Why does My Hair Smell Bad Even After Washing?

my hair smells bad after washing

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Do you, too, think that the only parts that can smell are your underarms or feet? Yes, they are stinky, but apart from these, your scalp and hair could even smell worse if not taken care of properly.

Now I know that smelly hair can be embarrassing, but you should also know that it is a really common thing that most people go through at least once in their life. Especially children since they are always playing and sweating.

To tackle the question “Why does my hair smell bad even after washing” you need to find the reasons behind the issue and then shoot it one by one with the solutions.

Don’t worry, I have been there with stinky, moldy hair and didn’t know what to do. I can guarantee that it is a matter of a few treatments and you’ll soon say goodbye to a smelly scalp.

why does your hair smell bad even after washing

What causes a smelly scalp?

The very first thing you need to do is to learn why exactly you have smelly hair. Now there can be more than one cause, so don’t worry and keep a note because we are going to treat them after.

1. seborrheic dermatitis

seborrheic dermatitis can be why your hair smell sp bad even after washing

You may not have heard of this particular term, but I’m sure you might have either faced this problem or heard someone going through it.

Seborrheic Dermatitis is a common skin condition that mainly affects your scalp but can also be on the face and upper body where sebaceous glands can produce oil. It actually causes scaly red patches and stubborn dandruff. Which can produce that wet dog smell in your hair.

2. excessive sweating

Some people like me naturally are very sweaty. While some people may be working out a lot. But if you are not properly cleaning your hair often, that sweat in your hair can be a nice breeding ground for bacteria on your scalp.

And if your shampoos are not cleaning off that bacteria, it may become the reason why your hair smells bad even after washing.

3. seasonal changes

Some of you might experience smelly scalp if you live in a humid area or especially during the monsoon season. It is because the humidity in the environment gives birth to microbial growth that can cause a smell.

4. fungal infection

There is a possibility that a fungus living on the scalp is causing the smell. As a result, people may suffer from inflammatory reactions like dandruff or eczema.

5. unhygienic hair habits

Why does My Hair Smell Bad Even After Washing?

Are you guilty of washing your hair with hot water? Or wearing a cap or scarf for too long that it starts to produce excess sweat in your hair? Or maybe skipping your hair wash days because you are too lazy or busy? Those are some of the habits that can trigger smelly hair and you need to stop them today.

6. sleeping in wet air

I personally have been guilt-ridden about this. I have long wavy hair, and I would sometimes wash my hair at night if I had an important day. But that’s so wrong, and here’s why.

Oftentimes, mildew in hair or fungus is a problem for girls with curly, coily, wavy, or locked hair. Mildew is a fungus that grows on surfaces, usually gray or white in color, and is often found in damp or moist conditions.

It smells musty and can be found in your home, on fabric, and yes, even on your scalp and hair. The problem is often caused by wet hair not having been allowed to dry for prolonged periods of time.

7. hormonal imbalance and stress

For a beauty freak like me, stress is synonymous with excessive sebum or oil production. And that, my friend, is not good for either skin or hair.

8. pollution

If you live in a polluted city and travel a lot, the smell in your hair can be due to the pungent mixture of oil, sweat, and pollutants.

9. improper diet

People who love onion, cumin, and garlic in everything (not targeting Indians, lol) may smell a bad odor from their hair because oils from foods like this get excreted out from your skin and scalp.

10. overwashing your scalp

Overwashing is never a good thing. It is one of the main culprits for hair smelling bad even after washing, as it produces even more oil/sebum, which we obviously don’t want.

How to get rid of smelly hair?

Now is the time to get rid of the question of why my hair smells bad even after washing forever.

1. use shampoos made for smelly hair

a girl shampooing her hair with right products so her hair doesn't smell like a wet dog

Yes, there are shampoos that are especially suited for this problem. If dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis are the main causes of your smell, try using shampoos with coal tar (this one is pure magic), salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, or zinc pyrithione.

The shampoo I swear by for smelly hair is this particular combo. It has a clarifying shampoo to get rid of oily residue and an anti-dandruff treatment shampoo for the itchy and flaky scalp, especially due to polarises or seborrheic dermatitis. You can also buy these products individually if it suits your needs.

If you are dealing with excessively oily hair, these drugstore shampoos for oily hair need to be in your bathroom the next you go wash your locks. My personal favorite choice for oily hair is this one, and I cannot live without it.

2. lemon juice + yogurt

An age-old home remedy to get rid of the smelly scalp is from my mom’s table. Yogurt is acidic in nature, and so is lemon. The mixture of these two can help incredibly to reduce dandruff, bacteria, and smelly odor. Since lemon is a really strong acid, don’t apply it directly if you don’t want irritation or sunlight-sensitive scalp.

3. try essential oils

I am not a huge fan of essential oils, but I cannot live without my tea tree oil either. It is my overnight acne remedy as well as works like magic if you want to get rid of a smelly scalp. It is an effective anti-microbial that can help you with seborrheic dermatitis or bacteria. Which in turn, can make your hair smell fresh. This is the tea tree oil that I use, and, is affordable too.

4. sulfate-free shampoos are a must

Run as fast as you can if you see sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium Laureth sulfate on your shampoo bottles. These are commonly found in shampoos to create a foaming lather in the shower.

These are particularly harsh on the scalp and dry out the strands. Basically, they can be the reason why your hair gets overwashed and produce more oil after.

But if your scalp is excessively oily, you can try using a product with a limited amount of SLSs like this one.

5. apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has a special place in my kitchen for its anti-microbial properties and ability to help in weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, improve digestion, lowering cholesterol, and other infinite uses.

And that’s why it has been proven beneficial for treating dandruff or the smell. But beware that it is a really strong product, so never use it without diluting it with equal parts of water.

If you are looking for something gentler than regular ACV but can also treat your smelly scalp, you need to get this shampoo ASAP!

6. do not sleep in or tie wet hair

It is highly recommended to air-dry your hair before going to bed and avoid tieing them into a bun or pony when they are wet. I would not recommend blow-drying because it can be insanely harmful in the long term, but if it’s urgent and you don’t have time, it can work.

tips to prevent your hair from smelling bad

Why does My Hair Smell Bad Even After Washing?
  1. Use chemical-free, sulfate-free hair products.
  2. Don’t let excessive sweat build up in your hair, so try washing it frequently.
  3. Do not sleep or tie your hair when they are wet. Let them air-dry first.
  4. It is advisable not to scratch your scalp frequently as it leads to excessive shedding of dead cells, which, in turn, increases the risk of microbial infection.
  5. Regular physical workouts and meditation can help you manage stress levels.

Why does my hair smell bad even after washing?

Your hair can smell bad even after washing them because of different reasons like seborrheic dermatitis, excessive sweating, fungal infection, seasonal changes, mildew in hair, stress, improper diet, sleeping in wet hair, and other factors.

So you need to solve the problem thoroughly because shampoos that smell good are just not enough to get rid of smelly hair.

Why does my hair smell bad so quickly?

It could be that you have an oily scalp, which can cause your hair to become greasy and start to smell bad quickly. You may also have a build-up of products in your hair, which can lead to bad smells. If you’re using a lot of styling products, such as hairspray, gel, or mousse, try washing your hair more often to prevent the build-up.

Try to limit the use of dry shampoo and start using a clarifying shampoo to remove any product build-up to get rid of that smell.

What shampoo is best for smelly scalp?

There are a few different shampoos that could help with a smelly scalp. I have a whole list of shampoos for smelly scalp that work like a charm.

But in short, if you have an oily scalp, you may want to try a shampoo that contains tea tree oil or lemon juice, which can help to control oil production. My favorite recommendation for that is OGX’s tea tree and peppermint shampoo.

If you have product build-up in your hair, you cannot go wrong with Neutrogena’s clarifying shampoo to remove the build-up. You could also try a medicated shampoo if you have an underlying medical condition that is causing your scalp to smell bad. Be sure to see your doctor if you’re concerned about any medical conditions.

Final thoughts on why my hair smells bad even after washing?

There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you have smelly hair. Most of us at one time must have been there. The solution is to find the causes of your problem first and then figure out what you can do to make it better.

Using correct shampoo is probably the best way to treat hair that smells like a wet dog but other home remedies have also proven to work for the case.

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  1. This is really valuable information!! Unhygienic hair habits and improper diet are two major causes of smelly scalps and hair!

  2. Oh no, I too sleep in wet hair sometimes (most of the time). I didn’t knew it was doing all these nasty things. Thanks ya!

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