How to Avoid Mildew in Your Hair (and How to Remove It)

Our scalp is skin, but it is some of the thickest skin on our bodies, and it carries more blood than the rest of our body does. It also contains sebaceous glands that produce sebum, and that sebum protects the hair. Now, we worry about keeping our hair clean, but we also have to keep our scalp clean, and according to the Mayo Clinic, there are even forms of hair loss attributed to scalp health, or lack thereof.

A problem some curly, coily, locked, and wavy girls may face is mildew or fungus. Mildew is a surface fungus, often gray or white in color, and often found in damp or moist areas. It gives off a musty smell, and it can be found in your house, on fabrics, and yes, even your hair and scalp.

Why does mildew occur in hair?

Mildew often occurs in hair and scalp when wet hair is left unable to dry for extended periods of time. The moisture that gets trapped in the hair can breed mildew, and hairstyles more prone to this would be buns, ponytails, updos, or even locs, although people who sweat heavily in their hair may also suffer from this. The air needed to dry the hair properly is not able to get through to the wet hair, and often they notice something is wrong by the musty smell.

How to prevent mildew in hair

Since this is an issue for a professional, I tapped on the shoulder of American Board Certified Haircolorist and hairstylist Monaé Everett for some assistance. Monaé advises to “…avoid scalp mildew by completely drying your hair after shampooing, wetting, or sweating.

What if my hair is really thick?

“People who have very thick hair or sweat excessively in the scalp have to take special precautions to fully cleanse and dry their hair. It is more reliable to apply heat to dry very thick hair than to allow hair to dry overnight.”

What if I sweat a lot?

“If you sweat excessively on your scalp, consider cleansing your scalp with an astringent such as Sea Breeze. Sea Breeze removes dirt, certain types of dandruff, and oil from the scalp and skin, without the worry of over drying (the scalp). Simply spray it on the scalp, and rinse.”

How can I prevent mildew in braids or extensions?

“Sea Breeze spray is also a great way to cleanse the scalp if you have braids, locs, or sewn-in hair extensions. This method helps those who have a difficult time getting all the way to the scalp during a shampoo, or those who don’t fully rinse the product from their hair. Other natural scalp cleansers include apple cider vinegar and lemon juice.”

How to remove mildew from hair

Clarifying shampoos or medicated shampoos may need to be used to ensure all the mildew is gone, but proper drying of the hair and scalp is essential to fixing it. Here is a common DIY remedy for this problem.

DIY Mildew Hair Removal Spray

  • 2 Tbsp. tea tree oil or 20 drops grapefruit oil
  • 2 cups of water

Mix in a spray bottle, and spray the solution throughout your hair and scalp, especially where the mildew is concentrated. Leave it on for twenty to thirty minutes, and then shampoo your hair.

Adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo may also help, and I used this myself when I was suffering from dandruff; it worked like a charm. Yes, this is an ugly topic, but it’s a very real one, and if you find yourself suffering from mildewed hair and scalp, then fix the problem by allowing your hair to dry properly. Knowledge is power!

Have you suffered from mildew hair or scalp? What did you do to get rid of it? Let us know in the comments below!

This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.

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