Hot or cold? This isn’t a question of whether you prefer iced tea or a scalding cup of hot coffee. It’s not even about whether you prefer snow or sand for your next vacation. It’s about how you should be washing your hair. Believe it or not, washing your hair with hot or cold water can determine whether you have a good, bad, great, or terrible hair day. Read on to find out more.
Should You Wash Your Hair With Hot Or Cold Water?
This question is a bit more complicated than it seems. The answer is both and neither. Let us explain.
Your hair shaft consists of a surrounding layer of overlapping cells (also called the cuticle). The cuticle “opens” or “closes” when exposed to hot and cold temperatures. According to an article by Self, washing your hair “with hot or warm water separates the overlapping cells of the cuticle, allowing the shampoo to penetrate the hair's shaft deeper. [...] But the same thing that makes warm water good for washing makes it bad for conditioning.” This is because hot water can dissolve the natural oils (called lipids) as well as remove any conditioners you added to your hair. This is making you waste time and money, and is not contributing at all to taking good care of your hair.
On the other hand, cold water “closes” the hair cuticle cells, which can make it great for conditioning and sealing in moisture.
“A cool hair rinse, on the other hand, will remove excess product without stripping away all the moisturizing ingredients. (Curly-haired ladies know that more moisture equals less frizz, too.) It will also close down the cuticle cells, which has two benefits. For one, it locks those ingredients and water inside the hair strand. And when the cuticle layer is closed, the cells lay more smoothly, which makes light reflect better off the hair. More reflection equals more shine.”
Alexis Bennett, writer at Self
Let’s discuss a bit more about the pros and cons of washing your hair with hot or cold water.
Hot Water Pros
- Warm water provides a deeper, more thorough cleanse by getting rid of dirt, grime, and build-up in the scallop. It’s a great way to clean the scalp thoroughly, dissolving dirt and unclogging your scalp pores.
- If you have very oily hair, hot water can be great to eliminate the excess sebum from your hair and scalp.
- It “opens” up the hair cuticle cells, which allows you to thoroughly cleanse the strands.
- It can create extra texture and make hair more voluminous.
Hot Water Cons
- Hot water can strip your hair of essential oils, leaving it looking dry and brittle.
- It can dry out your scalp, causing itchiness and dandruff.
- Hot water can weaken your hair roots, making your hair grow out frizzy and prone to breakage.
- It can make your hair overly porous, which makes it prone to breakage and brittleness.
- It can cause frizz and excess volume.
- Promote hair loss (because the hair is a lot more prone to breakage).
- Reduce shine by stripping natural oils and leaving the hair dry and brittle.
Cold Water Pros
- Cold water can help preserve natural oils and keep hair manageable.
- Cold water “closes” the cuticle cells, which lends the hair a sleeker, shinier appearance.
- It can seal in moisture and help keep the hair healthy, soft, and moisturized.
- It can help keep your scalp cleaner for a longer period of time by closing the pores (making them less likely to get clogged by oil and dirt).
- Cold water can help control breakage, frizz, and flyaways, lending the hair a smoother appearance.
- It can help eliminate dandruff by not overdrying the scalp.
Cold Water Cons
- Since it seals in moisture and closes the cuticle cells, cold water can reduce the hair’s volume and leave it looking flat and less voluminous.
- If you have very oily hair, it can leave your hair feeling less clean since it doesn’t provide as thorough a cleanse as hot water.
- Washing your hair with cold water can be un-com-fort-a-ble, especially during the colder months.
According to this article by Malaika Puri, cold water is the big winner when it comes to washing your soft tresses. This is because hot water - despite opening up pores and providing a deeper, thorough cleanse -, can also strip your hair of essential oils, taking away your precious shine. Hot water can also make your hair dry and frizzy because of the same oil stripping that we just discussed. Cold water, on the other hand, is great for sealing in moisture and increasing shine. It can also decrease hair volume because of the moisture sealing, which can leave it looking rather flat. However, it can also aid in reducing frizz as well as fighting off dandruff.
So What Should You Do?
Which is it? Hot or cold? As we mentioned at the beginning, both!
“As soon as you step into the shower, rinsing and washing your hair with hot water is a great first step, followed by a cold water rinse.”
Advaitaa Ravi, writer at Skinkraft
Shampoo your hair with warm (not scalding hot!) water to provide a deep, thorough cleanse. After, apply your conditioner, hair mask, or any other moisturizing product you normally use and rinse away the excess with cold water. This will help lock in moisture and close the cuticle, leaving the hair shiny and with less frizz.
“Apply your conditioner to your hair and then rinse with cold water to not only rinse away any excess conditioner. But also close the cuticle and lock in water and the moisturizing ingredients allowing the product to work also helping to eliminate the frizz before it attacks.”
“The Top Benefits of a Cold Water Hair Rinse!”, by Private Label Extensions
Aside from cold water rinsing to keep hair shiny, healthy, and smooth, you can also help it by providing your body with the right vitamins. This is why at CheveuxRX we focused on creating a unique formula with 49 active ingredients to stimulate healthy hair growth as well as nourishing your entire body. This way you will nurture your hair from the inside out, making your cold water rinse even more effective. You can just sit back and watch everyone stare in awe every time you flip your hair.