How to Rock Dirty, Unwashed Hair

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Lessons in Not Washing Your Hair (Even if You Just Went to the Gym)

Woman with red hair
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If there's one lesson we've all heard a thousand times, it's to stop daily hair washing. I have a confession to make. Even though I've been a hairstylist for several years now, I've always washed my hair daily. I hate day old hair. I hate greasy hair. I workout every day, and I want my hair to be smooth, and shiny, and squeaky clean beautiful every single day.

I also know better.

Time to get over that, ladies. If you want long, healthier, or colored hair, daily hair washing is like taking your money and flushing it down the toilet. Not only does your color fade, but your hair ages prematurely causing breakage and compromises the health of your hair. By simply washing your hair two to four days a week instead of daily (or multiple times a day), you can extend the life of your hair color and improve the overall health of your hair exponentially.

Besides all that, we all need a lot more time. Styling freshly washed hair is a time-consuming process. If you workout in the morning or during lunch and have a schedule to maintain, who has time to wash, dry, and style?

I always recommend starting to experiment with not washing your hair on a day that you don't have to been seen in public, like a weekend. It takes a certain finesse to figure out what works best for your hair. You also have to get your scalp used to not getting washed and having it's natural oils stripped away. The more you wash your hair, the more sebum (oil) your hair produces to compensate for being stripped of natural oils with soap and shampoo. When you let your hair get into a more natural sebum producing cycle, you'll find going a day or two between shampoo is much easier.

Follow these valuable tips to take a day or two off between shampooing, while still having great hair that doesn't look dirty, greasy, or even flat.

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Cool Off

Young woman holding hair-dryer, drying hair
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You've just had a good workout and your head is a hot mess (literally), the first step in the process is to make sure that your head is cooled off. A hot head equals a sweaty head, and adding any additional sweat to your already dirty hair isn't going to do anyone any favors.

Here are a few tips for getting your head as cool as a cucumber:

  • Take a cool shower and use a shower cap to keep your hair dry.
  • Use a well-ventilated room, preferably one with a fan.
  • Take a minute and brush all that sweat and oil through your head well. As gross as that sounds, it'll help distribute the oil through your hair and act as a conditioning agent. Seriously.
  • Use a hair dryer, on a warm or cool setting, and dry the sweat out of your hair. Tip your head upside down for increased volume.
  • If your hair has been up in a ponytail or has a good amount of bed head, spritz your hair with a water bottle or leave-in conditioner and brush through before blow drying to get the kinks out.

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Use a Dry Shampoo

Her hair product gets the job done everytime - Haircare
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Dry shampoos are an excellent way to rid yourself of the grease, grime, and sweat of the day as well as a hard workout. You can buy dry shampoo in two different forms, a powder or in an aerosol spray. Both types work to absorb oil, but depending on your hair type you should experiment with different brands to see what works best for your hair.

If you have dark hair, I recommend trying out Redken Powder Refresh Aerosol Dry Shampoo as it's made for all hair colors and will dry without leaving your hair white. Buy on

If you want to try a dry shampoo in a powder form, I recommend trying out Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo Powder. The pointed cap makes it easy to separate hair into sections and squeeze the powder directly onto your roots. Buy Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo on

How to get the most out of your dry shampoo:

  • Brush your cooled-off hair thoroughly, and then lifting your hair at the root, spray the dry shampoo directly onto the root of your hair.
  • I do not recommend spraying dry shampoo directly on your part, as it can cause your hair to look dry and ashy.
  • It's important to play around with your dry shampoo a few times to see how much you'll need for your particular hair type. Remember, you can always add more, if you need it, so start conservatively.

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Massage and Wait

Woman examining her hair
Eric Audras / Getty Images

After applying your dry shampoo, use the tips of your fingers to massage the dry shampoo into your scalp. This step is important to evenly distribute the dry shampoo into your scalp properly.

Then wait. Don't touch your head for the next three to five minutes. This is the part of my non-hair-washing morning that I spend a few minutes on my makeup or get my next cup of coffee. Allowing the dry shampoo to sit on your scalp dries the moisture, sebum, and sweat out of your hair.

This is also where you have to come to grips with the fact that your hair probably isn't going to feel clean. It's not going to feel soft, pretty, or like anything you want to run your hands through. At least that's how I feel about the situation. That was probably the hardest thing for me to get over. I want fresh, clean, soft, and freshly washed hair. In the end, I'd rather have healthy hair. So, I'll settle.

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Brush and Style

Woman looking in mirror brushing hair
Innocenti / Getty Images

After letting the dry shampoo set for a few minutes, brush thoroughly and style as usual. For this style, I used a flat iron to smooth out a few pieces and some volumizing hairspray to give my hair some texture and hold. Here are a few tips for styles that work best with dirty hair:

  • Style your hair up whenever possible. Try a loose ponytail or braid for a look that won't let you down all day long.
  • Play with teasing. Dry shampoo is the perfect foundation for backcombing and teasing your hair a little at the base. This will help get your hair up off your scalp so the oil won't be as apparent.
  • Instead of flat ironing or blow drying, embrace your hair's natural texture.
  • Curls love dirty hair. Add a little curl to your dirty hair. It'll help with a more voluminous look and your curls will stay longer.