An old friend once asked me: Elsie, why is my hair stiff after I wash it? I’d been there before.
Do you ever get that icky, distracting feeling of hard hair after a shower? You know, that weird, crunchy texture like your hair has a shell around it, but you have no idea how it got there because you literally just washed your tresses?
Most of you will have experienced this at least once in your life.
It can be challenging to pinpoint what exactly causes that stiffness after your hair wash day.
It’s especially frustrating when you’re merely doing what you’ve been doing in the shower all your life – so what gives?
Here are some of the reasons why you might be dealing with unexpected stiffness in your locks fresh out of the shower, along with a few tips to solve your hair texture issues once and for all.
The Curse Of Hard, Stiff Hair Straight Out Of The Shower
Before we get to why it happens, let’s first talk about the actual problem: stiff, straw-like, and borderline crispy hair when your locks dry after a fresh shower.
You see, your hair’s softness and smoothness depend on how your hair cuticle is doing.
This is the outermost layer of hair and is made of tiny “scales”.
There are many reasons why your hair cuticles aren’t in tip-top shape.
When a coating of product build-up suffocates the scales, your hair might feel less smooth.
So it’s always of the utmost importance to wash your hair properly to avoid any roughness or heaviness.
Another example is when your hair is damaged or is dealing with too much stress.
This causes your cuticle to be roughed up, creating little gaps in the scales.
The more gaps you have in your hair, the easier it is for your hair fibers to release water, leaving your hair dry and rough to the touch.
When your hair cuticles are damaged or aren’t thoroughly cleansed, you could deal with dehydrated and stiff hair with zero flexibility and elasticity.
That means your hair strands are super brittle and could snap in two just like that.
Whatever the cause, stiff and dry hair can be a blow to your confidence.
Stiff hair usually comes with absolutely no shine, no bounce, and all-around dehydration.
Again, there are many reasons for getting hair that feels hard after a shower.
Still, it boils down to one of two things: either you lack something in your hair care routine, or you’re using something that stresses out your cuticle by suffocating or damaging it.
Why Is My Hair Stiff After I Wash It?
Pinpointing what exactly your hair needs (or what it wants you to omit) is the key to finding a solution to your dry and stiff locks post-shower.
Here are some of the most common reasons why hair turns out that way after a bath, and a couple of solutions to help you out.
You’re showering with hard water, which causes mineral build-up in your hair
Hard water is a type of water laced with small amounts of dissolved minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, lead, lime, and iron.
These minerals could come from wells or underground, depending on where you’re from.
If you’re taking a shower with hard water, there’s a high chance the minerals will build up in your hair and leave a crunchy cast.
That’s because your hair absorbs all those mineral deposits while it’s wet in the shower, and as it dries, the minerals crystallize, turning your hair hard and almost crunchy.
The mineral build-up also prevents moisture from going in and out of your hair shaft since it leaves a coating around your strands.
This leaves your hair dry, stiff, and weak.
One tell-tale sign of hard water is that your shampoo takes a long time to lather up.
It’s also difficult to distribute it across your scalp and hair.
Another sign is when your hair is still rough and full of tangles even after moisturizing it with conditioner.
You can always hop on a call with your city’s water district to confirm with them if you have hard water in your area.
You could also purchase a water hardness testing kit from your favorite home improvement store to see the results yourself.
If it isn’t already blatantly obvious, dealing with hard water is a huge hassle.
It creates so many issues for your hair, and the worst part is that it isn’t even in your control what kind of water your city has.
If your hard water has been giving you unbearable issues with stiffness and crispiness in your hair, it might be time to invest in a shower filter.
Tons of filters can draw out these mineral deposits, so you don’t have to deal with them building up in your hair and creating a hard cast around it.
Soft water balances out the pH level in your hair, so you won’t have to deal with rough, squeaky clean hair after your wash.
You’ll be left only with smooth, silky, soft hair without that dreadful stiffness.
You swim in chlorinated pools or beaches often
You could also be experiencing hair stiffness if you’re an avid swimmer.
Most swimming pools contain chlorine, yet another mineral that could pile onto your hair and cause build-up over time.
Chlorine also dries out your hair, making it straw-like in texture.
One way to tell right off the bat that you have chlorine deposits in your blonde or light-colored hair is if your hair has a greenish tint to it.
That’s the chlorine latching onto your hair and holding on for dear life.
A similar thing happens when you spend too much time at the beach.
Not only are you exposing your hair to the sun that can dehydrate your locks, but you’re also making it vulnerable to salt – a mineral known to dry out anything in its wake.
Has your hair ever felt crispy while you were soaking up some sun at the beach?
Well, you have saltwater and the salty ocean breeze to blame for that.
What sucks is that even when you go home and try to wash it out with regular shampoo, it might not work.
Use a clarifying shampoo after swimming or hitting the beach.
A clarifying shampoo is much stronger and more chelating than your daily shampoo.
It eliminates all the stubborn gunk and grime in your locks, including mineral deposits.
Do it once a week to remove mineral build-up.
You could also do a weekly apple cider vinegar cleanse to dissolve all the dirt and excess sebum stuck in your hair.
ACV is great at purifying your hair while retaining shine and bounce.
You have poor protein-moisture balance
Moisture is a must for good hair care.
All hair types need it to survive while looking luscious and silky-smooth.
But you also need to have the right amount of protein – the compound that makes your hair bonds strong and fortified.
After all, hair is made of proteins in the first place.
If your hair is over-conditioned or too-moisturized without the right amount of protein to balance it out, you could suffer from hygral fatigue.
This leaves your hair strands limp, lifeless, and gummy in texture.
It can even leave it dehydrated because it messes with your hair’s ability to hold in moisture.
You need to incorporate protein and moisture to get that soft, smooth, healthy hair texture you want.
With a balance of the two, your hair will have both awesome hydration and the strength it needs to combat breakage.
Protein is also where you get your bounciness, which is a must for curls.
Make sure you have enough moisture and protein-rich products in your routine, from shampoos to conditioners to stylers.
Maintaining a balance between the two will lead to softer, smoother tresses after your shower.
You can also do weekly treatments to replenish whichever of the two your hair is craving.
Do an oil mask with coconut, olive, and argan oils for deep moisture, or an egg and yogurt protein mask if your hair needs extra strength and springiness.
You’re protein-sensitive but have tons of protein in your routine
While protein-moisture balance is super important for most people, you should also watch out for having too much protein.
If you have low-porosity hair that’s undamaged and doesn’t need the extra repairing properties, you might not need to incorporate as much protein in your routine.
Protein overload, or feeding your hair too much protein, often leads to roughness and hardness in the hair, making it feel straw-like even when you’re fresh out of your shower.
Because it makes the hair so stiff, your strands become susceptible to breakage.
So if you don’t need help bringing bounce and fullness back to your hair, don’t force protein into your routine.
You could end up regretting it.
If your hair isn’t particularly damaged, cut down on the protein.
It may be good for the hair, but if you use too much of it when you don’t actually need it, it could backfire and give you stiff locks that are hard to the touch.
Use heavy-duty protein treatments only if you badly need to repair your hair bonds, like when you bleach your tresses or get them relaxed.
If you have moderately healthy hair, stick to your moisturizing deep conditioners and maybe use a shampoo infused with proteins every couple of days.
Your hair is damaged from heat and chemical processes
Heat and chemical damage are among the top causes of dryness and stiffness in your hair, even when you’re not showering.
If you use an excessive amount of bleach, dye, and even hot tools like flat irons and curling wands, you could end up “killing” your hair strands, making them dry, lifeless, and stiff.
Hair damage lifts the hair cuticle and roughs it up, making it fragile and parched.
When moisture is stripped from hair, it becomes frizzy, dehydrated, brittle, and straw-like in texture.
Repair your damaged hair by moisturizing it as much as you can.
Using hydrating conditioners and leave-in treatments infused with proteins will also help fortify and build up your hair bonds too.
Use hair masks weekly and a serum every day – anything that will help your hair retain all the moisture and nutrients it needs to be smooth, silky, and luminous again.
Cut down on hot tools by air-drying your hair instead of using heat on it.
Steer clear of your favorite irons and wands and instead embrace your natural texture.
This will make a huge difference in the stiffness and dryness of your hair.
You’re using too many silicones and not washing them out properly
Silicones can be good for the hair because they protect your strands and seal the hair cuticle to add sleekness to your look.
But in the long run, they can produce build-up in your hair.
This weighs it down and makes it feel stiff and crunchy when not washed out correctly.
If you regularly use conditioners and leave-in treatments that contain silicones, you need to make sure that your shampoo has deep and thorough cleansing agents that can get all that gunk out on wash day.
If not, the silicones will just sit on top of your hair, accumulating and piling up over time.
This creates a thick coating around your hair that is hard to wash off, making your hair stiff as it hardens.
When you use silicones in your routine, make sure you wash them all away with a high-quality shampoo with powerful cleansing agents.
Sulfates, sodium cocoyl isethionate, and coconut-derived coco betaine are just some examples of cleansing ingredients that efficiently dissolve and wash away silicones.
If silicone build-up has been a recurring issue for you for a while, you could also consider going silicone-free.
Avoiding products with silicones means you never have to deal with them suffocating and hardening your hair strands again.
Everyone wants soft, silky, touchable hair with the right amount of shine.
But sometimes, life has other plans for us, and we get stuck with stiff, hard-textured hair straight out of the shower.
It can be mega-frustrating to figure out what went wrong during your shower.
But don’t blame yourself!
It’s likely you simply weren’t aware of how your specific hair type works with some products.
Either that or it’s something completely out of your control, like what type of water runs through your city.
But as long as you know how to address these issues, you’ll be fine.
You’ll know just how to handle the problem at hand, and with a few minor adjustments here and there, you can kiss that stiffness and rough texture goodbye and start flaunting smooth and luscious hair once more.