At one point or another, we’ve all had someone tell us that it’s unhealthy to go outside or to bed with wet hair. But is it just an old wives’ tale? Or is there any fact behind the advice? According to Madame Sweat, a hygiene etiquette expert who offers input on everything from bad breath on public transit to bathroom habits at work, sleeping with wet hair is a big no-no.
With 1.9 million views and over a 1,000 comments (and climbing) at press time, Madame Sweat’s recent viral video has struck a nerve. In the clip, she breaks down the three things to worry about if you’re considering going to bed with wet hair.
The first is that wet hair creates a warm, moist environment in and around the pillows. Over the course of 7+ hours, that could contribute to a fungal infection in your scalp (or at the very least, make dandruff worse).
Secondly, hitting the sheets with damp hair means your pillow is about to get really gross. It’s a collection spot for dust mites, body oils, and dead skin, so adding moisture increases the chances of bacterial growth on your pillow.
In her video Madame Sweat says, “It’s already a hotbed for fungus – you’re going to cause even more by putting that moisture into the pillow, and letting it sit there and fester.”
Finally, she claims that when your hair is wet or damp it’s in a weakened state, which can cause breakage at the shaft resulting in split ends. And if you dye your hair or regularly heat style it, you’re at increased risk of breakage.
While Madame Sweat’s reasoning seems logical, reactions to the TikTok video were mixed. Plenty of viewers agreed that sleeping with wet tresses is a bad idea.
Commenter Robin Ranney says, “It makes your bedding smell like mildew…Gross!” Dozens of fellow viewers agree, citing cultural or hygiene reasons for not going to bed with wet hair.
However, some users doubt it’s a real issue. All4theJourney8 responded by saying, “OMG with these ridiculous hair rules! I’ve been doing this for years and everything is just fine! Everyone is ok to do what they want!”
While the viral TikTok video is relatively recent, the online debate about wet hair isn’t. There are a number of Reddit threads (some dating back nearly a decade) dedicated to the topic, with most bringing up the same points as Madame Sweat.
The opinion of an internet advice guru is one thing, but how would a licensed hair stylist handle the issue? Emily Cushing, hairdresser and owner of My Shoppe Around the Corner salon generally agrees with Madame Sweat. Emily says, “Going to bed with wet hair is bad for numerous reasons. The two biggest concerns that come to mind: Hair is weakest when wet, therefore causing breakage. And you’re creating a breeding ground for bacteria. Warm and wet are not a good combination.”
What about on nights when you’re just too tired to blow dry? Emily says that while completely dry hair is best, there are ways to make sleeping with wet hair less damaging. If you need to hit the sheets with damp hair she recommends a silk pillowcase to allow the hair to slide over the fabric and allow for less breakage. And she cautions, “You should always detangle and brush out your hair. Using detangler helps protect and allows slippage, so hair isn’t roughed up.”
While an occasional sleep with wet hair probably won’t cause lasting issues, there does seem to be some truth to Madame Sweat’s warning. Drying your hair before bed is best practice for a number of skin and hair health reasons, but if damp hair is unavoidable, use a silk pillowcase and detangler to mitigate some of the ill effects.
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Cushing, Emily. Personal interview. May 2023.