On the one hand, my hair smells. On the other hand, I dont want to go bald trying to fix the problem...
January 7, 2006 5:07 PM   Subscribe

On the one hand, my hair smells (I think because I wash it everyday). On the other hand, I dont want to go bald trying to fix the problem (ie. stopping washing it everyday which I think is keeping my follicles from dying off).

I wash my hair everyday because I swear it stopped my hairloss. My hairline started to recede in the 7th grade and stopped a few years later when I started to wash it everyday. (I also take Propecia now as an added safety).
I know that washing everyday is not recommended, and I read about someone else with the same washes hair everyday hair smells problem but cant remember where now. It smells basically like my hair is oily, even though thats impossible when I wash it so often. But my hair does seem to get oily quickly... Im unclear on whether scalp oilyness adjusts to your washing schedule... There are so many myths on this subject Im sure, so Im thoroughly confused at this point...
Has anyone expierienced smelly hair even when washing it regularly? Does anyone wash their hair regularly to avoid hair loss? I know theres a lot of new-age junk on the subject of what kind of crap to put in your hair, so please refrain unless you swear by vanilla extract and also happen to be a hard-assed scientist.
posted by GleepGlop to Health & Fitness (27 answers total)
Response by poster: The easy option I suppose is to just keep the same routine and spray some kind of nice scent into my hair to mask the smell, or to get to the bottom of this...
posted by GleepGlop at 5:09 PM on January 7, 2006

Have you tried switching shampoos? I use a "smoothing" shampoo by Ion, but it occasionally starts to build up so I use one of their clarifying shampoos to get rid of the residue every few weeks. Try a new shampoo altogether, or just rotate with what you have now. A hairstylist can probably recommend something based on your hair type.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:18 PM on January 7, 2006

Response by poster: Doesnt seem to matter what shampoo I use. I dont know if Ive ever used a clarifying shampoo however.
posted by GleepGlop at 5:19 PM on January 7, 2006

Where did you get the idea that washing your hair everyday would prevent you from losing your hair? Hair loss is tied to hormone levels, not how wet your hair gets or how much scrubbing you do. If you don't want to wash your hair as much, it'll have absolutely no effect on your hair line.
posted by incessant at 5:33 PM on January 7, 2006

Response by poster: I guess its the theory that oil/sebum blocks the pores. Its much easier to prevent balding by keeping a hair follicle alive than to revive it once its dead.
posted by GleepGlop at 5:37 PM on January 7, 2006

that has absolutely no truth to it, sorry.
posted by kcm at 5:43 PM on January 7, 2006

Response by poster: Hey man, talk to the Japanese... bloody good cameras though...
posted by GleepGlop at 5:46 PM on January 7, 2006

I doubt there is any truth to the oil/sebum blockage theory, but even if there is, it seems like your hair will adjust to whatever washing schedule you use...i.e, it'll produce less oil if you wash it less often. That's been my experience. I always taper off from every other day to once every three or four days in the winter, and once my hair adjusts, nothing's too different greasewise.

I've always liked Aveda's shampoos -- they don't strip your hair too much, and they're strong-smelling but not in a chemical or girly way. Maybe try one of theirs and cut back to every other day. I'll bet your hair will smell better.
posted by climalene at 5:56 PM on January 7, 2006

I wash my hair everyday and it has no bad smell. It might be a function of how you dry your hair. I blow dry or sit in front of my trusty heater until my hair is mostly dry. This controls a lot of the oil and gets rid of fly-aways. I could imagine bad things building up in my hair if I went to bed with it wet every night.

Also, I shampoo, condition and use no other hair products, but I change my brand of shampoo and conditioner every month to keep one kind of product from building up and because my hair changes with the seasons.
posted by Alison at 9:33 PM on January 7, 2006

Are you using dandruff shampoo? That's the only reason I would think fresh-washed hair should be stinky. That stuff smells awful, like sulfur. But if you switch to a normal, nice-smelling shampoo, there should be no reason why your hair should smell like anything other than shampoo within 24 hours.

My fiance used dandruff shampoo for a couple months and I couldn't deal with being near him because his hair smelled so gross, but switching to a regular shampoo fixed that problem quickly.

(And if it matters, I'm a woman who washes her fairly long hair every single day and lets it airdry over night. And my hair smells fantastic.)
posted by tastybrains at 9:58 PM on January 7, 2006

Response by poster: Nope, no dandruff shampoo. Sheesh, why is haircare so complex...
posted by GleepGlop at 10:14 PM on January 7, 2006

Actually dandruff shampoo may be what would help your hair. If I use just regular shampoo after a couple of days my scalp gets oily and smelly. If I use dandruff shampoo I don't have this problem. Head and Shoulders Refresh should solve the problem and it smells good (don't buy the conditioner). You can also throw in TSal or Nizoral once in a while which don't smell great but aren't noticeable if you dont use 'em every day. Don't buy TGel, the smell of that stuff is horrifiic and doesn't go away.

You can also get a prescription from your dermatologist for Olux Foam which you put on at night and helps a lot. The generic drug is called Clobetasol Propionate and comes in verious forms but the Olux foam is the best.
posted by radioamy at 10:24 PM on January 7, 2006

shave it. really.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 10:42 PM on January 7, 2006

When I first read the bit about daily hair washings, I assumed that, if there really is any benefit to be derived from them, it's due to the increased blood flow through the scalp which results from the lovely hot-water-jet-and-fingertip massage it invariably receives during the course of a shampoo and wash.
posted by Clay201 at 10:42 PM on January 7, 2006

Male pattern baldness is a genetic situation that has nothing to do with how you wash or don't wash your hair.
posted by knave at 11:23 PM on January 7, 2006

I didn't know there were people who live otherwise normal, modern-era, non-destitute lives that don't wash their hair everyday.

(I would have assumed that more frequent hair washing would have increased the rate of hair loss, if it had any effect at all.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:58 AM on January 8, 2006

So it smells like shampoo? What's wrong with that?
posted by delmoi at 1:39 AM on January 8, 2006

First off, shampooing every day has nothing to do with hair loss. There are many interested parties that will tell you otherwise, but they're wrong. They're trying to sell you something. Male Pattern Baldness is genetic, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Now - to the smell problem. I assume that the poster is referring to an odor from the oils on his own head, not shampoo smells or anything like that.

I think the cause of this is too much shampooing and with too-harsh shampoos. When you shampoo, you're not only (or even mostly) washing your hair, you're washing your scalp. Doing so strips the natural protective oils from the hairs themselves AND from the pores on your scalp. Those pores have a job to do, and if there is a lack of oils, they will produce more to make up for the lack. It seems likely that your scalp is overproducing oil to replace what you are stripping off, likely with over-strong shampoo.

I think given your beliefs about hair loss that it's too much to suggest that you go from shampooing every day to once a week, though I think that would definitely help (after a month or so of adjustment). So if you're going to keep shampooing every day, you should probably switch to a baby shampoo that won't be as harsh.
posted by mikel at 6:37 AM on January 8, 2006

I didn't know there were people who live otherwise normal, modern-era, non-destitute lives that don't wash their hair everyday.

Sometimes it's not all that necessary. I occasionally prefer not to wash my hair, because it was nicely styled the day before, has remained so overnight and hasn't accumulated nearly enough oil to reach the "ew" phase.
posted by luftmensch at 7:32 AM on January 8, 2006

Stavros, I'm like you. I wash my hair usually six times a week. Every weekday, when I get up, I shower, and in the process wash it. I had assumed this is a common thing most people do (at least for guys), as none of my peers or friends do otherwise.

I think women are less likely to do so, if only in part due to hair styling, etc.

Anyways, no one has ever commented to me that doing such has resulted in "smelly" hair. I think there is a solution to this problem, but I don't think it really falls into the daily hair washing. Its more complex and possibly biological, as everyone has suggested, go find someone who knows something about this professionally and get their opinion.
posted by Atreides at 9:24 AM on January 8, 2006

How often do you change your pillowcase? Does it smell?
posted by fshgrl at 12:00 PM on January 8, 2006

Response by poster: nah...
posted by GleepGlop at 1:36 PM on January 8, 2006

Stavros, it depends on ethnicity and age, too. Most black women I know wash their hair no more than once every two weeks. Lots of older white women go to the salon and get it washed once a week. I (a white girl) wash mine less often the longer it is...all that shampoo is just not good for the ends.

Keep us updated, GleepGlop!
posted by climalene at 3:20 PM on January 8, 2006

Response by poster: Well, Im going to keep a hair smellyness diary. Im going to start by not changing anything except washing it every other day as opposed to every day and go from there. When I find the right solution Ill post it in here!
posted by GleepGlop at 3:37 PM on January 8, 2006

The Clobetasol proprionate is a topical steroid, so be careful if you go that route (search for clobetasol steroid atrophy for cautionary tales)
posted by niloticus at 5:27 PM on January 8, 2006

Response by poster: Since im pretty sure its scalp oil thats causing the smell, I guess I need to look into whether its possible to reduce how much oil my scalp produces if washing only very temporarily reduces the oil levels...
posted by GleepGlop at 9:09 PM on January 8, 2006

Response by poster: Either that or its some kind of bacterial infection. Ive come across some of that on google...
posted by GleepGlop at 11:49 PM on January 9, 2006

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