The Independent Pharmacy

Hot Vs. Cold Water: Which Is Better For Your Hair?

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 6 Oct 2023

For those struggling with lacklustre locks and hair loss, determining the right temperature for washing hair is vital yet confusing. Go too hot, and you risk dehydration and damage over time. Too cold, and products and debris may be left behind on strands. It's a fine balance to strike.

Here’s the reality - both heat and cold play a role in hair health. Hot water opens follicles and purges pores of product buildup and excess oil quite effectively. However, high temperatures sap locks of inherent moisture and protein vital for strength. On the flip side, cool water seals cuticles shut to prevent moisture loss. However, the tradeoff may be incomplete cleansing for certain hair types.

Ultimately, the ideal temp is a personal matter based on your unique head of hair. Through trial and error combined with expert tricks, you can craft a customised routine to get the benefits of both heat and cold washes. The kind that leaves hair looking healthy, shiny, and able to withstand daily styling sessions.

In this guide, we'll uncover the top myths around hot and cold washing and replace them with facts.

Let's debunk those hair care rumours.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Both hot and cold water temperatures impact hair health during washing in unique ways; finding the right balance is key for ideal results.
  • Hot water can provide deeper cleansing and lift follicles, while cold water helps smooth cuticles, retains moisture and stimulates circulation.
  • Tailor temperature use to your specific hair properties and supplementary regimen - alternate intelligently without overdoing extremes.
  • Seek professional consultations if struggling with damage, thinning or conditions unresolved through temperature adjustment alone - customised solutions are available.

How Does Water Temperature Affect Hair Structure?

When washing, water and products penetrate through the hair strand's outer cuticle layer into the inner structures and interact with each component depending on temperature. Hot water can lift the outer layer of the hair (known as the cuticle), which helps to clean away dirt and oil more effectively, but it can also lead to dryness over time. Cold constricts cuticle layers to smooth the hair and lock in hydration, though can inhibit proper washout of residues. Getting the right warm/cool balance tailored to your hair type is key.

The level of cuticle opening or closing can impact how thoroughly shampoos cleanse or how well conditioners hydrate down the shaft length. Striking the right temperature balances cleansing and conditioning effects for optimal hair health on a structural level. Testing out heat and cold across washes is often needed to prevent over-drying or residue buildup based on your hair's properties.

Temperature Effects: Myth vs. Reality

It's easy to feel swayed by the many myths surrounding the benefits of hot and cold hair washing. We understand it can be confusing, so let's set the record straight with some facts. For instance, some believe routinely bathing hair in hot water yields shinier, squeaky-clean strands by power-blasting buildup from follicles and shafts. However, in fact, doing so too frequently and without conditioning can degrade hair proteins over time. This leads to brittleness and split ends despite the deeper cleanse.

On the flip side, others think rinsing solely with cold water inherently infuses extra nourishment, fatty oils or a “moisture boost” into hair lacking it. While the cold does close cuticles to retain what moisture is already present from root to tip, frigid temperatures alone cannot drive additional hydration or oils into hair shafts that may be lacking from insufficient conditioning routines.

The point is this – when it comes to washing hair, temperature effects involve a complex interplay with individual scalp condition, skin health, follicle productivity, natural hair properties like porosity, and supplementary factors like nutrition and hair products used.

Is Hot Water Bad for Your Hair?

Hot water, when used with care, can benefit hair by removing accumulated residues without compromising integrity. However, consistently exposing delicate strands to scalding temperatures in a hot shower can degrade essential proteins and actually disturb the protective layer - compromising health over time. Finding the right balance is key.

For most, gently heating water to a warm-hot level enables deeper pore cleansing without stripping vital scalp oils or overlifting cuticles across entire strands. However, porous, fragile, or colour/chemically-treated hair requires greater precautions as the heat tolerance threshold lowers.

Incorporating lukewarm water into certain washes, limiting repeat hot exposures while conditioning diligently afterwards preserves hair quality without fully sacrificing the perks of heat circulation boosts on skin tissues. Your ideal regimen ultimately depends on hair properties and type to strike that sweet spot.

Hot Water Myths Debunked

There’s a common myth stating routine hot water washes deeply cleanse hair without repercussions if you apply conditioner afterwards. Unfortunately, this belief is misguided. No conditioner fully negates hair protein damage from recurring hot blasts. At best, rich treatments may temporarily smooth frazzled cuticles between washes before hair returns to a roughened state.

Another hot water myth cites improper washing routines or product choices as the real culprits of heat damage rather than water temperature itself. However, while those factors certainly exacerbate issues, science confirms recurring hot water contact fundamentally degrades internal keratin structures over time – tangibly damaging quality.

Is Cold Water Good for Your Hair?

When applied carefully, cooler water rinses offer unique perks for hair health. The cold constricts cuticles, trapping moisture inside hairs to boost shine, smooth flyaways, and protect delicate ends from accumulating split damage after styling sessions. Frequent cold finishing also stimulates scalp circulation for healthier follicle growth cycles.

However, some strands (like excessively dry or thin hair) require extra omega fatty acids, which are best extracted through gentle pore cleansing with warm washes. Alternating cool and lukewarm temperatures based on hair needs and wash goals optimises results. Remember - icy temperatures alone cannot replace proper conditioning routines for supplying missing hydration and proteins inside damaged shafts.

The Truth About Washing Your Hair with Cold Water

There's a pervasive myth declaring cold water rinses vital to lock in colour vibrancy after dyeing sessions. However, this claim is exaggerated beyond temporary benefits. While cooler temps do seal cuticles and restrict moisture loss immediately after colouring, the key to prolonging vivid hues lies more in avoiding hot temperatures during initial washes to prevent colour molecules from escaping shaft gaps from the outer layer of hair.

Another common myth states washing hair predominantly in cold water intrinsically boosts follicle productivity and thickness for those experiencing temporary shedding or permanent thinning. Unfortunately, the truth is more complex - hair growth relies on internal scalp health, genetics and dietary factors beyond just external temperature stimulus alone. While cold may assist growth for some, nutritional balancing, stress relief, and treatments more directly fuel robust hair regrowth.

To benefit from cold washing, integrating it carefully while avoiding overdoing harsh icy blasts preserves hairstyle longevity between washes.

Best Practices for Hair Washing

Ideal Temperature for Hair Health

Determining one’s ideal washing temperature requires analysing how your unique hair texture, fragility, density and growth needs respond through several supervised test washes. Will delicate colour-treated strands endure 60 seconds under hot flow before drying? Can wiry curls truly dissolve a week’s oil buildup without warm water actively lifting cuticles? Track the tangible moisture, smoothness and residue outcomes.

While individual factors make prescriptions tricky, a few expert guidelines help narrow suitable heat/cold parameters to trial based on common traits. Fragile, bleached or relaxed hair may only tolerate lukewarm washes up to 38°C to avoid cracking protective cuticles critically vital for retaining moisture and preventing splits given the compromised integrity. Chemically dependent curls equally require gentler handling.

Alternatively, for those with extremely dense, thick, or fast-growing straight hair, using hotter water for deeper cleansing of the scalp pores is often necessary. This helps prevent premature flaking of the scalp, which can occur between haircuts due to the buildup of excess sebum — a natural oil produced by the scalp for hair protection — and leftover hair product residues. African hair, too, benefits from unlocking fuller moisture saturation potentials through initial heat.

Addressing Hair Loss and Thinning in Your Regimen

We understand how distressing hair loss can be. While adjusting wash temperature can help to a degree, it's important to remember that it's just one piece of the puzzle, especially when dealing with underlying causes like genetic conditions, micronutrient deficiencies, illnesses, chronic stress and post-partum fallouts. Depending on the diagnosis, specialised treatments become necessary. Medications like Finasteride tablets (Propecia) have proven efficacy in strengthening follicles and extending time invested into the anagen phase (growth phase) – where productive expansion occurs, prolonging thickness. Discuss incorporating these solutions into your customised regimen after assessing medical needs. Once building blocks get reestablished through treatments, mild alternating heat/cold washes help better maintain gains long-term.

Caring for Your Hair

When constructing your personalised hair care regimen for health from hair root to tip, everything from your washing routine down to product selection matters.


Choose your shampoo based on how hot or cold you wash your hair. For example, after using hot water for a deep clean, opt for a gentle shampoo like caffeine-enriched Alpecin Double Effect, which won’t compound moisture loss from lifted cuticles but still dissolve the residue. For predominantly cooler washes, try clarifying shampoos containing scalp-stimulating ingredients that remove buildup without over-drying.

Conditioners & Hair Masks

Always follow shampoo with an intensive conditioner or hair masque matched to the wash temperature. After heat exposure from hot water or styling tools, deeply nourishing formulas with natural butters and oils smooth frazzled hair cuticles. For cooler rinses, leave-in creams suit closed cuticles by providing lighter hydration without weighing down. Focus extra attention thoroughly coating dry mid-lengths and ends.

Growth & Scalp Solutions

While adjusting wash temperature suits temporary thinning tied to clogged follicles, significant hair loss requires boosting growth at the root cause. Consider using products proven to promote hair growth, such as the over-the-counter Regaine for Women (Minoxidil) or prescription Finasteride tablets, which can rejuvenate miniaturised follicles. Consult The Independent Pharmacy’s specialists regarding medical needs. For scalp health-supporting gains, also consider exfoliating scrubs and lifting debris and buildup from pore openings.

Hot or Cold Water for Hair: The Definitive Answer

In answering the original question - hot or cold water for washing hair - it depends on your individual strands' properties and health objectives at any given time. Of course, clarifying frequent heat can risk drying out locks lacking robust protocols for replenishing moisture stripped away after lifting hair cuticles. By that same token, exclusively using cooler temperatures might not thoroughly dissolve residues along shafts and scalp for fresh follicle cycles. Finding your personalised sweet spot through trial is key.

As highlighted throughout the article, alternating intelligent use of hot and cold water and customising ratios according to your regimen’s evolving needs provides the best of both worlds when complemented by the suitable conditioning products that your strands require. Remember to undergo occasional consultations with specialists should thinning or loss become complex, requiring integrated clinical therapies rather than just external adjustment alone. Overall, take these guidelines as your opportunity to refine heat and cold water use during washes to unlock the healthiest hair possible.

Take the Next Step Towards Healthier Hair

With a balanced, evidence-based grasp on leveraging both heat and cold during washes, it’s time to re-evaluate your current hair care regimen for improvement opportunities. Start by trying varying ratios of hot and cool water temperatures across alternating shampoos this month. Observe which combination leaves hair feeling smooth or voluminous post-wash after a few days. Adjust techniques over the next month supporting your goals.

During your wash evaluations, make a note of key problem areas – tight scalp, thinning strands, pesky buildup. These provide clues on ingredients and specialised treatments you might need from The Independent Pharmacy. We're here to support you every step of the way. Our experts can help find the right solution for you, from clinical options like finasteride tablets to potent over-the-counter growth serums like Regaine, ensuring you have the best foundation for healthy hair. Receive guidance selecting the right formulations catered to your hair properties.

Ready to uncover your healthiest hair potential through upgrading washing techniques and targeted solutions?

Contact The Independent Pharmacy, fill in your self-assessment or explore our unparalleled hair care range online. Let our specialists simplify constructing a regimen personalised to your objectives.

Get in touch today.


How to get thicker hair?

Use volumising shampoos and conditioners containing key ingredients that help hair appear fuller. Supplements like biotin, vitamin D and collagen tablets also thicken hair over time by supporting follicle health. For more significant thinning, speak to specialists about growth factors.

Do cold showers stop hair loss?

While cold water rinses help close hair follicles, preventing some temporary shedding, they cannot treat most permanent, pattern hair loss without combining medicated treatments that address the root causes.

How to grow hair fast?

Eating nutritious foods high in proteins and iron while limiting stress helps hair grow faster by providing building blocks and optimal scalp conditions. See specialists to rule out medical issues stunting follicle productivity if growth remains slow.

What causes hair loss?

Both hereditary and lifestyle factors like high stress, nutrient deficiencies, medical conditions or hormonal changes can trigger excessive hair shedding and thinning. Seek diagnostic tests from specialists to assess genetic predispositions and personalised solutions available.


Good_hair_care_advice_GHPI1694_01_22.pdf (

Eating a balanced diet - NHS (

Hair care - brushing, washing and cutting - Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust - CYP Website (

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