For as long as I can remember, I have washed my hair with shampoo every time I shower, which is pretty much daily (I’ll admit there are occasional days I skip because I get tired and go to bed early).
I understand that this ritual is a little excessive. People don’t need to rely on such frequent shampoo use to remove dirt from their hair.
Nonetheless, I don’t feel clean unless I scrub my scalp. That sensation of freshness is essential for my peace of mind, and for a long time I didn’t think there could be any harm in applying a bit more shampoo than necessary.
Several years ago, however, an increasing number of people in my life and online started saying I should reduce my shampoo use. Their argument was that daily shampooing was bad for my hair and scalp. I even encountered a few people who worried this habit could contribute to a risk of baldness.
At first I panicked. I have many health issues. My hair, however, is one of the few parts of my body that hasn’t caused me any grief. It was depressing to think about my dew degrading.
Since I was a boy barbers have commented on how thick my hair is. A few of them tried to charge me more for the haircut because my dense strands would gum up their scissors and razors.
Despite the fear of damaging my hair, I stuck to my ritual. Ultimately the discomfort of changing my habits was not something I could handle.
Recently, however, I thought more deeply about the issue and realized there were some problems with the rhetoric I was hearing. It seemed dogmatic to argue that daily shampoo use was detrimental for everyone, regardless of their genes or the products they bought.
After nearly two decades of daily shampooing, my hair was healthier than ever. If their advice was accurate, wouldn’t my hair or scalp have become damaged?
Then I thought about the sources of this theory: friends, family members, co-workers, hairdressers, barbers, shampoo manufacturers, random people on the internet, cab and Uber drivers (one of them asked me about my hair because he was trying a hair rejuvenation treatment and said his hair used to look like mine, the other overheard a conversation about shampoo and decided to weigh in). All of them were kind, well-intentioned people, but they weren’t experts on human hair and scalps.
Even in comparison to hairdressers and hair product developers, licensed dermatologists are the professionals who know the most about the biology of hair and the skin on our heads. When I explained my situation to actual dermatologists and asked them if I needed to reduce my shampoo use, all of them said I didn’t need to change anything.
Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, dermatologist and author of “Beyond Soap,” said, “Hair is so idiosyncratic, and many people wash it daily with seemingly no issues. If you are washing it and have no symptoms, there is an argument to continue.”
Echoing this sentiment, dermatologist Erum Ilyas explained that daily showering, soap and shampoo use are harmless for the “average person.” People should only be concerned if they experience dryness, irritation or inflammation.
If you have these issues, consider visiting a dermatologist. He or she will most likely recommend a medication, regimen or product that will make you feel better. This prescription may include reducing how often you wash your hair or use products.
Nonetheless, people like myself still have reasons to scale back our shampoo consumption. Fewer bottles means more savings and less material that is likely to end up in a landfill. Without time spent lathering and rinsing, our showers become shorter and we conserve water.
What’s perhaps more important than frequency, however, is the type of shampoo we use. Ilyas said it’s possible that shampoos with sulfates, for example, are too strong for daily use. After sulfates wash down the drain, they can negatively impact local aquatic ecosystems.
Because of this environmental risk, recently I switched to Public Goods sulfate-free shampoo. I’ve been continuing my daily use and plan to check in with my dermatologist every once in a while to make sure everything is OK.
I’m not saying you should be stubborn or completely ignore suggestions from people. When it comes to your health, however, medical professionals usually know best. They will have advice that is tailored to you, and that’s more valuable than general information you’ve heard floating around your social circles and the internet.
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