Should I Wash My Hair Before a Haircut? Why Hairdressers Say Yes

Someone having their hair washed at the salon

Reader question:

Hey there Cindy! As a busy parent with a tight schedule, I always try to sneak in a quick shower before my haircut appointments to save time. But.. I’ve heard various opinions on whether arriving with freshly washed hair is actually helpful or not. As someone who values efficiency but wants the best results from my salon visits, I’d love to hear your professional take on this: Is it beneficial to wash my hair right before a cut, or is it better to come as is?

Brianna French
Akron, Ohio

Hi Brianna, this is a great question!

Generally, yes, it’s helpful for your hairstylist if you wash your hair before your appointment. But the type of hair you have is also a factor. Here, I’ll go into more detail to help you decide if you should do this or not.

Think about how dirty your hair is after not washing it for a few days. Does it feel dirty?

Then there’s the fact that at most salons, your stylist or an assistant washes your hair first anyway. So is it really a big deal to go in with unwashed hair? That’s exactly what you’re going to find out by reading this article.

I also spoke with Linda Pomilio, master stylist at Carmine and Company in Warrington, PA. I asked her what she wished every client knew about showing up with clean hair.

She told me, “As stylists we work with a time frame for each guest. When the guest shows up with tangled or extremely dirty hair it takes extra time to detangle the hair or ready it for the cut or style. I think the client would rather we spend the time on perfecting the shape or blow out. Compare it to going to a dentist appointment, would you brush your teeth prior to the visit? Our salon shampoos each guest, so a normal wash and condition is fine.”

Makes perfect sense to me! But I’ve got lots more information to share.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

Why Clean Hair Matters Before a Haircut

Clean hair is a courtesy to the person who is going to cut your hair. In general, as long as you are washing your hair at least 24 hours before a salon appointment, that should work.

It’s important to make sure that your hair, especially oily hair, isn’t visibly dirty or greasy. Even though hairstylists are used to all kinds of hair conditions, that doesn’t mean they should be subjected to your unclean hair.

I asked Linda about her experiences, and how unclear hair affects the end result. She said, “Greasy or slept on hair will lay differently and won’t look great when it’s finished, so I would definitely have it washed at the shampoo bar. If one or two washes won’t do the trick, then I would want my guest to prepare at home. Buildup can be problematic, leaving white flecks on the hair shaft, and again will take away from the style. I would need to clarify a head like this, causing a time crunch. For clients that notice build up, a clarifying shampoo once a week at home can solve this hazard. Your new haircut, that you are paying for, will turn out the best on fresh hair.”

When You Should Shampoo Before a Haircut

Someone squeezing shampoo into their hands from the bottle

If You Have Lots of Product Buildup

If you use lots of styling products, it’s important to remove that buildup before heading to the salon. Dry shampoo, gel, mousse, and other styling products can leave a film on your hair and scalp.

Make sure you wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo, like this one, the Paul Mitchell Shampoo Two. It’s a color-safe shampoo that removes excess buildup to make your hair squeaky clean and fresh.

If Your Hair is Prone to Feeling Oily

If you have an oily scalp despite frequent washes, it’s a good idea to wash it shortly before your hair appointment.

Try swapping to Aveda Scalp Benefits Shampoo if you struggle with oily hair and scalp. This product is a serious game-changer! It gives your scalp balanced nourishment and a deep clean. With regular use, it creates the perfect foundation for healthy, gorgeous hair.

If You’re Getting a Dry Haircut

Does your stylist use a special dry cutting technique? Then it’s important to show up with clean, dry hair. That way, your hairdresser doesn’t have to struggle with your dirty hair as they’re cutting.

Never had a dry cut? There are some excellent benefits to this technique, depending on your hair type. Don’t be afraid to ask your stylist if it’s right for your hair. (source)

If Your Haircut Doesn’t Include a Shampoo

Budget salons (which often employ excellent hair stylists) usually charge extra for shampoo. Looking to save even more money? Then arrive with clean, product-free hair.

It’s also fine if you decide you want to pay the added cost for a wash.

But just like any other salon, your hair shouldn’t be tangled or dirty. Even when you pay extra for shampoo, your stylist is given a set amount of time to do that work. They’ll need to spend less time on your haircut if they’re busy detangling and scrubbing.

If You’re Making a Hair Donation

Will you be donating your long hair to an organization that makes wigs for cancer or hair loss patients? Then it’s important to go to the salon with clean and dry hair.

The dry hair part is especially important.

Your hair needs to be completely dry– no dampness whatsoever. That way, when it’s shipped to the wig maker, it doesn’t get moldy or mildew-y on the way. (source)

If You Get a Clipper or Buzz Cut

Linda told me that, “Clean hair is a necessity when using clippers. Grease or scalp residue will clog this tool quickly and can be time consuming to clean. We use clipper spray to sanitize and lubricate after each client, but we don’t want to have to deep clean during your scheduled session. The haircut won’t turn out too well, as oil will make the hair lay flat in places. As licensed stylists we clean our combs and scissors after each client so that is to be expected.
The bottom line is, hairdressers like clean hair.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask When You Book the Haircut

When making an appointment at a new salon, it’s totally fine to ask whether the service includes a wash. They’ll let you know what to expect and how to prepare.

When Not to Wash Your Hair Before a Haircut

If Your Haircut Includes a Shampoo and Your Hair is Fairly Clean

If your haircut includes a complete shampoo, then you don’t need to wash right before an appointment.

But that doesn’t mean you should show up with tangled, dirty hair. You see, hairstylists and barbers are booked a set time period for each appointment. At most salons, a small portion of your haircut appointment is meant for washing your hair.

So, imagine what happens when you show up with lots of product buildup or tangles. The time allotted for your wash isn’t enough to scrub out the buildup or brush out the knots. Your stylist is left with no choice but to spend less time cutting your hair.

The end result? A haircut that isn’t as great as it would’ve been had you arrived with clean, detangled hair. If you’ve washed your hair in the last day, your stylist won’t have this problem. But if it’s been longer, wash your hair before your appointment– even if it includes a shampoo.

If Your Hair Feels, Smells, and Looks Clean

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t have very oily hair, then you may not need to shampoo before a cut. It’s perfectly fine if your second day dry hair still looks, smells, and feels clean. You don’t need to wash it before heading to your appointment.

This is true even for budget salons that don’t include shampoo with the cut. Your stylist will just wet your hair with water and get straight to trimming.

How to Wash Your Hair Before a Haircut

Someone towel-drying their hair after a shower

While washing your hair, you need to focus on getting it clean and tangle-free. This is especially true if you have curly hair. That way, the hairdresser doesn’t have to spend time removing knots from your hair. They can get right down to the business of giving you a great haircut that you’ll love.

When washing your hair, focus on giving your scalp a good scrub. Do this gently with the pads of your fingertips, but not your nails. You don’t want to scratch your scalp, which can cause irritation.

Is your hair full of product, or hasn’t been washed for a while? Then feel free to wet your hair and wash it twice by doing the old “rinse and repeat.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to wash your hair before a haircut?

Yes, in general, it’s just all-around better to wash your hair before a haircut, regardless of your hair type. The hairstylist doesn’t want to deal with unwashed hair.

Should guys wash their hair before a haircut?

If a man has a very oily scalp, uses a ton of product, or hasn’t washed it for a few days, then wash it before the appointment. This will make sure your barber or hairstylist can cut it with clippers with no problem, and they won’t have to contend with dirty hair.

Should I wash gel out of my hair before my haircut?

Gel changes the texture and make up of your hair. So to get an accurate shape it is important to wash out all products before the cutting starts.

Should I deep condition my hair before or after a haircut?

A deep condition only really matters before your hair color appointment. It won’t matter to deep condition your hair before or after a haircut. Either way, it’s fine for a more healthy and beautiful hair texture.

How do you get rid of a dry scalp before a haircut?

You can usually get rid of your dry scalp by using a gentle, non-medicated shampoo. If dandruff is the problem, use a shampoo with selenium sulfide to get rid of the flakes. (source)

Ask A Stylist