7 Wet Hair Mistakes That Are Secretly Damaging Your Locks

You've put your wet hair up in a bun for the last time.

You may not realize it, but damp hair is especially fragile. That means, as carefully and lovingly as you should treat your dry tresses with the right brush and hairstyle, wet hair requires even more TLC. With this in mind, you should take care to avoid damage and keep those dampened locks strong, healthy, and luscious for years to come. Here's why wet hair is more fragile and how you can correct common mistakes women make when their hair is damp.

Why Is Wet Hair More Delicate?

"When hair is wet it's more likely to break," says Siobhán Quinlan, creative director, stylist, and colorist at Art + Autonomy Salon in New York City. "And if your hair has been highlighted, you want to be especially careful with it when it's wet."

To get a little scientific, when hair gets wet, the proteins that make up each strand (keratin) form weaker hydrogen bonds, rendering it more susceptible to damage from being pulled, stretched, bent, or otherwise roughly handled. Also, wet hair doesn't snap back into place like dry hair (or a rubber band) does; any stretching bends the cuticle (the flexible shield holding all of these keratin proteins) out of place, which causes your hair to look and feel damaged.

Damp Hair Mistakes (and Fixes)

01 of 07

Waiting until it's wet to brush out knots.

"I always brush my hair before the shower, when it's dry, to get the knots out," Quinlan says. Brushing it out when it's dry will decrease the likelihood of breakage when working out the tougher tangles created throughout the day or night, depending on when you plan to shower.

02 of 07

Using any old brush on wet hair.

It's OK—and often necessary—to detangle wet hair, as long as you use the correct type of brush. Quinlan loves The Flex Brush ($28, amazon.com), which has soft boar and nylon bristles, bends with the hair to avoid painful snags, and works for all hair types and textures, as well as on both wet and dry hair. Another favorite of Quinlan's, which is more of a splurge, is the Yves Durif Vented Hairbrush ($90, violetgrey.com).

03 of 07

Brushing too aggressively.

In terms of the technique for brushing wet hair: "You want to be gentle, and don't want to tear at your hair," Quinlan says. "Always start from the ends and work your way up while holding the section of hair you're working on in your hand."

Quinlan adds that when she does brush wet hair, she uses a leave-in conditioner or detangler to minimize snags and maximize smooth locks. One of her faves: Unite 7 Seconds Detangler ($33, amazon.com).

04 of 07

Shaking and rubbing hair too vigorously.

You may have heard you're not supposed to use a regular terry cloth towel on wet hair, but Quinlan says it's more about how you handle your hair versus what you use to dry it.

"Some people believe a cotton T-shirt is the best thing to use, and there are lots of fancy towels out there," she says. "But I don't think it's as much what you use as how you use it. You don't want to rough up your hair—rather than rubbing, gently squeeze the moisture out."

05 of 07

Using any hot tools before it's completely dry.

Here's a huge hair don't. "This is so scary! You'll damage your hair," Quinlan warns. "All that heat will pretty much boil the water on your hair—you're basically cooking your hair. Not something you want to do." Keep curling irons, straighteners, and other heated tools for dry hair only, with no exceptions.

06 of 07

Putting it up in a bun or ponytail when it's really wet.

Hair's elasticity changes as it goes from wet to dry—essentially, the hair shrinks as it dries, Quinlan explains. "If you try to put it up with a ponytail holder when it's wet, it can break at the band," she says. "If you're desperate to put it up before it's dry, it's best to use hair pins or a clip."

07 of 07

Blow-drying it when it's sopping wet.

This mistake isn't so much about hair damage as it is about styling efficiency—but still. Even the best blow dryer will need to work extra hard (and extra long) on soaking wet hair. "Blow drying dripping wet hair will just take longer," Quinlan says. "Hair takes its shape from damp to dry, so I usually tell people to either towel dry it really well or tell people to let it air dry a little [before blow-drying]."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles