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Stylist-Approved Hair Tips to Help You Break the Shampoo Cycle

“Lather, rinse, repeat” has been engrained in our minds since childhood, and while shampoo is great for eliminating dirt and buildup, it can also remove the natural oils needed to keep our hair breakage-free, healthy, and conditioned (read: the keys to moisture and shine). Not only does unwashed hair improve the look and feel of locks, it also retains color longer—saving your highlights and your budget—and speeds up your morning routine.

But for an everyday washer, breaking the shampoo cycle can de difficult. So we asked some of the biggest names in hair care to spill their tips for weaning yourself off the bottle. Read on—your strands will thank you. (Could these 8 Hair-Washing Mistakes You May Be Making be sabotaging your strands?)

Start Small
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If you’re used to lathering up every day, don’t expect to quit cold turkey. Try washing every other day for a week, then every third day the next week, and so on, until you’re only shampooing once a week, recommends Chris McMillan Salon colorist and dpHUE creative director Justin Anderson, who counts Jennifer Aniston, Miley Cyrus, and Leighton Meester among his clients. “It’s a little daunting at first,” he says, “but you will quickly realize that you don’t need that everyday wash you’ve become accustomed to.”

Know What to Expect
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Whether your hair is curly or straight, course or fine, count on a transition period while your scalp adjusts. Hair that's washed daily over-produces oil to compensate for the dryness caused by shampoo. So when you first break that routine, your hair may look oilier than normal, but it will “feel softer and have noticeable shine,” says Aveda global artistic director for textured hair Tippi Shorter, who has worked with Jennifer Hudson and Lady Gaga. (Got straight hair problems? We've got answers.)

Shower Every Day
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Just because you shouldn’t shampoo every day doesn’t mean you have to skip your daily shower. If you can’t stand the thought of leaving the house without a clean crop of hair, you can trick yourself into that just-washed feeling. Anderson suggests rinsing and scrubbing your scalp sans shampoo. And if you still crave some product, “try replacing your shampoo with conditioner,” says Edgar Parra, a Sally Hershberger stylist who has worked on Lana Del Rey, Olivia Wilde, and Lucy Liu. “Your conditioner still has a cleaning agent, it just doesn’t lather like shampoo.”

Experiment with Style
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One major perk of passing on the ’poo is how easily dirty hair holds style. Touch up unwashed locks with a blow dryer, flatiron, or curling iron, or test out a new updo. “If you’re active and outdoors in the summer, consider tying up a high bun with a cloth headband to keep hair off your neck,” says Jamie Suarez, creative director for Regis Corporation. “If you need to transition to indoors, simply use a quick dry shampoo spritz, tie your hair in a loose ponytail with the same headband, and you’re off!” (Learn 7 Ways to Extend a Blowout.)

Find the Right Products
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Dry shampoo is life-changing when it comes to perfecting the unwashed look, our experts agree. Their go-tos include DESIGNLINE’s Dry Shampoo Hair Refresher, Sally Hershberger’s 24K Think Big Dry Shampoo, and Serge Normant Meta Revive Dry Shampoo. Tempted to test a Pinterest-y DIY method like vinegar, honey, mayonnaise, coconut oil, eggs, or baking soda? Think twice. “These items are not pH balanced for hair and skin, and can, over time, damage hair more than shampooing—and they may have no cleansing benefit at all,” Suarez cautions. (PS: Find out How to Use Dry Shampoo the right way.)

Don’t Be Afraid to Sweat
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Wanting to avoid shampoo is no reason to skip the gym (nice try). “If you work out a lot, you can cleanse your hair more often, though not necessarily shampoo it,” reminds Suarez. “There is a difference between products that cleanse and shampoo.” Parra loves WEN, Purely Perfect, and Unwash as shampoo alternatives for gym-goers, while a simple headband “will keep hair off your face and from getting too sweaty,” adds John Frieda international creative consultant Harry Josh. 

Be Patient
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Change is tough, especially when it involves breaking a potentially decades-long routine. But be patient. “You’ll notice soon that your hair is fuller, shiner, and generally healthier looking,” says Josh, who has styled A-listers like Cameron Diaz, Reese Witherspoon, and Leonardo DiCaprio. The best way to make it through the transition: trial and error. “Take thoughtful notes about what you’re doing—which products you use, how much you use, and how long you go without washing,” he advises. “When you find something that works, stick with it.”

Don’t Swear Off Shampoo Forever
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Even if you’re convinced at this point to skip the shampoo next time you’re in the shower, it may be hard to cut it out of your life altogether. So when you do lather up, our experts suggest sulfate-free washes that target your main hair concern, whether it be preserving color, creating volume, or taming frizz. “Don’t be afraid to mix and match products,” Josh says. “The key to any great end style starts in the shower.”

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