How to Shampoo Fine Hair Correctly

The Correct Products, Why You Should "Rinse and Repeat" and More

How to properly shampoo fine hair
How to properly shampoo fine hair. Digital Vision / Getty Images

All my life I've had thick but fine hair. It's always been oily. Before I became a beauty editor, I had no idea there was a right way to shampoo my hair. I didn't know the right shampoos to use and whether I really needed conditioner (I assumed because my hair was oily that I didn't).

But there is a correct way to shampoo fine hair. I've pulled together everything I know about shampooing fine hair for this article.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Shampoo

Fine hair usually means oily hair. Because of this, you should avoid creamy shampoos. Gentle shampoos marked for volume and daily or frequent washing are good bets. The product should be clear, not thick and creamy. My absolute favorite luxury brand is Kerastase, specifically Kerastase Resistance Bain Volumifique Thickening Effect Shampoo. When I'm traveling or when I need a shampoo, but I don't want to splurge, I usually buy Pantene products (Pantene Pro-V Sheer Volume Shampoo).

To combat build-up, wash once a week with a clarifying shampoo (Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Shampoo) or rinse hair with a mixture of 1/3 apple cider vinegar and 2/3 water.

Even better than lathering shampoos are sulfate-free shampoos. Sulfates are the ingredients in shampoo that cause the shampoo to lather. We've come to expect the better the shampoo lathers, the better the shampoo is; however, many natural health experts recommend avoiding any shampoos with the foaming agents sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate as main ingredients.

Can You Shampoo Fine Hair Daily?

You've likely heard it's bad to cleanse hair daily, however, most experts agree that it's safe to wash hair daily with a mild shampoo (if you have dry hair, you can go as long as a week without washing, lucky you). If you can wait a day between shampoos, do it. Dry shampoo sprayed at the crown and roots and brushed through, should buy you a day.

Check out Klorane Dry Shampoo with Nettle

Yes, You Need Conditioner

Fine hair is susceptible to knots and tangles, which is why it's important to use conditioner even on fine, oily hair. The trick is to use conditioner only on the bottom half of hair. You don't want conditioner anywhere near the scalp if your hair is oily.

I swear by Kerastase products. My favorite conditioner is Kerastase Masque Force Architecte.  

Make Sure Hair is Completely Wet

I recently read a comment from a celebrity stylist that stayed with me. He said most women don't wet their hair thoroughly before applying shampoo. Every strand needs to be soaking wet in order to truly get clean.

The Right Way to Shampoo Your Hair

Most women don't spend enough time scrubbing their scalps and they don't take the necessary time to rinse out all the shampoo.

Here's the proper way to shampoo your hair:

  • Wet hair thoroughly.
  • Apply a quarter-size dollop of shampoo. It's actually shampoo that causes build-up on hair, not conditioners, so a quarter-size will do you. Less if you have short hair, more if you have very long or coarse hair.
  • Scrub your scalp for 3 minutes. It's important to spend time on the scalp, where most oils accumulate. And if you spend those 3 minutes now, you can skip the "repeat" part of your shampoo.
  • Move your hands down to your actual strands and massage the shampoo into your hair.
  • Rinse hair thoroughly. Make sure the scalp and the strands are shampoo-free.
  • Apply a dime-size amount of conditioner to the bottom 2/3rds of hair only. Do not let the conditioner touch your scalp.
  • If you want to avoid tangles and hair breakage, brush through hair with a wide-toothed comb or a boar's bristle brush (the best is from Mason Pearson). It's a myth that you must use a wide-toothed comb, a brush will work as long as you use it on hair before the conditioner is rinsed out.
  • Rinse out the conditioner.

When it comes to shampooing, it turns out it's important to take extra time to do a thorough job.

For Oily Hair, You Can "Rinse and Repeat"

I always thought the directions on the back of every shampoo bottle ever created weren't to be trusted.

I had a problem with the "rinse and repeat" directive. To me, it sounded like a ploy for shampoo companies to get people to use up their shampoo quickly so we'd all have to buy more.

Turns out you can rinse and repeat, especially if you have fine hair. The first shampoo is meant to remove dirt, sebum and build-up on the scalp. After we rinse, we should apply more shampoo and focus on the rest of our hair.

I prefer skipping the rinse and repeat step if you spend those 3 minutes scrubbing your scalp, making sure to move down to the strands, but this is a great alternative if you are used to "repeating."

Fun Hair Tip That Combines the Shampoo & Conditioning

I love this trick I learned years ago that allows you to shampoo your hair and apply conditioner in one step.

  1. First, apply shampoo to your roots. Really massage it into your scalp using circular motions. Remember, you need to focus on scrubbing your scalp because it's your scalp that's oily, not your hair.
  2. Once you've shampooed and before you rinse, slather conditioner on the bottom two-thirds of hair, staying away from the scalp.
  3. Rinse hair of the shampoo and conditioner. The shampoo will work its way down the hair, rinsing out the conditioner. You'll be left with more volume and body at the roots and crown of your hair, while the rest of your hair will be silky and shiny and easy to comb through.

If you're concerned that the conditioner isn't on the hair long enough, keep in mind that conditioner doesn't work better the longer it's on hair. That's a myth. If you want to keep it on longer, you can wash your body or shave your legs before rinsing hair.