From Shampoo to Rinse: Expert Hair Stylist Techniques for Washing Your Hair Properly

As much as we love to hop into our shower and rush out after five minutes to clean and luscious hair, reality loves to hit us in the face with dandruff, product buildup, dandruff, and dry, itchy scalp! So that begs the question: are we washing our hair properly? To grab all the deets, we asked Celebrity Hair Stylist and Trichologist Helen Reavey from Act + Acre to give us her expert advice and tips for getting beautiful hair every time we wash! 

For our scalp care and health, check our previous article with Helen here!

Pre-Shower & Pre-Wash

Q: Let’s start with hard and soft water. What’s something to take note of with that?

Hard water contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, so you’ll find that it usually makes the scalp drier and hair more brittle. You’ll also get less foaming action when you shower with your products.

And then, with soft water, you don’t have those minerals that hard water does, so it’s technically better for your skin and hair. But you’re likely to get more product buildup in soft water areas. Especially if your scalp usually produces more oil, you’ll find it difficult to rinse your product. You might find something left in your hair afterward, or you get this greasy patch on the back of your hair due to not washing your hair properly. So if you’re living in a soft water area, I’d recommend rinsing for about sixty seconds longer than usual to ensure all hair products get washed off. 


Q: Are we supposed to shampoo our hair twice and are there advantages to that?

Yes! While it ultimately depends on your lifestyle, double cleansing is very important.

The first cleanse will remove any dirt and product buildup, while the second will cleanse your scalp properly and work to remove dead skin cells, balance out oils, and deliver nutrients to the hair follicle.

If you’re cleansing your hair every day, it’s unnecessary to double cleanse every time, but you’ll definitely want to double cleanse if you’re leaving your scalp or hair unwashed for two to three days. After all, imagine if you left your face unwashed for that long?

Q: Is there a go-to method to washing your hair properly?

When we typically get into the shower, we pour our product out and go straight onto the front crown of our head. So what happens is we’re getting this lovely area cleaned, and the whole area at the back is being missed regularly. Essentially, this causes product buildup and irritation to the scalp, which can lead to hair loss or other scalp conditions in the long term.

“When we typically get into the shower, we pour our product out and go straight onto the front crown of our head.” – Helen Reavey

Instead of going straight to the front crown, you’d first dispense your shampoo onto your palm, add water, and emulsify it to get a nice, creamy lather. You don’t need to produce many bubbles, but the shampoo should look like a nice and spreadable lather. Then you’re going to part your hair and start at the nape of the neck since the front crown will always get washed.

Once you get the lather foamed up on your scalp, let it sit there for a second or two before rinsing it. As you’re rinsing that out, the water will help move the lather down and cleanse the rest of your hair.

And the key here is focusing on the scalp. You’re always cleansing your scalp during the shampoo step, not your hair.

Then for the second step, you’ll get a little more shampoo and emulsion into your palms. Then you’re going to the temple area and spread it to the top of your hair. So you’ve covered the whole scalp area.

And you’ll find that your hair won’t get a good lather until the second cleanse; that’s how you know you’re washing your hair properly.

Q: Are you using the same amount of shampoo for both steps?

Yes. But, by the second step, you’ll probably use less product after you rinse the shampoo since it’s easier to spread the lather on when the scalp is clean and free of buildup.

Q: Is there a washing method that you think is underrated that everyone should know about?

I’m seeing people talking about cleansing their hair upside down in the shower lately, and I love this. So you tip your hair upside-down cause it brings the blood flow to the hair follicles at the same time. You’ll create more volume, but you’ll get a deeper clean. And also, because the shower head usually beats off the crown area a lot when you typically shower, the upside-down shower trend can give that part of the scalp a little break.

Q: Do any of these methods help with anyone struggling with hair loss and irritated scalp?

Yes, I’d say focus on washing your hair properly because product buildup and scalp irritation can happen when not thoroughly washing and rinsing off. 

Q: What are some tips on conditioners?

I’d say use a conditioner or a hair mask from mid-length to the tips of your hair. The mid-length area is around either ear level or just slightly above. And sometimes, especially for dry hair, I’ll take remnants leftover on my hair and lightly go over the top.

But if you have dandruff, don’t go anywhere near the roots. That’s because these conditioning products and leave-in treatments have lipids in them, and that’s what the bacteria feed on – they love it!

Post-Wash and Treatment

Q: After showering, is there a way that we’re supposed to be drying your hair?

I love a microfiber hair towel because it’s so gentle and doesn’t frizz or break the hair. When you dry your hair, you want it to get the roots around 30-50% dry so you can comb it out. I usually leave my hair in my microfiber hair towel, finish my skincare routine, and then comb out the hair afterward when it’s semi-dry. Later, I’ll either air dry or blast the roots dry on medium heat whenever I rush out.

You don’t want to blast your hair with cold or heat – nothing too extreme.

Don’t worry about the ends; twist them to allow them to dry naturally. The action also helps to compact the hair, so there’s less damage done to the hair, and allows it to flatten the cuticle. When the cuticle gets lifted, that’s how you get that frizz and dullness in the hair.

Q: I also find that if I leave my hair damp, it gets more itchy. Why is that?

If you have any scalp condition and go to bed with wet roots or wet hair, you can worsen that condition because you’re creating a damp environment and a breeding ground for bacteria to grow. So it’s better to medium-dry the roots to get that moisture out. Give your scalp a bit more TLC when drying the roots!

Q: What do you recommend for treatments? 

If you’ve got a dry scalp, you might want to use an oil treatment, especially during the winter months or when you need more hydration.

Suppose you have an oily scalp and are looking for something to help remove buildup, especially in between washes. In that case, you can use a Scalp Detox or treatments formulated with chemical exfoliants. These products usually have ingredients that can gently calm, cool, and exfoliate the scalp at the same time. They also contain the most incredible ingredients that can provide anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties for your scalp. For me, I love salicylic acid, but there’s also papaya extract and rosemary that can benefit as well.

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