Can Going Out Into the Cold with Wet Hair Make You Sick? Experts Weigh In
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We've all done it: We shower, quickly run a blow dryer over our soaking wet hair, and rush out into the cold as our damp strands drip. Sometimes, when we're feeling lazy, we step outside with a fully soaked head post-washing. A few pieces of hair likely freeze in the winter air and we definitely shiver as we walk to our car, but is this habit actually impacting our health, or is that just a tall tale?
Since we were little, our moms and grandmas warned us that going outside with wet hair can make us sick—sneezing, coughing, the works. However, we wonder if there is actual evidence to back up the rumor that this common beauty habit is actually the culprit behind catching a cold. With winter in full swing, we wanted answers.
Can you get sick from going outside with wet hair in the winter?
The simple answer is no. Although you might feel colder than you would have with a dry head of hair, going outside with wet hair will not instantly make you more attractive to germs.
"Going outside in the cold with wet hair does not make you sick or increase your chances of getting sick," UCLA and Mayo Clinic-trained physician Dr. Bita Nasseri tells HelloGiggles. "Most of the things that make you sick enter through your respiratory system (your nose and mouth)—viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens enter the body through your airways and wreak havoc from there."
If you fall into the "I hate blow-drying my hair" camp, you can breathe a sigh of relief and rest easy the next time you forgo the action, knowing it won't make you sick. However, Dr. Nasseri offers us further insight into how we do get sick when going out in the cold—and explains how we can prevent catching the common cold in the winter.
"Our noses are our bodies' natural filtration mechanism," she says. "But in colder weather, our mucous membrane tends to dry out more and does not work as efficiently. When the mucous gets thicker, it causes blocking, and the unwanted pathogens that can make us sick get stuck in there for longer. So, what's actually making people sick is a dried out, cracked nasal biome, not that they're going outside with wet hair."
Dr. Nasseri also notes that cleaning our nose is just as important as washing our hands when it comes to avoiding germs. "It's imperative to keep your nasal biome moist, clean, and clear in order to filter out airborne illnesses properly," she says. "I recommend using a sterile saline spray two-three times daily, especially in the winter or when you are out in public."
Are there other consequences to going out with wet hair in the cold?
The good news is, if you hate blow-drying your hair, you don't have to do it to prevent catching a cold. However, even though going outside with wet hair won't harm your overall health, it will harm your hair health.
"Before leaving the house with wet hair, keep in mind that hair is vulnerable to frizz and static when it's damp and when hair cuticles are wide open," Hairstory's Product Developer Jackie Bauer tells HelloGiggles. "Also, water expands when it freezes, which means frozen water trapped in the hair shaft can result in breakage."
No one wants split ends and unhealthy hair. So, if you want to promote healthy hair, take 10 minutes to ensure your hair is dry before going outside. In frigid temps, you'll probably be a lot warmer, too.