I’ve encountered enough articles and podcasts penned by flowing haired goddesses claiming that not washing their hair helps it grow faster to make me want to look into the claims further.
Hair growth is a complex system. Our hair is made up of hair follicles (which sit in the skin) and the shaft (what is visible above the scalp). Our hair follicles are a regenerative system that cycle between 3 stages; Anagen (Growth), Catagen (Transitional) and Telogen (Resting).
According to WebMD, during Anagen (the active growth phase) hair grows about 1 cm every 28 days. Scalp hair stays in this active phase of growth for two to six years. The length of your growth phase will determine how long you are able to grow your hair.
During Telogen, the hair follicle is at complete rest and it is normal to shed 25 to 100 telogen hairs every day.
Like any cell structure in your body, the rate at which your hair cycle runs is dependent on genetics and hormones. Hormones, as we know, are influenced by stress, dietary and lifestyle factors, so to me, washing your hair should have nothing to do with hair growth.
Women’s health mag reasoned that if you wash your hair every day, you may be removing natural oils that can nourish your scalp and promote hair growth, but CNN called myth on this with the help of Jeffrey Benabio, MD, a dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.
“Cutting back on shampooing will have no effect on your sebaceous glands; genetics and hormones determine the amount of oil they produce. But it will cause dirt and oil to accumulate on your scalp and hair follicles, and could cause inflammation and irritation that might stunt hair growth.”
Renee Nicolai – Hairstylist and Importer of Naturalmente hair care products, was able to fill in the missing link for me. While she agreed that shampoo and products can not cause your hair to grow faster, using toxic products on your hair can affect its health.
“As we already know, taking care of your hair and body does not only extend to eating right, sleeping well, keeping stress down and exercising. We also have to be mindful of which products we use on our hair. Products that use natural ingredients like Naturalmente, remove the chemical build up on the hair, replenishing what has been taking out of the hair by chemicals and leaves your hair full of life and vibrant colour.”
Most shampoos on the market have chemicals in them that are carcinogenic or toxic which disrupt the hair growth cycle. Two of the big culprits happen to be the active ingredient in most cleaning agents we use, that are responsible for creating lather, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulphur (SLES).
SLS is not only just a chemical that helps create the bubbles that we associate with cleanliness but as Renee says, it also alters the PH level of your scalp.
“Using petrochemicals shifts the PH of your scalp to around a 10, which is double of what it should be. When we swing out of our ideal PH, in any area of the body, it starts doing crazy things. With hair, you would start secreting more oil to counteract the over-removal of natural oils or flip over to the dry side.”
Renee likens this to incorrect PH levels in your garden or pool. When the PH of soil isn’t right, you won’t have good growth. When the PH of your pool is off, it will turn green.
So how would not washing your hair help it grow?
It’s not about not washing your hair, but more about not washing your hair with harmful chemicals. If you withdraw from the use of toxic, PH altering products on your hair, your hair cycle would normalise, meaning it would grow better.
Want to switch over? Listen to Renee’s tip on how to wash your hair.
Feige is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to code things, design things, and all things beauty.