Is a hair dryer bad for your scalp?

The Hunt for Perfect Hair
Careful -- hair dryers can get things cooking in a jiffy.
Careful -- hair dryers can get things cooking in a jiffy.
Christopher Robbins/Photodisc/Getty Images

The way you take care of your hair can have a big impact on its health, and this includes whether you blow dry or air dry it. Basically, the less you subject your hair to heat, chemicals and physical stress, the better.

With heat and hair damage, it all comes down to moisture loss. When you shower, water gets inside each strand of hair. When you power up the hair dryer, all that moisture heats up and expands, and this pushes the hair fibers apart leaving open spaces. Those spaces make hair weaker and more susceptible to damage. Curling irons and other hair care devices that produce heat are culprits as well.

Frequent perming, straightening and dyeing can all contribute to scalp problems and hair loss, too. The chemicals involved often damage hair fibers, making them more fragile and likely to break. The fewer hair treatments you get, the better. Also, applying gels and other styling products might help hold strands of hair in place, but it makes them very vulnerable to breaking as you style your hair and brush it later.

If your hair is already looking a bit listless from your overeager attentions, unfortunately there's not a lot you can do. It's pretty much just a matter of cutting off as much of the damaged hair as you can and waiting for new healthy hair to slowly grow in and take its place.

To help prevent further damage, beyond giving your hair a break and letting it air dry as much as possible, always handle it gently and avoid tight hairstyles. Use conditioner and rather than vigorously toweling off your hair, wrap it in the towel to absorb some of the water before you blow dry. And when you do have to use a hair dryer, use a lower setting and keep the device a decent distance from your hair. You're trying to dry it after all, not cook it. Also, the more you fiddle with your hair the more you weaken it, so brush it as little and as gently as possible, and don't sit there twisting it around your fingers.

Cut your hair some slack by checking out more hair care related articles below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • "Good Hair Care May Head off Hair Loss." American Academy of Dermatology. June 17, 2009. (9/29/2009)
  • "Hair Loss." Mayo Clinic. Feb. 1, 2008. (9/29/2009)
  • "Hair Loss: Hair Shaft Defects." Web MD. Aug. 1, 2005. (9/29/2009)
  • "Newer Hair Dryers Protect Against Electrocution." U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. (9/29/2009)
  • Nissel, Jan. "Topic: scalp Problems." Blue Shield of California. July 3, 2007. (9/29/2009)
  • "Scalp Problems: Topic Overview." Web MD. July 3, 2007. (9/29/2009)
  • "What causes hair loss?" American Academy of Dermatology. Aug. 28, 2008. (9/29/2009)
  • Yorba, Patrick. "Hair Loss." University of Virginia Health Sciences Center. Aug. 10, 2005. (9/29/2009)

More to Explore