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How Often Do You Really Need to Shampoo?

Maybe not as often as you think, dermatologists and stylists say.

Every Few Days? continued...

Arrojo says that powders and dry shampoos do work for absorbing oils between washes. "One trick is to use talcum powder in the hair in lieu of shampoo," he says. 

The powders shouldn't replace shampoo all together, Woolery-Lloyd says.

Many women shampoo their hair less often than Saunders. Melissa Capasso, an artist in Brooklyn, N.Y., shampoos her long, thick curls once a week. "If I shampoo more than that, my hair dries out, it loses its natural curl, and it gets frizzy and unmanageable."

Capasso relies on daily conditioning and scalp massage to break up oils, loosen dirt, and keep her hair manageable between shampoos.

"Some people with curly hair actually only shampoo monthly and use just conditioner in between to maintain moisture and healthy curls," Woolery-Lloyd says.

As hair types and textures vary by ethnicity, so does the need to shampoo. "As an African-American, I grew up being told that shampooing any more than once a week would cause my hair to dry and break off," says Lori Pindar, a university administrator in Clemson, S.C. Like Capasso, Pindar's daily routine includes conditioner, not shampoo.

Shampoo's bubbles, which people often associate with cleanness, are actually created by the harshest ingredients, sulfates, and are not necessary for cleansing the scalp. Experts say these foaming agents, which dehydrate the hair, are only in cleansing products because people expect bubbles. "That's what we've gotten used to because we see the commercials with big white foam," Mirmirani says.

Excessive shampooing can require excessive styling. "Hair washed every day with shampoo tends to need more styling product. Because it's so clean, it's also soft, loose, and floppy and therefore harder to style," Arrojo says. All these products lead to more shampooing as they build up and make hair look dull, Mirmirani says.

"Shampoo removes oil and excess skin cells from the scalp. It's not doing any favors for the hair, unless you have a lot of product in it that is making your hair look dull. But in general, shampoo is not good for fiber," Mirmirani says.

Simply switching to nonfoaming, sulfate-free cleansers will also go a long way.

"Natural ingredients produce less suds, but they still have plenty of cleaning power with the added benefit of less residue," Arrojo says. 

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