There are two types of people in this world—those who love taking some “me” time to dry their hair, and those who, well, don’t. If you find yourself in the second camp, you’re not alone. I, too, face the dreaded task with less than excitement. And sometimes, I go to bed with my hair wet. Which led me to question—is that bad?
To find out, I consulted with some of the best hairstylists and dermatologists in the business for their input. And, it turns out there are some mixed opinions!
Is it bad to go to sleep with your hair wet?
While I was hoping for a more concrete answer, it seems that the jury is out on this question. But, the general consensus is that it’s not the best idea.
Joshua Zeichner, MD and director of cosmetic and clinical research at The Mount Sinai Hospital, explains, “Sleeping with wet hair is not ideal. When the hair is wet, it is actually weaker than when it is dry, meaning that it is more likely to develop breakage from friction that occurs while you sleep.”
And, he adds, “Extended exposure to water has actually been shown to degrade the cuticle, or the outer layer, of the hair shaft leading to breakage.”
Aside from hair damage, he also points out some other less than pleasant situations that can arise from hitting the hay with wet hair. First, when your hair is wet and comes in contact with your face, it can lead to skin irritation. And second, “Wet hair can wet your pillowcase, creating an environment that may encourage colonization of some microorganisms like mold or yeast,” the doctor explains.
Though, Austin-based hairstylist and Kérastase lead artist, Pepper Pastor doesn't think sleeping on a wet head is the worst thing in the world.
“There is some debate on whether or not sleeping on wet hair is damaging,” she admits. But, for her, the recommendation really depends on the type of hair you have.
Though, she adds it may not be an option if you have extremely curly hair.
And for our fine-haired friends, she does not recommend going to sleep with a wet head because, as Zeichner explained, “Laying on hair and turning on it through the night can cause breakage to fine hair.”
Good hair day by @thenotoriouskia.
How can you sleep with wet hair without damaging it?
Personally, Pastor says she loves going to bed with wet hair, explaining, “I have medium textured hair, so I enjoy waking up to a head of dry, fluffy hair. Sleeping with wet hair allows me to lay off the blow drying.”
Pastor adds that heat protection is a must—even if you won’t be using heat. She says, “It doesn’t matter that you are going to let it air dry, heat protection has memory and will guard your hair from what you do the next day. I recommend Kerastase; they have a variety of thermique lotions suited for every hair type. Depending on the results you want the next day will determine how you should wear your hair to sleep.”
And while it’s true it saves a lot of time and can prevent heat damage; it still may be damaging in other ways. But, if your heart is set on heading to sleep before you blow dry, there are things you can do to make it a “better” option.
Ashley Branda, master stylist and owner of Two01 salon in Hoboken, says that while she personally would not go to sleep with wet hair. If she had to, she would apply a deep conditioning treatment and dry most of the scalp and mid shaft before hitting the pillow.
Zeichner suggests you do your best to at least towel dry your hair before heading to sleep.
“If you do have to go to bed with a wet head, apply a leave-in conditioner to help protect the hair, and consider sleeping with a towel over your head,” he says. “There are some towels on the market that are designed for use on hair after showering and will stay on the head while you sleep.”
Good hair day by @smolinstravel.
Is it good to braid hair while it's wet?
Ever see someone with killer waves, and wonder how they got them? One approach is braiding wet or damp hair, and then letting it dry overnight while in a braid. But this method is, yep—you guessed it, a bit controversial as well.
Zeichner says that it is actually “ok” to braid your hair when wet but to remember it is in a fragile state.
“If you are braiding wet hair, make sure not to pull the hair too much or to braid the hair too tight as it can lead to breakage,” he says.
According to Branda, going to sleep with wet braided hair is an absolute “no.”
“You’re giving bacteria a place to grow hiding in the weave of the wet braid,” she explains.
Plus, she points out that hair is more elastic when wet than when it’s dry, so all of the pulling while braiding can result in breakage of wet hair.
Our takeaway? Braiding when wet—proceed with caution. Sleeping with a wet braid—better to not.
From sleeping with wet hair to braiding before bed, we highly recommend seeking the advice of your personal, professional stylist who knows your hair best.
Interested in more personalized advice about how to care for your hair? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.