What actually happens to your hair if you don't wash it?

18th Jan 19 | Beauty

Game Of Thrones actor Sophie Turner found out the implications first-hand.

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Acting might seem like a pretty glamorous profession, but it’s not always that way. In fact, sometimes you might find yourself in one of the most successful shows on TV, but not actually allowed to wash your hair.

This is what happened to Sophie Turner – otherwise known as Sansa Stark from Game Of Thrones. Naturally blonde, Turner used to dye her hair red for the show. For the first few seasons, she was allowed to keep her hair silky and clean because her character was aristocratic. But then, she’s told InStyle: “Towards season 5 they started asking me to not wash my hair and it was really disgusting.”

Luckily, now she wears a wig so she can wash it whenever she wants. However, Turner says: “For a couple of years I was living with pretty greasy hair,” which the 22-year-old describes as: “Really itchy! Also, we would have the snow machines going so we would have little snow paper particles that would get stuck in the grease. It was disgusting.”

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The question is – what actually happens to your hair if you don’t wash it for stretches of time? You’ve probably heard the old wives’ tale that your locks will start self-cleaning after a few weeks, but we’ve never quite been brave enough to try it out ourselves.

Instead, it’s just a little bit easier (and less itchy) to ask Philip Kingsley Trichologist Anabel Kingsley for the low-down.

What happens to your scalp if you stop washing your hair?

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Kingsley disagrees with the idea that you can train your hair to need less washing, the same way you can’t train your skin to need less cleaning.

“Your scalp is skin. It is a living tissue that sweats, produces oils and sheds dead skin cells. Like the skin on your face, or underarms, you cannot train it to need less washing,” she explains.

“Your hair, once grown, is dead tissue. You cannot train your hair to do anything! Your hair is also exposed to the same environmental pollution as the skin on your face.”

What are the long-term implications?

In the short-term, stopping your regular shampoos is likely to make your hair greasy and probably a bit whiffy – but there are more serious long-term implications.

“Your scalp can really suffer health-wise if you are not cleansing it often enough,” Kingsley says. “For instance, you are likely to get itching, flaking, excessive oiliness and general irritation. This can have a knock-on effect on your hair, as scalp health is closely interlinked to hair growth.”

So how often should you actually wash your tresses?

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Bad news for anyone who’s particularly lazy when it comes to the process of washing, conditioning and drying your hair, because Kingsley recommends you shampoo daily or every other day. In fact, she laughs at the idea that frequent shampooing makes your hair oilier: “You might as well say that the more you shower, the dirtier you get.” So that’s a resounding ‘no’ to the idea of your hair self-cleaning.

However, she does add: “If washing your hair more means you are heat-styling more often, you may encounter problems with the condition of your hair. It is about finding a balance. As a general rule, do not leave more than three days between shampoos.”

Kingsley wants us to start treating our scalps with as much care we do the skin on our faces. “Shampooing daily to every other day helps to keep the scalp healthy and clear of flakes, sweat and excess oils. In terms of your hair, shampooing removes dust, dirt and old product,” she explains. “Think of hair products as you would make-up. You wouldn’t leave foundation or blush sitting on your face for days – and nor should you leave styling mousses or hairsprays on your hair for an extended period.”

© Press Association 2019

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