Got Smelly Hair? Here's What You Can Do About It

Got Smelly Hair? Here's What You Can Do About It

Guess what? Your hair smells. But that doesn't mean that your actual hair odor is an issue. Hair can smell for a variety of reasons. Many people even deal with "Smelly Hair Syndrome," which gives your mane a dank, sweaty, muggy odor that has been compared to everything from wet dog to old cheese. Smelly hair can turn a bad hair day into a horrible one and can cause all kinds of social, relationship, and self-esteem problems. It can be related to scalp health and can occur even a few hours after you wash. But don't despair if you've got smelly hair. Here's our guide on how to make unwanted smells a thing of the past.

Your Hair Smells... No, Really!

Your Hair Smells... No, Really!

Did you know your hair has the amazing ability to recognize other scents? Hair contains an odor-sensing protein that signals when it's time for it to start growing again. Researchers have discovered that hair contains olfactory receptors that can also be found in the human nose. This receptor has been found to have a response to a sandalwood-scented molecule and make the anagen (growing) phase increase, which could be key to future methods of hair loss prevention. Hair isn’t just capable of recognizing other scents, it can also create quite the stink itself. While it usually takes on the odor of whatever you put into it, there are times when it can look gorgeous but give off an unpleasant smell. Why does hair smell bad? Here are a few common causes:

Too Much Oil

Bad smelling hair can be down to an overload of sebum, which is the natural hair oil produced by your scalp around the hair roots. This causes a buildup of dead skin cells, sweat, and product. This nasty combination can lead to bacteria growth known as Seborrheic dermatitis, a common skin condition that causes scaly patches on the scalp, which in turn can lead to bad odors. Stressful events, a poor diet, and not washing hair enough can all lead to oily hair and an oily scalp.

One way to control your hair’s oil production and remove product residue is to use the right shampoo. When you use shampoos with sulfates, your body produces more sebum to balance out the natural oils that these products strip out from the hair. This is one reason why all of Lu’s hair care products are free of sulfates and other harmful ingredients like colorants, parabens, and phthalates. Plus, Lu is made with Impossible Keratin™, a proprietary vegan keratin formulation that targets excess oil and restores hair strands to their healthy best.


This one's a no-brainer. When you work out, you sweat. And that includes sweat buildup on the scalp. Excessive sweating caused by working out, stress, or just a bad day can lead to unpleasant odors throughout the day. It's one of the most frequent culprits of a stinky scalp.

Hair Pollution

You’ve heard of noise pollution, but how about hair pollution? If you live in a big city and wonder why you can’t get rid of its gritty smells when you get home, you may need to turn your attention to your hair. Regular exposure to pollutants, fumes, and other odors that can be found in densely populated areas can leave your hair in need of a good wash.

A Bad Hair Care Routine

Hot water is great when you’re applying your hair care products, as it opens up your pores and allows the cleaning ingredients to penetrate hair follicles effectively, which also makes it easier to remove grime and product buildup. But, when it comes time to rinse out, turning down the temperature has been shown to close up hair cuticles to help your hair retain moisture long after your shower has ended, and to lower the amount of sebum in your hair.

Skin Conditions

Dandruff is another common skin condition that can lead to a smelly scalp. It's typically a sign of an irritated scalp, which can produce all kinds of bacteria that, among other things, smell bad. Scalp psoriasis is another potential cause of hair odor.

Getting Older

In women, menopause can cause hair follicles to shrink, slow down hair growth, and sometimes even lead to hair falling out more easily thanks to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels. But women who produce excess amounts of androgen during this phase of life may also be victims with overly smelly and oily hair.

Remedies for Smelly Hair

Remedies for Smelly Hair

No matter how great it looks, hair can be highly off-putting for other people if it smells bad and we do nothing about it. To make sure that doesn't happen, here are our best tips for dealing with smelly hair:

Use Hair Products That Naturally Smell Great

Adopting a hair care routine that utilizes products containing natural -- and naturally fragrant -- ingredients is vital to combat bad-smelling hair. Lu's hair care collections are infused with natural ingredients that leave your hair looking and smelling incredible. The Rescue Collection has the soothing scent of violet leaves and citrus notes from mandarin and bergamot. The Control Collection offers top notes of sweet almond, jasmine, tonka bean, and musk with Sicilian blood orange. And the Freedom Collection blends marine notes with mandarin and peach for a fresh, citrusy fragrance. Every bottle is packed full of ingredients that help manage your hair’s oil production and add an unforgettable scent (for all the right reasons) to your locks.

Natural Remedies

Lemons can balance your hair’s PH levels, and contain antioxidants, folic, and vitamin C. Simply mix two teaspoons of lemon juice with warm water in a bowl and apply to your hair, before washing off with cold water. Essential oils can also leave your hair smelling amazing. Tea tree oil is known to regulate the amount of sebum being produced by your hair. Mix a few drops with some coconut oil, apply to your hair, and leave it for 30 minutes before rinsing it out. Apple cider vinegar is another natural remedy that helps combat overproduction of hair oil and can add a nice glossy shine to your mane, too. Mix a few tablespoons with warm water and apply after your normal routine.

Smelly hair is a condition that can affect all hair types. While there are many possible causes for a bad-smelling hair day, it's a problem that can be solved with the right hair care products, natural fragrances, and maintaining a healthy scalp.