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Can Sleeping With Wet Hair Actually Make You Sick?

We know it’s not always the most appealing idea to have to blow dry your hair at night after a long day, and with the cold weather upon us, you may be wondering, “Can sleeping with wet hair make you sick?” Well, despite what your mother and grandmother may have told you about going to bed with a wet head, the advice just may be an old wives’ tale.

Can a wet head in the cold weather cause a cold?

Wait a minute — cold temperatures are what cause or at least worsen a cold, right Not necessarily. In actuality, a cold is an infection that spreads from one organism to another. According to the Mayo Clinic, “The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It’s usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. Many types of viruses can cause a common cold.”

Of all the things that cause viral infections which lead to the common cold, experts at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences agree that sleeping with wet hair isn’t one of them. “Wet hair does not cause a cold,” reads the university’s website. “More than 200 viruses can cause colds. The virus generally moves from someone else’s hands to your hands (either directly or through some intermediate surface like a doorknob), and from your hands into your nose, [mouth,] or eyes.” There you have it: No cold virus is entering through your wet head. (Better ways to protect yourself from colds include washing your hands, disinfecting your items, using tissues when coughing or blowing your nose, and taking care of yourself with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress-reducing activities, according to the Mayo Clinic.)

Is going to bed with wet hair harmful?

While it might not actually cause a cold, sleeping with wet hair can cause other problems. The victim? Your scalp. Family-medicine physician Amber Tully, MD of the Cleveland Clinic told Dermstore that contact with excess moisture plus heat from a wet pillow or wet hair for a long period of time can cause a condition called seborrheic dermatitis — more commonly known as dandruff — and other fungal infections of the scalp. That’s because moisture and heat are actually a breeding ground for fungi and bacteria, so your wet head at night may make you more susceptible to scalp issues. To prevent this, try drying your hair a bit, at least at the roots, before hitting the sheets.

Is sleeping with a wet head bad for your hair?

Going to bed with wet hair may not actually cause you to get sick, but it can be damaging to your strands. Marshall Lin — a hairstylist at the Frédéric Fekkai Salon in Soho — told Dermstore, “Your hair can get tangled during sleep, and those knots can be harder to get out without causing breakage to strands.” Many other stylists agree that wet hair is more easily knotted and can therefore cause hair damage.

With that being said, if you absolutely have to go to bed with a wet head, be sure that you’re applying leave-in conditioner from about the mid-length of your hair to the ends (your roots naturally produce oil, so there’s no need to apply any heavy product on this part of your hair). Make sure that you’re using a proper comb or brush for wet hair to remove tangles, like this one from Wet Brush ($7.47, Amazon). If you absolutely have to go to bed with wet hair, try letting the roots dry and then braiding it to prevent damage.

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