Senior Hair Washing

Tips to Wash an Older Adult's Hair
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To help an older adult manage hair care, here's the long and short of what you need to know:

How often does hair really need to be washed?

Less often than you might think. Although daily washing of the face and hands are important for hygiene, once or twice a week is usually sufficient for hair. In fact, the natural oils and skin cells that accumulate actually serve to moisturize the skull. Many people with thick or curly hair find that it holds the oils especially well and becomes easier to style. In the 1950s, most American women had only a weekly shampoo and styling at a salon.

What's the best place to wash hair?

Many caregivers prefer to handle the chore during bathing, but some older adults find it less stressful to have their hair washed at a separate time, while fully clothed.

Are there any shortcuts that make hair-care easier?

  • Try so-called "dry shampoo." It uses powder to absorb some of the natural oils that accumulate on unwashed hair. You apply the powder, then brush or blot it out. Some people swear by baking soda, baby powder, and cornstarch (mixed together or used separately) as an inexpensive alternative.

  • Go short. For someone who has difficulty with mobility, an easy-care, no-style short haircut may be simplest, and it will feel comfortable with less frequent shampooing.

  • Ask if a stylist will come to your home. Many make house calls for shampooing, cuts, permanents, and/or styling. A standing monthly appointment can become a real treat for your loved one to look forward to.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio