SOS: How to Make Your Hair Smell Good
I knew adulthood would come with questions, but wondering why does my hair smell? was definitely not an expected Q. I would consider myself someone who is pretty regular haired. It doesn’t, all things considered, “need” deep conditioning or exfoliation. I’ve never really needed to play any sort of is it dandruff? is it a dry scalp? guessing games. And for showering, I would consider myself a chairperson to the Wash Your Hair Less Movement.
For a half-decent hair day, it can survive on the basics without much trouble. But, sometimes I experience the faintest slight bad hair smell. No other red flags. Just a scalp left wondering: is that me?
For all those how want to wash their hair less, but are wondering about their waft, let’s get into the whole ‘why does my hair smell and how to make your hair smell good’ discussion.
Why Does My Hair Smell Bad?
An early indicator of that bad hair smell is usually a bit of oil; more specifically sebum, is your hair’s personal brand of oil that’s produced by the sebaceous glands on your scalp.
While this homemade hair oil can be amazing for healthy hair growth, if you’re producing it in excess, you can can start getting bacteria, yeast, and that burnt hair smell on the scalp.
Which brings us to that: the smell.
Your scalp is indeed like the rest of your body in the way that it produces sweat, with oils and fatty acids. But, the reason it smells different than other sweaty areas is because of sebum, or an overproduction of it.
Bacteria and its byproducts feed off lipids and protein in your sweat, secreting compounds that give that wet dog or burnt hair smell. Furthermore, your hair keeps your scalp very warm. Think of it like wearing a little cardigan on an already warm day; your scalp is experiencing that same incubator-like warmth for bacteria. The dead skin cells, sweat, and bacteria are then caught at the root, causing a smell.
Related: How to Stop Scalp Itching: 5 Actually Easy Ways
The DL on Hair Perfumes
In my youth, my hair lived on a steady diet of Curious by Britney Spears. And it made sense to someone none the wiser: perfume smells good; I want my hair to smell good.
But, even a few spritzes of heavy fragrance and alcohol-based sex appeal can make hair suuuuuper dry. So, if you’re wondering how to make your hair smell good or if you’re looking for dream products, there are some considerations:
For one, hair perfumes are a thing now! Yay! But, with any quick fixes in our beauty arsenal, you need to monitor ingredients and use sprays sparingly.
If you already have damaged or chemically processed hair, you should go the DIY route whenever possible.
If hair is pretty healthy, has low porosity, or doesn’t require a specialty diet of hydration, store-bought hair perfumes are generally safe for more frequent use.
For any hair type, we suggest keeping perfumes to the ends rather than the scalp. And although the scalp is the smell powerhouse of this problem, consider that Febreeze is not the same as laundry day.
A spray to make your hair smell good will help you extend your hair between washes (which is amazing for hair health and growth!) but if you have excess sebum, move your shower up a day so you’re not over-doing the sebum thing.
Related: How to Protect Hair From Hard Water
How to Make Hair Smell Good: The 3 to Buy
Thought we’d leave you with products that don’t take ingredients into consideration? Each product is a spray to make your hair smell good with specially chosen ingredient lists and non-drying formulas. And obv amazing fragrance in every hair flip.
Amika, 001 Hair Fragrance, $35
Keratin safe, Brazilian-treatment safe, and colour safe, this bottle is small but mighty for hair care and hair smell. Rid yourself of that burnt hair smell with a blend of warm vanilla, fresh citrus, and spicy sweet clove.
Plus! This fragrance is scalp friendly with its star ingredient sea buckthorn, a superfruit with tons of fatty-acid omega 7 that promotes elasticity and mega hydration.
Sachajuan, Protective Hair Perfume, $66
Already a delicately complex fragrance profile, this hair perfume does A LOT. Firstly, you’ll smell of cozy cedarwood, white musk, and a bit of citrus—similar to the rest of their line’s scent.
But along with a great smell, a spritz of this will actually encapsulate and break down odour molecules in your hair! And if that’s not enough, your hair will be moisturized, shinier, and less static-y.
Wondering how it earned the name “Protective Hair Perfume”? It counteracts free radical damage.
Gisou, Honey-Infused Hair Perfume, $83
Known for their honey-heavy products, you can guarantee this hair perfume has hydration in mind! A feminine fragrance that leans on notes of garden flora, the key ingredient is… honey!
Safe for colour-treated hair, honey provides a blend of minerals, vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants. Bonus points for this formula’s skills in moisture balance, luminous shine, and hydration.
Related: Should You Exfoliate Your Scalp? Yes And Here’s Why.
How to Make Hair Smell Good: The 3 to DIY
If you’re looking to battle the perfume market as well as Rihanna, you’ll need to understand perfume notes.
You may have heard of top notes, middle notes, and base notes, but here’s the break down of what that means (and their measurements).
- Top notes: You smell these immediately when you spray a perfume. They last from 5-15 minutes and are usually lighter or more citrusy.
- Heart notes: Sometimes called “middle notes”, these last from 20-60minutes and they make up a good 70% of a perfume’s profile.
- Base notes: You guessed it, this is the base of your perfume. It lasts onwards for over 6 hours. Heavy or rich scents are found here for their staying power.
For your own DIY spray to make your hair smell good, consider tier-ing your essential oils like this so they’re not all fighting for your nose’s attention.
Recipe One: Leave-in Conditioner Base
- 1 cup rose water
- 1 teaspoon of your fave leave-in conditioner
- 5-8 drops of a fragrant essential oil (lavender, sweet orange, jasmine, whatever!)
- Mix these altogether in a spray bottle
- Spray when and where necessary.
Note: rose water is a feminine scent, so we suggest something fruity, floral, or citrus with this one.
Recipe Two: Amazing for Scalps
- 2 tsp of witch hazel
- 1 cup distilled water
- 5-8 drops of clary sage oil
- 10-12 drops of patchouli oil
- 15-20 drops of rosemary oil
- Mix altogether in a spray bottle
- Spray from root to end
Recipe Three: Super Simple
- ½ cup of witch hazel or jojoba oil
- 20-30 drops of 1 essential oil (or pre-bottled blend)
- Combine ingredients in a small spray bottle and spritz on ends (if using witch hazel, spray from root to end).
Personal fave scents are jasmine, grapefruit, or patchouli.
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