How You Can Train Your Hair To Need Less Frequent Washing

While some people find washing their hair a relaxing exercise in self-care, many consider the process an eye-roll-inducing chore. Especially when your hair takes a long time to dry, is painfully prone to in-shower tangles, and requires too much effort to style, hair-washing seems like a cruel punishment. And that's especially the case for those with greasy hair that hardly lasts a day before it needs another wash.

There's no clear-cut answer for how often you should be shampooing, and reports vary wildly from those washing their hair every day to those who take on the task less than once per week. Carolyn Goh, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, explained to WedMD that folks with thicker, dryer hair could get away with washing their hair less frequently. In contrast, those with fine hair, those living in humid climates, and those who exercise a lot may feel the need to wash every day. 

But despite these natural dispositions, some hair experts have claimed that it's possible to actually train your hair to need less washing. Much to the delight of pretty much everybody, specialists across the field now argue that you can teach your hair to produce less oil with lifestyle and product changes.

What is scalp training?

The theory behind reducing hair's natural oil production comes down to scalp training. Haircare brand L'ange explains that the hair follicles generate their own nutrient-rich oils which keep your hair healthy. Too much washing strips the hair of these oils, leading the hair follicles to overcompensate by producing more oil. The answer? Wash it less often. 

The chicken-and-egg argument posits that to train your hair to need fewer washes, you have to wash it less until it stops over-producing oil. Start in small steps by cutting out one wash a week. For example, if you wash your hair five times a week, change it to four times. According to Mane Addicts, it can take up to three months to see results. During that time, your hair will feel greasier than usual. It can help to brush your hair every day from scalp to ends, moving the oil throughout the hair and avoiding a build-up on your scalp.

While the scalp training movement has gained momentum in recent years, not every specialist agrees that it can slow down your hair's oil production. "Inside every follicle on your head is something called the sebaceous gland that secretes out onto your scalp and hair," Dr. Trefor Evans, cosmetic chemist and director of research at TRI-Princeton, tells Healthline, adding that sebum is "being produced all the time" and "part of the natural physiology of your body, so you can't really impact that." Still, it doesn't hurt to test the theory by yourself by spacing out your washes.

The products that can help with scalp training

Changing haircare products can aid the scalp training process. Haircare brand Davines advises using a shampoo free from sulfates, which strips the hair of oil. It can also help to use a shampoo specifically designed for oily hair, like a clarifying shampoo, and exfoliate your scalp with a scalp scrub. Contrary to popular belief, it's also essential to use conditioner after washing, as the moisture will "remind" the scalp that it doesn't need to overproduce oil (via Luxy Hair). Just be mindful to only apply conditioner from the middle of the strands downwards — not on the scalp! And dry shampoo is a must for surviving the extended greasy periods between each wash. A quick spritz of dry shampoo daily will absorb some of the oil without completely stripping your hair.

While these products can help, the Cleveland Clinic points out that other products can cause a build-up of oil in your hair. Typically, styling products such as hairspray, gel, and creams can make your hair even greasier, which is generally something to avoid during scalp training. By paying attention to the products you're using and altering your haircare routine — even with baby steps at first — you could see a difference in your hair grease levels over the long term. Even if you never get to the stage of being able to wash your hair once a week, scalp training still introduces you to essential tips and tricks that will help you fend off grease and go longer between washes.