A dermatologist explains what can cause hair to smell burnt and what the treatment is for this most unpleasant problem.

Does your hair have a burnt smell to it? What can cause this and what can be done about it?

Burnt hair is a condition that relates to a burning smell in hair,” says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, MD, board certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon with a private practice in Omaha, NE.

“This is generally due to over-processing of hair, combined with too much heat on the same hair.

“Once hair has been damaged by either heat or chemicals it becomes thinner and open to further damage.  

“Once this damage occurs it is easier for ‘burnt smell’ to set in and be retained.”


Dr. Schlessinger explains, “There are many things to avoid if hair has a burnt smell, but the most important of these to avoid is being too close to a curling iron or wand.

“If and when hair needs to be dried it is important to avoid too high of a heat on the drier and always hold the drier away from the hair.

“Certain oils and nourishing shampoos will offer benefits to regain the natural smell of hair, but in the worst case scenarios it will simply be months until the damaged hair has the chance to grow out (usually, hair grows about an inch per month).

“During this growth time it is essential to avoid trauma and heat/chemicals.”

Dr. Schlessinger, founder of LovelySkin.com, has 25+ years of experience treating many skin conditions including melanoma. He’s founder of the Advanced Skin Research Center, a clinical facility that investigates new medications and treatments.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/Vladimir Gjorgiev

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