How To Treat Dry Natural Hair: Maintaining Moisture
WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF DRY HAIR?
As one may suspect, a number of factors can cause dry hair, diet being a top contributor. Consuming foods that are high in sodium can dry out the body. Naturally, it will rehydrate itself by pulling moisture that’s been on reserve in other parts of the body, including (but not limited to) the skin/scalp and ultimately, the hair. How do you balance that out? Drink more water! It seems simple, because it is. Our bodies are primarily made up of water, so to keep them healthy, functioning, and flourishing - even for beauty purposes - we must continue to hydrate with water, otherwise we’ll see the negative impact both internally and externally. How much water should you be aiming to drink? It’s generally recommended for the average adult to drink about 64 ounces of plain water per day, but it never hurts to discuss exact quantities with a doctor first, because every case is unique.
When we say hair type, we aren’t referring to the chart that names your curl pattern by number and letter (for example, 3b, 4a, and etc.). We’re talking about how porous your hair strand is, a factor that is not dependent on its curl pattern. Hair porosity is a measure of the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture + the speed at which it does so. More technically, it refers to how tightly bound the outer layer of the hair strand (the cuticle) is.
A simple test can be performed at home to determine your porosity type. Below are a few characteristics of each type:
Low Porosity: The cuticle layer is very tightly bound, which makes it difficult for moisture to enter the strand. Low porosity hair does absorb moisture, however, it takes a very long time for it to do so. Because of this, products + oil may appear to sit on the hair instead of penetrate it. To help speed up the moisture absorption rate when styling, try using a hair steamer/applying product while in a steamy room (like after a hot shower), and sitting under a hooded dryer/using a heat cap whenever deep conditioning.
Medium Porosity: The cuticle layer is neither tightly bound nor lined with gaps. It doesn’t take a long time for the hair to dry, but it also doesn’t dry particularly fast. Medium porosity hair holds styles well, and doesn’t have trouble retaining moisture.
High Porosity: The cuticle layer has many gaps and holes. While moisture is easily absorbed, the hair dries back out very quickly, making it difficult to retain that moisture. It is important to note that one can naturally have high porosity hair, however, it’s common for repeated usage of heat tools and chemicals (such as hair dye) to cause strands to become more porous over time. Those with high porosity hair should especially avoid using heat; opt to air-dry only. Using sealant products after a moisturizer will help with retention, as well as using cool or lukewarm water to rinse the hair whenever possible.
HOW DO YOU TREAT DRY NATURAL HAIR?
The food and water put into the body are essential, but the products put onto the hair are too! Choose products that are both sulfate-free and paraben-free. Sulfates, mostly found in shampoos, tend to dry out any hair type; they strip strands of their naturally produced oils and moisture. If you’re struggling with dry hair, it may even be useful to introduce co-washing to your routine. A Co-Wash is a conditioner formulated with very gentle cleansing agents. It removes build up, restores moisture, and can be used to detangle. A Co-Wash should not replace your regular shampoo, but rather help give the hair and scalp a refresh and extra conditioning between regular washes.
When styling, go for moisturizers that have water listed as the first ingredient. Water is the ultimate source of hydration, so any product that contains a high amount can be beneficial when combating dryness. Products with primarily natural ingredients are healthy + safe for all hair types, however, it can be especially helpful to choose a product line based how its ingredients are known to perform with your porosity level.
Low Porosity: Products with Coconut Oil are particularly beneficial to low porosity hair because this oil absorbs into the skin and hair with ease, unlike some others which seal, but do not easily absorb. JojOba Oil is a great option for that reason as well. Peppermint + Tea Tree Oil can help break down product buildup that tends to sit on low porosity hair over time.
Medium Porosity: This porosity level often performs best with products that are not super thick or heavy. Sweet Almond Oil is ideal because it’s lightweight, yet effective at maintaining the hair’s natural moisture while keeping strands protected.
High Porosity: Products containing Honey will be your best friend. Honey is a natural humectant, which means it helps to preserve moisture. Products with Castor Oil are also a go to! Castor Oil is great at sealing in moisture, especially on hair that absorbs liquid it quickly; Shea Butter too!
It’s important to note that while certain ingredients and product lines may be specifically helpful to certain hair types, it doesn’t mean they are exclusively beneficial to those types; that’s the great thing about natural ingredients!
Finally, we can’t discuss treating dry natural hair without covering technique and regimen! Choosing the right products is a great first step, but using them in an effective order is equally important. For example, if someone has brittle hair and is struggling to retain moisture, it would not be ideal to apply just a gel or an oil straight after washing without first applying a moisturizing product. Some commonly practiced techniques to achieve the utmost amount of moisture are referred to as the LOC and LCO methods. When using either of these methods, each step/product type must be included, but the order of the last two steps varies depending on personal preference. However, oftentimes, those with low porosity prefer LCO, while those with high porosity sway towards LOC.
|L = Liquid||O = Oil||C = Cream|
|Water, or a quality Leave In Conditioner||An Oil that either penetrates the hair shaft, or seals in moisture||A styling cream, custard, pudding or butter that moisturizes, but also provides definition + hold|
Once you’ve locked in which application method works best for you, it’s important to practice it on every wash day. Sticking to a regimen is essential because it gives the hair a chance to adjust and fully reap the benefits. While every person’s routine may vary a bit, a general regimen that can be followed to maintain healthy hair and scalp + lock in that moisture is:
Deep conditioning is crucial, especially for dry or damaged hair! No matter the hair type or texture, a quality deep conditioner should be a staple in your routine every time you shampoo. Allow the product to set into your hair under a plastic cap for at least 30 minutes (Bonus: add heat for penetration). How often you should be washing and styling is dependent upon your individual lifestyle and habits.
Also, keep in mind that protective styling can be a viable option to help treat dry hair. When tresses are tucked away and not being manipulated for stretches of time, they’re generally able to hold on to moisture for longer periods of time as well. However, even when protective styling, the steps mentioned above should be taken prior to the style’s installation. While wearing any protective style, be sure to treat the scalp + re-moisturize the hair with a light liquid or leave in, and seal the ends at least once per week.