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  5. Why Does Your Hair Smell And How To Get Rid Of It?

Bad hair days - we all go through it. But what about smelly hair days? We’ve all been there too, and wondered if we’ll put off everyone around us with the hair smell.

You are doing everything right, but still emitting hair odors? Then it is time to rethink your hair care to avoid smelly hair, which is one of the most annoying hair woes. Let’s look at what you can do.

What Does Hair Actually Smell Like?

Normally, your hair has either no smell or smells like the fragrances in your hair care products - like the shampoo or conditioner you just used. Run your fingers along your scalp a few times and then smell your fingertips. If you notice any unusual, bad, or pungent smell, you have a smelly scalp and hair.

Why Does My Hair Smell?

The main reasons for a smelly scalp and hair are excess oil (sebum), yeast and dead skin cells on your scalp. Following are all the causes that lead to these kinds of buildups on the scalp:

1. Not Washing Enough

Not shampooing enough can build up oils (sebum) on your scalp and lead to a smell. If you have an oily scalp or super thin hair, consider washing your hair with a mild shampoo every two days to keep the sebum levels in check.


Too much of anything is bad. Overwashing your hair can strip off the natural oils from your scalp due to the chemicals in your shampoo. So wash gently too.

2. Sweaty Hair

Sweat is a common cause of smelly hair. If you are working out a lot and not washing your hair regularly, it can build up a sweat on the scalp.

3. Pollution

The pollutants in the air can get deposited on your scalp and cause odors. They mix up with the oils and sebum on your scalp to emit pungent smells.

4. Hormonal Imbalances And Stress

Stress can disrupt normal hormonal functions and can lead to excess oil production and scalp irritation.

5. Diet

The skin on your scalp too reacts to foods containing strong odors. Foods like onion and garlic contain oils that can be excreted via the skin on your scalp.

6. Wearing Hats/Scarfs For Too Long

This one’s tricky. While it is important to cover your hair with a hat or scarf while you are out in the sun and polluted environment, it can be bad too when you use it for a very long time. Leaving your hat on your hair for prolonged periods can increase sweat on your scalp and hair, causing it to smell.

7. Hair Masks

We love pampering our hair with hair masks every now and then. Don’t we? But hair masks containing ingredients like onion or egg can leave a bad odor even after washing the hair.

8. Skin Conditions

Skin conditions like dandruff can sometimes lead to a smelly scalp and hair. Dandruff is caused due to build up of dead skin cells that fall off as white flakes. An irritated scalp due to dandruff is a breeding ground for bacteria and hence, odor.

9. Washing Hair With Very Hot Water

Hot water strips off the natural oils from your hair and disturbs the oil balance. Once the oil is removed, it signals the skin to make more oil. And more oil means smelly scalp.

10. Chemical Hair Products

The residue from chemical hair care products mess with the oil balance in your scalp and result in an unpleasant odor. Choose your shampoos, conditioners, serums and masks that contain gentle ingredients.


How Do I Get Rid Of Smelly Hair?

1. Hair Care Routine

Understand your hair to use hair care products that suit your hair type. Wash, condition, detangle, protect and style your hair. Choose hair care ingredients that address your individual hair concerns, if any. Establish a hair washing schedule after knowing your hair type and scalp type.

2. Medicated Shampoos/Prescribed Hair Products

If yeast or bacteria is causing a smelly scalp or smelly hair, you should turn to anti-fungal hair care products. Talk to your doctor about such products and incorporate them into your hair care routine. You have degreasing shampoos, residue removing ones and sulfur or selenium sulfide shampoos for dandruff.

3. Natural Methods

Home remedies for smelly hair do not hold any scientific evidence, but people consider them to be effective. Here are some of your options:

A. Lemon Juice

The words lemon and fresh usually go hand in hand. Lemon is anti-microbial and leaves a fresh citrusy smell on your scalp. Mix 2 teaspoons of lemon juice with a cup of warm water. After hair wash, pour this mixture on your scalp and hair. Rinse well with cold water after a few minutes.

B. Essential Oils

Mix a few drops of essential oil like tea tree oil with a carrier oil like almond or jojoba oil and apply on your scalp and hair. Leave on for 30 minutes and wash with a gentle shampoo. Tea tree oil is antimicrobial and leaves a pleasant smell on your scalp. You can try the same method with neem oil - another wonderful essential oil.

C. Apple Cider Vinegar

Mix 2-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 2 cups of water. After thoroughly washing your hair, rinse your hair with this vinegar mix. It not only combats bacteria on your scalp but also gives a shiny appearance to your hair.

Tips To Avoid Smelly Hair & Scalp

  • Alcohol
  • Use sulfate-free shampoos. Sulfates are used for lathering purposes in the shampoos but can cause irritation to the skin.
  • Treat dandruff with an anti-dandruff shampoo.
  • Wear a hat or scarf to protect your hair from sun damage and pollution.
  • Resist the urge to scratch your scalp as it only leads to more oil production.
  • Follow a good diet and avoid any pungent smelling foods in your diet.
  • Manage stress with meditation, yoga, or any other calming workouts.

Why Does My Hair Smell Bad Even After I Wash It?

If your hair smells bad within a few hours of washing well, you might be having ‘smelly hair syndrome’. This is a condition that leaves a terrible odor from the scalp. The smell is so strong that you can't help but notice. Medicated shampoos and anti-fungal hair care products can help. Consult your doctor for better treatment methods.

Wrapping Up

Now you know that frequent hair washing and avoiding sweat accumulation on the scalp can fight scalp odour in most cases. If the smell is recurring or chronic despite all your hair care efforts, take out the time to visit a dermatologist's office.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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