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How to properly wash your hair man looking up at his hair
 /  Grooming /  Hair Care

How to Properly Wash Your Hair: 5 Rules All Men Should Follow

David has been covering men's style and grooming topics for The Adult Man as a writer and photographer since 2020. We asked David to sum himself up in four sentences, and here it is. Serial learner. Aspiring wordsmith. Bourbon enthusiast. Jack of some trades. Read full bio.

Last Updated: Feb 23, 2024
12 min read
Key Takeaways

Washing your hair properly as a man comes down to several rules of thumb: use a product that’s right for your hair and scalp environment, always condition after you shampoo, wash your hair every other day at most, don’t use more product than you need, and stay away from synthetic cleaners with sulfates.

Since I was a kid I’ve had several unspoken rules about how to wash my hair:

  1. Wash your hair every day.
  2. The more suds, the better.
  3. Dedicated conditioning products are for girls.
  4. 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioners are awesome.
  5. 3-in-1 shampoo, conditioner, and body wash products are superior products for superior men.

After all, this is washing your hair we’re talking about. If a pot is dirty, you clean it with soap. It doesn’t matter what soap, just soap that removes grease.

Washing your hair works the same way, right?


Your hair isn’t a dirty pot, and when we shampoo, this cleansing action is meant to remove dirt and grease from your scalp as well. So, you need a product that washes your hair and also gently cleanses your scalp, rather than scouring it and leaving your skin dry.

I’m ashamed to admit that I only learned recently how to properly wash my hair, and that those 2-in-1 and 3-in-1 shower products that look so temptingly affordable on the Walmart shelves should be avoided like the plague. 

Since I’m sure there are guys out there with unspoken ideas of how to wash their hair that resemble my list above, let’s set the record straight and find out how to do it right.

In this article, we’ll cover five actual rules for how to properly wash your hair so you can get those vibrant, flowing locks you’ve always wanted.

How to Wash Your Hair Properly as a Man: 5 Rules to Follow

1. Use a Product that’s Meant for Your Hair Environment

Black Man Using Geologie Cowash

The first and most important rule to follow is using a product that’s meant for your hair and scalp. 

If you have curly hair, it’s harder for your scalp’s natural oils to travel the length of your hair and properly moisturize each strand, which can lead to dry and frizzy hair. Thus, you’ll want to use a moisturizing shampoo. 

If you have thinning or fine hair, you’ll want a volumizing shampoo that brings some of your youthful, healthy hair days back.

Guys with dry scalps or dandruff should use shampoos that moisturize their scalp while also gently cleaning their hair.

See where I’m going with this?

If you’re after a product that functions as a skincare product for your scalp and is also appropriate for a host of hair types, I recommend Geologie’s new Co-Wash

Geologie cooling hair co wash tea tree with aloe

Don’t know what co-wash is? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

The term “co-wash” comes from a hair care trend where you wash your hair with conditioner on the days that you’re not shampooing. This helps to keep your hair moisturized while also removing dirty and grease, but without stripping healthy oils from your hair.

Geologie CoWash in Hands
Geologie Cooling Co-Wash

Geologie is primarily a skincare company, and as such their Co-Washes target your scalp first. In their own words, “Hair care starts with scalp care.”

These Co-Washes aren’t shampoo and they’re also not conditioner, and they clean through the friction of spreading the product through your hair and to your scalp.

Geologie cooling hair co wash avocado with coconut

The best part? Since they’re not shampoo these products are appropriate for all hair types, and they also help condition your hair and scalp in the cleaning process.

Geologie Co-Washes
(Get 50% off after taking Geologie's quiz until 5/22)

If you’re after a product that functions as a skincare product for your scalp and is also appropriate for a host of hair types, I recommend Geologie’s new Co-Wash. The best part? Since they’re not shampoo these products are appropriate for all hair types, and they also help condition your hair and scalp in the cleaning process.

Check Price

2. Always Condition After you Shampoo

Man in Shower Washing Hair

If you’re still using a traditional shampoo to clean your hair, make sure you use a conditioner after. 

Most shampoos use sulfates to create a rich lather, which then lifts the dirt and grease out of your scalp and hair. 

This is great in the sense that your hair is technically clean afterwards, but these shampoos actually clean your hair too much and strip out the good oils that keep your hair moisturized and looking glossy. 

Thus, you need a way to get your hair moisturized and nourished again, which is where conditioners come in. 

Do I suspect this to be an elaborate ploy on the part of big shampoo and soap companies to make us spend more money? No comment.

In any case, if you don’t want your hair to resemble a haystack, always use conditioner after you shampoo. It’s not just for girls.

3. Wash Your Hair Every Other Day at Most

Black man in shower smiling

If you recall, my first rule of washing my hair was getting that shampoo up in there on the daily. This is bad practice.

Too much washing will not only make your hair dry and brittle, but can also lead to frizziness, a dry scalp, and faded hair color. 

It’s recommended that you wash your hair every other day or every third day. This keeps healthy oil in your hair and gives it time to nourish and keep that mane smooth and glossy. 

Man shampooing hair reverse shot

Granted, these are rules of thumb. If you have a particularly sweaty workout or are the direct recipient of a pigeon air strike, wash your hair even if you did the day before. A few days of back-to-back washing won’t lead to a Donald Trump combover.

Scalps that are used to being shampooed every day often overproduce oil to get at least some nourishment to your hair before it’s all stripped out again. 

Because of this, you may be uncomfortable or feel oily for the first week or two after making the switch to washing your hair every other day, but your scalp will scale back the production of oil quickly.

Then, it’ll be easy to go two or three days between shampoo sessions.

4. Don’t Use More Product than Necessary

Man holding shampoo bottle

I get it. The compulsion to whip your hair up into a Ferris Beuler-style mohawk with shampoo will always be there. But just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. 

Many guys have asked how much shampoo or conditioner to use, and the answer depends on a number of things. For instance, how well does the product lather naturally, how much water are you using, how thick is your hair, how much hair do you have, and even the water temperature.

Man squirting shampoo bottle downwards

Because of this, the general consensus is to start with a nickel-sized amount of shampoo, work it through your hair, and add more if needed.

When it comes to conditioner, it’s best practice to lightly apply this a half inch above your scalp, and pull it towards the ends. Conditioner can clog the pores on your scalp, so it’s best to avoid that area if possible. 

If you’re working with a product like Geologie’s Co-Wash, there’s no need to practice this conditioner method. You can go gangbusters with the Co-Wash all through your hair and especially on your scalp. It’s encouraged, actually.

5. Stay away from Synthetic Shampoos with Sulfates

Depositphotos 213232036 L

As I explained earlier, shampoos with sulfates can strip out healthy oils from your hair and cause excess oil production. Many of the shampoos that contain these sulfates also contain other cleaning chemicals that are best to avoid. 

How do you know if your shampoo has sulfates?

Two of the most common sulfates in shampoos are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate—if you see these on the back of your shampoo bottle, find a different one. 

Hair Product Detail Geologie

In fact, this is another area where Geologie’s Co-Washes shine. These gentle hair cleaners are made without sulfates and other harsh chemicals, and contain natural ingredients like tea tree oil, aloe vera, coconut oil, and Vitamin B5.

How to Properly Wash Your Hair with Dandruff

Man with dandruff on shoulder

Ah, dandruff.

We’ve probably all struggled with this pesky, flaky scalp issue at one time or another, and remember those days of white-flecked, dry hair with a shudder. 

If you’re currently struggling with it, it’s important to know that there’s a proper way to wash your hair when you have dandruff.

A random Google search will bring up a wild array of dandruff treatments, like pouring apple cider vinegar on your head, but I recommend a more tried and true method

Man in shower shampooing hair serious face

When you wash your hair, lather up twice. On the second lather, leave the shampoo in your hair for five minutes before rinsing it out. 

How frequently you should shampoo to control dandruff depends on your situation. Stick to every other day to start, but wash more frequently if you feel that you need it. 

Contrary to popular belief, dandruff is not caused by a dry scalp. Many people who thought this have washed their hair less frequently in an attempt to have their natural oils moisturize their scalp, but this isn’t the issue. 

Instead, wash your hair and scalp as I recommended above, and switch to a dandruff shampoo if necessary.

6 Common Hair Washing Mistakes Men Make

Now that you know how to properly wash your hair, it’s worth looking at some common mistakes men make while washing so you can avoid them too.

1. Using the Wrong Product for Your Hair Environment

Shampoo bottles next to towel

If you’ve got a dry, itchy scalp and you’re using a moisture-controlling shampoo, you’re doing it all wrong. Use a shampoo that best compliments your hair and scalp. 

If you’re not sure what that would be, or generally have healthy and normal hair, Geologie’s Co-Wash products are awesome for all hair types and great for nourishing your scalp as well.

2. Overwashing Your Hair

Washing your hair every day is too often. This can lead to excess oil production and dry, brittle hair. I recommend washing every other day, or every third day.

3. Using Hot Water

Man in shower with back turned

I haven’t jumped on the cold shower train yet so I won’t be personally practicing this tip, but I’ve included it for those of you who enjoy pain. 

Similar to overwashing, steaming hot water can strip away the natural oils from your hair and scalp. It’s recommended to use cold or lukewarm water when washing, but that’s asking a lot in my opinion.

4. Skipping on Conditioner

Since most shampoos strip out the oil from your hair and scalp, you need a way to put that healthy moisture back in. That’s why it’s important to condition your hair every time you use shampoo, no exceptions.

And no, using a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner doesn’t count.

5. Using too much Shampoo

Tattooed man squirting shampoo on his head

Most guys are using way too much shampoo. Not only is this wasteful of the product and your money, you’re probably overcleaning your scalp and hair. 

If you have short to medium-length hair, I recommend that you start with a dime or nickel-sized amount of shampoo. For medium to long hair, try a quarter-sized amount of shampoo, and for very long hair start with a half-dollar.

6. Skipping the Scalp

Closeup of man in shower with shampoo in hair

You’re a guy, you’ve got lots of things to do and football to watch, and showering is one of those things you just do quickly.

Unfortunately, lots of guys end up only washing their hair and not scrubbing their scalp. The shampoo making brief contact with your head isn’t enough. It’s recommended that you spend three minutes scrubbing your scalp, no matter your hair type. 

This sounds like an aggressive amount of time, so just aim for three minutes of scrubbing and you’ll likely be better off than you were before.

If you’re worried about having shampoo in your hair for too long and it drying out, Geologie’s Co-Washes are a great solution. Because these aren’t shampoo, you can leave them in for long amounts of time and they’ll only nourish your scalp and hair more. 

These Co-Washes clean through friction and rubbing action, so the more you scrub your scalp the better.

Geologie Co-Washes
(Get 50% off after taking Geologie's quiz until 5/22)

If you’re after a product that functions as a skincare product for your scalp and is also appropriate for a host of hair types, I recommend Geologie’s new Co-Wash. The best part? Since they’re not shampoo these products are appropriate for all hair types, and they also help condition your hair and scalp in the cleaning process.

Check Price

Get Scrubbin’

Now that you have all the tools and knowledge to properly clean your hair, there’s no excuse to not have those luscious, glossy locks you’ve always been jealous of. 

Practicing proper washing technique will likely make your shower routine a little longer, but it’s worth it. These tips will help keep your hair and scalp healthier for longer, so you don’t end up looking like a Benedictine monk by the time you’re 30. 

If you know a guy who could do with a proper wash, or just want to spread the good news of  proper hair washing practices, share this article with them! They’ll thank you later.


How often should you wash your hair?

You should wash your hair every other day or every third day.

What goes first when you wash your hair?

You should use shampoo first, work it into a lather in your hands, and then apply it directly to your scalp, working out to the ends of your hair.

Should you only shampoo your scalp?

You should shampoo your scalp and also work the shampoo out to the ends of your hair.

Why is my hair still greasy after I wash it?

Greasy hair is often caused by the overproduction of sebum, which is brought on by washing your hair too often. If you wash your hair every day, your hair might still be greasy afterwards, so try washing it every other day to start.

How long should you leave shampoo in your hair?

You should leave shampoo in your hair for 1-3 minutes as you work it through and scrub your scalp.