Discover The Truth On How Often We Should Shampoo Our Hair

Discover The Truth On How Often We Should Shampoo Our Hair

And its effects on Hair Loss, Aging and Hair and Scalp Health. 

The Results are in from the Activance Survey 2023.  

The response was:
37.1% shampoo twice a week
31.1% shampoo every 2nd day
15.1% shampoo daily
15.1% shampoo once weekly
1.5% shampoo once a fortnight

While most respondents, 68.2% (37.1%+31.1%), reported shampooing twice weekly to every 2nd day (3 times weekly), the most interesting stat was that the same percentage of people (15.1%) washed their hair daily as those weekly. 

This prompted me to clarify the age-old debate on how often we should shampoo as well as to share my clinical experience for prioritising your total hair and scalp health rather than simply haircare*.

The truth why we shampoo? And the most basic function of shampooing?

Shampooing's primary function is to remove the accumulation of "dirt" from hair and scalp. That “dirt” has diverse origins, stemming from both internal and external sources. Internally, natural processes like sebum production and its composition, sweating and skin exfoliation all contribute to this buildup, while externally, various factors like exposure to UV, hair products, environmental pollutants, harmful particles, heavy metals, pollens, tobacco smoke etc. from water and air all play a role.

The hair-covered scalp provides a dark, moist, warm and protected micro-environment with lipid-rich sebum and the dead horny skin cells shedded serve as an unlimited food source to foster a distinct microbiome.

The accumulation of "dirt" together with harmful molecules and free radicals generated directly or indirectly by UV or the resulting microbial breakdown of the sebum and the “dirt”, if not removed by regular shampooing, will alter the healthy optimal microbiome and result in increased oxidative stress and inflammation leading to various hair and scalp issues like hypersensitivity, irritation, flakiness, dandruff, excessive hair fall, hair thinning, loss and aging.

How frequently should I shampoo? The dilemma for and against frequent shampooing

Advocates for infrequent hair shampooing, especially the "no-poo" or "low poo" movement, will cite concerns about the potential damage caused by harmful ingredients in common shampoos like cleansing agents. Those surfactants, will strip away our natural beneficial sebum triggering nasty conditions like dryness, tightness, sensitivity, irritation, dermatitis, seborrhoea (excessive sebum production as our bodies’ overcompensation mechanism), hair damage and hair loss*. Together with other harsh ingredients like commonly used chemical preservatives are scalp and follicle hostile while some parabens-free preservative alternatives even have allergy or cancer-causing potential*. 

Conversely, proponents of more frequent hair washing argue that regular cleansing is vital for removing an array of potentially harmful residues from the "dirt", likening the scalp to an extension of the face, which we clean daily as part of our skin health routine.

Hair loss and shampoo missing link story

After completing my pharmacy tertiary education in Melbourne, I worked as an R&D pharmacist in a pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Australia for 7+ years. During that time our laboratory team always used sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) as a reference irritant standard to be tested against all new prospective ingredients in all new product development programs to find out their suitability.

Disillusioned with the company’s direction and approaches, I left the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry to open my own regenerative health pharmacy in 1985. I was amazed to find that so-called “hair care” commercial products were entirely based on harsh, follicle damaging** or environmental unfriendly "SLS" or "SLES" or "sulphate", Silicones, "Quats" with Parabens preservatives and the likes.

I founded the Hair Health Foundation in Australia to tackle that issue, investing in world-class, cutting-edge science and technology. I searched around the world for safe, natural and healthy alternatives. Then, by employing only the most advanced, high-purity ingredients (not cheap, harsh or outdated ones) and promoting "total hair and scalp health" as the primary goal rather than simply the profit resulting, I crafted Activance's present range of "ultra-gentle, follicle-friendly" shampoos and conditioners, designed to be remarkably mild and sulphate-free.

25 years, a quarter of a century later, an entirely separate research team completed comprehensive research "The Impact of Shampoo Wash Frequency on Scalp and Hair Conditions."*** (published in 2021) supporting and verifying my theory and visions with the following findings:

1. Washing hair 5-6 times per week led to the highest overall satisfaction with hair and scalp conditions regarding hair loss, brittleness and smoothness, followed by 2-3 times per week and once weekly (the least). All these are supported by both objective (technical) and subjective (self-perception) assessments, independent of either age or gender. 

2. It was found that daily shampooing did NOT reduce or deprive our total internal hair lipids and fatty acids content because their hair contents were similar to those who shampoo only once a week. 

3. A daily shampoo regimen was found NOT to affect hair and scalp conditions adversely; conversely, it outperformed those obtained by a once-weekly regimen (7-day refrain) in all the following measured parameters:

Hair attributes Scalp attributes
Total sebum buildup (Oily) Total sebum buildup (Oily)
Oxidised sebum lipids content ex UV or scalp microbials.
(a biomarker for oxidative stress inflicted or detrimental effect
as the result of excessive sebum accumulation)
The same as under hair attribute
Hair fibre water uptake The same as under hair attribute
Unhealthy Odor
Frizzy Itch
Dull Buildup
Dry Dryness
Breakage Flakes
Manageability Irritation

From the desk of Arthur Chan:

1. Increased wash frequency benefits both hair and scalp conditions, including hair thinning, hair loss and aging.

2. The detrimental effects of excessive sebum buildup from infrequent washing, like once or twice weekly, especially the oxidised sebum lipids, are consistent with all other current theories and observations relating scalp to hair health. 

3. The data obtained via the mentioned comprehensive research studies should serve as an important assent offsetting the UNFOUNDED concerns that high shampooing frequency is detrimental to our hair and scalp in any way. 

4. Debunking the prevailing misconception that decreasing the frequency of shampooing or washing your hair will lead to a reduction or cessation of hair loss. Contrary to this belief, the quantity of hair that falls remains constant; it merely integrates with the non-shedding hair when you refrain from shampooing. However, when you do decide to shampoo, all the accumulated fallen hair emerges at once. For those seeking to minimise unwanted hair loss, consider incorporating a natural and bio-identical Activance hair growth nutrient treatment. When used correctly, it can effectively reduce or halt undesirable hair fall within just 7-10 days.

Words of caution –

While it's true that frequent use of the wrong (harsh) shampoo can lead to hair and scalp health issues, it's also true that infrequently cleansing or even not cleaning at all is equally detrimental to your hair and scalp health including hair growth and aging.

The four findings mentioned above are only valid / apply when using scientific, genuinely safe, well-formulated, gentle, follicle-friendly hair health shampoos* (like Activance) because they were the only ones employed in the entire study. Unsafe, harsh shampoo formulas are well known to cause a reduction of the hair and scalp's internal beneficial lipids, damaging the follicles. They have been shown to increase roughness, permeability, and reduced (hair) structural integrity^ and even cause hair loss^^.

Conclusion: Keep your hair cleansing balance right according to your personal and individual preferences, requirements and circumstances!

Just like everything in our life, what makes this topic even more intricate is that the delicate or optimal balance between too much and too little cleansing is a delicate one, where many factors, whether it is internal or external, objective or subjective, together with your ever-changing health conditions, age, personal requirements and habits etc. all play a vital role in determining the optimal approach. 

Client Story:

One of my patients, now in his late 50s, came to me more than 15 years ago for his genetic hair loss. He was intolerant to common ungentle minoxidil, a commercial hair growth medicine for hair loss. 

After an initial consultation, I designed and compounded a special, ultra-mild, quick drying and absorbing propylene glycol-free minoxidil formula to be used in conjunction with an Activance bioidentical hair growth nutrient treatment spray and follicle-friendly shampoo to maximise his hair growth and regrowth.

By following my advice and direction, excellent results were achieved after only ten months. 

However, three months ago, he reported suffering from an itchy, irritated scalp and hair loss, the latter potentially brought on by excessive scratching or from reducing his treatment because of the scalp irritation. 

He asked me if I'd changed his minoxidil formula (which I had not). He wondered if he had developed an allergy to that particular minoxidil formula because he had been using it for such a long time (15 years).

During my consultation, I found that he had only been shampooing once a week for the last few years. Unfortunately, this current habit had not kept pace with his personal circumstances. Up until six months ago, he had been an office worker; now, he is a self-employed painter specialising in restoring historical homes and buildings. 

During the consultation, I explained that dusty, dirty work, along with harmful particles from old paint, when combined with the extra sebum and sweat production from the physical activity demanded of a painter vs his previous role as an office worker, meant that he should shampoo his hair and scalp at a very minimum every 2nd day if NOT daily. 

He followed my advice, and after 4-5 weeks, his scalp problems and irritation were resolved without any change in his treatment plan.

In summary, It is essential to prioritise your hair and scalp health by selecting the right products backed by real science. 

By choosing follicle-friendly shampoos that are genuinely gentle and effective, free from harmful ingredients, and designed to promote hair and scalp health, such as Activance Hair Wellness or Professional Shampoos to suit your personal needs and current circumstances, you can confidently wash your hair daily knowing that it will only improve your hair and scalp health.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog and can apply the knowledge found here to yourself and your loved ones' daily hair and scalp health and beauty routine so that you can have many good-hair days enjoying thicker, stronger and healthier hair and scalp. 

Need help? Require my Consultation ServiceContact us with any questions or queries regarding the content of this blog.

Best Health Regards
Arthur Chan
Regenerative Health Pharmacist
Activance Technical Director & Founder

Activance Professional The Science of Hair Health
** Activance Follicle Friendly Hair Growth
***  The Impact of Shampoo Wash Frequency on Scalp and Hair Conditions

^ McMullen RL, Laura D, Chen S, Koelmel D, Zhang G, Gillece T. Determination of physicochemical properties of delipidized hair. J Cosmet Sci. 2013;64((5)):355–70. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

^^ Marsh JM, Brown MA, Felts TJ, Hutton HD, Vatter ML, Whitaker S, et al. Gel network shampoo formulation and hair health benefits. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2017;39((5)):543–9. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

13th Nov 2023 Arthur Chan, R&D Pharmacist, Regenerative Health Pharmacist, Activance Clinic Consultant

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The information and references on this website have not been evaluated by governmental or regulatory bodies and departments like TGA, FDA etc. We do not intend to make claims, nor do we aim to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease. Information, references, and testimonies are shared for educational and information purposes only. We highly recommend you consult your health professional practitioner or our regenerative health consultant from our Activance Clinic to discuss your individual case and needs before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are taking medications or have a medical condition. Results vary depending on severity of your hair loss.