Fragile Wet Hair

woman with wet hair
Photo: ESB Professional/Shutterstock
Q: Can putting on a t-shirt or a sweater directly after a shower, when the hair is still wet, have any kinds of effect on the hair? Or is it better to wait for the hair to dry before putting on the clothes, to prevent any hair loss that might occur on top of the head? Is wet hair more prone to hair loss?
A: While it is true that wet hair is more fragile than dry hair, I've never heard of problems being caused by putting on shirts or sweaters over wet hair. I would recommend that you at least towel-dry the hair first to prevent saturating the collar and upper portions of the garments in question.
The biggest hazard with handling your hair when wet comes from treating it too roughly. Many people with longer hair, men and women, still tend to dry their hair the way they did as children, or when their hair was short. They place a towel on the head and buffet the hair and scalp as if they were polishing shoes.
They remove the towel to leave behind a rat's nest of hairs that must then be untangled for styling. Some people add further injury by grabbing the nearest brush and raking it through the tangled hair, breaking dozens of strands in the process.
When the hair is wet, it can be stretched to double its normal length but may not be able to return to its natural shape and can easily snap at weaker points along the length. It is also usually somewhat swelled and can have its cuticle layer roughed when buffeted by a towel or other fabrics.
This sounds as though your theory of putting on clothing over wet hair might have some credence, but since the cuticle layer of the hair grows from scalp to ends, pulling a shirt or sweater over the head would allow it to slide over the hair with minimal worry.
Actual hair loss requires that something damages the hair's follicle or causes it to shift into a shedding phase of growth. If you are finding that pulling shirts and sweaters over the head when the hair is wet causes your hairs to be pulled out from the root, you might consider seeing a dermatologist to find out if you have something that is causing irritation of your scalp and therefore a tendency toward looser hair attachment.
See also:
Can I use any towel to dry my hair without damaging it?
Should you not brush hair when wet?
How to minimize post-shampoo detangling