Hair has a tendency to absorb odors, and because it's so close to your nose, it can be really unpleasant to have smelly hair. The causes for smelly hair range from the extreme, such as getting sprayed by a skunk, to much more commonplace causes like a smelly work environment or spending time with people who smoke. Your hair might also hold on to residual smells from hair treatments such as dyes, perms or even just products with a smell you dislike.
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The best way to get a smell out of hair depends on the cause and your situation; for example, whether you're at home with access to a shower and various products, or out and about and in need of quick relief. Fortunately, there are many different methods to consider.
On-the-Go Ways to Get Smells Out of Hair
The most effective ways to get smells out of hair generally require access to a shower or tub and some household products. However, there are several things you can do to improve the smell of your hair while out and about. The most straightforward is to get as much fresh air flowing through your hair as you can. If your hair is up in a clip or ponytail, take it down and head outside for at least an hour, or as long as possible. Open car windows and let the wind blow through your hair; sit by an open window or fan; or even head to the restrooms and angle the hand dryer to blow through your hair for a minute or two.
If smelly hair is an occupational hazard for you – for example, if you work in an atmosphere with strong odors – it's a good idea to have some on-the-go solutions with you. Dry shampoo, which is available in travel sizes ideal for keeping in a purse or car, is a handy product for getting smells out of hair. Follow the manufacturer's directions, which will generally tell you to spray or sprinkle the product around your roots, massage and let it sit for a minute or two, and then brush or comb it out. Another way to refresh the smell of your hair anywhere is with an essential oil spritz. Carry a small spray bottle filled with water and 10 to 20 drops of essential oils such as peppermint and tea tree oils.
At-Home Solutions for Smelly Hair
Once you're at home, getting smells out of hair is a much easier task. The most obvious solution and the simplest is to thoroughly wash your hair, shampooing twice for more effective odor removal. Also consider adding natural deodorizers – baking soda, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice – as a rinse. Mix approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons of any of these three products into 2 cups of water, and pour the solution over your hair to saturate it. Let the product sit for about 5 minutes, then thoroughly rinse your hair.
Solve Ongoing Smelly Hair and Scalp Issues
If your hair has an unpleasant smell on a regular basis, with no obvious external cause, you might have a scalp issue that needs to be addressed if you want to get the smell out of your hair once and for all. Rub your fingers up against your scalp and smell your fingers. If they smell bad, the cause is likely to be excess oils, dead skin cells and yeast on the scalp. This problem can often be fixed by adjusting your hair care routine, but persistent issues might warrant a visit to a doctor.
Some hair care routine changes to consider include switching to a different brand or type of shampoo and conditioner, along with other hair products that you use regularly. Medicated shampoos, dandruff, de-greasing and residue-removing shampoos might be good choices, as are gentler and unscented versions of other products. You may need to wash your hair more often, in which case it's a good idea to switch to a gentler shampoo. Hot water tends to strip the natural oils from the scalp, signaling the skin to produce more. If you usually wash your hair with hot water, try using cooler water, which is gentler on the hair.