Unhealthy lifestyles and habits can leave hair looking dull and damaged. If you’ve noticed that your locks could use some extra TLC, maybe it’s time for some lifestyle changes! Unfortunately, long, luscious, healthy hair is not something that can be achieved overnight, but there are a few habits that can help your tresses along the path of recovery and strength! While improving diet and nutrition is the first step to obtaining healthier hair, you should also start paying attention to treating your locks. The way you wash, nourish, dry, and style your hair can greatly impact the health and appearance of your tresses. Believe it or not, most of the common hair mistakes happen when your hair is wet. Wet hair is much more susceptible to damage than dry hair, so learning how to care for damp locks is crucial! Here’s what you need to know about wet hair, along with six post-shower mistakes you could be making that are damaging your hair.
Hair strand anatomy basics
Before you can take your hair care game to the next level, it’s helpful to understand the basic anatomy of the hair.
- Hair is made from proteins called keratins. These are the same proteins that make up your nails.
- Each strand of hair is composed of a distinct two-part structure. The protective outer layer is known as the cuticle (consisting of rugged, calcified keratin). The flexible middle layer is called the cortex (also made from keratin), giving strands their strength and elasticity.
Why should I be extra careful with wet hair?
When hair is wet, it is significantly more sensitive to breakage and damage. As mentioned above, hair is mainly made up of proteins called keratins, and typically, these proteins are safely enclosed within the protective outer coating of the cuticle. However, when your strands are wet, the proteins form weaker bonds. Damp hair also stretches easily, which deforms the cuticle, causing edges to lift and crack. When the protective coating gets damaged, it results in unruly hair filled with frizz-prone split ends and breakage.
What mistakes could I be making with wet hair?
Life gets super busy and as innocent and at times all we can manage is to brush out our sopping wet hair while running out the door or throw a towel wrap on your head. However, these tiny wet hair wrongdoings can amount to a lot of trouble over time, leaving you with fragile, damaged follicles and strands. Luckily, there are many easy ways to avoid making consequential mistakes without completely throwing off your routine.
Brushing wet hair
Brushing wet hair is just asking for breakage and frizzy ends. When the hair is wet, it’s more likely to stretch and snap off, so instead of trying to tug a brush through tangly post-wash hair, give your mane a once-through before hopping into the shower to work any knots and air out the root area.
When you get out of the shower, use a detangling product on the hair once it’s about 80 - 90% dry and go in with a wide-tooth comb or your fingers to gently detangle. To avoid kinks and knots, work in sections and always start at the ends.
Tying wet hair up into a ponytail, bun, or braid
Damp hair has a lot of elasticity and is predisposed to breakage. If you are frequently tying your hair into a ponytail, bun, braid, or other styles while it is wet, it can begin snapping off the hair near the elastic and result in dry ends. It is also possible that the scalp will not get enough air to dry itself up completely, which could cause eczema, bacterial buildup, and other skin irritations.
Wrapping or rubbing your wet hair in a towel
Towel fibers can be very rough and damaging to the hair, wreaking havoc on hair’s texture and silkiness. Instead of using a traditional bath towel to wrap up the hair or rub the hair dry, reach for an old cotton t-shirt or microfiber towel. Using the shirt or towel, gently blot the hair and scrunch out the excess water, working from the roots down.
As well as being more gentle to the hair, microfiber towels can efficiently absorb water without causing excessive dryness. This helps shorten the drying time, making styling a breeze!
Using a flat iron or a curling iron on wet hair
Heat styling tools can be damaging enough to dry hair, never mind wet strands! Most straighteners and curling irons get up to temperatures of 450+ degrees Fahrenheit. When applied to wet hair, temperatures this high can actually boil the water inside the hair strands, causing permanent blisters inside the hair cuticle. This rapid release of moisture also damages the outer part of the cuticle layer, leaving hair to appear dull, frizzy, and limp.
Blow drying with high heat
While it might save some time, never use high heat on wet hair. This creates a “flash drying” effect that removes surface moisture from the hair and water that is bound to the hair, removing all sources of hydration to your locks. This leaves cuticles rigid and brittle, and when the hair flexes, it will crack and cause damage. While eliminating heat styling and opting to let the hair air dry is ideal, it’s not always realistic.
If you must use a hairdryer or other hot tools, always apply a heat protectant spray, serum, or leave-in conditioner to mitigate some potential breakage. It would help if you also used a microfiber towel or cotton t-shirt to remove as much moisture as possible before the blow drying process. The drier your hair is, the less heat you’ll have to use. If you need any tips for properly using your blow dryer to minimize damage, check with your hairstylist! They're always willing to help.
Going to sleep with damp hair
Dermatologists and other experts note that falling asleep with wet hair is another perfect way to rough up hair cuticles and create split ends. The friction of brittle, wet hair against bedding over time causes damage and reduces the elasticity and shine of hair. It will also likely cause tangles, making the AM brushing routine a difficult, uncomfortable process.
Additionally, moisture from the hair can get absorbed into the deep layers of the pillow, creating a favorable environment for fungus to accumulate, increasing the risk of atopic dermatitis, dandruff, rosacea, and other issues.