Why Overwashing Your Hair Can Lead to Dandruff

Elaine Belcher

"Should I wash my hair every day if I have dandruff?” This is not an uncommon question since beauty bloggers, health advocates, and shampoo advertisements provide contradicting opinions. True, washing your hair using your favorite shampoo cleanses the scalp, eliminates excess sebum, and improves the look and feel of your hair. But it can also strip off the natural oils that nourish and protect your scalp.

Overwashing causes your scalp to get overly dry. As a result, it will itch and flake persistently due to the lack of moisture. However, it doesn't mean we should skip shampoo altogether. Take note that overwashing is the root of the problem, not shampoo per se.

How Often Should You Wash Your Hair

The answer to the question, "Should I wash my hair every day if I have dandruff,” depends on several factors, including your lifestyle, genetics, and the type of shampoo you use. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to dandruff.

1. In the general case

For the majority of people, washing the hair every day using shampoo is unnecessary. A good rule of thumb is to shampoo your hair only when it feels heavy and greasy to the touch. But if you are always active or exposed outdoors, you may want to shampoo your hair more frequently to get rid of sweat and debris that may accumulate on your scalp. Otherwise, this could aggravate dandruff.

2. Other factors to keep in mind

The following are important factors to consider for you to determine the right frequency when it comes to washing your hair.

  • Skin type

Your hair gets greasy for the same reason your face gets oily. Sebaceous glands produce sebum, which channels to the hair follicles to moisturize hair and keep the scalp from drying out. However, genetics and hormones affect how each of us produces sebum. That is why some experience extra sebum production, which causes hair to become limp and clumpy. So if you have a greasy scalp, you may need to wash your hair more frequently.

  • Hair type

Your hair type matters because it affects how fast sebum works its way from the roots to the ends of your hair. Thin and straight hair needs frequent washing since it is easily coated by sebum. On the other hand, tight curls and textured hair tend to be dry and need more moisture to prevent frizz. So if you have hair like this, you may only need to shampoo once a week as sebum is vital to achieving well-defined curls, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

  • Excessive sweating

Sweat makes sebum spread a lot quicker, causing your hair to attract more dirt, feel heavy, and smell unfresh. Thus, wash your hair with your preferred shampoo after each sweaty cardio session or after wearing a hat for extended periods.

  • Heavy usage of styling products

Another factor to consider is the products you apply to your hair. Styling products, such as hair gels and hair sprays, can build up quickly on your hair and scalp. Hence, you may need to wash your hair more often if you use styling products every day.

How Effective Is Dandruff Shampoo?

Dandruff is itchy seborrheic scurf that forms on the scalp, coming off in small flakes. It usually occurs when your scalp overreacts to the P. ovale fungi, which naturally resides on your head. Layers of dead skin cells accumulate as a result of your immune system trying to fight off the abnormal growth of the said fungi. Likewise, hair care ingredients such as silicones, surfactants, and resins, can also build up and block hair follicles when not properly rinsed out, causing dandruff. Either way, you can treat a dry and itchy scalp using a good anti-dandruff shampoo. So, how does dandruff shampoo work?

Dandruff shampoos may vary in formulation, but they are generally designed to combat excessive levels of the P. ovale fungi. A good quality dandruff shampoo also provides fast and long-lasting relief against itching, dryness, and irritation. For instance, Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo uses 1% ketoconazole solution, which is known as the most potent antifungal ingredient. Meanwhile, Selsun Blue Medicated Shampoo uses 3% salicylic acid to uproot the main source of your problem - gunk, excess sebum, and fungi overgrowth. Zinc pyrithione, selenium, and coal tar are also common active ingredients found in several commercial shampoos.

Is Dandruff Shampoo Bad For Your Hair?

Shampoos containing chemicals at a high concentration may hold several negative side effects. These include dizziness, rashes, and other topical side effects. But if you carefully follow the instructions or take heed of your doctor's advice, you can reap all the benefits it provides. Nevertheless, you may opt for organic shampoos, instead. There are shampoos that feature a unique blend of natural ingredients, such as peppermint and tea tree oil, both of which are notable for their antiseptic and cooling properties. Although not as fast-acting compared to ketoconazole, these ingredients are mild and safe for daily use. Most importantly, natural ingredients improve circulation and help restore the balance of your scalp's natural oils.