Updated: Apr 15
The bane of every natural girl’s existence is whether or not she is getting enough moisture in her hair. She asks herself, Is my hair moisturized enough? How should I moisturize my dry hair? Is it getting enough moisture/ protected from the elements? Should I use oil? how do I keep my hair moisturized during the winter, there are always different variations of this question, and I hope that this sheds some light to some of your struggles.
I took a quick survey of the natural girls in my life and there was a resounding echo that getting their hair to stay moisturized was an issue they were all facing. I have been doing some things differently with my hair that has allowed me to retain moisture, which has allowed me to be able to retain length in my hair over the past couple weeks. The look of my hair has changed and its gained and retained a half inch in length (note that hair grows an average of a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch every month). I know this is due to understanding how to moisturize my hair better, using essential oils, taking better care of my scalp and reducing my hair manipulation.
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Let dive into these common mistakes that we've all made as we try to keep our hair moisturized.
Below are 4 mistakes newbie and seasoned natural girls are making when it comes to keeping their hair moisturized.
1. You don’t know the difference between Hydrators (humectants) and Moisturizers.
My opinion is that information overload in regard to natural hair sometimes makes us dismiss logical reasoning. The work moisturizing depicts this perfectly.
“Moisturizing” is a word that its meaning in the natural hair word can be misleading and sometimes misunderstood, it has become a catch-all term that has made it impossible for people to understand its true meaning.
This mistake can ultimately lead to not getting the benefits that we are looking for.
To better understand this, we will cover two concepts, Hydration and Moisture.
Hydrators are responsible for reducing moisture loss by pulling moisture from the environment into the hair while Moisturizer is responsible for locking in moisture (ideally water) into the hair. Let’s unpack this notion a bit more, a “moisture rich” hair cuticle should essentially have water trapped in the cortex and the moisturizer should prevent this said moisture from getting out. So let’s say you have been using a moisturizer however you have not been getting the results you wished for.
Check your products to see if the following are true.
A. Are you using a water-based moisturizer? Do you see Water or Aqua as the first ingredient in your product? This will provide H2O for your hair cortex.
B. Does your moisturizer contain Humectants/ Hydrants? Before you get carried away, make sure you know your hair porosity before deciding if this is an option for you. (hint: Low Poro hair need humectants)
C. Are you washing your hair with “hard water”? Hard water has the tendency to cause mineral build up which causes the hair to feel greasy but actually have dry brittle tendencies. Hard water molecules are large and prevent water from penetrating your hair cuticle.
Shower Water Filter
Filtered water in your spray bottle
2. Using oil as a moisturizer I’ve seen too many instances where I see people using olive oil for deep conditioning. I’m the type of person that’s always been curious about how things work. I also want to make sure that solutions that I use on my hair actually match the problems I am having. Please understand this, There are instances where deep conditioning or hot oil treatments may be helpful and we will explore that in #3 Let's explore a simple case study.
"So Grace feels like her hair is really dry and isn’t retaining moisture. Her hair is inflexible, not showing much elasticity and gets tangled easily. She decides that she will do a hot oil treatment with Olive oil to help keep her hair moisturized. She has heard the rave about EVOO (Extra Virgin olive oil), so she proceeds to complete her hair treatment and her hair becomes soft and easy to comb. She is ecstatic. But two days later her hair appears very dry again. She is puzzled…" Has this ever happened to you? What would you suggest Grace do in this instance? The reason this is happening is that Grace tried to solve the wrong problem.
Note that some of the EVOO( because it contains monounsaturated fat, some will penetrate the hair follicle, it is still NOT providing moisture... remember our new mantra..."Moisture is Water" ;).
Ok back to our friend Grace.
Grace did not consider why her hair is dry, she assumed that if its dry and stiff, oil will lubricate it and everything should be fine. Notice that she didn’t address the fact that her hair has no moisture in the cortex; she simply just masked it with oil. Most oils do not penetrate the hair shaft, with the exception of few oils which may squeeze into the hair cuticle (coconut oil, EVOO oil). AGAIN, oils by themselves are not moisturizers! Remember what we discussed earlier, moisturizers in its true sense should be water-based and should help trap water into the hair cortex. So in order for oil to act like a moisturizer, it must work hand in hand with water.
Get your water spray bottle girl!
3. You leave oil treatments on your hair for too long. So I'm sure we've all been guilty of doing a hot oil treatment, seating under the drying and thinking, oh mehn I'm sure if I go to sleep with it on my head, it will penetrate the hair even more. WRONG! When you add heat to you oil treatment, the goal is to allow the oil to penetrate faster. But there are two things to consider. Monounsaturated fats ( ex. Coconut oil) are the only oils able to penetrate the hair shaft, so if you are using any other oil other than this, it will simply seat on top of the hair and coat it. Oils that contain polyunsaturated chains are simply too large to enter the cortex. No matter how much heat you add, the molecules are simply too big. Let’s say coconut oil is your holy grail, so now you are sure that the oil will definitely penetrate the hair shaft. Do you need to add heat? If you want to get the oil into your hair faster, then heat can work as a catalyst. Remember that catalyst simply speed up a reaction, they don’t alter the results of the reaction. Let’s play a quick number game to demonstrate this.
If your hair cortex has space for 5 molecules of coconut oil, it will only take 5 molecules of coconut oil TOTAL. However, if you use heat, it will allow the 5 molecules to enter much faster but will not increase the amount of coconut that can enter.
I promised to tell you why hot oil treatments may be beneficial. You first have to make sure you are solving the right problem. Hot oil treatments and the penetration of oil into your hair follicle will help improve elasticity and lubrication, while also improving blood flow in the scalp.
Note: be cautious on the type of oil you use, remember that you do not want to clog the pores on your scalp.
4. Treating your scalp and your hair in the same way The needs of your scalp can be very different from the needs of your hair. Your scalp may need to be massaged to increase blood and nutrient flow, and may also need to be hydrated and moisturized. It important to note that dry scalp can be an indication that you are not drinking enough water throughout the day. Using light oils that can penetrate the scalp may also be useful. When you use oil that is meant for sealing your hair cuticles on your scalp you are increasing the likelihood of clogging your scalp preventing proper oxygen flow and increased the likelihood of experiencing dandruff. Let us do a quick recap
Oils with high levels of monounsaturated fats are great for penetrating the hair
A true moisturizer should be water based and can help trap water in the cortex
Oils are not moisturizers unless working to prevent moisture( water) from escaping the hair cuticle
Thirsty hair wants Water, not oil, no conditioner!
Coconut oil is exceptional because of its affinity for protein and its small structural makeup allows it to enter the cortex.
Oils that are great for sealing your hair may not be a good match for your scalp
Coconut oil, EVOO ( extra virgin olive oil) and Ucuuba oils are great examples of oils that can lubricate hair follicles from the inside.
Moisturize is a catch-all term. Moisture is water. Your hair, like you, wants to drink water not oil when thirsty.
Ready to start building a hair regimen you love? my FREE 7-day natural hair email course will guide you through the process of creating a personalized regimen Curious to get the right oil for your sensitive scalp? or notice your hair falling out due to inflammation or stress, check out the Nourish your scalp worksheet found on my resource page. Wanna read this on the go? GRAB IT HERE
Till next time
Did you learn anything new? something that worked for you that you will like to share?
Let's hear it!