Whether you're someone who takes the time to do a scalp scrub, cleanse, condition, and mask on your hair, or you like to stick to the basics, few things feel better than having fresh, clean, and delicious smelling hair after a shower. On top of it feeling great, washing your hair is necessary for hair and scalp health, but only if you're giving it the TLC it deserves.
Depending on how you take care of your hair when it's wet can make or break (literally) your strands. According to celebrity hairstylist and Ouidad brand ambassador Irinel de Leon, when your hair is wet, it's in its most weak and delicate state. So, if you're someone who tends to brush their hair immediately after the shower or too often falls asleep with wet hair because you washed it close to bedtime, you're going to want to keep reading.
Mistake 1: You're Brushing Your Hair While It's Wet
Because hair is in a very fragile state when it's wet, brushing your hair to get rid of tangles can be aggressive and cause damage to most hair types and textures. "Wet hair is at its weakest point becoming subject to breaking when the hair strands elasticity is low," explains Robin Groover, a hairstylist, and owner of Too Groovy Salon. "Combs and brushes with close teeth and bristles are subject to pull, snag, and split the strands during detangling methods," she says.
Instead of waiting until your hair is wet to detangle, try brushing your hair before you get in the shower to rid it of any knots and always be gentle. Maya Smith, founder, and CEO of the hair-care brand, The Doux, says the best way to comb wet hair is to begin at the ends and work your way up to gradually eliminate tangles and prevent knots.
For those with curly or textured hair, de Leon says it is better to brush the hair while it's wet to help maintain the curl pattern. However, using the wrong kind of brush and products can be detrimental to your curls, which is why it's important to pay attention to the technique. Irinel recommends using a long tooth comb, like the Ouidad Wide Tooth Shower Comb ($12, ouidad.com), because they make it easy to gently detangle and glide through dense wet curls while also preventing pulling.
Additionally, Smith says proper saturation is key when handling wet, textured hair. "The hair should be soaking wet and well-saturated with a conditioning agent before detangling," Smith explains. This will ensure the comb will slip through textured hair without causing damage.
Mistake 2: You're Wearing Your Hair in a Bun While It's Wet.
According to Stormi Steele, a hairstylist and founder and CEO of Canvas Beauty, putting your hair in a bun while it's wet is too harsh for delicate hair. The tension created from putting your hair in a bun can cause breakage. She explains that this happens because when the hair is wet, it's at peak elasticity. When the hair dries in a bun, it's not able to retract or shrink back to its natural state, which can cause breaking at the band.
"Wet hair doesn't like friction," adds Smith. So while it's recommended to let your hair air dry as is, if you must put your hair up, it's important to prep the hair with a leave-in conditioner and strengthening styling products. One to try is the K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask, ($80, amazon.com), which is a hair-repairing mask that strengthens, smooths, and softens. Groover says you can also "use a silk or silk-like band and alternate between top knot, low ponytail, and midpoint pony to allow the hair to have less repetitive wear and tear in one area."
Mistake 3: You're Sleeping With Wet Hair.
The main reason why hairstylists don't recommend sleeping with wet hair is because it increases your chances for breakage and bacteria to grow. "I'm not a fan of wearing wet hair overnight," says Smith. "Bacteria loves to grow in dark, warm, and damp environments, and the scalp is no exception. If the hair and scalp do not dry quickly enough, dandruff-causing microbes can potentially cause dryness and itching at the scalp."
Mistake 4: You're Drying Your Hair With the Wrong Towel.
Cotton fabric is known for absorbing moisture and can cause damage to the hair shaft by creating split ends in breakage. Instead, use a micro-fiber towel, like the Kitsch Microfiber Hair Towel ($23, amazon.com), which helps minimize frizz and is more gentle on all hair types, says Steele. Drying hair with a regular cotton towel can cause damage to the hair shaft and create split ends and breakage. Using a T-shirt or towel is highly recommended because it minimizes frizz and absorbs water without roughing up the hair shaft. To further avoid roughing up the hair shaft, squeeze hair dry or softly pat instead of aggressively scrunching the hair dry.
In addition to fabric choice, the technique you use to dry your hair is important, too. "The best way to dry wet hair is by gently squeezing it in a downward motion, which is the same direction as the cuticle lays on the hair shaft," says Smith. "Rubbing or excessive ringing pushes the cuticle in the opposite direction, over-drying the hair and causing frizz."
If you have curly, textured hair, de Leon recommends using microfiber hair and drying your hair using the plopping method, which is where you wrap your wet hair in a microfiber towel to absorb excess water and reduce frizz. To do this, lay the towel at the end of your bed and then flip your head forward, bending at the waist. Lower your hair towards the center of the towel. "Continue to bend until the top of your head is resting on a bed or chair," she says. "Grab the fabric that's behind your head and flip it up over your neck, then tie the towel over the fabric laying on your neck into a knot."
Mistake 5: You're Applying Heat When Your Hair Is Too Wet.
Not allowing your hair to partially dry before applying heat can cause heat damage. "Instead, opt to wait until the hair is damp versus dripping wet," says Steele. "The dryer the hair is before applying heat, the better because your hair will be sleeker, shinier, less breakage-prone, and easier to manage."
Groover says straight and wavy loose textures should let their hair air dry about 50 to 70% before adding heat and 30 to 50% if you want to blow dry curly or coily hair. If you want to diffuse your curly hair, though, Smith says you can have the hair sopping wet. "The hair should be very wet when diffusing curly hair to keep the cuticle smooth and prevent frizz as the hair dries," she says.
That said, it's necessary to put the blow dryer on its lowest heat and pressure setting to reduce as much damage as possible when diffusing. No matter what method of heat styling you choose, though, remember to always use a heat protectant. Your hair will thank you in the long run.