How Often Should You Wash Natural Hair: Ultimate Guide

Growing up with beautiful African American hair, you have surely heard myths about taking care of it. Many people say you should only wash it once a month; others say every few days is better.

Some people even wonder how do black people wash their hair? So, the true question is, how often should you wash natural black hair?

Our team is here with the ultimate guide to washing African American hair, including frequently asked questions.

How Often Should You Wash Natural Hair?
Washing black hair every day is not recommended. Instead, you should wash natural black hair every 7-10 days. If you actively participate in sports or sweat a lot, then washing every 5-7 days is better. Braided African American hair should be washed every 2-3 weeks.

What Factors Affect Washing Schedule?

Although it is recommended to wash natural black hair every 7-10 days, there are some factors that may lead to an oily scalp and require washing more frequently.

washing natural hair

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Oily Scalp

When thinking of dirty hair or hair that needs a wash, most people will visualize oily hair. Oil is the factor that leads to clumpy and waxy hair.

The amount of scalp oil production depends on your environment, sex, age, and even genetics. In fact, the oil production amount also depends on how often you wash your hair.

If you notice that your scalp is oily and makes your hair appear dirty, then you can start washing your hair every few days. But, be careful not to overdo it, as constantly stripping your hair of natural oils may lead to an emergency oil production response.

Keep in mind that your scalp may change as you age and become drier. Having an oily scalp isn’t always forever, so pay attention to the texture of your hair and scalp to understand if you really need that wash.

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Hair Type

While straight and fine hair can be washed every two days, this doesn’t apply to washing African American hair. Washing black hair every day is one of the most damaging mistakes you can make.

Thick, coily hair can be overwashed, and this may lead to hair damage and loss. If you have had chemical treatments done to your hair or it’s in a protective style like cornrows that put pressure on roots, you should wash your hair even less, preferably once every two weeks.

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Active Lifestyle

Having an active lifestyle likely means that your scalp sweats a lot. Sweat spreads sebum and makes your hair appear dirty. It can even make your hair have a distinct odor.

If you work out or do physical activity often, you may need to wash or at least rinse your hair every 3-4 days. Also, if you wear a helmet often, this may also make your scalp sweat a lot.

On a more different note, if you are also into gardening or work in a field like construction, physical dirt and dust can get trapped in the nooks of your hair. So, pay close attention to the condition of your hair and wash more often if necessary.

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Hair Products

Styling products and chemical hair treatments can lead to build-up on the scalp, which in turn will irritate and damage your scalp. If you use products like sprays and serums often, then you should also wash your hair more often.

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How Often Should Black Hair Be Washed Depending on Its Style

The answer to this question of how often should African Americans wash their hair also depends on the type of style your hair is in.

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Natural Black Hair

natural hair

Washing black hair every day isn’t recommended, even if it is in its natural form. But, as with all other hair, black hair will also get dirty from environmental factors and sweat.

Curly and coiled African American hair should be washed only once every week or two weeks, depending on the specific scalp. Many shampoos may dry out your hair, so we recommend using low-foam shampoos and gentle conditioners.

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Relaxed Hair

If you have applied a chemical treatment to straighten or ‘relax’ your hair, you shouldn’t wash it for at least three days after. Using shampoo on your scalp too soon post-treatment can significantly damage your hair, as your hair is in a vulnerable and susceptible state.

Once a few days have passed, you can start washing your hair as you usually would; once every week or every two weeks. Since chemicals can strip and dry out your hair, we recommend using a highly moisturizing shampoo while washing relaxed hair.

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Protective Styles

ptotective hairstyle

Hair in protective styles is also prone to dirt build-up, so it should be washed once every 1-2 weeks. Make sure you don’t wash too soon after getting the hair done and use a gentle shampoo that doesn’t include sulfates.

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Shampoo vs. Co-Washing vs. Water Only for Natural Hair

When asked how do black people wash their hair, many people will answer with shampoo. Most shampoos today are made with formulas that contain sulfates.

These will clean hair but may also be too harsh on your natural curls. Your scalp will be stripped of all-natural oils and lead to brittle hair that breaks easily. The alternatives to using shampoo are co-washing or using only water.

Co-washing refers to using one product that will both cleanse the hair and keep it moisturized. This basically means a product that combines the functions of shampoo and conditioner.

Using a cleansing conditioner will leave your natural oils on your scalp while also cleaning your scalp and hydrating it. Co-washing natural hair is best in the summer, when people wash their hair more often due to sweat, exposure to the sun, and chlorine.

This routine will help repair the damage caused by these environmental factors as it prevents drying and even further damage that happens from shampooing too frequently.

Curly hair will also look smoother and shinier after co-washing when compared to washing and conditioning after. When co-washing, you only need to wash your hair every 2-3 weeks, while shampoo washing requires washing every 1-2 weeks.

Another method people use is washing with water only. When washing hair, natural oils are stripped. This triggers the scalp to go into a cycle of sebum overproduction which can make the hair appear oily.

Water alone can easily wash out dust, natural dirt, and other water-soluble factors from hair without removing the needed sebum.

But, other oil build-ups on the scalp from hair styling products will not be washed out by just water. If you feel that this is the method for you, we recommend using lukewarm water to avoid damage to the scalp. Follow up with a cold rinse before you hop out of the shower.

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How often should you condition black hair?

Moisturizer is a great hair product but is essential for people with natural African American hair. Afro hair is highly susceptible to breakage since it is usually quite dry, so a good moisturizer will hydrate and maintain much-needed moisture.

It will also nourish the hair follicles and repair damage while also coating it with a layer that will prevent further damage. The answer to the important question of how often you should condition black hair is simple.

It’s recommended to condition hair every time you wash it. Make sure you use a conditioner for dry hair after shampoo. If you are opting for the co-washing method, then you are already conditioning while shampooing with one product.

woman applying moisturizer to her hair

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FAQs

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What happens if a black person washes their hair every day?

Black hair is prone to dryness and breakage, so by washing every day, you strip all the scalp’s natural oils, causing it to dry out and become damaged.

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Can I wet my natural hair every day?

The simple answer for wetting hair every day is yes, but only if you are using just water. If you aren’t shampooing every day, then the oils on your scalp will stay intact, so you will only remove dust and dirt from your hair.

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How often should I wash natural 4C hair?

4C hair is the most coiled hair texture, so we recommend you wash only once every 3 or 4 weeks. Use a shampoo without sulfates, and try co-washing if your hair gets dirty easily.

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How long can you go without washing natural hair?

The answer to this frequently asked question really depends on your hairstyle. Natural hair can be left unwashed for up to 5 weeks, while the hair in protective styles like braids can be left for months.

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In Conclusion

Although it is recommended to wash natural black hair every 1-2 weeks, remember, every scalp is unique. Always pay attention to what your beautiful hair likes and needs, and change up your routine when you deem it necessary.

Watch out for sulfates in shampoos, and always make sure you keep your hair moisturized and healthy. Are there any secret hacks you have for wash day? Let us hair enthusiasts know down below!

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References:

  1. What Causes an Oily Scalp, and How Do I Treat It? – https://www.healthline.com/health/oily-scalp
  2. This Is the Real Difference Between Co-Wash and Conditioner, According to Natural Hair Experts – https://www.byrdie.com/co-washing-natural-hair

Ally is a professional hairstylist with more than 6 years of experience, but hair has been her passion since early childhood. Here, at Hair Spies, she blogs about all things hairdressing, hair tools, and everyday hair care. Read more about Allyson here.

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