Is Hot Water Bad for Your Hair?
The power of hot water for health and vitality is found throughout nature and countless cultural traditions. From hot springs to spas and saunas, humans have used hot water to relax, unwind, and help the systems of the body perform at their best.
But as science progresses, questions have arisen surrounding the true benefits of hot water for hair health, specifically in preserving hair over the long term. Does prolonged exposure to hot water have more of a detrimental impact on hair, or even trigger pattern balding for those with a genetic predisposition?
It’s time we figured out the truth about hot water and its relation to hair loss and discover the best way to balance hot water usage with maximum hair health and longevity.
How Does Hot Water Interact With Skin and Hair?
We all enjoy a hot shower now and then, especially in colder climates and dark winter months. However, it’s important to review how hot water interacts with hair and the skin of the scalp if your goal is to maintain long and strong hair for years to come.
Read on to learn what hot water actually does to hair and the skin surrounding follicles, as well as how to best use this natural phenomenon.
Stimulates Blood Flow
Exposure to hot water elevates internal body temperature and causes the blood vessels that are closest to the surface of the skin to expand rapidly. This encourages blood flow in and around follicular units of the scalp, which is vital to nourishing hair roots with oxygen, nutrients, and key growth factors.
In other words, hot water is a natural and generally safe vasodilator, which should be used intentionally and sparingly to get the best results for hair and skin. Just as regular exercise helps strengthen the cardiovascular system, hot water exposure helps the scalp cycle fresh blood and fluid through follicular roots and help maintain balance.
Deep Clean and Exfoliation
Dirt and bacteria are hidden causes of early hair loss that aren’t discussed enough. Proper hygiene is key to eliminating the buildup of skin cells and other compounds that can clog pores and diminish hair health over time.
Therefore, frequent deep cleans are necessary to keep a clean and healthy environment where follicles can grow strong, and hot water is an important component of any deep cleaning.
Simply blasting the scalp with hot water isn’t going to get the job done, of course. Focused and intentional cleaning with proper soap or shampoo is the smart approach, and extremely high temperatures may do more harm than good to follicle roots.
As always, the best hygiene routines are a matter of balance between consistency and rigor, ensuring you don’t strip the scalp of healthy natural oils or burn the skin with scalding water.
High and Low-Stress Response
While we may associate stress with negative emotions, it’s actually a key mechanism in our biological toolkit. That brief and acute stress from hot water may benefit hair health, as the rapid temperature increase necessitates more resilience and strength.
Consider the mechanism of microchanneling, in which tiny punctures are created in the skin to release beneficial growth factors from the body’s natural response. Hot water may work similarly, putting “good stress” on the skin to ultimately strengthen hair over time.
We also get a noticeable endorphin release that comes from a rush of hot water over the scalp and skin, which offers considerable stress relief benefits. Overall, that’s a net positive for your hair, as chronic stress is a well-known detriment to hair health.
The key is to use hot water correctly and be moderate with exposure in terms of duration or extreme temperatures. Finding that temperate zone is important no matter what your hair goals may be.
May Cause Structural Damage
The benefits of hot water for hair are clear, but certain hazards must also be acknowledged. When water is too hot or the duration of exposure too long, those beneficial outcomes may be canceled out or even reversed. This is why some doctors urge patients to avoid hot water altogether, even though the reality is more nuanced.
What exactly happens to hair when hit with too-hot water for an extended duration of time? The first concern is burning or irritation, which can disrupt the life cycle of follicular units and cause damage on a structural level.
While these burns might not be as severe as direct contact with flames or chemicals, the scalp’s ecosystem is more sensitive than regular skin and must be treated cautiously.
This is why your hair may feel thin or brittle to the touch after a long session in a hot shower, especially in low-humidity climates and cold seasons. High heats and imbalanced environments invite split ends, frizz, and shedding.
Furthermore, beware of depleting hair’s natural moisture or stripping oils from the scalp that your hair needs to thrive.
How Can You Use Hot Water for Hair Safely?
Don’t fret–there’s no need to deprive yourself of a hot shower in order to preserve your hair. However, there are ways to handle hot water to reap all its benefits with few or none of the downsides we’ve discussed.
Avoid Scalding Temperatures
We know it’s tempting to keep cranking the shower dial hotter and hotter to escape the cold of winter, but try to limit the temperature to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, maximum. This will give you a restorative boost of hot water and clean the scalp effectively without damaging roots or causing dryness.
Reduce Heat Styling Elements
If you’ve been indulging in hot showers during cold seasons, we can’t blame you. However, hopping out of the shower and immediately blow-drying or styling your hair with a curling iron is a double-whammy of heat exposure that simply isn’t good for your hair health.
Try styling your hair with standard brushing and lukewarm water, and limit the number of products and heat elements to preserve hair for longer.
Consider Contrast Showers
A contrast shower starts with hot water, then ends by lowering temperatures down to lukewarm or colder temps. This gives you the best of both worlds and offers a rejuvenating shock to the system that your hair, skin, and endorphins will appreciate.
Try a Warm Bath Instead
Baths are great for hair health and general well-being, so try a relaxing soak if you have extra time. With warm bath water, y can achieve a deep clean and hydrate your hair with a temperature that isn’t so hot or abrasive. Add bubbles or epsom salts, and you’ve got a mini spa getaway in your own home.
How Can You Prevent Hair Damage From Hot Water?
Even if your hair is in prime condition, it’s always wise to monitor trends like shedding, thinning, and the general look and feel of your hair. If you notice greater shedding after prolonged exposure to hot water, it may be time to revise your hygiene strategy.
For preventive measures, connect with a hair loss professional to create a restoration plan. The earlier, the better, no matter where you currently stand.
Safe and Smart Hot Water for Hair
Moderate and cautious hot water exposure is good for hair, especially when paired with proper hydration and consistent monitoring.
However, too much of a good thing can turn bad, so avoid scalding water and have a plan in place for hair restoration with trusted professionals like Dr. Jae Pak.
Enjoy your hot showers here and there, but don’t let them get the best of your hair health in the long-term.
Find out if Hair Restoration is right for you.
Speak with Jae Pak, M.D. today!