Hair and Moisture - How Much Do We Really Understand?

I can't stress enough the importance of reading your hair.  And this goes, not just for Naturals but for those with all types of hair. Many of us, (and I too have been guilty of this) become so in love with or lazy about our routines we just mechanically keep doing the same things and then wonder weeks later why our hair are still dry or limp, or why our scalps are still flaky.

Moisture OverDose
The other thing, and one of the reasons we should pay attention to our hair, is that it is possible to over-moisturize our hair.  I have read so many crazy suggestions around moisturizing.  One person recommended applying a deep moisturizing conditioner mixed with some other water-based ingredients, and baggying the hair overnight. Every night!
Now if you happen to have hair that is not receptive to water, as in does not seem to absorb water well, this may be ok advice, I don't know.  But if you notice your hair feels limp and super-soft, but maybe too-soft, is brittle and is not holding a curl, then maybe you have been leaving too much water in your hair for too long.

Like I said, we all have different hair with different needs.  Hair's absorption rate for water varies individually but, on average, hair does not  need to be doused in copious amounts water 24-7, I mean we are not mermaids.  (Think of this: Hair and nails share similar properties and needs. What happens to our nails when we have our hands in water for a long period of time ie. that delicious but super-long bath?  )
Sealing in the water moisture when we do apply water is the key.  There are numerous amounts of good sealants provided by oils or butters. Some people say their hair does not like oil.  I am going to dispute this. I have found that to some degree, the hair has to be used to oil.  My hair seemed to hate oil when I first started this journey.  It would just sit on top of my hair.  But I didn't give up.  I just learned what kinds of oils my hair responded favorably to and what kinds of oils it didn't.  For me, I found that thicker oils like castor oil worked well on my kinky curls.  I got creative and started mixing butters (just oils that are solid at room temperature) with thin oils to get that thick-oil consistency my hair loves.  And I stopped applying oils to dry hair - made sure to dampen hair first.  But dousing the hair in water spritz's throughout the day, never giving it a chance to dry?  Well if nothing else, creates a breeding ground for bacteria and a recipe for over-moisturized hair.

Does Your Deep Conditioner Match You?
We love our deep conditioners. We rave about how much our hair adores them - me included.  But do you know what your deep conditioner does for your hair?  Do you know that there are different kinds of deep conditioners?  There are reconstructors/protein conditioners that attempt to restore protein to the hair shaft and there are moisturizing conditioners meant to seal moisture in the hair shaft.  These all, of course, provide only temporary protection for the hair.  Did you also know at different times your hair may need different types of conditioners?
Here is a key:
If your hair feels over-moisturized - very limp, fragile, and super-soft, won't hold a curl or breaks when you touch or gently pull on it, then you probably need a strengthening/reconstructing conditioner, generally a protein treatment.
If your hair feels dry, hard, and brittle, then a moisturizing conditioner is the answer.  Our individual hair types  (I'm not referring to the 1a-4b typing system)  kind of lets us know which type of conditioner we may need as the staple but changes in the hair's behavior (usually responses to stress, diet or your regimen) will also indicate that you may need to switch it up.
For example, protein treatments should pretty much be a must and a staple for relaxed heads because the hair cuticle's integrity is compromised and protein links have been broken and so are impaired.  You will notice after a relaxer, hair is super-soft and may be limp.  To prevent breakage, a protein treatment temporarily restores the protein lost during relaxing - temporarily (which is why you have to keep it up).
Natural heads, unless you have colored or apply heat regularly or genetically have super-fine hair that's prone to breakage, you are generally   in more need of moisturizing treatments because natural hair tends toward dryness.  But this does not mean from time to time, especially if you have a regimen based on almost constant water moisturizing, that your hair will not need a protein treatment to restore its strength. Just remember, all treatments are temporary.  It should also be a sign you need to adjust your regimen and probably reduce how often you wet your hair.

Glycerin is Two-Faced
I have noticed that some Curlies swear by glycerin and its become a staple of mine too.  But some use glycerin undiluted, applying directly to hair. Especially if you live in a hot, or cold, dry environment, this is a recipe for constant hair dryness.  Why?  Glycerin is a self-serving water-absorber.  It works great for our hair because diluted, it actually will pull water out of the air, thereby acting as a humectant for hair. But glycerin does not distinguish where it pulls moisture from.  So undiluted glycerin on hair plus dry air means glycerin will likely make your hair even drier by pulling moisture away from your hair.  A bit of glycerin added to water goes a long way and adding a few drops of oil helps to prevent glycerin from drying out your hair in dry climates.
I hope this post shed some light on some of our most common misconceptions about the products we use. The takeaway: listen to your hair, always. She is telling you what she needs. 


zainab1 said...

Great post!...Thanks a bunch for sharing.