Why Does My Hair Smell Burnt? | Causes, Solutions, and More!

A few months back, my hair would generate this weird, one-of-a-kind smell that made me think, “Why does my hair smell burnt?”. My hair is quite alright now, but many people often ask about it. Here, I tried to compile a list of all the possible reasons with their respective remedies (some of which helped me, too). Thus, without further delay, let’s get straight to the point.

Why Does My Hair Smell Burnt

Why Does My Hair Smell Burnt? | It’s Not What You Think!

There are a few significant causes behind your hair smelling burnt. You may be missing any one or more points that I detail below. In my case, it was the first two reasons on the list here, but I reversed it later following these tips, and so can you (fingers crossed).  

Reasons and Remedies

Know the prime reasons behind your hair’s foul, burnt smell, along with their solutions.

Heat Damage

Believe it or not, heat damage to your cuticles (the outermost layer of the hair) is the prime culprit that leaves your hair smelling burnt. Blow-dry and flat irons can cause extreme heat damage to your hair shafts. So, if your hair smells burnt after washing or when wet, it may be on this basis.

  • Apply a heat protectant, and do not use straighteners or curlers at a high temperature. Repeat trial and error with your tools to find the right setting for your hair. See if you can lower your current temperature and get the desired results by remaining patient with the process.
heat damaged hair

Dirty Iron Rods

The second reason your hair smells burnt after curling or straightening is your uncleaned heat plates. Over time, your iron rods or straighteners get dirty with the debris of oil, dirt, and dead skin cells from your hair. These unclean surfaces leave a strong, burnt smell when you heat them.  

  • It has a simple and quick fix. Clean your heat irons with a cotton pad dipped in rubbing alcohol, and carefully wipe the heat plates of your straightener or curler. But before it, plug them off and ensure the surface is cold. Remember to reach into the hollows and deep clean them.

Sun Damage

Exposure to the sun’s UV rays may irrevocably dry your hair’s moisture content and sometimes cause it to smell burnt. Expect the same damage as the damage from your styling tools to your cuticles when the sun heats it to a stretch.

  • Use products to shield your hair from the sun (for instance, a hair spray with UV protection). Tie up your hair and wear a wide-brimmed hat before stepping out on a hard, sunny day.
sun damage to hair

Residual Moisture

I saw many of your questions on why the hair smells burnt when damp. Well, the residual or the leftover moisture in your hair may be the cause. Straightening up the hair after you wash and blow dry is pretty standard. But then, a tiny amount of moisture remains in the hair. You may even notice the thriving sweat inside your hair after the weather, workout, or physical activity.

Also, it is prevalent when the heavy hair products are greasy, not fast-absorbent, and their particles linger for a long time. While it is quintessential to have moisture so that it doesn’t get too dry during heating or styling, the residual water in your hair generates sizzling steam when you apply heat to it. Sometimes, it may even smell burnt.

  • Allow your hair to dry before heating or styling it. Let the moisture evaporate quickly by dissecting the strands and air drying it. Consider using lightweight hair products that readily absorb into your hair.

Unclean Hair

As uncommon as it may sound, unclean hair or substandard scalp health can be a clarion call for you not to apply heat onto it. The pollutants from the surroundings or our natural oils build up on your hair and start smelling when we do not wash it for weeks. So when you heat it this time, we may get our desired hair texture, but it smells less fresh and more burnt-like.

  • Ensure your scalp is hygienic and your hair is dry before straightening or curling.
unclean hair

Wrong Hair Products

Sometimes, the problem is not in your straightener but in your hair products. Many purchase and use hair products with a pleasant scent, but they are incompatible with the hair. A Redditor shares how an anti-dandruff shampoo caused her hair to smell burnt, but it didn’t when she ceased using it.  

  • Keep a keen eye on your hair products and examine how your hair feels after applying them. Getting the right hair products may take a while, but it’s all worth it! Consult a trichologist to help you tap into the correct product.

How To Fix Burnt Hair Smell?

How do you get the burnt smell out of your hair instantly? Here are five things that others found helpful for immediately reducing the burnt smell from the hair.

Wash your hair with baking soda:

  1. Mix one teaspoon of the baking soda in water and apply it all over your hair.
  2. Use it a couple of times to minimize the burnt smell.
  3. Allow it to sit briefly before rinsing it off, followed by your shampoo and conditioner.

Applying a hair mask: When masking the smell immediately, nothing compares to a hair mask! Select a hair mask that fits your hair type and texture well and has a great scent.

Deep condition your hair: You can deeply condition your hair (that smells burnt) with your favorite conditioner before rinsing. Let it sit for a few minutes as its odor seeps into the groves of your hair and stays there for a while.  

deep condition hair

Clarifying treatment: Thoroughly wet your hair before adding clarifying shampoo. Massage into a lather and let it sit for a few minutes. It will help to break down the residue that causes the burnt hair smell. Rinse off deeply with lukewarm water. Repeat the process if the burnt odor is still perceptible.

Apply your conditioner and rinse off with cool water before air drying it. This process seals in the hair cuticle and locks in the moisture. Moving forward, mix equal amounts of water and vinegar, apply it from the root to the tip of your hair, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Thoroughly wash and condition to prevent dryness. 

Use Essential Oils:  All the essential oils like lavender, peppermint, or tea tree mask odor well. Add 10-15 drops of essential oil to 8 oz of water, shake, and spray it onto all parts of your hair. You can even mix a few drops with your conditioner and apply. Comb to distribute the oil and its scent evenly across your hair.

FAQs | Why Does My Hair Smell Burnt?

A few questions were predominating the internet search bars; hence, I tried answering them. See if you can find your question below.

Why does my hair smell burnt after blow drying?

Your hair may smell burnt after straightening or blow drying it because of the heat damage to your hair cuticles. Turn down the temperature of your heat irons by some degrees before clapping it on a narrow section of your hair. It does the trick of covering each strand well without exposing the entire hair to the wrath of the heat.

Why does my hair smell burnt when wet?

Your hair smells burnt when wet due to the residual moisture we saw above. But why does your hair smell burnt after a shower or washing it? It is for the same reason. Besides, in this case, after a fresh-up, you can sniff the raw, burnt, and existing smell easily caused by the damaged cuticles.     

Why does my hair smell burnt after I curl it?

Continuous use of the wrong products, over-exposure to the sun, or excessively heated hair can cause your hair to smell after a curling session. So, how to make your hair not smell burnt after curling it? Simply, reduce your curler’s temperature and try the above methods for quick relief. 

Why Does My Hair Smell Burnt?

Why does my hair smell burnt after straightening it?

You may be damaging the hair cuticles with the extreme temperature that compromises the structure of your hair. If you can smell your hair burning after straightening, stop using it for a while.

Why does my hair smell burnt without heat?

In this case, the chances of you applying the wrong hair products are high as they may contribute to the pungent smell coming out of your hair afterward. Notice how your hair smells after you apply a product and decide if it is fit to continue. 

How long does the burnt hair smell last?

It may last up to several days or even for a few weeks. Depending upon the intensity and the extent of the damage caused to your hair, the hair smells burnt for some time. Visit a trichologist if the situation worsens.

Closure | Why Does My Hair Smell Burnt?

I hope you now know why your hair smells burnt. However, the key to reducing the burnt smell of your hair is to peek into its reason and follow all the precautions and safety tips that keep your hair healthy in the long run. But for a more profound benefit, use tools like blow dryers and heat irons on your hair sparingly to counter the heat damage. 

Air dry your hair, use the right hair products, and visit a trichologist if the condition worsens. Nourishing your hair with timely oiling, conditioning, washing, and a clean diet limits the impact of the side effects that heat or incompatible hair products cause.   

Drop your queries below and expect a reply soon.

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