It’s long overdue, but guys are starting to realize how much damage over-washing does to their hair—especially with traditional shampoo. The good news is that a lot of dudes no longer have poofy “shampoo hair.”
The bad news? Many of them have swung to the other extreme: they stopped washing their hair—permanently.
That might seem absurd, but it’s picking up traction in communities like the No-Poo/Natural Haircare subreddit, which has more than a quarter-million members. If you scour the archives, you'll see guys talking about putting all sorts of bizarre stuff in their hair like apple cider vinegar, baking soda, bananas, and even raw eggs. Are they onto something?
It’s true that your hair evolved with natural oils to protect against the elements, and your ancestors survived without any fancy shampoos to wash their manes. But let’s not let that obscure the fact that they also dealt with lice and matted hair, not to mention the horrific stench of body odor mixed with dirt.
Read on to see seven gross things that happen if you don’t wash your hair—and more importantly, how you can maintain natural-looking flow without compromising basic hygiene.
Going a long time without washing your hair can cause a buildup of a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia on your scalp. Over time, this leads to a layer of dead skin cells that shed from your head in the form of oily, yellow-ish dandruff flakes. Dandruff can also make your scalp red, scaly, and itchy.
Note: dandruff isn’t the same thing as a dry scalp, which produces a different type of flake that’s small, dry, and white.
If the hair follicles on your scalp get clogged or irritated from a buildup of sweat or hair products, you can develop a common skin condition called folliculitis. This is when the hair follicles get infected or inflamed, causing red or white-headed pimples that leak pus or blood if you pop them. Fun times.
Folliculitis typically goes away after a few weeks, but if you refuse to wash your hair it could become a chronic issue, especially if you work out and sweat a lot.
3. Greasy Hair
We’ll preface this by pointing out that oil (sebum) isn’t your hair’s enemy. In fact, you need a certain amount of sebum to protect your hair, give it structure, and stabilize your scalp’s pH balance. But if you forgo washing your hair, excess oil can accumulate, giving you that slimy, shiny look.
We’re not talking about dapper Don Draper shiny. We’re talking about that guy you knew in high school who looked like he dunked his head in bacon grease every morning.
Pro tip: co-washing is a great way to rinse away excess grime without making your hair dry and brittle.
4. Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs tend to be more common in sensitive areas like your neck, eyebrows, and below the belt. But you might start to notice them crop up on your head if you stop washing your hair.
That’s because a buildup of sebum or hair products creates a barrier over the top layer of skin, making hair grow back into the skin. Ingrown hairs aren’t harmful, but they can cause tiny bumps that are a pain (literally) to get rid of.
5. Gross Odor
Excessively oily hair is a magnet for odors, whether from your gym, the pizza parlor, or that pillowcase you haven’t washed in weeks. And don’t get us started on airplane seats. Basically, your hair turns into a time capsule, carrying remnants of every odor you encountered.
There’s also your everyday body odor, sweat, and bacteria that fester in your hair. Left untreated, it can start to smell sour or mildewy, especially if you have thick hair which traps odors more easily.
The longer you go without washing, the worse the stench gets. Even if you shower regularly, it can be tough to get rid of lingering smells with water alone. We’ve heard from dozens of guys desperate for a shampoo alternative because their partners couldn’t stand the smell of their hair.
6. Hair Loss
Losing hair isn’t “nasty,” per se, but it’s definitely problematic if you cherish your mane. Most guys associate hair loss with old age, but chronic under-washing may be a culprit as well.
In rare cases, excess sebum can harden over the hair follicles, causing blockage and inflammation. As a result, the hair might fall out faster than it’s able to grow back.
Keep in mind that it’s normal to shed up to 100 hairs a day. But if your hair loss becomes noticeable, talk to a dermatologist to see what’s the matter.
Keep Your Hair Clean In Its Natural State
You have every right to turn your back on Big Shampoo and the neon gel they pumped into our scalps for decades. But you shouldn’t have to pull a 180 and never wash your hair again.
That’s why we created Modern Mammals: a shampoo alternative that gets rid of grime without stripping away the healthy oils your scalp likes (and needs). Think of it like paleo, but for your head.
Don’t take our word for it, though—you can read hundreds of reviews from guys who quit shampoo (without quitting washing their hair).