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Perhaps you’ve been stuck in a similar situation before: You’re getting ready for the day but haven’t shampooed your hair in a few days. You realize that your hair doesn’t smell, well, fresh.

You might think that a few spritzes of perfume or body mist on your hair will help, but is it really the best solution?

Not all fragrances are created equal, and your hair deserves tender loving care. Read on to find out what’s really the best for stinky hair.

Technically, it isn’t the worst thing you can do to your hair. But it’s also not the best. Perfume has the potential to damage your hair.

Consider what ingredients are inside your perfume. Most perfumes and body mists are made with harsh alcohols, like ethyl alcohol, and heavy synthetic fragrances.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ethyl alcohol can have a drying effect on skin and hair. For this reason, many cosmetics choose to use other alcohols in their formulas.

Untreated dryness can cause long-term damage, such as breakage, split ends, and frizziness.

There are plenty of perfume alternatives to consider that can maintain the integrity of your hair, cleanse it, and offer hydration.

Hair mists

Consider hair mists as the safest alternative to perfume. These sprays are intended to leave a refreshing, lasting scent without drying out or otherwise damaging your hair.

Shop for hair mists online. Consider these options:

Dry shampoo

If you’re looking for a product that will temporarily clean your hair and add scent at the same time, a dry shampoo is the way to go. These formulas help eliminate excess oils and absorb smells without stripping or damaging hair.

Shop for dry shampoo online. Consider these options:

Scented serums and oils

If you’re looking to deeply nourish dry hair, try a scented hair oil or serum. A little goes a long way with these products. You’ll probably only need to apply them from the mid-shaft through the ends of your hair.

Shop for serums and oils online. Consider these options:

  • The Ouai Hair Oil is a favorite among beauty editors for its lightweight formula that simultaneously protects against heat damage while smoothing out dryness and leaving behind a subtle scent.
  • Infused with coconut milk, the OGX Nourishing Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum helps hydrate dry and damaged hair. Plus, it leaves behind a long lasting tropical scent.

While you’ll want to stay away from ethyl and isopropyl alcohols, fatty alcohols add hydration and lubrication to hair shafts. Keep your eyes out for formulas with ingredients like:

  • cetyl alcohol
  • stearyl alcohol
  • cetearyl alcohol

These are all derived from plants.

Any hair mists, dry shampoos, or serums that are fortified with natural oils can help repair hair strands and prolong scent.

Essential oils offer an alternative to traditional synthetic fragrances. Just make sure they’re safely diluted in a formula to avoid sensitization.

Avoid cigarette smoke

The smell of cigarette smoke can be absorbed easily into the hair, especially in heavy smokers.

Oftentimes, this is difficult to get rid of and can make hair smell for days.

People who quit smoking typically find that their clothing, hands, and hair stop smelling shortly after.

Wash your hair often

While you might not want to wash your hair every day, sticking to a regular washing routine will ensure better-smelling hair.

This looks different for each person, but many find it best to wash two to three times per week.

You can also use a scalp scrub once a week for a deep clean.

Clean your pillowcase regularly

Wash or switch your pillowcases every week to keep your face and hair clean.

Cotton pillowcases can absorb leftover makeup, bacteria, dirt, and oil, and it all can rub off on hair and skin.

You can also experiment with silk or satin pillowcases. These materials help keep hair from tangling up and further absorbing dirt or oil.

Everyone experiences smelly hair from time to time.

Spraying your favorite perfume on your hair might help short term, but it can damage hair in the long term by drying it out.

For a quick fix, try a formula made for hair, such as a hair mist, dry shampoo, or hair serum.

In the end, how you treat your hair is up to you. There are plenty of solutions out there to experiment with.


Jen Anderson is a wellness contributor at Healthline. She writes and edits for various lifestyle and beauty publications, with bylines at Refinery29, Byrdie, MyDomaine, and bareMinerals. When not typing away, you can find Jen practicing yoga, diffusing essential oils, watching Food Network, or guzzling a cup of coffee. You can follow her NYC adventures on Twitter and Instagram.