Sweaty Hair vs. Dirty Hair—What’s the Difference?

Now that we’re deep into summer, your hair is probably dealing with all sorts of seasonal issues—UV rays, dryness, and maybe most of all, sweat. But is sweat actually a problem or natural bodily function? As it turns out, a little salty-oily mixture could be a good thing.

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    Sweaty Hair vs. Dirty Hair

    Sure, both hair scenarios aren’t as ideal as a fresh blowout or wash and go, but when your scalp is sweaty, it’s not actually dirty. That’s because sweat, which emanates from your sweat glands, is clear, odorless, and 99% water. And if you’ve ever gotten a bit of sweat in your mouth during hot yoga, then you know it also contains salts—mainly sodium chloride—as well as lactic acid, and urea (a compound that helps metabolize protein). “Dirty” hair, on the other hand, comes from your oil-secreting sebaceous glands, which are connected to your hair follicles. Your scalp has a comparatively high number of temperature-regulating sweat glands because it’s located so close to your brain; those glands help protect the almighty brain from overheating.

    Can Sweat Cause Scalp Damage?

    Just because you sweat through your tresses doesn’t mean you have to immediately reach for the shampoo. Under normal conditions, sweat blends with sebum to form a hydrolipid film that protects the scalp. But let’s say you wait too long to wash your hair—then this mixture sits too long on the scalp and bacteria that feed off it can lead to a not-so-pleasant scalp smell. On the other hand, many of us may be washing our hair more than necessary and in turn, stripping our hair of beneficial natural oils. This can actually end up causing more damage than letting your strands go a few days between washes. Let a powder dry shampoo like Prose’s help you extend your wash day while also keeping your scalp happy and free of harmful aerosols.

    How to Tackle Sweat

    It’s not just a workout or humid day that can get sweat going. Stress and hormonal changes can also contribute to getting sweaty. The visible change is wet roots. If your roots weren’t oily to begin with, your mane should dry pretty quickly. The best way to recover from a sweaty session is to dry your roots with a towel or hair dryer set to cool or medium. Stay away from the high heat! We’re also no strangers to using a little sweat to our benefit. A light sweat–oil combo can oftentimes give hair more grip, making for easier styling and that coveted second-day hair look. A few puffs of dry shampoo can have the same effect while simultaneously refreshing your strands.  

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