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Time to freshen up

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According to a survey done quite a few years ago by consumer goods company Procter & Gamble, when it comes to washing hair, Americans can go overboard. The study found that those surveyed would shampoo their hair an average of 4.59 times a week. And granted, everyone’s hair is different, as are the activities they partake in from day to day, but washing your hair too much can lead to damage and strip your hair of the oils produced by your scalp, leaving it brittle.

No one’s hair looks or feels good when it’s dry, and it’s especially not the move for the hair of Black women. So we’re prone to spread out our washing experiences, leaving them to be very involved moments of self-care as we deep condition and twist curls into protective styles. Maybe we even ditch shampoo for co-wash treatments that can help cleanse without drying out strands. When I’ve asked people how often they wash, I’ve heard a wide range of answers, from every other week to once a month and once a week. So for this week’s Hair Hacks, I asked our go-to dermatologist Dr. Yolanda Lenzy to set the record straight on how often we should go about it. She said there is a preferred schedule, but it depends on the person and what their hair goes through.

“I base it on an individual basis really driven by your activity level,” she says. “So for people who are exercising more, they’re going to need to shampoo more frequently. People who are on treatments, say they have hair loss and they have to apply prescription treatments, they’re going to need to shampoo more often to get all that product off.”

Dr. Lenzy says though that she would recommend cleansing hair once a week.

“So as a general rule, I like once a week or seven to 10 days in general. Because what happens is the yeast that lives on all of our scalp, after that period of time, it tends to overgrow,” she says. “So even if you have say dandruff and you have it under good control, about after 10 days, even if you’re using a good shampoo for it, it’s going to come back and so it needs to be cleansed again.”

As mentioned, 4.59 times a week is a lot, but Dr. Lenzy says you can wash your hair more than once a week if your lifestyle requires it. For example, people who swim often or exercise and sweat extensively from the scalp could benefit from more than just once every seven to 10 days.

“It could be more frequent if you have a very high exercise level or you’re more active,” she says. “If you work a job and you’re exposed to more pollutants, you need to get that off more frequently.”

Based on Dr. Lenzy’s recommendations, I’ve personally changed from washing my hair every two weeks to once a week to help combat dandruff and clean my hair as I take on working out at least six days a week (a gal’s got goals!). Since doing so, my hair has felt better and looked healthier than before. And, now that I’ve cut out oiling my scalp with hot oil and let my hair air-dry, my wash day routine is cut in half, so it’s more reasonable for my busy schedule. Whatever you decide to do, more washing per month or less, make sure you’re offering your hair some much-needed TLC when it’s time to give it your full attention.

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