Should I Wash My Hair Everyday?

Monday 11 November 2013

Should I Wash My Hair Everyday?


Today I somehow remembered a middle-aged woman praising a young girl at a gym for having beautiful hair. Then the lady started telling her her story: Twenty or thirty years ago she used to abuse her hair by dyeing it and having a regular perm. Her hair became very dry and frizzy and to this day she blames herself for the mistakes that she made as a young woman.

I listened to this conversation and I knew that the old lady was wrong, just as it's incorrect to say that cutting your hair will make your hair grow faster. Obviously, there are myths going around. Therefore, I decided to investigate and share my findings.

Is damage caused to hair permanent?

Once the damage is done, it is done, you cannot reverse it, regardless of how great the shampoo or the conditioner you use is. Nevertheless, this does not affect hair quality in the future. Once new hair is grown and the damaged hair removed: voilé. So, damage is permanent, but only on the hair that is visually seen above the surface of the scalp.

Hair and nails need similar treatment
Hair works a bit like nails. Bad eating habits, exposure to sun will make the nails split; they will become brittle. However, make certain changes to your lifestyle, take some vitamin supplements, eat healthy food, and your nails will become strong and beautiful again. The same applies to hair - look after it and you'll reap what you sow.

Can hair be repaired?

Once damage is apparent, nothing can be done to repair your hair - not even the best of conditioners or any other hair care product can fix it.

Sometimes we hear that a shampoo will repair damaged hair, strengthen it, repair split ends, give a vitamin therapy and etc. It's is impossible to repair damaged hair (maybe only under laboratory conditions). Hair care products and, particularly, conditioners reduce the magnitude of the forces associated with combing and brushing of the hair, especially when it is still wet. Conditioning makes hair feel softer, more moisturised and reduces flyaway hair, thus, increasing shine. This effect is temporary, no permanent change occurs.

So, repairing the damage of your hair and alike is a marketing term, which is not entirely correct.

The surface of a healthy hair

What is the structure of a hair?

A hair consists of a cortex that is surrounded by a few layers of overlapping cells, called "cuticle". The cuticle affects the feel of the hair, i.e. hair shine, combability, etc.

The surface of unhealthy hair
A healthy strand of hair is smooth like baby skin, whilst the damaged hair has cuticle that sticks out like flaking skin. This flaking hair increases combing forces, thus, making combing even more difficult. What's worse: it increases damage caused by combing even more.

How to prevent hair damage?

It is important to use a conditioner after shampooing, particularly if you have chemically treated hair. It can be a rinse-off conditioner, leave-in conditioner, a cream, gel, mousse, lotion, spray mist or anything else that is meant to condition your hair.

How does a conditioner work?

Let's look at this in a very simplified way. Hair is negatively charged. A conditioner is positively charged. The positive charge of the conditioner binds to negative sites on the hair surface, thus stopping the hair from flaking and resulting in a coating of hair fibers.

The more damaged the hair, the more negatively charged it is. This determines what type of conditioner one needs.

The major function of a conditioner is to protect the hair cuticle from grooming damage.

Natural dreads that you get if you don't wash or
comb your hair

Should I wash my hair every day?

Ideally, you wouldn't wash your hair or use hair curlers or straighteners. You don't dye, perm or even comb your hair; it's all bad for it. What would be the result? The result would be: healthy, ugly looking hair that eventually turns into dreads. If this is what you are aiming for, then this is fine. Otherwise, wash it as frequently as you like, but use a conditioner in whichever form you like to minimise damage.

On the right you can see my awesome tour guide in South Africa, who claims that he never washes his hair nor combs it. His hair is slowly turning into naturally forming dreads.

What type of conditioner should you use?

Intensive treatment or deep conditioning gives a higher degree of conditioning. These kinds of products contain higher concentrations of active ingredients that are kept on your hair for longer periods of time prior to rinsing. 

Leave-in products are lighter, but may provide more significant benefits than the rinse-off products as they stay on your hair until it's next washed.

How often should deep conditioning treatment be used?

I thought that deep conditioning hair more frequently was good for me, but I may have been wrong. It's best not to use intensive treatments too often. Obviously, you should follow the provided instructions and use your own common sense. On some hair types positive charge can build up, resulting in limp, unmanageable hair. This is particularly true for untreated, fine hair.

Final Word

I'm hoping this has struck a cord - any personal experiences, don't be shy. :)

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