Have you ever found yourself caught between the desire for a few extra minutes of sleep and the worry that sleeping with wet locks might damage your hair? We've all been there, debating whether to let our hair air dry or reach for the hairdryer before hitting the hay. But is sleeping with wet hair truly harmful?
While it's not “bad” for your health in the sense of causing disease or permanent damage, the hair’s increased fragility when wet can potentially lead to mechanical damage over time, especially if you toss and turn a lot during sleep. The friction caused by your hair rubbing against the pillow can cause it to break or develop split ends more easily.
“In general, wet hair is more fragile and prone to breakage than dry hair,” says Timothy Schmidt, MD, a dermatologist at University of Utah Health. “The water weakens the hair's protein structure, making it more elastic and easier to stretch and snap. This is why you may have noticed more hair in your brush or on your pillow after sleeping with wet hair.”
Another factor to consider is the potential for scalp issues. A damp scalp for long periods of time can create a perfect environment for the growth of fungus or bacteria, which can lead to scalp problems such as dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis.
Schmidt provides these tips to avoid breakage and keep a healthy head of hair:
Tips to Avoid Hair Breakage
- Use a microfiber towel or t-shirt to gently blot (not rub) your hair after washing. These materials are softer than a traditional towel and can help minimize friction and breakage.
- Try not to go to bed with your hair soaking wet. Instead, let it air dry partially or use a hair dryer on a cool setting to reduce the amount of moisture. (Regular use of heat can also contribute to premature hair breakage, hence the efforts to dry hair without high heat.)
- Consider using a silk or satin pillowcase. They create less friction than cotton, which can reduce potential hair breakage.