A hairy situation: has my mom been blowing hot air all this time?
September 29, 2008 10:17 PM   Subscribe

Mom says to blow-dry my hair all the time, but isn't it bad for your hair?

So, I understand blow-drying your hair is in general bad for your hair. It damages it, burns the living crap out of it, sets your head on fire - whoops, getting ahead of myself there. I tend to shed hair, usually about 10 strands every time I wash it, and recently I avoided the blow-dryer all together to see if I can stop dropping strands all over the place (I have long hair, if that makes a difference).

I use Pantene, take a multivitamin and B-complex every day, and wash my hair every 2 days. My hair is generally thick, but like I said, I tend to shed, though not as much as I used to.

My mom, however, said I should blow-dry my hair. "It's good for your hair," she said, "and you won't get sick from wet hair." She said shedding hair at "such a young age" (I'm 21) is a no-no. Maybe the getting sick part makes sense, but the former part goes against conventional wisdom, as far as I know. Nevertheless, I followed her advice for years, even using hot air from the heater when I was too lazy to break out the hairdryer.

So, what do you say, fellow MeFites? Is my mom wrong and I've been subject to heat abuse for too long on my hair?

On a related note: How do you grow out new hair? I used to have a bunch of hair, not just thick, but A LOT, and people had trouble putting it into a bun. Now I shed so much that I can definitely feel my bundle of hair being smaller.
posted by curagea to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Since you won't get sick from having wet hair, no, that part makes no sense.

Everyone sheds hair, but if you're losing a lot, I'd suggest seeing a doctor.
posted by kindall at 10:38 PM on September 29, 2008

I've always heard that hair-dryers damage the hair somewhat... and that it's cumulative.

Shedding hair is completely normal and because it's long you notice it more than if it were short. MrTaff has very long hair and he sheds like a... um, er...dog.

I used to have very thick hair but as I've grown older and more decrepit, I've lost a lot.

If you were losing huge quantities you could mention it to your doctor, but I doubt it's a problem... unless your diet is really really really poor.

The way to stop your hair falling out is to brush it, and the hair will come out in the brush, not on your clothes or in your drains... which can block.

The rule of thumb for hair is brush it when it's dry and comb it when it's wet... in case your mum never told you that.
posted by taff at 10:42 PM on September 29, 2008

Everything I've read says that heat is bad for the texture of your hair, but I haven't seen it in myself. I've used a blow-dryer and flat-iron after every hairwashing for years and my hair looks shinier and healthier than it ever could in its normal frizzy state. It's not without some effects: the very tips get split ends which means I'll probably never be able to grow my hair ultra-long (as in, upwards of two feet) but I don't really want to anyway. You should experiment and do whatever will make your hair look best - "healthiness" is really a false assumption about what hair should be; it's just dead tissue.

As far as shedding - your mother's statement is a little silly. Every one sheds hair, every day, all the time. Ten strands during a shower sounds really, really low to me. I don't think you're going to get sick from wet hair unless you hang out in sub-freezing temperatures while your hair is drying and get hypothermia.
posted by frobozz at 10:50 PM on September 29, 2008

You're not going to get sick from wet hair. That's an old wive's tale just like "Come inside from the rain before you catch a cold!"

Blowdrying is not good for your hair at all. If you moisturize it, keep up a good diet and drink plenty of healthy fluids (or, you know, water), you can minimize the damage. But frying your hair with hot air isn't doing it any favors. These are the words of every stylist I've ever had.

Yeah, it's dead tissue, but that means it's even more important to take care of it. It can't heal like your skin. Healthy hair starts at the roots and determines what the rest of each strand is going to look like for as long as it's in your head. So, eat right. Drink right. Lay off the heat or use moisturizers. That should help with excess breakage.

That said, 10 strands per washing? Sounds pretty normal to me.
posted by katillathehun at 11:02 PM on September 29, 2008

(First, about hair shedding: I used to freak out about how much hair I was shedding, but at this point it seems to be maintaining the same thickness, so I don't worry about it so much anymore (I'm twenty-eight). I've lost a significant amount since I was 18 or so, so you're right in the age range where I was most concerned with hair loss. Maybe it's normal?)

On to blow-drying: when I was in middle school, high school, and through half of college, I would NOT let anybody blow-dry my hair, nor do it myself, because I'd seen the commercials that said blow drying your hair led to frizziness and split ends, and I figured my hair was frizzy enough already. But eventually I let some bossy hair stylist or another blow-dry my hair and I realized that I had been, for lack of a better word, bamboozled. For the first time I realized that blow-drying makes your hair look better and less frizzy, and I realized that I too, could have the shiny, straight, flaxen locks that everybody else seemed to have naturally. Now I blow-dry my hair routinely. If I don't blow-dry it, it just looks frizzy and half-curly, same as ever, and in terms of the texture or hair quality, there's no significant difference.
posted by timoni at 11:29 PM on September 29, 2008

I don't know the scientific answer, but I can tell you that I rarely-to-never blow dry or treat my hair in any way, and I have hairdressers drooling over my hair whenever I go in to get it cut (which is also rarely).

I also tend to lose a lot of hair, but that's due to my slight anaemia problem. If you're really worried about the shedding, you might want to get checked for anaemia, but it's probably just the fact that those of us with thick hair tend to lose it more.
posted by Planet F at 1:08 AM on September 30, 2008

I heard on tv that blowdrying your hair damages AND makes it look shinier. I've never got sick from wet hair and I've had lots and lots of wet hair. I often go to bed with wet hair. In winter even. Without any heating.

I also heard that using hair bands (you know, for pony tails and the like) damages your hair. Also, that Pantene coats your hair with stuff, so if you're getting it dyed, you need to tell the hair dresser so they can strip some stuff out.

In my experience (I'm 41), doing my hair the way my mother wants me to is so wrong, it's practically evil.
posted by b33j at 1:12 AM on September 30, 2008

I would worry about blow drying your hair after you kick the Panteen. Panteen (and most other drug store brands of shampoo) is far worse for your hair than a little heat. Avoid any shampoos with Sodium Laureth Sulfate and then blow dry only until mostly dry and your hair will love you for it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:17 AM on September 30, 2008

If I still listened to my mom about my hair I'd be wearing pink foam rollers to bed.

Is your hair shedding (from the root) or breaking (snapping off in the middle). Lots of shedding at your age might be worth a chat with your doctor. Breaking is a result of damage and is about how you are treating your hair.

Blow drying is damaging, but some people don't really have a problem with it. Personally, I skip the blow dryer because of hair damage and laziness, but mostly laziness. Another thing that will cause breakage is handling your hair when it's wet. Don't brush or comb or tug on your hair until it's fully dry. When the hair is wet it's fragile and prone to breakage.
posted by 26.2 at 3:21 AM on September 30, 2008

I never use a blow-dryer because it just takes too much time and my hair is perfectly acceptable, FWIW. Judge your beauty routine by your own experience, not by what's worked for your mom (or your best friend, or a bunch of strangers on the internet)!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:23 AM on September 30, 2008

blow drying is bad for your hair, but if you use a low setting with a leave-in conditioner, it will be less bad.

blow drying probably will never be -better- for your hair than air drying, but being able to control it while it dries may reduce tangles.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:24 AM on September 30, 2008

Any heat tool is bad for your hair. Blow drying is not beneficial to the health of your hair.

Getting sick from wet hair is an old wives' tale. The bacteria and viruses do not know if your hair is wet or not. Granted, I understand her argument of exposure. You're not in the tundra with wet hair and a bikini. Wet hair is not going to lower your immune system.

Pantene is not a good shampoo and conditioner. It's ok for one or two uses, but it builds up and it leaves your hair looking dull, not shiny like the commercials. If you want drug store shampoo, buy Clairol Herbal Esscences or Neutrogena. I usually buy my shampoo from the discount stores, but I never buy Pantene. If you want shampoos without Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, as The Light Fantastic has suggested, you'll have to shop online or in health food stores.

It's completely normal to shed hair at your age and any age. Copious shedding could be a problem. I shed like a dog and always have. My hair isn't as thick as when I was a teenager, but it's not thinning drastically. It has remained the same thickness for 15-plus years. I shed so much that I have to use a lint roller on the back of my shirt after brushing and blow drying. If you notice a drastic change, see your doctor.

My friend has great results with taking Biotin capsules for hair growth. Her dermatologist recommended it.
posted by Fairchild at 5:24 AM on September 30, 2008

Aside from normal shedding, long hair breaks. It just does, and it seems much worse if your hair is long, or long and thick. I haven't blow-dried my hair in about 5 years, and not only am I totally not dead of a cold, I leave hair everywhere. It's normal. 10 strands would be a slow day for me, but I have a whole lot of hair.

I've never met a hairdresser who didn't rear back and hiss at the mention of Pantene, though. I've been randomly warned against it by different hairstylists over several years.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:31 AM on September 30, 2008

You lose only 10 strands per shower? That's nothing. It's completely normal and healthy to lose 50-100 strands a day. Your hair doesn't stay in your scalp forever. Shedding is part of the growth cycle, and then a new one grows in. Some of the shedding will be in the shower, some of that will be when you brush your hair, sometimes it'll happen on it's own when the hair is ready to just let go.

Your hair is also genetically set on how long it CAN grow - not all of us can have hair down to our butts. The hair grows for however long it's supposed to, then sheds. For some people it's just past their shoulders. For others, it's their ankles.

As for blow drying vs. not blow drying, eh. For me, it depends on one factor: "do I feel like it today?" Usually I don't, so I leave it wet. But I say do whatever you'd like, and if you blowdry, go for medium heat. There was a time when I blow dried every day for a couple of years, and I didn't notice much of a difference in texture.

Oh, and MY mom, the nurse, says the wet hair = sick thing is a myth. Maybe our moms can duke it out.
posted by AlisonM at 6:05 AM on September 30, 2008

I agree that you notice the shedding more because it's longer. HOWEVER, you still might want to talk to a doctor about it because losing hair can be a symptom of something like PCOS or thyroid problems. I personally wish that I had taken my hair loss more seriously because now, at almost thirty, I am way self conscious about how much hair I've lost.

There aren't a lot of good options if you are losing hair, but I recently started using Nioxin shampoo and conditioner on the advice of my endocrinologist and I'm seeing hair grow back. In fact, yesterday I saw some people I hadn't seen in a month, and they can already see a difference in my hair. I know I talk about Nioxin a lot on ask me but I just don't want anyone to suffer like I have.
posted by sugarfish at 6:09 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

You're not losing a lot of hair. It's pretty normal.

As to blow drying - depends how you do it and it depends on how you treat your hair and what you start off with.

I used to have hair that was well below should length. I washed it daily (some people say you shouldn't), and conditioned the living daylights out of it, and gently dried it on the low heat setting of the hair dryer using the standard bent-over-at-the-waist-head-turned-sideways pose, holding the dryer a good distance from my hair with one hand and using my other hand to help separate out the strands.

I cut it every three months or so to keep the split ends down.

My girlfriend at the time loved to nag me about how I was destroying my hair by drying it and using cheap hair care products (did I mention that I used a lot of conditioner?), but when it came down to it, I had much nice hair than she did (something that I think annoyed her).

I think it's not about who's right and who's wrong, though. It's your hair. Enjoy it!
posted by plinth at 7:11 AM on September 30, 2008

I'm 20 and live with 9 other 17-to-20-year-old women - the amount of hair that winds up in the shower is disgusting. Your amount of shedding seems normal.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:39 AM on September 30, 2008

I blowdry my hair every season except for the summer (usually 6x per week) and have never damaged my hair from it. I think the fact that you wash your hair every two days minimizes a lot of damage that people who use blowdriers, straightners, curling irons, etc daily could inflict on themselves. If you're really concerned, use a heat-protectant shampoo like Thermasilk and keep using the Pantene as a conditioner. But you definitely don't have to use a hairdryer, so if you don't want to, don't bother.
posted by pised at 8:40 AM on September 30, 2008

With so many people pooping on Pantene, I thought I'd add this from the cosmetic scientists over at the beauty brains:

The truth is, Pantene’s shampoo and conditioner formulas are believed to be among the best in the industry by those of us in the cosmetic science side of the business.

It's not a product I use, but I don't believe it's a bad product.
posted by 26.2 at 8:42 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments, everyone!

I think the reason why my mom gives that "wet hair = bigger chance of getting sick" thing is because (I'm totally guessing) wet hair makes your scalp wet and it gets cold which will lower your head's temperature which will propagate to your body so you'll get a lower body temperature which means OMG AH'M GONNA BE SICK!

Yeah, I didn't quite believe her for a while. Also, I think she complains about my shedding because I never clean up after myself after showering, so she had to face the drain hairball when cleaning the bathroom. Even though my mom sheds hair to the point that she sheds while making soup (angel hair soup, anyone? ^_^)

Another question: is Pantene really that bad? Any personal experience (not "scientifically-proven" studies or whatnot) on how bad it is? Note that I started using Pantene about 3 months ago and never noticed any shedding changes from my previous shampoo/conditioner.
posted by curagea at 9:51 AM on September 30, 2008

I am on a medication that makes me shed an exorbitant amount of hair (according to the doctor) every day, not just in the shower. I'm losing 20 - 30 strands in the shower, another dozen or so when I brush my hair, 3 or 4 every time I put my hair up, and when I wake up in the morning there are five or six on the pillow. Despite all of this, my hair is so thick that I have to get it thinned when I get it trimmed. I think you're good at ten strands a day:)
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 10:18 AM on September 30, 2008

When I don't blow dry my hair, it may be healthier but it looks like shit. And that's really what matters, right? It's not as if "healthy" hair strengthens your immune system in any way, or "unhealthy" hair causes cancer - it's just a matter of aesthetics. And any damage you do won't be permanent. So I do whatever makes it look best, and if I overdo it, I can cut it off, and it'll grow back! There aren't many other parts of your body you can say that about. Hair is amazing!
posted by granted at 12:01 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pantene - you could do a bit of a test on yourself and use a different shampoo and see if you notice any difference.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2008

How often is your mom around when you are washing and drying your hair? Does she have view on which tampons you should use? You're 21. Make up your own mind.

Don't blow dry your hair. Wet hair can make you sick, but so can not eating enough vegetables and staying up all night and going on a long car trip during which you eat nothing but Fritos. Not sick enough to kill you. Blow drying your hair can dry your skin and, in my own personal opinion, dries up your sinuses causes god knows what horrible germs to take hold when they otherwise would not.

Did you recently move? Bad water can be really hard on your hair. So can changes in diet and medication. Also, shedding can be seasonal.

When I moved to a new water system, either the Goody people changed the ponytail holder size, or I lost a ponytail-holder loop's worth of hair.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:39 PM on September 30, 2008

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