Whether you need to wake up too early in the morning or you like an evening shower to wind down, we all sometimes find ourselves climbing into bed with wet hair. The morning result may be luscious waves or a tangled mess, depending on your hair type, but there’s more to think about than hairstyle when it comes to sleeping on wet hair.
Sliding into slumber with soaking wet strands could affect your hair, scalp, face, and even your pillow. Here’s what you should know about going to bed with wet hair.
Is it ok to go to bed with wet hair?
“As a rule of thumb, it’s not a good idea to go to bed with your hair wet,” says Kenna Ehman, co-owner and master stylist at Kenna Kunijo. The reasoning isn’t because it will cause you to catch a cold — there’s no scientific evidence to that wives’ tale — rather, it can impact your hair, scalp, and skin in negative ways if you make it a habit.
Like all things that benefit from moderation, if there are a few nights you fall asleep with damp hair post-shower or bath, it’s ok.
A night here or there shouldn’t have too much of an impact. But if this becomes a daily thing, sleeping with wet hair can cause several unwanted issues.
If you sleep with wet hair, you’re increasing your risk of breakage and tangles.
“Wet hair is more likely to become damaged when wet because it can be stretched more and tangle more easily,” says Dr. Mary Wendel, national medical director of Medi Tresse, a hair loss treatment center for women. Those with chemically processed hair, including colored, straightened, or permed, are even more vulnerable to damage when wet. This problem tends to lessen for those with shorter hair.
Sleeping with wet hair can cause scalp issues
Wet hair against a pillow doesn’t create a very ideal environment for your scalp, and it can wreak unintended havoc.
“Fungi spreads in a damp, wet environment and can lead to several scalp infections such as tinea capitis and seborrheic dermatitis,” says Wendel. These can cause flakiness, itchiness, and inflammation.
“You are trapping moisture, and it breeds bacteria,” explains Ehman. When repeated over time, your scalp can become inflamed, leading to itchy, dry patches and even hair loss.
Watch your pillow and pillowcase
Anything that you apply to your hair before bed could also end up on your face if you’re not careful. If you sleep with your hair wet and down, you are exposing your face to whatever hair products you put in that haven’t been fully absorbed. Even if you pull your hair back, simply rolling into a new sleep position could immerse your face in hair products.
Your pillowcase can be a hotbed for many issues. If it’s damp, that bacteria gets absorbed and can cause acne, and pillowcases can also cause hair breakage, matting, and frizz. Anecdotally, your best bet for wet or dry hair is a silk pillowcase, as people sometimes report fewer skin lines and less breakage and tangles on the hair. However, there is no scientific evidence, according to dermatologist Dr. Michelle Bruner of Clear Skin Dermatology. “If silk does allow for less absorption of water/dampness in the pillowcase, it may be better for hair and skin in terms of hydration, but it does not stop that ideal environment for bacteria, yeast, and mold to thrive.”
Wet hair can make a pillowcase damp, turning it from a restful place to lay your head to a prime damp environment for bacterial buildup or even fungus. You’ll want to be extra diligent about changing that pillowcase often so bacteria don’t continue to linger. Once a week is fair for most people, but if you are sleeping with wet hair often or not washing your face at night, you may want to change it up. Keep an eye on your actual pillow as well. If you sleep with wet hair, moisture can seep into the actual pillowcase, which can cause mildew and more bacteria. Doubling up on your pillowcase may help the problem, but if your pillow has a funky smell even after washing it, it’s time to get a new pillow. Otherwise, it’s recommended to clean your actual pillow every three to six months, paying attention to whether it needs to be spot-cleaned or can go in the wash.
How to go to bed with your hair wet
Every once in a while, it’s fine to go to bed with wet hair, but there are things you can do to try and ease any negative effects.
Rough-dry your roots: Take five minutes to rough-dry your roots, meaning using your fingertips instead of brush while blow drying. Most bacteria buildup happens at the top of the scalp, so doing this will go a long way.
Braid your hair: For those with long hair, Ehman recommends plaiting hair in a low, loose braid if you are sleeping with it wet. If you pull it too tight or put it in a ponytail, it could cause breakage. “Plus, a low loose braid can produce a pretty wave when you wake up,” she says.
Use a small amount of oil: Wendel recommends something like argan oil to help keep your hair in tip-top shape. “A little oil, no more than the size of a dime combed through the hair will help prevent tangles and keep the hair strand smoother,” she says.