Did you know the most important component to growing healthy and fabulous natural hair is moisture? For the most part, you may feel like you’re on top that. Or at least trying really hard to get there. Sure some days you may slack a bit (or even a lot), but overall you’re treating your hair with care. And even with your unconditional love, sometimes it seems like no matter what you do, your hair stays dry.
You can spritz your life away and pound on more hair products but some days it just doesn’t help at all. You’ve probably screamed to the hair gods, “Please help me!” But here you are—feeling helpless. You should know what moisturizing is in correlation to natural hair and how important it is for our hair to have it.
But have you heard of hydrating? That word may have stumped you or you may have assumed these two words are just used interchangeably. Well my beautiful curlfriend, there is a difference between the two and knowing the true purpose of both can go a long way and make a dramatic impact in your hair journey.
Remember this: Hydrating is moisturizing, and moisturizing is not what you think.
Let’s start by defining hydration and moisture. Stay with me on this! You may read some things that cause you to question everything you know about the natural hair movement. But it’ll all make sense in the end.
Hydrating the hair involves the use of humectants, proteins, amino acids, and some vitamins. And all of these aid the hair in absorbing water easily.
Sounds like moisturizing right? O.K.
Now moisturizing involves the use of emollients (now don’t be trumped by these science terms, they’re just names) and they specialize in forming a protective layer over the hair’s surface to lock water in or out. Some emollients are more hydrophobic (they hate water and won’t mix with it) than others as the ingredients can include some silicones, mineral oils, and petroleum.
You may have heard those ingredients in association with sealing the hair. So does this mean moisturizing is actually sealing? Well, somewhat.
Emollients can also have hydrophilic (they accept water) qualities in some hair oils and butters and can act as mild humectants with the inclusion of fatty acids and other ingredients.
FUN FACT: Fatty acids are highly necessary to your overall health, including your body! A reason you may have dry hair, or dandruff could be due to your lack of fatty acids. So maybe you should do some research on fatty acids and think about reevaluating your diet. It’s actually pretty interesting.
So in a nutshell, moisturizing can play both sides. It can help water get into the hair and it can completely lock water out.
So how do you know what you’re getting in a moisturizer?
This the part where many of us miss the mark. And that’s understandable. What I’ve just explained can be confusing as crap. And I condensed this information as much as I could for you. Because this could’ve been a book!
To keep it simple, I’d suggest you don’t even read those embellished descriptions when you’re shopping hair products. When we shop for products, especially new ones, we’re so tempted to read and believe just what the description says. Every brand exaggerates a bit and claims using their products will solve all your hair problems.
Just go straight to the ingredients. They can’t (and better not) lie about that!
When your hair needs hydration (what you used to think was moisturizing) look for those humectants, proteins, and amino acids. Common ingredient names are: glycerin, panthenol, hexanetriol, propylene glycol, sorbitol, sodium, glucose, fructose, and potassium
When you need to lock that moisture in, after you’ve hydrated your hair, look for emollients. Common ingredient names are: Paraffin, butyl stearate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, cetyl/cetearyl stearate, glyceryl stearate, propylene glycol dicaprylate/dicaprate, stearyl stearate, hydrolyzed keratin, and silk amino acids.
And these are just a few. Check out Naturally Curly’s extensive list of ingredients found in hair products. Keep in mind the first 5 ingredients are the most relevant and are listed in order of importance (or highest amount). And for my high porosity sistas, sealing your hair as you knew it is virtually the same and will basically provide another layer to keep that water inside your strands.
If you’ve been struggling with this, it’s really only because you’ve been missing the first step that comes before moisturizing, which is hydrating. Now you can say goodbye to dry hair!