“I’ve been hearing a lot of mixed opinions about hair care routines recently. Some of my friends swear by cold water rinses, while others think it’s just a myth. Can you tell me… is cold water actually beneficial for our hair?”
Hi Daphne, most women may not give much thought to the temperature of the water while they’re washing their hair. So I’m glad you are!
The truth is, water temperature does have an impact on the overall health and appearance of your hair. By having a better idea of how cold and hot water affect hair, you can decide what’s best for your unique hair type.
I asked Camille Hebert, hair designer at Re.Growth Holistic Salon in Queen Creek, AZ, for her opinion on cold water washes. According to her, “Do what feels best on your hair. Everyone is different.
I have experienced cold water rinsing to be useful for the hair when you want to keep your color looking brighter/fresher longer like semi-permanent/vivids/reds. Especially on already porous hair.”
That covers the basics of washing with cold water, but I have so much more to tell you. In this article, you’ll learn:
- What, exactly, counts as “cold” water. I’ll cover ideal temperature ranges.
- How water temperature affects your hair. I’ll explain general effects that different temperatures can have on hair health, appearance, and more.
- The benefits and side effects of washing with cold water. I’ll go into more detail here about what to expect when you wash your hair with cold water.
- The benefits and side effects of washing with warm water. I’ll also cover what to expect when you wash your hair with warm water.
- Hair–washing considerations for different hair types. Frizzy/damaged hair, curly/wavy hair, and color-treated hair all have different needs.
- When to wash with warm or cold water. No matter your hair type, you’ll need to wash with warm water at least occasionally.
- Frequently asked questions about washing hair with cold vs. warm water. Still have specific questions? Don’t worry– I’ve got answers.
What Counts as Cold Water?
You may have heard that it’s beneficial to wash or rinse your hair with cold water.
But what exactly counts as cold when it comes to washing hair? Anything slightly below regular body temperature (~100 degrees Fahrenheit or ~38 degrees Celsius) is considered cold.
How Does Water Temperature Affect Your Hair?
Water temperature can affect your hair’s health and appearance in many ways. For instance, hot water can be great for cleansing hair and removing unwanted products or oils. But it can also be damaging, resulting in breakage and frizz.
Cold water isn’t as effective for removing product buildup and unwanted oils. But cold water washes can help to seal your hair’s cuticle while minimizing frizz. (Source)
Benefits and Side Effects of Washing Hair With Cold Water
Next, I’ll dive into the benefits and potential drawbacks of washing hair with cold water. But first, it’s helpful to understand the basic anatomy of your hair.
The living part of each hair under your scalp is known as the root. The non-living part of each hair strand is referred to as the shaft. Around each strand of hair is a clear layer of keratin cells called the cuticle. The cuticle layer makes your hair stronger and protects it from damage.
Pro: When you wash with cold water, it has a greater tendency to keep the hair shaft closed. That will help preserve any natural oils that you may not want to wash away from your hair. It will also make your hair appear smoother and shinier.
Is your hair color-treated? Cold rinses can also help preserve your color’s vibrancy between salon appointments.
Con: On the other hand, washing with cold water may not be as effective at removing product buildup or cleansing your scalp. Of course, I have to mention that washing with cold water can be downright unpleasant—especially if you’ve grown accustomed to hot showers!
Benefits and Side Effects of Washing Hair with Warm Water
Pro: Washing your hair with warm water is usually the quickest way to clean buildup from your hair and scalp. Warm or hot water is much more effective than cold water at tackling dirt, oil, and product buildup. (Source) This is because using warmer water opens the pores on your scalp. Basically, it enables your shampoo to do its job.
Con: Washing with water that’s too hot, however, can damage and weaken your hair. Hot water can damage hair roots over time, causing hair loss. Likewise, warm water opens up the cuticle and leaves it open. This can make your hair more prone to breakage, split ends, and frizziness. If your hair is color-treated, washing with water that’s too warm can also cause color to fade more rapidly. (Source)
Hair Type Considerations
Still trying to decide on the right water temperature for washing your hair? Here are some special considerations to keep in mind based on your hair type.
Frizzy or Damaged Hair
Is your hair naturally prone to frizz, or damaged by past heat or chemical treatments? Then sticking with cooler water to wash your hair may be ideal.
This will keep the cuticle sealed, which will protect your hair from further damage. Using the right products can also fight frizz and add moisture to your hair.
One of my all-time faves is Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo. Whether you wash with warm or cold water, this gentle shampoo tames frizz even in the most humid conditions.
Curly or Wavy Hair
If you have curly or wavy hair, moisture is key to keeping your locks looking their best. Ideally, you’ll wash with cool water most of the time with this hair type.
But adding Ouidad Curl Quencher Moisturizing Conditioner to your routine will also boost moisture and define curls without weighing hair down. Best of all, it’ll benefit your natural texture regardless of water temperature.
With color-treated hair, you’ll want to prolong vibrancy and shine between touch-ups. Washing with cool water can do just that!
But don’t stress if you can’t tolerate cold showers. Especially during winter, I have this same problem.
That’s why I swear by Celeb Luxury Color Depositing Conditioner and Bond Rebuilder year-round. This product is the best I’ve found for maintaining tone, smoothness, and shine with cool or warm water. My favorite part is that it’s available in a wide range of shades for all hair colors!
When Should You Use Warm or Cold Water?
In general, washing with cold water is best for retaining your hair’s natural oils and nutrients while preserving color and shine. (Source) This is especially true if you have color-treated, damaged, curly/wavy, or frizzy hair.
Warmer water is best when you have heavy product buildup or want to deep-clean your hair/scalp. Remember, warmer water is better at removing grime and buildup. At the same time, it also promotes healthy circulation around your scalp– which can improve your hair’s health overall.
Want to enjoy the benefits of washing with cold water, but love your hot showers too much to give them up?
You can always start washing your hair with warmer (not hot) water. At the end of your shower, rinse your hair with cold water. This will help close the cuticle, enhance shine, and protect your locks from damage.
I asked Camille whether someone could get away with (or even benefit from) doing exclusively cold water washes. She told me, “You could potentially have buildup on your hair with oily/moisture-heavy products. Warm water helps to break down oil.
Warm water is helpful in releasing products from the hair, but can also remove beneficial natural oils at the same time.
The key is to make sure the water isn’t super hot where it swells the hair cuticle so much that it pushes out all of your moisture as well.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you wash your hair with hot or cold water after bleaching?
Bleaching your hair opens the cuticle, which can make each strand more prone to damage. For this reason, it’s generally best to wash with cooler water after bleaching.
Does washing your hair with cold water cause dry scalp?
It shouldn’t. In fact, washing with cold water can prevent irritation and dryness of the scalp.
If you’re experiencing dry scalp, you may be using water that’s too hot. You might want to look into switching hair products or changing up your hair care routine.
Should I wash my permed hair with cold or hot water?
Retaining moisture is important when it comes to caring for permed hair. Washing with cold water is ideal after a perm.
Doing so will help close the cuticle, which retains moisture, nutrients, and shine. This, in turn, will result in healthier-looking locks.
How long should I wash my hair with cold water?
You can wash your hair with cold water for as long as you would typically wash your hair with warm water. If you’re sensitive to cold water, try washing with lukewarm water. Then do a final rinse with cold water after your wash.
Does cold water clean your hair?
As long as you’re using the right products, cold water can still clean your hair effectively. Hot water is more effective at cleaning your hair and scalp but can also be damaging.
Do cold showers cause hair loss?
No, cold showers do not cause hair loss. In fact, cool water can help to protect the root (the living part of the hair) while minimizing hair loss and breakage.
How can I improve my hair’s condition without cold water washes?
According to Camille, “Some natural ways in making hair healthier, shinier, preserving moisture and adding smoothness would be by using a brush to mechanically comb the scalp and brush your natural oils down through the ends of the hair.
You stimulate blood flow and exfoliate your scalp, using your own natural oils to work down through the hair, and then you would simply rinse your hair with water and nothing else. No suds or conditioners.
Do this 1-2x a week. Also, using a cleansing cream instead of shampoo/conditioner helps to keep more moisture, smoothness, and shine in the hair by not over-stripping with strong surfactants.”