Cutting Back On Hair Washing: A Reader Needs Our Help!

If you read the book, or have been on this blog for a while, you might already know that I almost never wash my hair with shampoo. My hair is super dry and curly, and experimenting with the (unfortunately named) “no poo” technique has done wonders for its health.

Do I ever wash it? Well my husband happens to like my hair huge and fluffy (and fuzzy), bless his soul,  but I like when the curls are a little more weighed down and defined—as most girls with curls tend to. So to compromise, every several months I’ll throw a little Acure in there to make the old man happy, and sort of start fresh—though that shampoo is so non-stripping that it doesn’t feel like a zero sum game. Nonetheless, I usually regret the wash for the first few days!

Anyways, blahblahblah me, one of our readers has an important question for us about this whole washing your hair less thing. And I know I’m not the only expert on the matter, so here’s her email:

I’m trying to work my way into clean products and washing my hair less.  I was originally an every day hair washer.  My question is: do you have any advice for those heavily involved in sports?  I enjoy triathlons, so I’m running, swimming, or biking 5 to 6 times a week.  I’d love to make less hair washing a permanent part of my lifestyle, but am not sure how to accomplish that with the sweat and chlorine!  Any ideas?

What do you guys think? I’m pretty active sometimes, but I still feel clean when I rinse in the shower with conditioner. That’s my main technique. Though in the early days I did use a teeny-tiny bit of baking soda in water when my hair felt unbearably dirty, as well as apple cider vinegar as a rinse.

Who has ideas for this gal?

30 Responses to “Cutting Back On Hair Washing: A Reader Needs Our Help!”
  1. Rebecca Bailey says:

    I can speak to the sweaty active issue, though not the chlorine. I have no desire to “no poo,” I just use super mild stuff (both reviewed on the site – Griffin Remedy and GreenBodyGreenPlanet). Just scrubbing my scalp with the GR Daily Conditioner is a typical day, and very occasionally shampooing with GR or GBGP when I feel like I “need” it. I keep shampoo only at the roots, but conditioner goes all the way through. And I also sometimes use the coconut shampoo bar from Rose of Sharon Acres (it’s my regular body soap, too). I think the conditioner on the scalp thing is perfect for dealing with sweat, just massaging the scalp will take care of business. I will probably shampoo a little more often in warmer weather, but right now I’ve been doing it less and less often. I don’t like vinegar or baking soda, it’s not a pleasant experience for me and I like to enjoy my shower : ) Basically, I’d say be prepared with a super mild shampoo and buckets of a good conditioner will take care of you.

  2. becks says:

    I practice Bikram yoga 5 days a week and wash my hair 1-2x per week. I will typically only rinse my hair and use conditioner on the “off” days. I also like a vinegar rinse for an extra clean feeling. I think it takes some time to get used to. But most people don’t realize how little I wash my hair. I find this works well for my hair which tends to be dry and wavy. I’ve also played with dry shampoos/baking soda/powder . I prefer rinse & conditioner or vinegar.

  3. fern says:

    I swim and run. I use Keys Soap Windsurfer or Metacare to get the chlorine out – it doesn’t strip my curly hair and my hair looks great the day I swim. I use Jessicurl conditioner and styling products afterward, which aren’t completely clean (but they work!). The night before I swim, I put some coconut oil in my hair, massage it into my scalp, and put a little down the length of my hair. I also make sure to wet my hair in the shower (non-chlorinated water) before I get in the pool. It seems to have really helped to minimize chlorine staying in my hair (because you really do need to wash the chlorine out). I wash my hair twice per week, one of which is after swimming. I use Jessicurl Hair Cleansing Cream on the other day. After running (when I don’t use shampoo), I just massage conditioner on my scalp and do my regular hair routine – no one complains (including my husband) so this must be enough to get rid of the sweat.

    I’m curious if the baking soda would take care of the flaky scalp that makes me feel the need to wash my hair the second time each week. I’ll have to try it! My hair and scalp do like ACV…

  4. Ellen says:

    I was in the same boat! My plan of attack was to first cut my hair short (for me that was right to my shoulders). I then worked my way into shampooing with castille soap or baking soda wash and a cider vinegar rinse. It took my hair a full month to adjust from chemical products to that process. I found that your body really adjusts and you won’t need to wash as often. I have since switched to the Beauty Without Cruelty products since they have a EWG rating of 2 and provide some extra moisture to my straight, dry hair. I still only wash every 5 days and that’s with working out almost every day.

  5. Tiffany says:

    What about the dry shampoo, I’ve seen DIY recipes in the craft community and on I’m sorry in that I don’t speak from experience here, but thought maybe it would help. Good luck.

  6. Letitia says:

    I’m at the gym 4-5 days a week and do a variety of activities, so I feel your pain! I’ve found this same situation to be a very real problem for me, so this is gonna get lengthy.

    If I’m just sweating, I find that rinsing my hair and running my fingers through it to get the salt out and spread out the natural oils is enough to add an extra day before washing. If I want to stretch it to three days between washes, I wash on day one, rinse only on day two, and wash with conditioner only on day three. The only thing that messes with this rhythm is the dreaded pool. I have never found a way to go without washing my hair post-pool workout that didn’t result in stick-like, dry hair or matted, clumpy, greasy-looking hair at the roots. The best method I’ve found is to pre-game my hair with Weleda Rosemary Neem Hair Oil. I massage it in and comb through, then I put on a swimming cap. This repels a lot of the chlorine water because a) you’ve oiled your hair and b) your hair shaft is plumped with oil and can’t absorb as much water. Then, when I do wash my hair post-swim, I use a gentle shampoo (I like Lavera Rosemilk or Acure) and forego conditioning. Because I pre-applied oil, the end result is pretty similar to a low shampooing regimen. Once a month, I do a rose vinegar rinse to “reset” the ph of my hair and diminish any buildup. You can find an easy rose hair vinegar recipe online, and it keeps in your fridge infinitely. Friendly warning: if, like me, you forget to let the vinegar warm up before you take your desired amount into the shower, that first shock of cold vinegar water to the scalp is killer! Especially when it starts trickling down your back…ugh.

    I’ve found that I can do a similar “low soap” routine on my skin to keep my skin from getting super dry. Sweat only: a simple rinse and rub down with a wash cloth and soap to key areas, lotion or body oil afterward as needed. Chlorine: Dr. Bronner’s soap all over, moisturizing lotion or body oil immediately afterward. Once a week, I dry brush before the shower, then give myself an all-over oil massage, turn on the water and rub myself down with a washcloth (but no soap! just the cloth to rub that oil in), soap key areas, and get out feeling like silk.

    Good luck! And please share any tips you discover. A heavy gym routine can be havoc on a clean beauty lifestyle.

  7. Jamie says:

    I am a runner and get pretty sweaty. When I wore my hair curly, I could get away with a conditioner rinse most days and shampoo twice a week or so – so maybe you could only shampoo on your chlorine days?

    Now I wear my hair straight most of the time (no hate on curls, just fun to change things up) and I find that I need to wash it every other day (which still works out to 3-4 washes a week, so better than everyday). So on non-wash days, I am sure to use a headband to keep my hair off my forehead/neck when I work out (no hats!) and don’t get it wet in the shower. Then I blowdry on the cool setting to dry off my roots and that’s it.

    And no, my hair doesn’t smell or anything :).

  8. Emma B says:

    Aubrey Organics makes a special shampoo to get chlorine out of your hair, that may be something to look into.
    I feel like sweat can be easily rinsed off with water and conditioner.
    Oil is another issue altogether though. I’ve personally been washing my hair every other day for a few months, cutting back progressively, and hoping that my scalp’s oil production will diminish eventually. Truth is, I still dread being seen in public on the second day. It seems I cannot pull this off with straight, blond hair.

  9. GG says:

    Work up to it! Try not shampooing every other day at first. If your hair gets weird-shaped when you sleep on it, just get it slightly damp by wetting your hands and running them over your hair in the shower and you can re-set it to the preferred style without damaging it too much. If you have really dry hair, use conditioner on your non-shampoo days on the ends of your hair only. Rinse and scrub your scalp w/your finger pads, but no shampoo! Eventually you can increase the time b/t shampoos, especially if you are using less chemical shampoos and conditioners. You can also spray rose water or other natural essential oil hydrosols on your hair to make it smell nice on your no-shampoo days OR rub some essential oils in jojoba along your hairline or massage into your scalp for aromatherapy if you have dry roots/scalp.

  10. Beth says:

    I don’t use shampoo any more I only rinse, some times with baking soda, then follow up with conditioner on just my ends. I will say that there was a long transition period between stopping my every day shampoo habit and where I am now. I started with a apple cider vinegar rinse in a herbal infusion (chamomile, calendula, and nettle to keep my then chronically inflamed scalp from flaring up) and rinsed every other day then followed up with conditioner on the ends. If I didn’t have to be anywhere I would some times just let my hair go and not rinse at all. Some times my hair was pretty greasy but I often had it in a bun. At the time I was teaching ballet and taking quite a few classes so I was often sweaty. After about three months my scalp was perfect and my frizz had turned to defined curls. When I was in Victoria B.C. this summer dancing five hours a day in a much warmer more humid climate, I did need to clean my hair more thoroughly. It might take a while to adjust to less washing but for me it was definitely worth the effort. Hope this helps. Good luck.

  11. Rebecca Bailey says:

    On the dry shampoo issue, in my experience it works well on dry hair to keep it from looking greasy when you go extra days w/o washing. But it’s not so useful for the sweaty head issue.

    @Emma B, have you tried dry shampoo? I think it would work well for your second-day straight hair. Lulu Organics or skinnyskinny make nice ones, but it’s an easy DIY too.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    I think you could definitely get away with it! Give it a try and experiment with a few things. Since everyone’s hair is different what works for me might not work for you but I will share my experience.

    I used to wash my hair 2 to 3 times a week then about a year and a half ago I started doing Bikram yoga 5-6 times a week. That means I am dripping in my own sweat nearly every day (but I love it!) So, I have upped washing my hair to every two or three days. Most times I can stretch it out by only washing my bangs since they are the first thing to look dirty.

    What I normally do in between shampooing is rinse my hair really well in the shower, scrubbing like I would if I had used shampoo. After I squeeze out the excess water I apply either john master’s neroli detangler or 100% natural aloe vera gel on the last 5-6 inches of my hair. It’s pretty long so it will tangle into a mess if I don’t give it a little help. Then I wrap my it up in a towel for about 20 minutes, brush it and then blow dry my roots, letting my ends air dry. I think that blow drying my hair like this, upside down helps distribute the oils from my scalp and give it more volume, which can be important when your hair isn’t squeaky clean.

    I hope this helps and good luck with figuring out something that works for you!

  13. Stephanie says:

    Thanks Alexandra for posting my question! And thanks to everyone for all the ideas – I’m taking notes and will be trying a lot of these ideas out! Like Emma B. (post above) I have straight hair, not particularly thick and I can’t stand when it looks greasy or dirty. And I was worried about the chlorine issue. Scheduling my shampoo days with my swim days will hopefully take care of that. Thanks again!

  14. Alyssa says:

    Though I’m not a huge exerciser, I’m the queen of stretching out hair washes, because I have a bad scalp condition made worse by any sort of cleansing agents. I also live in Ottawa, which is one of the most humid places ever in the summer, and I am a sweaty sweaty person. So I feel you.
    Just rinsing your hair thoroughly with water can help A LOT with sweat/grime. As many people mentioned, an ACV rinse is really nice, and if your scalp feels really grimy, massaging it right into your scalp will make you feel super duper clean.
    This might sound silly, but figuring out a few cute updos is really helpful. I loooove braiding my hair on both sides and then pinning it on my head sort of milkmaid-y ish. It’s my go-to when my hair needs washing and does not look good anymore and I need to stretch it out another day or two.

  15. Audreiana says:

    Like you, I can’t wash my hair with shampoo that often because of my hair type. I have very kinky curly hair that is very dry so I need all the moisture I can get! When I run however I feel better if I co-wash my hair because I need to feel as though I am “cleaning” my hair but shampoo can be too drying and strips my hair a lot of the time so I love co-washing! Especially with Acure :) Xo, Audreiana from True Beauty By Nature

  16. JJ says:

    I am partial to Prell myself for chlorine removal. It comes in a \green\ bottle.

  17. Sydney says:

    BENTONITE CLAY!!!! I stopped using shampoo I believe in September of last year and have not looked back. I use intstead a mixture of bentonite clay and a few other ingredients. It works wonders!!! I have long super curly hair and this really does to trick as far as scalp cleansing and hair moisturizing. Highly recommend it!!! I can share the recipe if anyone is interested!

  18. Kris says:

    I have no advice to offer, but I’m glad to read others’ experiences. I’ve been trying to wash every other day for a few months, but on the non-wash days my super-fine, super-straight hair is still super greasy. It honestly looks like I’ve put product in it and slicked it back even though I washed it (with Acure shampoo) just the day before. So frustrating!

  19. fern says:

    @Sydney: Please please share your recipe!!

  20. Kate says:

    Sydney — I’d be really interested in seeing that Bentonite Clay recipe. I’m a curly gal, too, and would LOVE to get out of the ‘poo game. <3

  21. Silvy says:

    @Sydney- Please share your recipe!

  22. Lola Zabeth says:

    @Sydney Yay for bentonite clay! It is the best thing that has happened to my curls. Can we swap recipes? I have a mix that I have been using for a while, but would love to hear about your mix.

    I’ve also had success with a DIY ginger hair cleanser. You just boil slices of ginger root (like you’re making tea). Let it steep for about 20 minutes, strain away the ginger, and add a little castille soap. The ginger is fantastic for cleaning the scalp after a work out, and the castille soap is very gentle and doesn’t strip. Hope that helps :)

  23. Emma B says:

    Thanks for all the great advice everybody. I will try some DIY dry shampoo and new updos.
    Still, I firmly believe that this is way harder to pull off with fine, straight hair. I personally would be happy if I could wash my hair every 3 days. I splurged on some John Master’s Organics shampoo/conditioner, and it seems to help a little.

    @ Kris I ditched Acure, as it is far too moisturizing for my hair type. My hair would look greasy within hours even without using the conditioner.

  24. Rebecca W says:

    @Emma B – you’re sooo right, I have super fine (and, unfortunately, super thin) straight hair and day 2 is such a beast I just can’t go another day. Even when I put it up, you can still see the grease at my roots. I dance once a week and don’t sweat a lot so I’m not sure how my routine would work for you….but if I swam often, I would pre-treat with an oil to keep the chlorine out and probably just use the soda/ACV wash after, although I’ve not tried this.

    I’ve been doing no the no-poo thing, washing only every 2 days (a tsp of baking soda in 10oz of water followed by ACV & Alaffia conditioner all the way to the scalp) for a couple years now and my grease production is WAY less, my hair is shiny, moisturized and super soft. I use a sea-salt and water solution in a spray bottle on my bangs on day 2 and blow-dry them to camouflage the grease, it works quite well.

    Even castile soap seems to be too harsh on my scalp, it gets dry and itchy and any kind of soap/clean-shampoo seems to make my hair fall out (I don’t actually HAVE poly-cystic ovarian syndrome but am apparently genetically predisposed and so have some symptoms, hair-loss is my big one). I’m curious to try just rinsing or a co-wash but I’m scared because of how greasy my roots are after only 24 hrs.

    @Kris – I feel your pain!! It took a bit of trial and error: I found my hair wouldn’t feel at all cleaned by just combing the soda-wash through with a wide-tooth comb, so I tried a fine-tooth comb and that does the trick!! I wouldn’t be using this method if the fine-tooth comb hadn’t made all the difference.

    I gradually transitioned into the routine above; I’d use a clean shampoo 1 day, then 2 days later the baking soda/ACV method. After about 3 weeks of alternating between the two, I continued cleaning my hair every 2nd day but I would only use the shampoo every 3rd wash (the 6th day). In theory, the sea-salt solution could be used all over your roots to help add texture and disguise the grease, the only reason I don’t is because I’m lazy. :P Anyway, this is how I got through the ugly-phase of transitioning.

  25. Mariah says:

    While I don’t have any recommendations on controlling sweat issues, I’ll share my no-poo regimen. I have pretty straight, fine, long hair that used to get greasy SO fast (back when I washed every day with a dirty shampoo). I spent some time with a natural shampoo, then a shampoo bar, and then baking soda and acv (too drying, but my hair did look clean). Now I use rhassoul clay! best. stuff. ever.

    I don’t really have a recipe, just kinda mix enough for a week. I use around 1-2 Tbsp of aloe (the drinkable kind), around 3-4 Tbsp of rhassoul clay, and about 2 Tbsp of water, and whatever essential oils I feel like that week (aloe is great and makes my hair super soft, but too much makes it look greasy). Mix it up and store it in a mason jar in the shower for about a week. I section my hair before I get into the shower because it can be kind of hard to rinse out. Then I glob some on like I would shampoo, run it through my scalp, and let it sit for the clay to absorb oil/dirt/etc. from my hair. Rinse at the end of the shower. No conditioner, but I put oil in the ends if I feel like it.

    I now proudly wash my hair about twice a week. I never used to think I could go that long in between washes! This works best for brunette hair because rhassoul clay is dark in color, for blonde hair stick to bentonite. I buy mine in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs. Hope this helps! It took me forever to figure out a good routine for my hair, so I’m happy to help anyone who needs it.

  26. Hello, Ladies~ Here is a product that is fantastic and sure to become a favorite–AMBIANCE Volumizing Dry Shampoo, 100% Natural which comes in different hair color powders of Blonde, Red, Brown, Silver, and Black. It works for all hair types, does not contain any alcohol, is non-aerosal, and paraben, preservative, and sulfate-free. Also, it is not tested on animals.

    This great light powder formula that comes in an easy to use applicator brush increases volume, conceals roots, and extends the time between hair washings. What I and my clients like (I am an Esthetician) is that it does a wonderful job leaving your hair feeling clean, smelling only fresh, and does not leave a white residue or dry out/damage your hair so you can extend the time between shampoos to save your scalp and ends from overdrying and your hair color from fading out from too frequent shampooing.

    A salon owner that I introduced to Ambiance Dry Shampoo said the Blonde formula made her fine hair full and look like it had “highlights” in it. The brush container is portable and can travel in your gym bag or purse. Here is the contact info:, (888)414-4142. Give it a try, it retails for $20 and refills are also available…makes your life alot simplier.

  27. Correction on price of Ambiance Dry Shampoo–on Website, retails for $14.95 and refills are $11.95.

  28. B says:

    Try washing your hair with honey. Deluted with purified or destilled water and essential oils (like tee tree oil).
    It can be used instead of shampoo. Will leave the hair super soft.
    The only no poo that works for me. Still wash my hair 2-3 times a month with chemical free (expensive) shampoos but hey better than daily as I used to. I’d still feel gross and my hair greasy. Now my hair doesn’t get that dirty feeling on top, dry feel on the ends.
    Hope it works just as good for you!

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