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What the heck?!? Why does my hair smell burnt after I wash it?
If that’s your question, I feel like you’ll be happy that NHP has the answer for you posted below...
The joy of cleansing your hair and scalp is relaxing and enjoyable to many. But, if you’ve ever gone to wash your hair, only to find that it smells burnt afterward, you need to know that you're not alone. Many women have experienced this same issue.
First, the smell of burnt hair has everything to do with the keratin that comprises the structure of our hair. This keratin contains amino acids, which release the scent of sulfur with damage or alteration.
Nevertheless, there are a few reasons why your hair smells burnt after washing. Let's dive into what could be causing this problem and how to manage it.
If you’ve ever asked “Why does my hair smell burnt after I wash it?”- these are the top 5 reasons.
This is a quicklist and more details are explained further down in this tutorial. So get familiar and keep scrolling down for more…
So, let’s get into detail about the main 5 reasons found for why women are smelling the odor of burnt hair after washing.
Yeah, I know. The 1st thing we try to blame is super hot flat irons and blow dryers, and, for good reason (we’ll talk about that next).
Still, some of you are wondering…. Why does my hair smell burnt without heat?
Well, washing your hair with hard water is often the culprit.
Our homes or where we live can significantly affect the scents we exude from our pores and hair. One possibility of why your hair reeks of the smell of burnt hair is that you have hard water.
When water is hard, it contains a high amount of minerals. These minerals can build up on your hair and scalp, and they can cause your hair to smell burnt, especially on the dry down after washing.
SOLUTION #1: How To Get Rid Of Burnt Hair Smell Fast
If your water pipes are the culprit of your burnt hair smell woes, and the ability to get rid of those pipes is not realistic, get a water filter or a shower filter.
Shower filters like the PuRite brand shower filter operate as a filtration system. It removes heavy metals, odors, chlorine, sulfur, rust, sediments, and more while protecting your hair from hard water. A shower filtration system may also be the answer if you suffer from itchy skin and scalp problems.
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Another possibility is that you're using too much heat on your hair or if your hair smells burnt after salon visits, they may be overdoing the fire flames applied to your luscious. Eeek!
For example, if you're using hot tools like a blow dryer, silk press straightening iron, or curling iron, you may inadvertently damage the cuticle and the general structure of your hair shaft.
Why does my hair smell burnt after flat iron or curling sessions? It's likely because the excess heat made your hair cuticles burst.
In this case, your hair will likely smell burnt for upwards of a few weeks.
SOLUTION #2: How To Get Rid Of Burnt Hair Smell Fast
You can take a few actions to eliminate the burnt hair smell caused by your styling tools.
It is also possible that the burnt smell is coming from the chemicals in your hair.
For example, if you use a lot of hairspray or other hair products, these chemicals can build up on your hair and cause it to smell burnt.
SOLUTION #3: How To Get Rid Of Burnt Hair Smell Fast -
If your chemicals are giving you the blues, try washing your hair with a clarifying shampoo to remove the build-up of chemicals.
You should also avoid using too many hair products simultaneously and try to choose products that are sulfate-free or otherwise gentle on your hair. Using all-natural DIY products has saved many heads of hair as well.
Many times, the real source of the burnt hair smell in your hair is actually a combination of both chemical and heat damage.
If you’re regularly hitting your hair with the one-two punch of harsh chemicals and infernally hot hair tools, it’s only a matter of time before you cause enough damage to make your hair release smelly sulfur.
This can happen slowly over a period of weeks, months, or years. Or it can happen all at once. It all depends on how healthy your hair is to begin with.
If you start out with very healthy, undamaged hair, it may take months or years of aggressive heat styling or chemical treatments to result in enough damage to cause the burnt hair smell.
But let’s say your hair is already suffering from chemical processing, heat, or physical damage but smells fine.
If you suddenly throw in a new source of damage by getting a new color or using a new hot tool without heat protection, you’re essentially hitting fast-forward on the damage process and can end up with the burnt hair smell after a single damaging hair event.
SOLUTION #4: How To Get Rid Of Burnt Hair Smell Fast
If the answer to why your hair smells burnt after washing is a combo of chemical damage and heat damage. You need to follow an entirely new hair maintenance and styling routine.
You can find plenty of hair growth routines and protective hairstyles that don’t require excessive heat here at NHP. So dig in…
Finally, if you’ve been wondering “Why does my hair smell burnt without heat?”, all while avoiding harsh chemicals and you don’t have hard water in your home, the reason may come down to something more serious.
You see, some have found that they have an underlying medical condition causing their hair to smell burnt. Brain tumors, epilepsy, and phantosmia can cause you to smell burnt hair when the aroma is not actually present.
SOLUTION #5: How To Get Rid Of Burnt Hair Smell
If you've been experiencing this issue for a long time, or if other symptoms accompany it, it's essential to see a doctor. Your physician can order diagnostic and laboratory tests to help you rule out medical conditions.
You started by asking “Why does my hair smell burnt?” Now, you’ve discovered the reasons and causes behind the burnt hair smell (chemical, heat, combination damage, etc.) as well as ways to get rid of the lingering odor in your hair.
Now, let’s talk about how you can ensure this never, ever happens to your hair again:
Grab a good heat protectant. Heat protectant prevents heat from scorching your hair and releasing stinky sulfur compounds that smell like burnt hair.
Buy a good heat protectant that protects at high temperatures up to 450 degrees.
NHP recommends sprays because they’re easy to get full hair coverage with. See our favorites here: Best Heat Protectants for Natural Hair - Buying Guide.
If you've tried all these things and your hair still smells burnt, it’s time to stop asking “Why does my hair smell burnt after I wash it” and go consult a professional.
A professional hairstylist or trichologist can help you figure out what's causing the burnt smell and how to get rid of it.
They may also be able to suggest a new hair care routine that will help keep your hair healthy and smelling great and keep you from ever again wondering "Why does my hair smell burnt after I wash it?".
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melissa Lee
Melissa Lee is a Contributing Editor to NHP and a former owner of the BlackhairOMG website. She formed 4C Trichology Growth Services, LLC., a US based hair care consultation service. She has also contributed as a writer and consultant for various hair and beauty websites. Melissa can be followed on Twitter here.