Doing long wet hair right
June 4, 2022 9:41 PM   Subscribe

I recently read that if you put your damp hair into a tight bun, you risk mould or mildew. So I turned to trust Askme and found this question, but my hair doesn't stink, and it's not coloured. I don't have the patience to blowdry it? What preventative quick method should I take?
posted by b33j to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've been putting my hair up wet for like forty years - not a tight bun but sometimes ponytails - and there has never been any mildew. I think the humidity in your area and the pH of your scalp might affect the chances of this happening. If you've made it to adulthood without it, you probably won't start getting it out of nowhere.
posted by soelo at 9:47 PM on June 4, 2022 [15 favorites]

As a data point (or two): Have been doing this most of my life with thick hair and no problems, but will say that my dear husband has had chronic dandruff issues (prescription shampoo for the win!) and my research has convinced me there’s a fungal thing going on due to his constant ball-cap-wearing (hats that are often dirty/sweaty, put on over damp hair, etc.) So think this is a thing but not from wearing your hair in a bun. If you’re really concerned I’d take a few minutes to blast your hair with a dryer, THEN put it up…which if nothing else will help with volume when you eventually take your hair down (if that’s what you’re going for).

Abusing the edit window to add one other tip: Get one of those extra-absorbent hair towels, too—five minutes in that, plus a blast at the roots with your blow-dryer will go a long way.
posted by lovableiago at 10:16 PM on June 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Worry less about mildew and more about damaging your hair. Pulling it back when it’s wet makes it a lot more likely that you’ll break it and you’ll wind up with a lot of frizzy flyaways that will give you a whole lot of bad hair days.
posted by holborne at 10:16 PM on June 4, 2022 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: It has been incredibly wet here this year (south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales have had multiple floods). Mould is growing in our stairwell. People are being advised to clean household mould carefully and avoid breathing it in. I do have worrywart tendencies, so I hope you're right, soelo.

One other piece of information, when I let it down at the end of the day, the centre is often still damp. I have very thick hair, and the longest lengths now reach the small of my back (because I am too lazy to go for a haircut) and there's a bit of grey at my temples (which I really like)).
posted by b33j at 10:18 PM on June 4, 2022

Response by poster: Oh, and I have psoriasis too. Biggest spots are right elbow and left knee, but there are patches behind both ears and on the left side of my hairline at the forehead. I have a cream that works on the knee and elbow, but only if I cover with a dressing, which is hard to do behind the ears and into my hair.
posted by b33j at 10:20 PM on June 4, 2022

Best answer: If you’re worried about anything growing in your hair you can try using a shampoo or conditioner with tea tree oil, or spray it with a mixture of a few drops of tea tree oil in water.
posted by corey flood at 10:22 PM on June 4, 2022 [6 favorites]

Can you wash it in the evenings so it has time to dry a bit before bed? Could you do a few braids instead or let it hang for a bit during the day to dry?

My hair isn’t thick but it’s longer now and sometimes I clip it back when it’s wet. Seems not great to me for it stay soggy all day so I try not to leave it all tied up wet too long.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:28 PM on June 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

I’ve been crunching water out of my hair with an old t-shirt, loosely pulling my hair into a bun (“pineappling”), and sleeping on it for 7 years with no problems. When I wake up in the morning it’s 90-95% dry and I let it down to air dry the rest of the way, which usually only takes 30 min or so. It works great for me as a lazy, curly haired person, including several years in San Francisco in a house with many mildew problems. I’ve never had hair mildew problems, though I have had some kind of damp pillowcases.
posted by A Blue Moon at 10:57 PM on June 4, 2022 [5 favorites]

I tie back damp (towel dried) hair on the regular and let it dry if it's own accord, and I also have psoriasis (not near my scalp, mind). I have done this for many years including in some more tropical climes in the past, and I have not noticed anything.

(Also, apropos of nothing, you can freeze a ponytail by cycling with damp hair in winter weather, which is fucking weird.)
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 11:44 PM on June 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all your input, metafolk. As an autistic, I can't stand my hair touching me, so it's either long, or really short (I have had a #0 clippers blade a few times). I don't own a hair-dryer as they are too noisy for my sensitive ears, and going to bed with damp hair has in the past, cause mildew/mould on my pillows. I think I'll give the tea tree oil a go.
posted by b33j at 1:22 AM on June 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Multiple braids with covered rubber bands. This gets the wet clean hair off my neck and ears, and can result in some fabulous beach waves.
Divide hair for two braids. Instead of three sections for braiding, each section is its own braid. More braids can be created on each side of the head, but that is just overkill.
Sleeping in wet hair can result in damaged hair and mildewed pillows. Use a towel over the pillow, if you must.
posted by TrishaU at 3:02 AM on June 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

It was a revelation to me that ‘towel dry’ depends heavily on the material used for the towel. I find something like this gets a lot more water out and allows hair to dry much faster. Especially if I use one while I dry myself after a shower and then swap it when I get ready.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:11 AM on June 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

I have thick hair and had it be rather king in the past and it absolutely took on a mildewy smell in the past when I kept putting it up wet. However this only ever really happened if it never got time to dry between washings or took more than 24 hours to dry. I think the tea tree oil
Suggestion is a good one.

If you have a roommate, partner or close friend who will be honest with you, you could also east them to let you know if they notice it around you (though that might be difficult given the climate you’ve described).
posted by raccoon409 at 5:05 AM on June 5, 2022

I feel you on not wanting the hair touching you. Here are some things that I have tried:

- Multiple small buns. They're smaller, so they dry more quickly. Bonus: can look cool. Double bonus: curly hair!

- Two braids, then connecting the braids at their ends. Same bonuses as above.

- French braiding around my face, then a loose ponytail for everything else.

- Taking hair down after a while (when the outside parts have dried), leaving it down for a short time to dry the rest -- which doesn't take long at this point -- then re-upping the hair.

- Using anti-fungal shampoo occasionally.

- Changing up the post-shower hairstyles so that different parts can dry more quickly on different days.

- Tiny tiny clips that make creative bunning and styling more possible
posted by amtho at 8:42 AM on June 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

As a person with a lot of curls, I've found that a standing infrared salon lamp can speed the process of drying copious amounts of hair without the grating noise of a dryer. They also seem to be easier on the hair.

I've experienced infrared salon lamps only when getting my hair cut by a US stylist, and my link is to a comparative list of salon lamps sold in the US, primarily to hairstylists as opposed to haired individuals. But if you're interested, Google "infrared light heating therapy" or some such, and I'd bet you could put together a similar setup that would cost less than a product that is specifically marketed as a standing salon lamp.
posted by virago at 11:06 AM on June 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Multiple braids with covered rubber bands. This gets the wet clean hair off my neck and ears, and can result in some fabulous beach waves.
Divide hair for two braids. Instead of three sections for braiding, each section is its own braid. More braids can be created on each side of the head, but that is just overkill.

This was my go-to, except I did four braids instead of six, and then loosely gathered them all at the crown. (I recently did a twelve-inch chop.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:17 AM on June 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

If the microfibre towels are a bad texture, plain shirts work as a head towel. That, then the bun, letting it dry fully in the evening was how I managed very long and dense hair that was always damp in buns and braids if I put it up wet. Tea tree or vinegar rinse will help, decreasing the density of the bun helps too (sock buns are low effort if you ponytail, then donut foam/sock, another hairtie then twirl the rest around, or two buns). You could also use the big claw clip or comb slides to avoid the high density of the ponytail. Letting it dry fully after washing is the main thing I think.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:49 PM on June 5, 2022

I have super long hair and swim several evenings a week. When I come out of the shower I make a pony tail about 8 inches away from my heat on one side and spin the long hair like a propeller. It's less dripping wet and then I roll a towel tight about the tail and press more moisture out. Then in bed I throw my hair up and over the headboard. Keeps it out of the way and gets dry by morning. It's very humid here and I never get a mildew smell.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:58 PM on June 5, 2022

I am an SEQ-dweller, 40+ and counting, with long thick hair that I am pretty lazy about blow drying my hair. I hate the feeling of wet hair though, and will tie it up in a bun and let it air dry.

Never had mildew issues, no musty smell. Just lovely, curly hair when it dries.

(Please don’t ask, however, about the state of my ceilings, about the random patches of mildew I keep finding on clothes and shoes…!)
posted by chronic sublime at 4:36 AM on June 6, 2022

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