Why does my hair smells burnt after I curl it? (What to do next?)

why does my hair smells burnt after i curl it

Recently I experimented a bit with a curling iron. I had some time off work and wanted to try some new things. Wandering around with a curling iron was one of them! I enjoyed it very much and made some awesome hairstyles with it! But then the horror came…

If there’s one thing I hate more than burnt hair, it is the smell of burnt hair. I can’t explain why that is, but I just hate the smell. You can only imagine my horror when I got a sniff of my hair and smelled that it was burned! Now, it didn’t look burned but it certainly smelled that way and I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible. So first I asked myself “Why does my hair smell burnt after I curl it?” and then a whole bunch of other questions came up about how I could get rid of the smell and how to make my hair better again (assuming I had damaged it to a certain degree).

What follows was a Googling spree of (yes, and I’m not proud of it) a little over 6 hours! I learned everything there was to know about the subject and started to treat my hair.

Now, because I just know that I’m not the only one, I’m writing this article. So if you have recently discovered that your hair smells burnt after you curl it and how to get rid of the smell, you are in good hands.

Below you’ll learn everything you need. What are you waiting for? Start reading!

Why does my hair smell burnt after I curl it?

Do you want to take any guesses of what it means if your hair smells burnt after you curl it? The simple answer I can give you is that in fact, your hair does not only smell burnt… It is burnt! Even though you might not see something resembling the burn, I can say for sure that when your hair smells burnt, it is burnt.

Burning your hair while you’re curling it is most likely due to a couple of reasons:

It took too long

that you did too long over a section of hair that had to be curled. The rule of thumb here is that it should never take you more than 10 seconds to curl a section of hair.

If you hold on any longer, you have a high chance of burning your hair, and thus having hair that smells because of it. 

Having the curling iron on your hair for longer than 10 seconds can be dangerous not only because you can burn it, but it is also possible to break your hair. So, I know this is probably too little too late (otherwise you wouldn’t have searched for this topic), but keep your hair safe and the time you curl your hair, low.

Not using the right heating setting

Just because you CAN maximize the heat on your curling iron, doesn’t mean that you should do that. Curling your hair with the curling iron on the highest setting is risky because you have little time to do the curling properly without damaging your hair and burning it in the process.

What should you do then?

Go for the lowest setting with which you can curl your hair. Now, it might take some trial and error to find the right setting that will work for you, but it is much needed to find out the optimal setting if you don’t want to burn your hair. 

You aren’t using heat protection

Another likely explanation to why your hair smells burnt after curling it is that you forgot to use heat protection spray. It is highly recommended to use heat protection on your hair before you start curling (or straightening or blow-drying) your hair. Not using heat protection on your hair will increase the likelihood of burning your hair which will of course result in your that smells burnt…

How do you get the burnt smell out of your hair after curling it?

Now you’re probably wondering “how do I fix my burnt hair smell?” and “will the burnt smell in my hair ever go away?” Luckily I’m here to the rescue and can honestly tell you that there is something that can be done about the burnt hair smell. I know from my own experience that it is a quite distinct smell and you want to do something about it as fast as possible. Below you’ll find a couple of things you can do to get rid of the burnt hair smell.

Use baking soda

This seems like a weird trick, but it works. Go grab the baking soda and add 1 teaspoon of it to your regular shampoo. After you’ve added the baking soda to your shampoo you can go and massage the mixture into your hair. Wait 5 minutes to let it settle in and then rinse out and condition your hair as you would normally do. 

Now, smell your hair! The distinct scent shouldn’t be there anymore!

Scented dryer sheets

Yes, I know you normally only use them with your clothes, but I tell you, these scented dryer sheets can help you get rid of the burnt smell after you’ve curled, straightened, or blow-dried your hair. So, what do you need to do?

Grab a scented dryer sheet and rub it over your brush or your comb. Run the brush or the comb through your hair and the scent from the dryer sheet should now be in your hair and help mask the burnt smell. It should hold for a couple of hours or at least until your next shampoo.

Make use of pieces of lemon

Here’s another trick that helped me through the rough times of dealing with burnt hair… Make use of pieces of lemon! What you should do is this: grab a small piece of the peel of a lemon (you can also use lime or orange) and put this into an empty spray bottle. After that, you feel the spray bottle with water and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes. This way the mixture can mix fully and the water will grab some scent of the lemon peel pieces.

When you’ve let it sit for about 20 minutes you can go ahead and spritz the mixture onto your hair. 

After that there are two things you can do: let it air-dry, or use a blow-dryer to make your hair dry. If you use a blow-dryer, make sure that you use cool air! It wouldn’t be that smart to burn your hair all over again and go through the process all over again ;)!

Dry shampoo

The last thing that you should definitely try when you burnt your hair after curling, is making use of your dry shampoo. Just apply the dry shampoo to your hair and rub it all the way from the roots to the ends of your hair. This should hold the smell for a couple of hours, or just as the scented dryer sheets, at least until the next shampoo.

What not to use in your hair to cover up the burnt smell?

Don’t use perfume or hairspray! Now, I’ve seen this a couple of times with my friends (okay, and honestly at one point I did it myself), but I have to tell you that this isn’t the right way to treat your hair after you’ve burned it. Perfume and hairspray can mask the burnt-hair smell, but the chemicals in these products have a high chance of making the smell worse in the long run. So please, make sure that you don’t use it. Stick with the tips above and you should be fine.

Does your hair grow back after you’ve burned it?

As I said earlier, most times you just burn your hair a little and there’s nothing to see, only to smell. But sometimes you can burn your hair in such a way that it breaks and you might be wondering if your hair will grow back.

As you might have guessed, it all depends on how the damage took place (curling, straightening, or blow-drying) and to what extent it has done damage. Most of the time, however, your hair should just grow back nicely in time and there’s nothing for you to worry about! If you want to learn more about if your hair grows back after you burn it, I recommend you read the following article: does your hair grow back after burning it?


Hopefully, by now, you’ve learned that your hair smells burnt after curling it because it is burnt! Nothing more and nothing less. But, I hope that by understanding why it happens, you can take the necessary steps to avoid it in the future.

I also think that with the tips of covering up the smell, for now, you are good to go. So, now you know why your hair smells burnt after curling it, and what to do about it when it happens. You even know that, if you burn it significantly and your hair breaks, that most likely it will grow back nicely when given enough time!

Want to read more interesting articles and learn more? Then you’re in luck! Below I’ve set out some articles for you that you might find interesting!

Can you leave bleach in your hair for 2 hours?
Does your hair feel waxy? Here’s why.
What to do if you want to cut your hair but you’re scared?

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