When It’s Better to Have Dirty Hair

Aly Walansky
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Myth: Clean hair is better to work with when it comes to styling your hair.

FALSE. While we’re not recommending you become part of the great unwashed, embracing your second-day locks can be the perfect styling decision.

Freshly washed and dried hair may seem like the road to gorgeousness, but it isn’t nearly as easy to work with as hair that was washed a day or two ago. Clean and fresh hair is a little “too” perfect. Squeaky clean hair can slip out of pins and be rather rude to the style you are attempting to obtain. Even creating a braided or more intricate look at home will be a lot easier to manage if you do it on a day you haven’t washed your hair.

“When I’m getting ready for a wedding, photo shoot or fashion show, I always recommend my clients wash their hair the night before,” says Mia Silverio at Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa. “It’s true that natural oils do make it easier to sculpt and shape the hair. On the other hand, when hair is clean, it’s often slippery to work with, and usually requires more product in order to shape and create your desired style. If you’re working with dirty hair, it holds better with heated styling tools such as a curling iron,” says Silverio.

“The best styles for dirty hair are usually top knots, and messy braids because you need the added texture anyway. Just add some dry texture spray and pull up into an effortless updo,” says Judy McGuiness, stylist at Mizu new york salon.

In general, spreading your time between shampoos is just a wiser idea. “We often recommend that clients not wash their hair for three to four days. If clients are using the right products and blow drying their hair, their style can last at least that long. Overwashing the hair can actually make it more oily, particularly if using very hot water. The hot water strips moisture from the scalp, the scalp then goes into overdrive to replace the lost oils,” says Jonathan Elkhouri, master stylist and owner of Salon Khouri.

And, yes, the hair holds the style better when it is not freshly washed. “In fact, we ask some of our updo clients to come in with at least day old hair, whereas before, we would ask them to come with clean, dry hair,” says Elkhouri.

Dirty hair is especially better than clean hair for fishtail braids and braided crown styles. Damien Carney, Joico International’s artistic director, says that if the hair is too clean, this often makes it harder to control the braiding and overall effect. 

“When hair is too clean, it can be static-y, overly soft and hard to control. Hair can be slippery and often hard to braid and secure with a hair band or hair pins. Fresh clean hair often loses all the cool delicate textures that natural oils, humidity and moisture create. This is important, because texture is key when braiding. You want to look more like you’ve stepped off the runway than out of the salon… quick, cool, semi-undone and not overly perfect,” says Carney.

“Often when hair is ‘second day,’ the natural oils add subtle textures, kinks, waves, etc. can help to improve and create your braided look, since the hair is easier to control. Often, finer hair has more body or flexibility second-day. In this case, characteristics we often try to avoid are what we want: frizzy, thick, unruly hair is easier to control. The hair has settled and is easier to manage,” Carney says.

Hair should never look lifeless, flat to the head, greasy or grungy, Carney cautions. Greasy is not the look to go for when creating braids. There’s nothing sexy or modern about greasy hair. However, hair that’s been a little lived in? You can get a whole lot more life out of it.

Read more: You’re Doing it Wrong: Washing Your Hair