My Daughter's Hair Smells Really Wierd

Updated on August 03, 2011
S.B. asks from Bristol, WI
20 answers

Hi all - I have noticed my daughter's hair is smelling bad - like it hasn't been washed in a few days. I figured that was the cause, or that maybe there was a reaction between the leave in conditioner (used after shampoo) and the 'no more tangles' that she uses in the morning when she brushes her hair. However, yesterday I washed her hair for her, rinsed it and combed it without conditioner. Three hours later, it smelled bad. We are using kids shampoo (not J & J, but the l'oreal for kids stuff). We are on well water. My hair doesn't smell like hers. What could be causing it?

Added: she is 7 years old. She is sensitive to heat but doesn't seem to sweat much. She likes to put it in a pony tail but her hair is on the thin side.

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So What Happened?

We stopped letting her put her hair in a ponytail while wet. Last night she had a bath, and was sitting in front of the fan before bed (it will help dry my hair, she said). This morning I smelled her hair - it smelled great! I had no idea something small like that would make her hair smell so bad! I never put my hair back when wet...but then again my hair is curly and hers is straight. Thanks again, moms!

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answers from St. Louis on

You didn't say how old she is. When my kids got older, like over five, and were active the dirt built up quickly so if they didn't shower and wash their hair every day it smelled awful.

The other thing is mold, yup mold, if my older daughter would pull her hair into a pony tail it was so thick that it would never dry at her scalp. She would literally get mold on her scalp. Gross!!!

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answers from Rochester on

You might try blow drying it, especially if she's putting it into a ponytail before it dries. Like someone else mentioned, that can actually cause a mildewy, wet dog type smell. It's probably a combination of several things...and I agree, too, that EVERY TIME my daughter goes outside, her hair stinks about two minutes later.

If I were you, I'd ditch the Loreal kids shampoo and switch her to a more soapy smelling shampoo...pantene, or if you still want a sweet smell, herbal essence or fructise. I don't think kids shampoos have a very good "aftersmell", personally, and I think it's just everything mixed together. :)

Also, I used to use the "no more tangles" spray on my stepdaughter, who had snarly hair, and I really thought it smelled bad. If you use a good conditioner after shampooing (NOT leave in...) you shouldn't have any trouble. I would quit using "leave in" products all together...that's a lot of build up in her hair, over time, that's really hard to REALLY get washed out well.

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answers from Dallas on

My hair often gets pulled back into a pony tail before it's dry and will actually smell like mildew if left like that or if it gets hot. So gross!!!

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answers from Washington DC on

It could still be the water, or maybe something in her diet or a medication? I would look at what she is eating and drinking and see if there is a correlation. Is she sweating a lot? Maybe that is the cause of the odor?

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answers from San Antonio on

My daughter started to smell a bit sour and I discovered it was her lovey that was smelly (her's is a pillow, so she puts her head on it and it over her head at times). Washed the lovey and my daughter smelled better again.

If it is the well water I think the mom who posted about the vinegar wash had a brilliant idea. I would try that too.

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answers from Milwaukee on

I have my 10 y old.... (I am in Mt Pleasant-not too far from you with the same water issues and me being fine with thick hair and daughter with thin fine hair) but she uses a 2-in-1 shampoo conditioner from Pantene. no more kids stuff... I think it tries so hard to be fruity it clashes with the salt in our softeners and such. Has seemed to work... plus keep giving her washing lessons cause they do not do so great in the back especially. Good luck!

P.s. Pantene also has a detangler. It only works so-so, but I have very thick hair and and my hair tangles just walking down the hall! Works better on my daughter,m but a different brand may work better but then you have combating smells... that is why I stick to one brand



answers from Chicago on

Check the smell/cleanliness of the brush and/or comb. My daughter is 8 and has thick shoulder-length hair. I have her take her brush into the shower with her and brush her hair when she puts in conditioner, which ensures that the brush gets washed on a daily basis. (Have you ever smelled a "dirty" hairbrush?) It also has the added benefit of combing through any tangles in a very easy way, which makes her hair much less tangled after showering.



answers from Texarkana on

i was just thinking the same thing about my sons hair he is one and i swear on one side of his head it smells like vomit. I just figured its bc he's eating so many new adult foods and he prolly runs his fingers thru his hair while eating. looking foward to readin what other people post on here.


answers from Portland on

Have you smelled the water? If the water smells then the water could have something in it or some creature that died in it or something. If her hair is wet when she puts it in a ponytail then when it dries like that it could smell weird or bad.



answers from Dayton on

Could be some wierd fungal thing. You could try Head and Shoulders to see if that helps.



answers from Seattle on

I'll BET something that touches her hair is sour. Things to check:

- Hair tie
- Pillowcase
- Towel

I do this myself every once in awhile with my hair tie. It'll be dry when I put it in (no smell) but as soon as it gets wet (either from wet hair, or sweat)... WHEW! Oy! It takes awhile for the smell to be noticeable... but I'll pull my hair down and, ugh. Sour hair. Gross.

My son, otoh, sweats a lot when he sleeps. So his pillowcase, or both pillowcase and pillow can go sour. Even though I wash his pillowcase once a week and his pillow once a month; in warm weather, I sometimes need to go twice a week on the case, and every week to two weeks on his pillow itself. His hair will initially smell fine (out of the shower in the morning), but as the scents wear off and he starts sweating the smell from his pillow starts leaking through.

And I think most of us have had the "whoops" towel. Again, dry smells just fine. Then we go to wipe our face right out of the shower and ugh. Okay, tossing that towel in the wash with a bit'o'bleach! Kids, otoh, frequently just scrub themselves with the stinky towel.

Second Bet:

Cradle Cap... which in it's early stages before the waxy buildup has coalesced enough to form dark patches smells MUSTY.


answers from Jacksonville on

If I had to throw an idea out there, I would simply suggest that you make sure her hair is fully dry after her baths. Damp hair that gets warm will smell. Does she go to bed with her hair damp? Lying on the pillow with wet hair can cause the pillow to smell, too, if it doesn't get dry quickly enough.



answers from Chicago on

Wow, she smells like me then haha! Is her scalp sunburned underneath? Perhaps it is getting flakey and a little skin cream under would help. I have used well water in the past and so you are right, probably not a problem since you don't get it. She might just sweat a lot and needs a couple of washes a day. And perhaps keep changing around her shampoos. There are a lot of cheaper ones to try in a dollar store.



answers from Cleveland on

it might be causing it, if you can get a water purifier for your water and use that water to wash her hair and see if it makes a change



answers from Springfield on

I notice my children's hair smells bad after they have gone outside sometimes, even if just for a few minutes.

Try to describe the smell......that will help us.....



answers from Richmond on

answer between the well water and the leave in conditioner, that could easily be causing the smell. kids grow at a much faster rate then adults, therefore they shed skin cells much faster, right ?? if you water is not the greatest ie.. well water, and you shed skin cells like a wet dog in august, it is going to put off a bad smell because there are so many icky smelling skin cells right there in one place. get a water filter and that should take care of the smell
K. h.



answers from Chicago on

Check the towel she uses! If she reused it, it may be mildewy and smelly from sitting wet for too long. Or.......I had this happen to my hair when I left the towels in the washer too long before drying. It took three days until I figured out the towels that I was using were the problem. A little bleach and baking soda in the wash with the towels cleaned them up and they were fine to use again.



answers from Chicago on

I would try switching to a non kids shampoo. Also, I know you may think it is early, but she may be showing signs of pre puberty and her hair might be changing. Your body goes through changes every 7 years, so she may just be changing



answers from Seattle on

How old is your daughter?

It could be the water, and it could also just be the shampoo you are using. Might need to just use what you use and see if that helps.

It could also be changes going on in her body depending on her age.
Also its been hot because of summer, her sweating if she does will make her hair smell bad.


answers from Medford on

Try rinsing her hair with a little vinegar. it helps cut the soap, and makes it smell better. Rinse after the vinegar too. Is she snuggling with a dog, or cat, or sommersualts in the grass? Does she have a new pillow and clean pillowcase on her bed? Letting it dry before the pony tail is a good idea.

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