Confirmed: ‘Rinse and Repeat’ Is Not a Lie Told to Sell More Shampoo

Rachel Krause

long shiny hair Confirmed: Rinse and Repeat Is Not a Lie Told to Sell More Shampoo

Everything I know I learned from “Lizzie McGuire,” a Disney show that ran in the prime time of my tween-hood: Skipping one meal doesn’t make you anorexic. You shouldn’t be afraid to tell your mom you want a bra. Your friends will always be there for you. Being a bad girl all the time is hard work.

But my most important takeaway from the teen classic came from the babely, boneheaded Ethan Craft, and his beautiful, beautiful head of hair. He shared his hair-care secret with Lizzie’s dad, played by Robert Carradine of the Carradine family, following a brief interrogation regarding his conditioner use. “I’ll fill you in,” Ethan says. “You know how on the shampoo bottle it has directions, right? Lather, rinse, repeat?”

The clincher: “I don’t repeat.” Ethan Craft did not repeat.

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Maybe that stuck with me for longer than it should have (it definitely stuck with me for longer than it should have), but Ethan, as well as other similar authorities, confirmed my conviction that the less frequently one washed their hair, the better, and I ran with it for about 10 years. Occasionally it would feel rather dirty in the scalp area, even after washing, but nothing a little dry shampoo couldn’t fix. And more dry shampoo the next day, and the day after that.

Recently, a hair-care professional told me I was wrong. “How often do you wash your hair?” celebrity stylist Fabio Scalia asked me as I drank a glass of lemon water in his salon, which is the only place I am ever given lemon water. “Once or twice a week,” I answered proudly. “Very good,” he said, “and do you shampoo once or twice?” “Once,” I responded, still proud. Then he said the word no. Huh? At first I had trouble understanding; people rarely tell me no. Confused, I asked him to clarify, and he gently delivered the news: I should be shampooing twice. Ethan Craft had done me wrong.

“Ideally, you should only wash your hair every three or four days,” Scalia says, “and when you wash less frequently, you need to do a deeper shampoo. With the first shampoo, lather won’t form because your hair is dirty, with toxins, sweat, products, and other impurities. The second shampoo lathers and ensure that there’s nothing left over, so the hair is really clean.” If you don’t shampoo twice, the hair doesn’t get fully clean; it’ll get oily faster, and you won’t get the healthy natural shine of clean hair.

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Considering the fact that washing your hair daily has fallen out of favor pretty significantly in the past few years—I know maybe two women who shampoo every day—this insight applies to many, not just a person like myself who takes advice from characters on television shows and sticks to it for upward of a decade.

Shampooing twice is a real necessity for some people, but like most things, it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. If you shampoo every day, you should wash just once with a super-gentle formula, like Oribe Ultra Gentle Shampoo ($33), and if you have curly or unruly hair, you can stick to the single step. A little oil leftover, Scalia says, makes hair less frizzy and “big” and therefore easier to manage. But for the rest of us, the rinse-and-repeat cycle, Scalia says, “gets the hair and scalp clean, exfoliates the skin on your scalp, normalizes pH, and prevents oil from clogging the hair follicle”—and a clogged hair follicle is a hair follicle that hair cannot continue to grow out of, so hair loss can, and does, occur. What now, Ethan?