Is it ever okay to sleep with wet hair?

Wondering, if it’s ever okay to sleep with wet hair? Get ready to sound the myth klaxon...

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If you shower before bed, you’re probably a wet hair sleeper. It's convenient, it's fuss-free and when worn in braids, gives you the type of near-perfect curl pattern only a professional or a whole load of arm ache can achieve with heated tools. But we’ve also all heard the other arguments – you'll get sick, it's bad for your hair, it'll dehydrate  your skin. So what's the truth?  

If i sleep with wet hair will it cause breakage?

Put bluntly, yes. Waterlogged hair is more prone to breakage. That’s because, when wet, the cuticle (the outer layer of hair) opens and swells and makes the hair strand stretchier and weaker. This, in turn, puts pressure on the delicate proteins keeping hair intact .

‘Hair can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in water,’ explains Adam Reed, GHD global ambassador. ‘Natural drying takes time. The longer it stays wet, the more the cortex swells and cracks, permanently damaging hair.’ 

Even a silk pillowcase or the best pillows for sleep can't prevent that.

While moving around while you sleep is likely to make hair stretch in ways that will cause it to break more easily, wearing your soggy strands up in a tight bun is even worse. More pressure is applied to the scalp when you're lying down which, in turn, pulls on the hair follicles and could be the reason more hair is clogging up your plughole.

It may be icky but there’s something else to consider here, too. Wet hair, coupled with a damp pillow, can create the perfect moist, warm environment for the yeast that causes dandruff to flourish. 

What about my skin?

Consider this – the reason dermatologists warn against using a face mist comprising simply of water is that you’re likely to get the opposite effect you were hoping for. ‘If there are no humectants in your face mist, your skin can’t hold onto the moisture,’ says Noella Gabriel, co-founder of Elemis. ‘The water simply evaporates off the surface of your face and dehydrates your skin.’ 

Now think about what happens when your waterlogged hair gets trapped between your pillow and your face. As the water in your hair evaporates, it can also suck some of the moisture from your skin.

Will wet hair make you sick?

Okay, this may be the ONE time your mom was wrong. The idea that wet hair can make you feel chilly and give you a cold doesn't actually stack up when you consider the science. Colds are caused by viruses and bodily fluids, like when someone sick sneezes or coughs. So your wet hair is perfectly safe on that front!

Fiona Embleton

Fiona Embleton is a multi-award-winning beauty editor who has tested over 10,000 products in her 10 years +  of writing and shooting beauty stories. For the past four years, she was the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, having previously worked in the role of Beauty Editor at both Stylist and Cosmopolitan. She has recently gone freelance and alongside My Imperfect Life, she has written for titles including ELLE UK, ELLE Canada, Buro 247, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Vogue Scandinavia, and ES Magazine. Beauty journalism allowed her to marry up her first-class degree in English Literature and Language (she’s a stickler for grammar and a self-confessed ingredients geek) with a passion for make-up and skincare, photography, and catwalk trends. She loves jumping on the latest internet-breaking beauty news, dissecting the best red carpet looks, and having the crème de la crème of dermatologists, make-up artists, and hairstylists on speed dial so she can tap them for the best advice. She’s a discerning beauty shopper and knows it can be confusing trying to navigate what’s hype and what really works. So if she really likes something, you can trust that she has reached that opinion by vetting it against everything else she’s ever tried. Her career highs? Interviewing Cate Blanchett and winning a Jasmine Award for the deeply personal feature Cancer Stole My Mother’s Scent.