Think back to the last time you showered. Did you see a lot of hair clogging up the drain? While hair loss from showering may seem concerning, you’re actually much more likely to lose hair if you don’t shower – or shower infrequently.
Hair shedding in the shower is normal and happens to everyone. However, when you don’t shower, dirt, grease, oil, and other unwanted particles accumulate on your skin and clog your hair follicles. If you use hair products, like dry shampoo or gel, the residue from these products will also accumulate on your scalp.
The combination of this build-up is extremely detrimental to hair follicles – even the healthiest ones. It can cause hair growth to slow or worsen pre-existing hair loss.
Can not washing hair cause it to fall out?
It’s unlikely that not washing your hair would cause it to fall out. You’d have to not wash your hair for a very long time – like months or years – before this started happening.
However, not washing hair can certainly cause and aggravate hair loss symptoms. This is particularly likely if you have pattern hair loss (also known as androgenic alopecia) because excess oil is more likely to build up on your scalp.
According to the book Androgenetic Alopecia From A to Z, this oily residue is known as sebum. Sebum is produced by sebaceous glands, which are almost always attached to hair follicles. The sebaceous glands of people with pattern hair loss produce too much sebum, triggering several issues related to hair loss.
The role of sebaceous glands in balding
Sebaceous glands have a number of beneficial functions. According to a review in the journal Dermatologic Therapy, they lubricate the skin and hair. Sebaceous glands also support the body’s ability to thermoregulate and help protect it from detrimental microbes. And in addition to all this, they act as endocrine micro-glands, synthesizing and secreting androgens and other hormones.
Like any other tissue or organ, sebaceous glands can become dysfunctional. A study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology says that in people with androgenic alopecia, this dysfunction is due to an overgrowth of these glands, which is likely why they produce too much sebum.
The presence of excess sebum changes the scalp microbiome. This makes it more likely to be colonized by detrimental bacteria and fungi, which is known as scalp dysbiosis. It’s one of the causes of hair follicle inflammation, which is known to be involved in the progression of pattern baldness.
According to studies in the journals Microorganisms and PLOS One, excessive amounts of different fungi and bacteria have been found on the scalps of people with pattern hair loss. If you don’t think you have androgenic alopecia but have noticed hair loss symptoms, you should know that dirty hair loss can also be related to scalp dysbiosis. According to articles in Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering and Current Problems in Dermatology, many different fungal and bacterial infections can cause hair loss, including tinea capitis, favus, folliculitis, and seborrheic dermatitis.
Does not showering cause dandruff?
Not showering can increase the populations of certain microbes on your scalp, potentially leading to dandruff. Dandruff is a common skin problem that makes your scalp dry and itchy and causes white, flaky skin to appear on your head. It typically occurs when your scalp microbiome is altered – reducing populations of beneficial bacteria and increasing populations of harmful bacteria and fungi.
Some of these microbes are the same ones likely to be found in excessive amounts on the scalps of people with pattern hair loss. This makes people with androgenic alopecia particularly prone to experiencing dandruff – especially if they aren’t showering regularly.
“Most dandruff studies have focused on Malassezia. There are 14 known species of Malassezia, with two – M. restricta and M. globosa – linked to skin diseases. But they’re not the only microbes living in your hair. Dandruff, which afflicts around half the world’s population, is more strongly linked to populations of two bacterial groups – Propionibacterium and Staphylococcus – than the Malassezia fungus.“
Shampoos can improve scalp health
Most people with serious scalp dysbiosis (bacterial and fungal overgrowth) need to talk to their doctor about medication options. But if your symptoms are mild and limited to issues like dandruff, irritation, or itchiness, you may be able to use a product like ketoconazole shampoo.
Ketoconazole, which is usually sold in concentrations of 1 percent and 2 percent, can help maintain a healthy scalp microbiome and resolve scalp conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and pityriasis versicolor. According to a study in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment, these conditions can be caused by Malassezia species, one of the same microbes found on the scalps of people with androgenic alopecia.
Ketoconazole also has the added benefit of being a dihydrotestosterone (DHT) blocker. DHT is an androgen and the primary hormone involved in the progression of androgenic alopecia. According to a study in Dermatology, ketoconazole may be as effective as 2 percent minoxidil in treating the pattern hair loss.
If you have androgenic alopecia, you can also consider using an FDA-approved hair loss treatment alongside ketoconazole. Low-level laser therapy devices and minoxidil, a medication that’s sold as a liquid serum and foam, can help stop hair loss and help you grow back thicker, stronger hair.
Does not showering cause hair loss?
Skipping the occasional shower isn’t going to make you lose hair. But showering infrequently will mean that your scalp is dirty for longer periods, making it more prone to scalp dysbiosis. Various types of bacteria and fungi have been associated with hair loss.
If you’re already seeing signs of balding – which for most people is caused by androgenic alopecia – you’re predisposed to excess sebum building up on your scalp. The buildup of this oil means that not showering is more likely to affect your skin microbiome. This can increase the amount of certain microbes found on your scalp, cause hair follicle inflammation, and worsen hair loss symptoms.
If you’re worried about losing hair when you shower, it’s okay to wash your hair less frequently. Most people only need to wash their hair two or three times per week. If you have androgenic alopecia, you may want to consider using a DHT-blocking shampoo or a medicated shampoo containing ketoconazole, which can help keep your scalp microbiome in good health.