We’re willing to admit that showering and washing your hair at night has some advantages. If you have trouble getting up in the morning, building in more time to sleep makes perfect sense. Washing your hair at night gives you at least twenty additional minutes of shut-eye. But as the title of this article implies, we’re not advocates for going to bed with wet hair. The potential damage that sleeping on wet hair can do is not worth it. Even giving yourself a few hours between showering and sleeping can help reduce the damage. That said, we know that sometimes our schedules call for an evening shower, so we want to provide some solutions for how you can sleep with wet hair. Keep reading for an overview of the science behind wet hair care and a guide to protecting your strands.
Before we jump in, it’s important that we cover how sleeping with wet hair can do damage to your hair strands and follicles. There are a few misconceptions about sleeping with wet hair. If you’ve ever heard that sleeping with wet hair, especially in the winter, will make you sick, we’re happy to bust that myth. There’s no evidence that sleeping with wet hair will give you a cold, even if you’re going to bed in a chilly room. Here at Jupiter, we’re hair care obsessed, so it makes sense that our gripe with sleeping with wet hair has less to do with your immune system and more with your hair’s wellbeing.
The first topic of concern is fungal growth. We know it might sound a little gross, but the truth is all sorts of surfaces can play home to fungi, including the surface of our skin. Fungal growth is a natural phenomenon within a healthy scalp’s microbiome. However, when our microbiome is imbalanced, the cause often comes down to an overgrowth of certain fungal varieties. Dandruff, for example, is believed to be linked to an overgrowth of a fungus called Malassezia. Fighting dandruff generally comes down to fighting fungal imbalance. So what does this have to do with sleeping with wet hair? Well, like all living organisms, fungi need water to grow and reproduce. When you sleep with damp hair, you provide additional moisture to the fungi on your pillowcase.
One study found that used pillows contain as many as sixteen varieties of fungal species. More moisture may mean more fungi which increases the risk that your scalp can suffer from fungal imbalances.
One of the biggest issues linked to sleeping with wet hair is breakage.
Your hair is most vulnerable when it is wet. Water and shampoo break down the cuticle surrounding a hair strand. This cuticle protects your hair, meaning anything can penetrate and damage the hair when the cuticle isn't there. Unless you stay totally still while sleeping, your hair is likely stretched, pulled, and knotted throughout your eight-hour rest. Damage like this to the hair can lead to breakage, frizz, and dullness. That’s why the best thing you can do for your hair is let it air dry before hitting the hay.
Lastly, let’s be honest. When you go to bed with wet hair, you’re likely to end up with a wacky hairdo in the morning. While you may save time in the morning by not showering, taming stubborn cowlicks and frizz, and trying to get your part in the place you want will rack up just as many minutes.
A tight french braid or a knotted, messy bun can potentially lead to hair loss and breakage.
So, now that we’ve gone over the dangers of sleeping with wet hair, let’s talk about ways to do it that should help minimize damage to your hair strands and your scalp’s microbiome.
If you’re sleeping on cotton or jersey pillowcases, this tip is for you.
You’ve probably read about the benefits of sleeping on silk or satin pillowcases. Some brands claim to protect against the growth of fungus and acne-causing bacteria, and some simply claim to prevent frizz. Right now, science favors the latter. There is not enough clinical evidence to suggest that silk or satin pillowcases reduce the amount of bacteria transferred between the material and the scalp. However, when it comes to sleeping on wet hair, it is true that silk and satin pillowcases absorb less moisture, so any hydrating products you put on your hair before going to sleep will stay mostly on your head rather than transferring to your pillow.
It’s also proven that a silk or satin pillowcase can help smooth hair and prevent frizzing. These pillowcases can be especially helpful for those of us with curly hair, where drying can take as many as 24 hours.
Because all used pillowcases will contain a certain amount of bacteria and fungi, one of the best things you can do for your hair’s health is to routinely switch out your pillowcases. Most experts recommend you wash your sheets about once a week, but we know life can get in the way sometimes. At the very least, try to wash your pillowcases once a week. Regularly swapping out the fabric touching your hair, face, and scalp and preventing large colonies of bacteria from growing there can make a huge difference.
This is especially true during the summer months when you’re likely producing more sweat and dealing with oiliness on your face and scalp.
For us, one night sleeping with wet hair is enough to send that pillowcase straight to the laundry hamper.
Hair stylists may suggest putting your hair up in a bun or french braid when sleeping on wet hair, and it’s true that that approach may give you a more attractive style in the morning.
However, we have to caution against styling your hair too tight when it’s wet. As we explored above, your hair is at its most vulnerable when it is wet. A tight french braid or a knotted, messy bun can potentially lead to hair loss and breakage. If you’re not comfortable sleeping with it down, a very loose braid or a loose twisted bun is best. Try to use a silk or satin scrunchie to secure it. That will help avoid creasing and are better alternatives for the health of your hair than a standard elastic.
If going to sleep with wet hair is unavoidable, one of the best things you can do for your hair is introduce antifungal products that are focused on balancing your scalp’s microbiome and preventing any fungi from overgrowth.
In addition to helping keep dandruff and build-up at bay, this will also improve your scalp’s overall health and ensure fungi from your pillowcase don’t disrupt your natural balance. When searching for antifungal shampoos and treatments, make sure you find a product that includes the active ingredient Zinc Pyrithione. Zinc Pyrithione includes antifungal properties and is one of the only proven ingredients that can fight dandruff and prevent fungal growth. Our Balancing Shampoo includes Zinc Pyrithione and a host of natural ingredients that not only work hard at curbing fungal growth, but also gently cleanse your scalp and hair, leaving your hair strengthened and shiny with ingredients like coconut oil and squalane. Unlike many other medicated dandruff shampoos, it’s formulated without many of the harmful surfactants that can damage your hair and scalp, like sulfates, parabens, and phthalates.
It’s not unusual to sleep with wet hair and wake up with frizz, especially if you’re sleeping on a cotton pillowcase. Try using a leave-in conditioner to prevent further damage to your hair follicles and restore your hair cuticle’s natural barrier from external elements. Leave-in conditioners provide added long-lasting moisture to the scalp and hair strands, and can prevent dryness and damage.
Not to mention, a leave-in conditioner will help detangle hair. If you find you wake up with knotted hair after sleeping with it wet, a leave-in conditioner will likely do the trick. Remember, products work differently for different types of hair. If you have fine hair, a heavy leave-in conditioner could leave your hair feeling greasy and weighed down. If you have curly hair you might find it doesn’t go far enough to moisturize your scalp. Look for products formulated for your specific hair type and prepare for some experimentation to find the routine that works best for you.
Sometimes it can feel like haircare is a lesson in minimizing damage rather than eliminating it altogether. That’s certainly the case when it comes to sleeping with wet hair.
The more you can do to dry your hair, the less damage you’ll do to your hair follicles and strands. Use a microfiber towel to gently pat your hair dry when air drying isn’t an option. Don’t rub too aggressively, as this can further damage your hair cuticle and lead to breakage. We also caution against brushing your hair while it is wet. Instead, use a wide tooth comb while you’re in the shower. You’d be amazed at the difference these steps can take in reducing frizz and breakage and improving the appearance of your hair overall.
On nights when washing your hair before bed is the only way to ensure it gets done, don’t sweat it. Following this guide should help you protect your hair from damage and get a few restful hours closer to a great hair day.
Most importantly, don’t forget to use hair care products that support a healthy scalp microbiome and help keep fungus at bay. Check out Jupiter’s “Triple Threat” Set that includes a medicated cleanser and leave-on scalp serum that will ensure your scalp is protected even when you go to bed with wet hair. These two Zinc Pyrithione backed products, paired with our Nourishing Conditioner will ensure a healthy scalp and gorgeous head of hair no matter when you wash.