Hair with a foul odor must be embarrassing, especially in public. It is okay to have smelly hair after a long hot, or humid day. hair absorb smells after washing and even minutes after stepping out of the shower? No! 

But do you know the reason for the whole scenario going on? If not, then keep reading. We will discuss the reasons for hair absorbing the smell, still having a smell after washing, and a few ways to get out of it. 

Reasons why your hair absorbs smells 

There can be multiple reasons why your hair absorbs smells. It can be due to high porosity, smelly hair syndrome (SHS), or even microbes (bacteria, fungi, yeast), and the dead cells can be a leading cause. Let’s know about these, one by one.

Your hair was prone to get damaged by exposure to sunlight so the outside environment will cause sweat and dirt to your scalp this is the main reason your hair absorbs smells. So it’s important to wash your hair frequently after coming back from your home as this will help to nourish your hair better than ever.

High porosity 

What is high porosity? Having high hair porosity means your hair can easily absorb smells of water, oils, and other product. Cuticle, a layer of each hair strand that gets moisture and how much it will be, is called porosity. Healthy hair has regular to low porosity as they do not lose any water and proteins from inside. 

Abrupt combing, sleeping on cotton pillows, harsh shampoos, excessive chemical treatments, bleaching, and coloring are the leading causes of high porosity hair. The float test is the most popularly used to check hair porosity. 

Smelly hair syndrome (SHS) 

SHS is a leading cause of smelly hair. There is a sebaceous gland attached to each hair follicle that produces oil. More oil production allows hair to significantly absorb cooking odors, strong scents, and environmental pollutants like smoke, making hair smelly. 

The scalp has oil and sweat glands that make it prone to odors but only in some people. SHS is not related to dirty hair and can appear at any age. Medicated shampoos and tea-tree-based products are used for treating SHS. 

Microbes and dead cells 

Overproduction of hair sebum and sweat makes a ground for microbes to breed. These microbes include bacteria, viruses, yeast, and fungus. Fungus living on the skin cause inflammatory reactions like dandruff, eczema (inflamed, itchy, and dry scalp), and folliculitis (infection of hair follicles). 

Dead cells are also responsible for smelly scalp . Dead cells accumulate on the scalp and fall off as dandruff which causes your hair absorb smells. Dandruff causes hair smell and indicates an unbalanced scalp microbiome. Getting a hold on dandruff might control the situation.  

Why does my hair absorb smell even after a shower? 

Not enough washing can make your hair absorb smells

Skipping wash to let natural oils stimulate hair growth is not correct. These oils will accumulate on the scalp, block the follicles and lead to smelly hair. It will also slow down hair growth, causing dandruff and itchiness. It is suggested not to skip the hair wash for more than three days.  

Washing too frequently produce more oils in your scalp

As we know, hair washing causes an imbalance in sebum production. Too much washing can also lead to hair absorb smells. It stimulates glands to produce more oils to compensate for the loss. It will turn out in bad smelly hair.  


Sweat itself is not an alarming situation, but what you do before, during, and after workout matters. Sweat clogs the hair follicles and causes scalp dryness. It provides bacteria with a friendly environment to grow that will ultimately irritate and damage the skin.  

Chemical hair products can cause your hair to absorb smells

Hair products having harsh chemicals are the worst enemy of your hair. Their short-term use can provide you gratification but will also disturb the hair’s natural oil balance. Continuous use makes the hair weak, having dullness, damage, breakage, and split ends. Suppose you are using these products to wash your hair. You will get smelly hair even before closing the shower tap. 

Hot water use 

Hot hair wash is a leading cause of foul hair odor. Too many hot water strips hair natural oils that initiate more sebum production provide a breeding ground to microbes that will end up with the smell. Hair breakage, dryness, and brittleness are also the side effects of hot water.    

Dry shampoo and mists

Dry shampoo usually comes in spray bottles having alcohol or starch. These soak up excess oil and grease, making hair look cleaner. Chemical residues build up on the scalp and cause hair to be smelly. Overuse of dry shampoo prevents natural hair oils from hydrating, making them more brittle. 

How to stop my hair absorb smells?

  •  Wash often enough

Keep a gap of 2-3 days in hair wash, but not more than that if it does not leave your scalp smelly. I always prefer you to get a dermatologist consultation. To prevent your hair absorb smells, some people have to wash hair with a gap of 2-3 days, and some need to do it on alternate days (intervals of 1-2 days). There is no hard and fast rule. It all depends on your hair type. Firstly, know your hair type and then take a step. 

  • Use of right shampoo 

I prefer mild and sulfate-free shampoo to clean your scalp. The conditioner should have a leather texture that you must apply just on the hair length. You can use a charcoal hair mask to deep cleanse the pores. DIY scrub with sugar is also an excellent option to absorb unwanted smells from the scalp. 

  • Lookup for a clarifying shampoo

Clarifying shampoo is designed to remove build-up residue from the scalp. Natural oils will melt the residue left on the scalp without stripping hair and clean the follicles.

  • Use peppermint essential oil. 

Shake your shampoo bottle after adding a few drops of peppermint essential oil to get rid of the smelly scalp. Peppermint will give a refreshing sensation and a minty smell to keep itchiness away. 

  • Say no to toxic ingredients.

While staring at the ingredients box of shampoo, consider not buying one with ingredients like lauryl sulfate, parabens, phthalates, PEGs, propylene glycol, and alcohol. These will block the scalp with a foul odor.  


Smelly hair days are more problematic than bad hair days. There can be several causes of smelly hair that we have discussed above, along with the tactics to get rid of it. Now you can fight lousy odor easily in most cases. 

If a situation does not settle down, we recommend setting an appointment with a dermatologist. Then, prescribed shampoos and antifungal medication can be your best partner. If there is still any confusion, comment below as we are here to clear it.