How to Actually Shampoo Your Hair the *Right* Way

Closeup of a medium brown braid against a white background belonging to the daughter of Katie Dunlavy, Lularoe boutique owner, of The Pearl Pages.

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me for the “secret” to healthy hair, I’d be writing this from my private jet. Unfortunately, there is no one secret answer that’ll instantly transform you into Blake Lively. We’ve all got different hair goals and types. But one thing we do ALL need for healthy hair? A healthy scalp. And a healthy scalp starts with shampooing…the RIGHT way.

Now I know you’re probably thinking, “Katie, I’ve been washing my hair all my life, I think I got this.” Hey, maybe you do and that’s GREAT…but as a professional hairstylist, I can tell you that I’ve worked with a lot of people who don’t! So before I start talking favorite products, healthy hair diet, styling tools and all of the other hair things, let’s go back to basics: properly shampooing your hair.

Step One: Brush your hair. I like a combo bristle brush, but use what you have. Brushing your hair is so good for it in general, but brushing pre-shampoo also prevents knots and breakage and helps stimulate that scalp. It’s all about the scalp!

Step Two: Completely saturate your hair with warm water. This will open up your pores, making your scalp more receptive to the products you apply, and make washing much easier. Go ahead and get your hair good and wet. Hang out under the showerhead for a little longer than you would usually. Enjoy it!

Step Three: Onto the shampoo. First, don’t use a ton of it. Overusing shampoo is a problem I see a lot, especially with teenagers. I always recommend a “prewash”: use a nickel-size amount and do a quick scalp scrub. This is VERY important if you don’t wash your hair frequently. Rinse well. Then you’re ready to start the real washing.

I use a quarter-size amount of shampoo here, but you might need slightly more or less depending on how much hair you have. WASH YOUR SCALP. Forget about the rest of your hair and focus on the scalp. Did I mention It’s all about the scalp?? Use your fingertips and massage in circular motions. I start at the front and work to the back of my head. Hit the hot spots hard—the hairline, nape, behind the ears, and crown are prime spots for buildup.

Now here’s an important note: you really DON’T have to wash the rest of your hair! The middle and ends of your hair are naturally drier and can use the oil to protect it. If you do choose to wash the rest of your hair, don’t just “mush” it around. Mushing it causes unnecessary matting and breakage. You want to be sure to pull the shampoo through the ends of your hair. Try working in sections if you’ve got a lot.

This washing process should take 4 minutes minimum. I don’t care if you have a pixie or the finest hair on earth, if you’re washing your hair in under 4 minutes, you need to SLOW DOWN. 

Step Four: RINSE. RINSE. RINSE. Please for love of it all, RINSE your hair thoroughly! This is also one of the problems I see frequently. Scalp buildup happens when you don’t rinse completely. Scrub your scalp as you rinse to get all of the dead skin and product off your head and then RINSE! RINSE! RINSE!

RINSE THAT HAIR!!!! RINSE IT AGAIN!!! (Can you tell this step is an important one??)

Step Five: Time to condition. Conditioner, unlike shampoo, is all about the ends of your hair. I use a quarter-size and start at my ends, combing through my hair with my fingers. When I get near my head, I lightly use what’s left to finger through the top of my hair. DO NOT PUT CONDITIONER ON YOUR SCALP! We just got all of that off of your scalp, don’t add more.

Step Six: MORE RINSE RINSE RINSING! Never skimp on that rinse. Dividing your hair into sections helps. When I rinse conditioner from my own hair, I separate it into two sections. When I rinse Iley’s hair, I divide it into four sections. If you want to be an over-achiever, rinsing with cool water can help prevent dullness. As we all know, heat wreaks havoc on our hair. Using cool water helps seal in all that conditioning goodness you just added to your hair in the shower.

And there you have it: washing your way to healthy hair in six steps! The key is to focus on scrubbing that scalp and rinsing everything thoroughly. Many of my clients who use the same professional products I use say they can never achieve the “salon feel” of a good wash at home. I have zero doubts that it’s all in the extra scrubbing and rinsing. 

So tell me—did you learn anything? Was this helpful at all? Ask me anything about washing your hair down in the comments! Next time we’ll talk more about products and tools.



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