Why Does My Hair Smell Burnt

why does my hair smell burnt

How your hair smells should be important to you. So much so that dozens of shampoos, conditioners, and sprays, have pleasant floral and sweet scents. These scents are many, but “burnt hair” is not one of them. Truly, it’s an unpleasant smell and most people would rather have burnt hair than smell it.

For those wondering – why does my hair smell burnt or what causes hair to smell burnt – don’t worry. There are a number of reasons why your hair smells burnt.  We’ll look at some of these reasons, how you can prevent that burnt smell in your hair, and how you can fix it if you don’t know what to do about it.

Why Does My Hair Smell Burnt?

If you frequently use styling tools that require heat, you probably already know what burnt hair smells like. Primarily, the smell of burnt hair comes as a warning against overusing irons, curlers, and hair dryers. Additionally, if the scent lingers after washing, it may indicate that you have seriously damaged your hair, which can also mean you have overexposed your hair to chemicals.

When you take hair and wrap it around scolding hot irons, it will most definitely burn if you do either hold the hair on the iron for an extended period or you continuously run the iron over the same section of hair. Consequently, the cuticle and molecules of the hair shaft are now burnt, which is what makes the hair smell like it is burning despite it being fully washed.

What Causes Hair to Smell Burnt?

There are several factors at play when it comes to what causes burnt-smelling hair. Of course, as mentioned above, an obvious reason your hair is burnt is from the overuse of styling tools. Oftentimes, though, it could simply be that you are using styling tools at a temperature that is too high.

In addition, hair can be damaged by exposure to unprotected and severe UV rays. Another factor, however, is chemical treatments, such as relaxing creams, other chemicals, and/or extreme amounts of heat, such as blowouts.

All these can play into your hair thinning out, making it even more vulnerable to burning.

How Do I Fix the Burnt Smell In My Hair?

1. Use Perfumed Oils: Preventing your hair from getting burnt is one solution, but if you’re already burnt and you are suffering from the smell of burnt hair, it is reasonable to say you have to take other measures. The quickest option to eliminate the smell of burnt hair is to use perfumed oils.

These oils are specifically made for taking care of hair odors and can be found the most chain and/or local drug and grocery stores. You should opt for this solution if the smell does not dissipate after washing. Not only do these oils give your hair a pleasant scent, but they also avoid looking greasy and keep your hair from further drying by infusing each strand with moisture.

2. Use Products with Natural Ingredients: The second best thing is to use neutralizing products with natural ingredients, in addition to regular shampoo. Almond and coconut oil are both great alternatives that help to get rid of a burnt smell. This involves applying several droplets from the middle to the end of the hair strands. Make sure to let it rest for 15 minutes, then rinse out with warm water and proceed with your regular shampoo and conditioning routine. Afterward, once the hair is fully dried, use dry shampoo, which will make the scent of burnt hair practically unnoticeable.

3. Use Capillary Mask Made with Natural Ingredients: Aloe vera is another great solution for getting rid of the burnt smell and it is also effective in repairing hair damage. You can make your own capillary mask by combining aloe vera leaf pulp and five teaspoons of olive oil. Once well mixed, apply the mask and let it sit for twenty minutes. Afterward, wash it out with warm water.

4. Use Baking Soda Preparation: Finally, there is always good old baking soda. Baking soda is amazing at absorbing unpleasant odors. Simply add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to your shampoo bottle, since you’ll probably need to go through several washes to get rid of the smell, and shake well before washing.

How to Prevent Your Hair from Smelling Burnt when Drying it.

Given that absolutely no one wants the smell of burnt hair, there are ways to prevent it.

1. Avoid or Minimize Use of Hot Styling Tools: Since the overuse of styling tools is a big factor in damaging the hair and therefore, causing the burnt smell; it is always advised to keep temperatures on styling tools below four hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, try to control the temperature to about 180 or 190.

Additionally, it is best not to use your straightener and/or hairdryer on a daily basis since it makes the hair way more prone to heat damage.

2. Dry Your Hair Thoroughly Before Using Hot Styling Tools: If you must straighten your hair, use your hairdryer and a nice brush to do the job. To avoid the smell, make sure your hair is thoroughly dried before putting your hair near a heated or hot device. Even the smallest amount of moisture will cause burn smoke, not to mention that soaked hair is already vulnerable. Mixing it with heat is not the best combination as heat will superheat the moisture, turning it into steam which opens up the cuticle exposing the hair to drying forces like wind and sunlight.

3. Use Sulphate-free Shampoo: Wash the hair with a moisturizing and sulfate-free shampoo. Next, continue with a deep conditioning treatment with a light finish, water-based leave-in conditioner. These leave-in conditioners are extremely nourishing and also decrease the buildup of products which could otherwise impede how heat is dispersed to the hair when drying.

4. Use a Heat Protectant: It is also best to wear a heat protectant on damp hair prior to styling with heat, as well as when you are out in the sun.

5. Apply Hair Mask: Last but not least, apply a hair mask one to two times per week for nourishing and moisturizing the scalp. There are various natural treatments as well, such as the oils and homemade capillary masks mentioned in this article.

Alternative Styling Methods to Avoid Heat Damage

There are several methods of styling your hair, including straightening that do not involve using intense heat. It is important to note, though, that a lot of these methods are going to work best for those with finer hair and a subtle wavy texture.

1. Avoid or Reduce Hairstyles that Need Hot Styling Tools: While other hair textures are more difficult to straighten without the use of heated tools, which might hurt your hair, embracing styles with a bit more bounce or curl opens more doors.

2. Variations of Hair Blowout: If you have previously straightened your hair by way of the classic blowout, try a variation of that method by using blasts of cold air on your hairdryer rather than setting it at a high temperature. Evidence suggests that using cold air helps to repair damaged hair shafts. This method is likely to produce better results after the hair has dried by about 75% or three-quarters of the way.

Divide hair into four sections, set the hairdryer to “cool” and hold it about six inches from the hair, moving it constantly moving from roots to ends, back and forth through each section a little at a time. This variation of blowout takes no longer than the standard blowout.  With this method, you will want to use a leave-in conditioner or straightening serum to control potential fly-aways is recommended.

3. Hair Wrapping: Hair wrapping is also a fantastic and popular method for straightening hair, as well. Though methods for different hair types and lengths vary, the overall process is relatively similar. The tools you will need are simple: long bobby pins, otherwise known as roller pins, three inches in length, and a satin scarf for wrapping or a turban. Separate the top section of your hair at the part and using a slim-toothed comb, comb each side flat, dividing it into sections around the head.

Tightly hold each combed section of hair steadily and bring it around the head to pin on the opposite side. Repeat this process with each section of hair alternating sides until all sections, front to back have been wrapped around the head.   When finished, wrap and cover with your satin scarf or turban before going to bed.


While the smell of burnt hair is a pretty common problem, the above methods are proven and will help you remedy the problem. It’s important though to pay attention to the tell-tale warning signs of damaged hair and make some of the suggested changes to caring for and styling your hair.  These solutions will give you healthier hair and a happier you!

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