If you need a haircut or planning to have your hair color-treated, you may be wondering whether or not you need to wash your hair before you sit down in the salon chair.
Does my stylist prefer my hair to be clean? Will unwashed hair or squeaky clean hair affect the cut, the coloring process, or the style itself? When is it definitely not a good idea to wash before a haircut or dyeing treatment?
The answers are more complicated than you might think. Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between washing and cutting hair.
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Should You Wash Your Hair Before a Haircut?
It isn’t necessary to wash your hair before a haircut, although it is recommended. Usually, a haircut is paired with having your hair styled also. We don’t recommend having dirty hair cut and styled since you’ll eventually need to wash your hair and potentially ruin the new style (and second-day hair).
However, there are some additional considerations. Many hair salons include washing your hair as part of the styling appointment. If this applies, you can always allow your hairstylist to wash your hair prior to getting a haircut.
Some stylists will wet your hair before cutting it anyway and might even prefer to wash it themselves. That way, they know that there are no residual hair products or oils in your hair; they’re working with a blank canvas, in a sense.
The cleanliness of your hair will also not affect the styling process (in almost all cases, the exception being a dry haircut, which we discuss below).
So, if you’re unsure, ask your hairstylist if washing your hair is necessary before your hairstyling appointment or if it’s an included service. Finally, ask your stylist whether your chosen style requires a “dry cut” or “wet hair cut” (i.e., cutting the hair wet).
One of the biggest benefits of a professional haircut is the experience itself. It is supposed to be an opportunity to sit back, relax, and let someone else take care of you. The wash is part of that experience!
Professional stylists use expert techniques to clean your hair and scalp. When they wash and condition your hair, they gently massage and rub the products in properly, and it feels amazing in the process. So allow yourself to enjoy it!
Should You Wash Your Hair Before You Color It?
You shouldn’t wash your hair before you color it unless your hair colorist specifically recommends washing your hair before the coloring appointment.
If you choose to wash your hair, we recommend washing your hair 48-hours before visiting the hair salon to mitigate stress on your hair strands.
This is because hair coloring treatments can be very harsh on your hair, and you want to avoid using products that strip the hair of its natural oils and moisture (like clarifying shampoo) leading up to a hair dyeing session unless you’re planning to incorporate a deep conditioning treatment and ensure proper moisture and protein balance.
If this all sounds like too much work, or if you don’t know where to start, ask your stylist for their recommendation.
Also, the colorist will need to wash your hair to wash out the dyes, so doing so yourself beforehand is usually a waste of time. It would help if you also arrived at the salon with completely dry hair since moisture affects the process.
In addition, if you’ve scheduled a trip to the salon for hair styling, such as before a major event like a wedding or prom, you need to hit a semi-clean “sweet spot.”
You don’t want very freshly washed hair because your hair’s natural oils can help make styling easier and help hold the style in place through a long night of dancing and celebrating.
At the same time, though, you don’t want it to be too dirty. For most people, experts agree that washing about 48 hours before styling is ideal. If you normally wash your hair less frequently, though, you may need to wait longer.
When You Should Wash Your Hair Before a Cut
One of the only reasons that you should wash hair before a cut is to save money. While some salons include a wash in the price of the cut, others charge for it.
This extra fee became more common during the COVID-19 pandemic, as salons reduced the amount of time individuals spent in their business and the amount of contact between patrons and staff.
If you want to avoid this upcharge, let your stylist know that your hair is already clean and doesn’t need to be washed.
As an added savings or as an alternative way to save money, you may also want to skip the blow-dry and style at the end.
Won’t My Stylist Be Grossed Out?
Many people wash their hair before a trip to the salon because they might be afraid that their dirty hair will gross out their stylist. It’s normal to be self-conscious if you don’t know the person well.
For one thing, unless your hair is truly matted and disgusting, your stylist has probably seen worse. It’s just the law of probability working in your favor this time. Every professional has horror stories from their field, and your semi-dirty hair is probably not going to be one of them.
It’s important to keep in mind that hairstylists and cosmetologists get into their field (and stay in it) because they have some level of enjoyment from what they do. We can almost promise that hair does not gross them out.
That being said, it’s still important to be respectful. While they have probably seen it before, your stylist likely doesn’t want to deal with disgusting hair.
Just stick to your normal hair washing schedule before your cut and try to wash it about 48 hours before arriving at the salon.
Using Dry Shampoo Before a Haircut
Dry shampoo is typically sprayed onto the scalp and hair from an aerosol can and contains starch or alcohol that absorbs excess oils and grease.
This works great if you have greasy hair, and you can’t wash it immediately. Although, dry shampoo does not actually clean your hair.
Dry shampooing is a great hair care supplement but is not meant to replace washing your hair. For best results, only use dry shampoo when necessary instead of as a replacement for your normal shampoo.
For that reason, most stylists would prefer that you not use it before an appointment. If you do, make sure that you also schedule a wash before the cut to rinse out all of that extra product.
If you’re having your hair colored, it is essential that you do not use any products, including dry shampoo, in between your last wash and your arrival at the salon.
Otherwise, those products can interfere with your hair’s ability to absorb the color. In the worst-case scenario, they could also cause a chemical reaction with the dye damaging your hair.
How Often Should I Wash My Hair?
All of this information begs the question of how often you should wash your hair, apart from visits to the salon.
Most experts agree that washing your hair every day is unhealthy. It strips your hair and, especially, your scalp of healthy oils that protect it from the elements. There is a reason why your scalp produces those oils, after all.
You should not wash more frequently than every couple of days. From there, it depends on your hair texture, type, and sometimes lifestyle as well (for example, if you work out a lot and your scalp gets sweaty every day, you’ll need to wash more frequently).
How to Prepare Your Hair for a Cut
Let’s conclude with a definitive answer to some important questions.
In the week or two leading up to your cut, maintain your typical washing and hair-care routine. That way, your hair will most closely resemble its normal state when you arrive to have it cut. This is the best way to get meaningful feedback during your haircut appointment.
For most people, a good rule of thumb is to wash your hair 24 to 48 hours before a cut. That way, your hair isn’t too dirty to be uncomfortable for your stylist.
If you decide to color your hair, too, you haven’t removed all of the oils designed to mitigate hair damage (e.g., split-ends).
In addition, arrive at your appointment with your hair dry and detangled. If your hair is a knotted mess, it will take your stylist longer to work those out, and it may be painful for you.
If you want to talk through a style or issues you’re having with your hair, come to the salon with your hair down. Unless your stylist knows you well, it will be much easier for them to actually see what you’re describing rather than envisioning it.
A professional stylist should have enough experience to offer recommendations based on face shape, skin tone, hair type, scalp condition, type of haircut, and answer many other common questions.
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Getting a haircut is a big event, especially at a new salon, and at the end of the day, you want it to be an enjoyable experience.
The most important thing is to find a stylist that you like and to enjoy the experience of getting your haircut. It shouldn’t be stressful, and we hope that this advice makes it a little bit less so.