How Often Should Seniors Wash Their Hair? (NOT Every Day!)

Occupational Therapist
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There is no need for older adults to worry about washing their hair daily. A few times per week is more than sufficient for most seniors and elderly folks.

How Often Should Seniors Wash Their Hair
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Do you know how often older adults should wash their hair? Do you know how often ANYONE should be washing their hair? To make your life a little less complex, it’s not as regular as you think.

This article will discuss how often seniors should be washing their hair (supported by the latest research), alternatives to traditional hair washing, and ways to keep hair fresh between washings.

How Often Should Older Adults Wash Their Hair?

In general, there is no “one size fits all” recommendation for how often adult men and women of any age should wash their hair.

The average person can usually get away with shampooing their hair 2-3 days per week and be just fine. Individuals, such as seniors, with more delicate or thinner hair could shampoo their hair only once per week. 

During our younger years, the scalp produces an oily substance called sebum that works its way down through the hair. As we age, sebum production decreases, and the scalp becomes drier.

how often should seniors wash their hair scalp
The scalp becomes drier as we age.

Since most of us wash our hair to get rid of the oil, seniors have less reason to worry about it as much. In fact, over-shampooing fine and non-oily hair can make the hair dry and brittle.

So, rule of thumb. If your hair tends to be on the more oily side, then you may be washing it more often throughout the week. 

Alternatives to Traditional Hair Washing 

For some seniors, traditional hair washing can be tricky for numerous reasons, including:

  • Reduced stamina and strength in the arms
  • Decreased range of motion in the shoulders
  • Poor finger dexterity and fine motor coordination
  • Poor circulation and sensation through the arms and hands
  • Poor core strength to sit up for hair washing in the shower or tub
  • Reduced cognition or awareness of personal hygiene

Fortunately, there are alternatives to popular hair washing techniques so seniors can still get the job done as independently as possible. Here are a few methods:

  • No-rinse shampoos: Rub a cleaning solution through your hair without the hassle of washing it. Leave-in cleaners are helpful for seniors with extreme weakness or who are bedridden.
  • Sprays: Sprays also help eliminate the need for the physical exertion involved in traditional showers and hair-washing tasks.
  • Hair-washing in the sink: There’s no need to climb into the shower or undress if you have the joint range to lean over and wash your hair in the sink.
  • Hand-held shower heads: Bring the water to you for more control in the shower.
  • Portable hair-washing basins: Bring the water basin to you, in or outside the bathroom. Basins allow hair-washing in a reclined position without needing to get undressed.
how often should seniors wash their hair keep fresh
Make sure to keep your hair healthy and detangled.

Ways to Keep Hair “Fresh” Between Washings

If you are worried about keeping your hair smelling good or looking kempt between washes, here are a few ways to keep up the routine between washings:

  • Invest in a hair-smoothing, fragrant hairspray
  • Keep up on regular rinses without shampoos
  • Use a wet, gently comb or brush to keep the hair untangled
  • Massage your scalp with a soft scalp massager or baby brush
  • Keep long hair up in a loose ponytail or bun during physical activity
  • If you struggle with tangled hair, consider incorporating detangler oil into your hair care routine. 

The important thing is to keep your hair healthy and detangled. A little dirt or oil does not harm your hair or overall health. 

Summary and Final Recommendations

Don’t stress about washing your hair daily as an older adult. You should wash your hair less since the oils in your scalp significantly decrease production.

If you are a senior with health issues that impede your ability to use traditional hair washing techniques, consider the alternatives to find one that fits your preferences and needs.

If you have complex hair needs (curly, frazzled, tangled), consult a licensed stylist for additional advice about properly caring for your hair and keeping your locks healthy and strong. 

References:

  1. Gumaer, D. (2019). Hair washing for elderly adults. Griswold Home Care. https://www.griswoldhomecare.com/blog/2019/december/hair-washing-for-elderly-adults/
  2. Birch, J. (2022). How often should I shampoo my hair? Radiance by WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/how-often-wash-hair
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Meredith Chandler, OTR/L

Meredith has worked as an occupational therapist for 9 years and as a content writer for 6 years. She primarily works with the geriatric population, focusing on their rehabilitative needs and instructing caregivers and family members for home care. Her specialties include ADL training, neurological re-education, functional mobility training, adaptive equipment education, and wheelchair assessment and mobility training. She is a painter, a musician, and a mother of 4 who loves spending time with her family,

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