hair loss. Every time you wash your hair, you wash away the natural oils that protect and moisturize your strands – the effect is maximized when you use harsh sulfate shampoos.

This can make your hair dry, brittle, and more likely to break.

If you’re washing your hair every day, or even multiple times per week, you could damage your hair and increase your risk of hair loss.

A beautiful light-skinned lady that experienced hair fall due to damaged hair from using bleach and DIY box dyes.

How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?

Now that you know that failing to wash your hair can be as harmful as washing your hair too frequently, you’re probably wondering how often you should wash your hair. The answer may surprise you.

How often you wash your hair is mainly dependent on your hair type.

If you have oily hair, your ideal wash day frequency might be every other day. If you have dry hair, the sweet spot may be a couple of times a week.

Several factors can affect how often you need to wash your hair, such as how often you sweat, whether you use styling products, and if you have dandruff.

Ultimately, it’s important to experiment to find what works best for your hair. 

Note: Those who lead an active lifestyle or live in a humid climate may need to wash their hair more frequently. 

African American female with curly hair strands washed her dirty hair with a moisturizing shampoo and styled it.

Do You Ever Need to Wash Your Hair Every Day?

There are situations where you may need to wash your hair every day. If you have excessive sebum buildup or a scalp condition, you may need to shampoo daily to keep your hair and scalp clean.

In these cases, it’s essential to use a sulfate-free shampoo to avoid stripping away too much oil from the scalp.

Are You Losing More Hair When You Space Out Wash Sessions?

It’s a common misconception that spacing out wash sessions will cause you to lose more hair. In reality, it’s the opposite. Everyone loses about 100 hairs a day; when you wash your hair often, you won’t see much shedding because not very much hair has been shed.

On the other hand, when you space out your wash sessions for longer, you’ll see more shedding. For instance, if you wash your hair every 2 days, about 200 hairs will have shed by the time you rewash it.

If you space sessions out a bit more – every 4 days, for example – you’ll shed about 400 hairs. It will seem like you’re losing more hair, but you’re just seeing more shedding because it’s been a more extended period of time since your last wash.

A female that adopted a new hair washing routine using dry shampoo and doesn't strip natural oils from over-washing.

The Shampoo You Use Matters

Not all shampoos are created equal. In fact, some shampoos can cause hair loss.

If you’re using a shampoo that contains harsh chemicals, sulfates, or other irritating ingredients, it can dry out your hair or scalp and result in increased hair shedding, amounting to hair loss.

This is where gentle shampoos come into play. You may also consider using scalp-stimulating or fortifying shampoos to help promote hair growth.

5 Ways to Minimize Hair Loss from Washing Hair

If you’re concerned about hair loss from washing your hair, there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk.

A stylish young lady just started a new hair wash routine that includes washing her hair daily with cold water.
  • Wash your hair with cool or lukewarm water. Washing your hair with hot water can dry your hair out and make it vulnerable to hair loss
  • Avoid shampoos with drying ingredients, like sulfates, salt, alcohol, and fragrances. These ingredients can strip away natural oils and lead to dryness, irritation, and, ultimately, hair loss.
  • Be gentle when washing your hair. Avoid scrubbing the scalp too vigorously, as this can irritate the skin and put undue tension on your hair follicles. You could even pull hairs from the root.
  • Use a wide-tooth comb and conditioner to detangle wet hair in the shower. Wet hair is more susceptible to breakage, so it’s important to be gentle when combing through it. Let your hair air dry whenever possible.
  • Switch out your thick, cotton towel for a microfiber towel. Microfiber towels are less likely to cause friction and breakage than cotton towels.
  • Never skip out on conditioner. Conditioner helps to hydrate and protect the hair shaft, making it less likely to break as you style.

Bad Habits That Cause Hair Loss

If you’ve been washing your hair at reasonable intervals and taking good care of it and you’re still seeing hair loss, other factors may be at play.

A stunning black lady with medium hair density started to use shampoo frequently after experiencing an itchy scalp.

Here are some bad habits that can cause hair loss:

  • Tight hairstyles: Hairstyles that pull on the hair, like tight ponytails, can stress the hair follicles and lead to hair loss. Some styles may outright rip hairs from the hair follicle.
  • Over-processing: Frequent coloring, straightening, and other chemical treatments can damage the hair follicles, increase shedding, or burn your hair to oblivion. 
  • Hot tools: Overusing hot tools, like hair dryers, curling irons, and flat irons, can burn your hair cuticles and the internal structure of your hair. Hair loss is a common result. 
  • Smoking: Smoking cigarettes has been linked to hair loss. The underlying mechanisms are not fully understood, but it’s thought that the chemicals in cigarettes reduce blood flow to your hair follicles and inhibit hair growth. Also, your immune system is weakened when you smoke, making it more difficult for your body to fight off scalp infections known to cause hair loss.
  • Stress: Stress can cause hair loss by triggering the body’s natural “fight or flight” response. This response causes your body to release stress hormones, like cortisol. Cortisol can switch our hair follicles from the growth phase to the shedding phase. 

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To sum up, you’ll need to strike the right balance between overwashing and under-washing your hair. In addition, pay attention to the hair products you use and be mindful of any bad habits that could be causing hair loss.

If you’re still seeing hair loss after making these changes, it’s best to consult a doctor or dermatologist to rule out any underlying medical conditions. They’ll be able to tailor a treatment plan to your individual hair issues and get you results.

We hope that this article helped you learn more about hair loss from washing hair (or neglecting to wash your hair) and how to prevent it. We wish you the best of luck on your journey to healthier hair!

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