Hair Care

Why Does My Hair Smell Like Wet Dog? The Answer Is Here

Countless hair washes later, are you still thinking – “Why does my hair smell like wet dog?”. Unearth the secrets behind this unusual hair dilemma and find a permanent solution.

Written by Shayonee Dasgupta

On Sep 18, 2023 – 6 minutes read

hair bad odor

Even if you are someone who’s heart melts at the sight of a four legged canine, chances are you don’t particularly enjoy the ‘wet doggy’ smell. Of course, dogs are cute and adorable but let’s face it : a wet dog  smell doesn’t bring joy to your nose. Have you ever wondered, ‘Why does my hair smell like wet dog?’ You are not alone – this  embarrassing question has plagued the mind of many including mothers who wonder why my daughter’s hair smells even after washing?

 The solution is easier than you think. Find out what causes this smell and how you can get rid of it.  

Why Does My Hair Always Smell A Like Wet Dog?

Your hair is your crowning glory. No one wants any part of their body to emanate a bad odor, let alone their mane. So, what are the possible reasons why your hair might smell like a wet dog?

hair odor

1. You have an excess build up due to sweat and oil

Just like your skin, your scalp also secrets oils. You may have also noticed beads of sweat in your scalp. Now imagine if you live in a hot and humid area and you haven’t washed your hair in a while. All the sweat and oil on the scalp builds over time. Oil and moisture in your hair attracts dirt and pollutants, making it a hotspot for foul odor. 

2. You have dandruff

Dandruff is nothing but dead skin on your scalp.  The flakes contain Malassezia, a yeast-like fungus, which thrives on skin oils. As the fungi acts on the oils, it produces an unpleasant odor.  

3. You don’t dry your hair properly 

Does your hair smell musty even after washing?

A moist environment allows fungi and bacteria to feast. So if you tend to leave your hair damp, especially during monsoons, you have the answer to ‘Why does my hair smell like wet dog after washing?’

4. You don’t wash your hair regularly 

When you skip a wash day, you allow sweat, oil, and dirt to mingle together. This results in a foul smell. 

5. You are using too many hair products

Are you in the habit of using gels, mousses, curl cream, or hairsprays to hold your hair style? If you don’t use an effective clarifying shampoo regularly, the products can build up on the scalp. With time, your scalp becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. As the bacteria mixes hair product residue, it creates an unpleasant smell. 

6. Your hormones are not balanced 

Hormonal imbalances can leave you with smelly hair. Excessive or insufficient secretion of some hormones can impact the oil and sweat production. This can attract bacteria to thrive on your scalp, producing a foul smell.

What Does It Mean When You Smell Wet Dog?

On most days, your hair should have the scent left behind fragrant shampoo, conditioner, and hair serum that you may have used. But what does it signal when your scalp starts smelling like a wet dog? Here are some underlying issues to look into if you’re wondering why does my hair smell like wet dog:

1. Your scalp health is not as good 

Hair smelling like a wet dog may indicate that your scalp is in a poor shape. There could be excess sebum and dead skin building up, creating the odor. Following a regular routine like scalp skinification is important in keeping your scalp clean and keeping foul odor at bay.

scalp hygiene

2. A fungal infection on your scalp

If you are in the habit of leaving your hair damp and tying it up, it can cause fungal infections on the scalp. As the fungus inhabits the environment and comes in contact with air, it may produce a foul smell.

3. Your hair type makes you predisposed 

Some hair types, such as curly hair or wavy hair, are more prone to retaining moisture. When not dried properly, it can leave you smelling like a wet dog. In case you have been wondering why does my hair smell when wet, this may be the missing piece of the puzzle. 

Other factors

Why does my hair smell like wet dog after a workout? That’s because your scalp gets heated and starts sweating. If you don’t wash your hair properly, be ready for the unpleasant smell to emanate. 

How Do I Keep My Hair from Smelling Like Wet Dog?

Now that you know some of the potential causes why does my hair smell like a wet dog, here’s how you can get it under control:

hair smelling like a wet dog

Follow a proper wash routine 

Wash your hair as soon as you notice it is dirty or there is a build up on your scalp. Opt for a mild, sulfate-free shampoo to prevent your hair from drying out(1). Use a shampoo scalp brush or your fingertips to work the shampoo lather on your scalp. Rinse the shampoo residue properly so that nothing is left behind.  

Learn the art of drying your hair 

Don’t roam around with wet hair. That’s literally opening the doors for unpleasant odor to start building. If you don’t want to stay up at night wondering ‘why does my hair smell like wet towel’, make sure each strand of your hair is properly dried. 

You can either air dry your hair or use a hair dryer after coating your hair with a heat protection spray. Don’t go to bed with wet hair as a damp environment increases the likelihood of hair smelling like a wet dog.

Pick hair care products suited to your hair 

Understand your hair type and opt for products that meet the needs of your hair. If you have an allergic reaction to a product, discontinue use immediately. Unchecked infections from hair products often lead to unpleasant smells. 

Use styling products cautiously 

Why does my hair smell like wet dog after I style it? Perhaps you are using too much product, leading to a buildup. If you don’t get rid of product buildup at regular intervals, you may suffer from a bad smelling scalp. 

Take extra care of your hair when it is humid 

Humidity makes it easier for the bacteria and fungi to survive on your scalp(2). The best way to combat this issue is drying your hair strands and scalp properly. Use a moisture-wicking headband when you are working out or walking around in the sun to prevent the sweat from settling in.  

If the problem persists, visit your dermatologist to rule out scalp infections. 

Wrapping Up

Hope now you have the answers to why I smell like wet dog after a shower.

Although it is an uncomfortable situation to be in, you can resolve it by implementing a good hair care routine. 

  1. Dias, Maria Fernanda Reis Gavazzoni. "Hair cosmetics: an overview." International journal of trichology 7.1 (2015): 2.
  2. McEldowney, Sharron, and M. Fletcher. "The effect of temperature and relative humidity on the survival of bacteria attached to dry solid surfaces." Letters in Applied Microbiology 7.4 (1988): 83-86.

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Shayonee is a dedicated writer and mental health advocate whose research-driven approach allows her to deliver well-informed, evidence-based content on diverse aspects of women’s health and lifestyle.

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