How Often Should We Cut Our Hair, Plus Other Common Hair Questions

When do we need to trim our hair? How do we prevent split ends? Hair experts weigh in.

How often should we really cut our hair? It’s a very topical question during the coronavirus pandemic, and one that comes up in conversations all the time, especially now. And it’s not the only question we ponder during our coronavirus lockdown. Is there any way to avoid split ends? Is there such a thing as using dry shampoo too often?

We spoke to seasoned hairstylists, who answered common questions about hair.

How often do you really need to cut your hair?

First off, if you really, absolutely have to, here’s how to cut your own hair and even how to do your own buzz cut at home.

Second, know that the answer differs greatly based on your haircut. Most short men’s cuts, for example, should be maintained at least once a month.

As for longer cuts, it’s common to be told we need to cut our hair every six to eight weeks ― even hairdressing training guides suggest that timeline. But that’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, because everyone contends with different issues, whether it’s split ends or maintaining a style.

Still, here are some guidelines for specific needs:

Split ends: Hairstory’s resident hairstylist Wes Sharpton told HuffPost he recommends a cut four times a year if you are focusing on split ends, and more often if you want to maintain your haircut’s shape and style.

Color-treated hair is particularly susceptible to split ends and should be trimmed every two months to maintain optimal health.
yacobchuk via Getty Images
Color-treated hair is particularly susceptible to split ends and should be trimmed every two months to maintain optimal health.

Maintaining a short to medium cut: Celebrity hairstylist and founder of Fekkai, Frédéric Fekkai, said: “For short to shoulder-length hair, I advise having a trim every 4-6 weeks. If you’re sporting a shorter style, then the regrowth is more noticeable than on longer hair.”

Maintaining medium to long hair: Fekkai recommends a trim “every 6-10 weeks because it will help the hair to grow healthier” if you are maintaining or growing out your hair. Two to three months is ideal for normal hair with minimal heat damage.

“This will help the hair to stay in good condition and prevent split ends from traveling up the mid-lengths,” hairstylist Nathan Phoenix said. For curly hair, he recommends a bit longer, 8-10 weeks. “If you are growing out your hair, it’s still advised to get a trim to keep the hair in good condition and healthy.”

Maintaining color-treated hair: Heat styling and coloring creates damage, so hair has to be cut every two months, celebrity hairstylist and T3 stylist ambassador Laura Polko said.

How often do you need to wash your hair?

This depends on your habits, routine and hair type.

Jake Davis, hairstylist at John Frieda Salon in London, recommends washing as little as possible. “We have gotten into a habit of over-cleansing, so check how your hair feels before you wash it and decide if a good rinse and conditioner are enough, otherwise use a sulfate-free shampoo, so that you don’t dry the hair out,” Davis said.

As a general guideline, Davis suggests a light wash every two days for fine and greasy hair. For medium to thick hair, he suggests washing it no more than once a week ― but if that’s not possible, every three days is OK.

If you’re someone who exercises a lot and feel you need to wash your hair more often than three days a week, consider just rinsing and using conditioner.

Celebrity colorist and Redken ambassador Matt Rez is also a fan of sulfate-free shampoo, as it’s a great way to keep your color from fading between appointments.

Sharpton emphasized the importance of finding using a sulfate-free shampoo, explaining that most conventional shampoos contain detergents (like sulfates), which are damaging to the hair and scalp. “It’s why your hairdresser whispers, ‘Don’t shampoo too much,’” he said. Plus, we should really think about cleaning the scalp from the product buildup, rather than the hair strands.

But the frequency that you shampoo also depends on your hair type. Generally, dry, coarse and curlier hair can go longer without a wash than fine hair. “The oils from the scalp won’t travel down the hair shaft as quickly as it does in finer hair,” Fekkai told HuffPost. “Dry and coarse hair types should shampoo a maximum of two times a week, while oily hair types may require washing on a daily basis. If you have normal hair, you have the luxury of washing your hair every other day.”

However, that doesn’t mean daily hair washing is out of the question. Polko suggests a detox shampoo or an acid wash as an alternative to daily hair washing, if you’re trying to avoid oily hair. “Your hair will tell you what it needs,” she said. Again, if you have to hair wash daily, look for detergent-free shampoos, like the New Wash, Sharpton says. “Detergents will just cause your oily scalp into over-production mode making it more oily,” he said.

Can I prevent split ends?

The best way to prevent split ends is to avoid heat styling (that includes a hair dryer!) and color, which isn’t exactly realistic for most people. Even then, your hair isn’t immune to split ends. Polko said you should invest in high-quality tools, so that even when you heat-style, you minimize the damage. Those tools don’t have to be expensive ― do your research and remember that the lowest heat setting on your tool is always the one that causes the least amount of damage.

If you must use a heat-styling tool like a curling iron, use it at the lowest possible temperature to avoid damaging your hair.
Getty images
If you must use a heat-styling tool like a curling iron, use it at the lowest possible temperature to avoid damaging your hair.

Though you can’t prevent split ends, Fekkai recommends deep conditioning the hair to ensure it’s as healthy as possible until your next trim.

Sharpton seconds that point and recommends moisturizing leave-in products when you are air-drying your hair. “You don’t have to fully dry your hair,” he said. “You can rough dry it and focus on the roots and middle sections, avoiding the ends. Skipping the brush (if possible) while drying your hair is also helpful.”

Is dry shampoo really bad for hair?

It’s your scalp you should be worried about, more than your hair.

The main point to remember is that dry shampoo shouldn’t be a complete substitute for shampooing, as it can lead to a dry scalp, Davis said. An easy way of knowing if you are overusing dry shampoo is if you’re using it many days in a row. “If you’re doing that, you should definitely be washing your hair more. If overused, dry shampoo can start clogging the hair follicle,” Polko said.

Sharpton said that apart from potentially clogging up the pores and hair follicles, dry shampoo does even more damage on a wet scalp. “Never apply dry shampoo/powder to wet hair or to a sweaty scalp; powder plus moisture makes a paste and it can really clog things up!” he said.

Do we really need different shampoos depending on our hair type?

Not exactly, though you should assess your scalp to understand what is suitable, Sharpton said. “Your scalp is part of your skin, after all, so think about it in terms of what type of skin do I have: oily, normal or dry? If you produce more oil on the scalp, reach for a deeper clean, but remember it should be detergent-free.”

Fekkai advised against constantly changing your shampoo, though, as this might make your hair and scalp more reactive. Instead, he recommends switching between two shampoos every other time you wash your hair, to target different needs like texture or moisture.

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