Hair Fragrances Bring Your Signature Scent to Your Strands (Without Damage)

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Woman with natural Afro hairstyle with flowers in hair

Marc Bordons/Stocksy

When applying a signature scent, you likely focus on your pulse points, like the inside of your wrists and behind your earlobes, to make your scent last longer. But have you ever felt tempted to use your perfume on your hair? If you're into the idea but worried about the possibility of drying out your strands, hair fragrances contain less alcohol than regular fragrances, plus they keep hair fresh and smelling great in between wash days. Below, learn everything you need to know about hair fragrances, from the benefits to haircare expert-approved application methods.

Meet the Expert

  • Mona Kattan is the global president of Huda Beauty, which she founded with her sisters Huda and Alya, as well as the founder of fragrance brand Kayali.
  • Jean Kachika is the head of marketing at Ruka, a haircare brand focused on uplifting this part of Black women's identity through extensions, accessories, and products offered at fair prices.

What Are Hair Fragrances?

Hair fragrances are perfumes that are formulated specifically for use on the hair. Unlike regular fragrances, they usually have less alcohol—or none at all—to protect your strands. “Hair fragrances are great for an even longer-lasting scent trail, especially if you are wearing perfume on your skin or on your clothes,” Kattan explains. Kachika tells us that hair fragrances contain ingredients that won’t dry out your hair. “There are several beneficial ingredients in hair fragrances that nourish your hair and lock in moisture while ensuring it smells great,” she adds.

Benefits of Hair Fragrances

In addition to the amazing scent they offer, one of the biggest benefits of hair fragrances is that they're formulated specifically to preserve the integrity of your strands. Regular fragrances contain alcohol, which can potentially dry out and damage your hair. “If you color or chemically treat your hair, I would recommend using a hair fragrance or mist,” Kattan says. The entrepreneur also tells us that she likes to perfume her hair with bakhoor, which is common in Arab culture: “The bakhoor is placed on a burner (I use an electric one) and once it starts smoking, I gently circle the smoke under and around my hair. Hair is porous, so it retains scent really well.” 

Having a haircare regime in between washes will keep it strong and healthy, especially if you have an active lifestyle. If you’ve been cooking or working out, your hair may be in need of a refresh, and this is where having a hair fragrance comes in handy. You can also apply your hair perfume at the end of your styling routine as a finishing touch.

Hair Fragrances vs. Regular Fragrances

In addition to containing less alcohol than regular fragrances, hair fragrances last longer and even sometimes contain ingredients that hydrate and condition strands. According to Kachika, hair absorbs scent much better than skin, increasing the longevity of the perfume. “They also contain a lot of natural ingredients,” she shares. “At Ruka, we carefully crafted a fragrance with a hydro-alcoholic formulation that provides perfect application without the drying effects that come from regular fragrance.”

The aforementioned natural ingredients are much kinder to hair, plus some hair fragrances—like Kayali's Déjà Vu White Flower ($40)–contain hydrating and conditioning ingredients to ensure your strands look and feel as good as they smell. “When I was developing the mist for the fragrance, I wanted to add more nourishing ingredients like panthenol, aloe vera, castor oil and camellia oil,” Kattan says. “All of these ingredients work together to leave your hair smelling great while also delivering instant shine and conditioning benefits.”

How to Apply Hair Fragrance

Keep in mind that applying hair fragrance is a subtle, finishing touch, so you don’t need to overdo it (unless you want a stronger scent). “With our perfume, we recommend spritzing it and walking into the scent, or spraying it three to four times across the hair for direct moisture,” Kachika says. Kattan believes it’s all a matter of personal preference, but she stresses the importance of doing a few test sprays first. “I’m a serial over-sprayer when it comes to hair fragrance, but I would recommend doing a few test sprays roughly about 20cm (eight inches) away from your hair, ideally spraying away from the root,” she explains.

The Final Takeaway

While your regular fragrance may provide a quick fix to amazing-smelling hair, it might actually be doing it more harm than good in the long run, so you should consider a hair fragrance for the same great scent boost without the drying formula. Those with Type 3 or 4 hair might find that their options are limited, but Ruka's Hair Perfume ($30) has been formulated specifically for Black women's hair textures. “The Ruka signature scent has a delicate blend of delicious coconut top notes and woodsy earth notes with a warm musk and vanilla base,” Kachika says.

If you can’t find the right hair fragrance or you don’t want to stop using your go-to scent on your strands, Kattan’s top tip is to spray the fragrance on your hairbrush, as this allows most of the alcohol to evaporate. “You can also spray your hair fragrance on a towel and wrap it around your hair pre-styling,” she adds.

A hair fragrance is a safer alternative due to the minimal alcohol content, so you won’t have to worry about issues like dryness, which can lead to hair damage. There are some great hair fragrances on the market to choose from, but the most important thing to keep in mind is to look for formulas that contain little to no alcohol and, ideally, a formula that prioritizes natural ingredients. By doing this, your hair will stay nourished and protected while exuding a gloriously fresh scent.

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