How Sleeping With Wet Hair Really Affects Hair Health

Written by Dahvi Shira

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Our mothers have told us, our hairstylists have warned us: Don’t sleep with wet hair. But apart from waking up with a bit of bedhead and possibly catching a cold, what are the real effects of sleeping with wet hair? How does it impact hair’s overall health? And what, if anything, should we be doing instead? To answer these questions, we sat down with Michael Bontekoe, a PA at the Roxbury Institute, to get the scoop on how sleeping with wet hair really affects its health.

White person with wet hair in front of a sunny sky | Mane Addicts
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How Sleeping With Wet Hair Affects Hair Health

It Leads to Breakage

“When the hair is wet, it is at its most fragile state,” says Bontekoe. “Repeated sleeping with wet hair can damage the protective layers of the hair.” According to him, hair breakage and loss of elasticity are especially common when any strain is put on wet hair. Sleeping with wet hair tied up in a tight bun or ponytail can increase the strain on those fragile follicles, so it’s best to steer clear of styles like these at night. But even if you sleep with your wet hair freely flowing, you might still experience breakage. Sleeping with damp tresses often leads to unnecessary tangles and knots that, when brushed out, can lead to damage.

It’s Bad for Your Scalp

Sleeping with a wet head doesn’t just affect the strength of your magnificent mane. It can also lead to a number of scalp problems, including dandruff, dermatitis, and fungal infections. “Wet hair can create an ideal environment for yeast to grow,” explains Bontekoe. “Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by a yeast called malassezia and can lead to a flaky, itchy, and inflamed scalp.” Pillowcases are a breeding ground for fungi and bacteria, especially when they remain damp for long periods of time. The moisture from your scalp can also cause icky oil buildup, leading to itchy dry patches. To avoid these conditions, it’s best to go to bed with a dry set of strands.

How to Avoid Sleeping With Wet Hair

When in Doubt, Blow-Dry

It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but this classic heat-based drying method is actually much better for your locks than sleeping with them wet. If you can’t hit the hay with nicely air-dried strands, you might want to consider blowing them dry instead to avoid buildup and breakage. Bontekoe recommends drying your hair on the low heat setting to minimize any heat-based damage.

Take Precautions

If you must sleep with wet hair, there are a few precautions you can take. The first is to towel-dry your roots. “After showering, I encourage my patients to always squeeze excess water out of the hair and then to gently pat dry with a towel,” Bontekoe recommends. Eliminating as much moisture as possible around your scalp will help you avoid developing dandruff or dermatitis.

The second is to sleep with your hair down or in a loose braid tied with a scrunchie. Avoiding tight styles while you snooze will reduce the instances of breakage. Utilizing coconut oil or other conditioning treatments can also help reduce breakage by strengthening the shaft so it’s less vulnerable while you toss and turn. Swapping your cotton pillowcase for a silk one is also a great way to keep your bedtime hair damage to a minimum. Silk pillowcases might be a bit on the pricer side, but your mane will thank you.

Wondering if not sleeping on wet hair will do anything? One beauty editor tried it to find out. Read their experience HERE!