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Why Does My Hair Puff Up When It Dries?

If you’ve got unruly hair that never seems to behave itself, you’ll probably find yourself asking the following question time and time again: “Why does my hair puff up when it dries?

You comb, brush, and spray with water, yet 10 minutes later and it always puffs up again. If this problem annoys you to no end, know you’re not alone. Countless people struggle against “poofy” hair every day and are at a loss for what they can do.

Luckily, once you’re able to determine the cause of your puffiness, you can take measures against it. In this guide, we’ll break down the various reasons hair becomes poofy as it dries and tell you how you can prevent it so you can finally say goodbye to that messy, frizzy bedhead.

Why Does My Hair Get Puffy When It Becomes Dry?

Hair puffs up when it dries due to moisture absorption from the air, causing hair strands to swell and frizz. This phenomenon is more common in curly or wavy hair, as the hair cuticle is more susceptible to opening and allowing moisture in, leading to a puffy appearance.

Here are 8 reasons why your hair becomes puffy when it dries. If you constantly find yourself with post-dry puffy hair, it’s likely because of one of the following reasons:


reasons why does hair puff up when it dries

So let’s start with the number one most common cause of puffy hair: humidity.

Hair is comprised of a protein known as keratin, which is structured in tubular, strand-like follicles. These protein fibers are held together by two types of bonds: disulfide bonds and hydrogen bonds. In this case, we’re looking at hydrogen bonds, which are broken when exposed to water.

Say you take a shower. The water temporarily breaks the hydrogen bonds in your hair which causes it to become malleable. As it dries, it takes on a new shape. Humidity, which is moisture in the air, can break these bonds as well and essentially causes your hair to poof out as it absorbs this moisture while drying.

This is why hair frizz is more prominent in coastal and humid regions.

Washing with Hot Water

If you take your showers with scalding hot water and suffer from hair frizz, it’s probably time to reduce the temperature. This is because hot water dries out your hair follicles and causes them to absorb excess moisture while drying.

It’s similar to how humidity works, except you have a bit more control over this factor.

Excess Heat Exposure from Styling

excess heat makes hair poofy

Previously, we mentioned that keratin is held together by disulfide and hydrogen bonds. Sources indicate that disulfide bonds can only be broken through extreme heat, such as blow-drying your hair or using a flat iron.

In addition to irreversible damage to your hair follicles, heat may also dry out your hair and make it more vulnerable to humidity.

Washing Your Hair Too Much

Even if you always wash your hair with lukewarm water, cleaning it too much can be just as detrimental. This study highlights the adverse effects of using shampoo too frequently, stating that it washes out your natural hair oils and causes them to become damaged.

The study concludes that washing your hair 5-6 times a week with shampoo adequately cleans your hair and shows no sign of detrimental effects.

Overuse of Products

It’s not just shampoo that damages and dries out your hair; many general hair products cause problems over time when used excessively.

If you use a lot of harsh hair care products, it’s probably time to ease up. You don’t have to eliminate your routine entirely, but less is usually more.


While genetics don’t play a direct role in your hair’s tendency to become puffy and frizzy, curly hair tends to suffer from these issues much more adversely than other hair types. This is especially true for curly hair that has been straightened via flat iron.

Dyeing/Chemically Treating Your Hair

chemically treating hair makes hair frizzy

Dyeing, perming, or chemically treating your hair may look stylish, but it’s pretty detrimental to the well-being of your follicles.

Many of the chemicals used to treat and style hair break disulfide bonds, which are typically only broken by heat. As we discussed before, these bonds are necessary for maintaining your hair’s shape and health.

You don’t have to give up dyeing your hair, but if you choose to do so, you have to take extra good care of your scalp.

Damaged/Dry Hair

Damaged and dry hair, in general, causes poofy hair. It doesn’t necessarily have to be caused by one of the issues mentioned on this list, but it’s crucial to always mind your hair and take care of it to the best of your ability.

How Can I Prevent My Hair From Becoming Puffy When It Dries?

Here are some tips to prevent your hair from becoming puffy as it dries:

  • Wash smart: use small amounts of shampoo and condition your hair frequently. Turn down the temperature to lukewarm temperatures, and consider using a shower cap every once in a while.
  • Tone down hair treatments: Whether it’s flat ironing or dyeing, give your hair a break. Try to use fewer styling products and more natural treatments, such as essential oils.
  • Frizz protector: Sometimes in the most humid environments, there’s no stopping puffy hair. In this case, you might want to try some frizz protectants to prevent excess moisture in your follicles.
  • Use microfiber towels: Regular towels may have rough bristles and cause your hair to become frizzy. Instead, try out a microfiber towel, which is a much gentler alternative.
  • Rinse with cold water after sweating: If you’ve been working up a good sweat while exercising, chances are the salty moisture has made its way to your scalp. While not detrimental, it can dry your hair out, and it’s best to wash with cold water as soon as possible.

Hopefully, with this guide, you’ll have everything you need to solve your frizzy, puffy hair and finally eliminate that irritating poofball on the top of your head.