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Why You Shouldn’t Sleep with Wet Hair

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I’ll admit I’ve been guilty as charged. I’ve French braided my hair after a shower and let it air dry into beachy waves later — and yes, there are times that I’ve turned “later” into overnight. But @madamesweat of the House of Hygiene blog and founder of kaia naturals had me at “fungus.” 

Even though I know mold — which is indeed a fungus — grows in the presence of excess moisture, I sought a second opinion about whether sleeping with a wet head is truly bad. Keep reading to find out why I will always dry my hair before bedtime now.

Why Your Pillow Can Be a Nightmare

Danielle Kelvis, M.D., chief medical advisor at Sleepline, confirms that sleeping with a wet head is “not recommended” if you care about your hygiene.

“One of the primary concerns is that the damp environment created by wet hair and the heat from your head can serve as a breeding ground for microorganisms, potentially leading to bacterial and fungal growth on pillows,” she explains. “This increases the risk of developing fungal infections of the scalp, such as those caused by Malassezia [a species of skin fungus].”

Yikes. But wait, there’s more! “Sleeping with wet hair can also contribute to the development of acne and pustules due to the damp environment, which can become itchy or painful,” says Kelvis.

Fungal growth and acne? It’s a no for me. But for those of you who like to use soft foam rollers to do your ‘do overnight, there might be some hope for you.

How to Protect Yourself if You Still Sleep with a Wet Head

I wrote this article, so obviously I have lived to tell about my experience of sleeping with wet hair. But for the sake of your skin and scalp, you should to upgrade your laundry routine if you choose to throw caution to the wind in your ongoing quest for tousled curls. 

The Sleep Foundation recommends washing your sheets and pillowcases at least once a week, more if you share your bed with furbabies. It is also suggested that if you’re going to sleep with wet hair, use a silk pillowcase or wear a sleep cap/scarf, which can help reduce the friction that leads to hair breakage. But don’t just toss that silk pillowcase in the washer on any setting.

“Delicate fabrics like silk, including pillowcases, shouldn’t be washed too often,” says Brian Jones, VP of marketing at ASKO America. “Look for a specified silk setting [on your washing machine] to simply loosen up and refresh the garments as needed.”

A clean pillowcase is one thing, but what about your pillow that likely absorbed that moisture? It’s got to be cleaned as well. Alicia Sokolowski, president and co-CEO of AspenClean, says to check the care label on your pillow first, but in general, here are some ways to clean your pillow and say goodbye to any fungus that might have joined your slumber party:

You’ll need to fully dry your pillow before heading off to dreamland, or else it’s the same thing as sleeping with a wet head. Here’s how to do it.

If you know that you’ll likely sleep with wet hair again at some point, or are just grossed out in general by what could be lurking in your pillowcase (you’re welcome!), Sokolowski says to go ahead and purchase pillow protectors. “These covers are an additional barrier against dirt, oils, and allergens and can be easily removed and washed regularly,” she explains.

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