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Locking in Moisture - Natural Hair

Natural Hair Shrinkage
Anatomy of a hair strand.

The best thing you can do for your natural hair is to keep it moisturized. Understanding how well your hair holds moisture and how it treats products is the key to making sure your hair stays soft and hydrated all day. We outline the best moisturizing tips for all hair textures.

To find the best regimen for your hair, you must work out your hair's state of health and category first, because different methods work well for some hair types and not at all for others. So, let's figure that out first. Do all the tests below when you're in a comfortable, room-temperature environment, your hair is dry and you and not right out of the shower or in a sauna.

INDIVIDUAL STRAND THICKNESS will determine if you are in the fine, average or coarse category. Grab a single strand of hair and place it between your thumb and middle finger. Roll the hair around. If you can not or can barely feel the strand (assuming your fingers are normal ad not overly calloused), your hair can be categorized as FINE. If you can feel the hair but it doesn't feel like cotton thread, your hair is AVERAGE. If it feels like a thread, your hair is COARSE.

The "skin" of your hair strands (cuticle) is a bit like like fish scales. When they lay flat they feel smooth, when they are sticking out they feel rough. Now while holding the strand, use your other hand to pinch the strand between your index finger and thumb and run your fingers UP the strand. If you don't feel any resistance or roughness, your cuticles are CLOSED. If you feel roughness, your cuticles are OPEN and this may indicate damaged hair. Open cuticles also are an indication of POROSITY which is a whole different article. Read our article on Porosity to better understand how porosity affects product absorption.

Now grab the strand between the index and thumbs of both hands and pull apart gently. If your hair snaps immediately, you have no elasticity and your hair may be damaged. If you feel some stretch, then can release and stretch it again without breaking the strand, your hair has good ELASTICITY. If you can stretch your hair out more than 1/4 inch (.6cm) without breaking then your hair has extraordinary elasticity.

Do these tests for a few strands or groups of strands around your head to get a good idea of your whole head and what it's like. You may have one area that is more damaged than another, or multiple hair types across your head though most people have the same uniform strand characteristics all over their head.

Once you have done all these tests and understand your hair, you will have a better understanding of what you are working with. So now let's get to moisture.

CHECK YOUR HAIR PRODUCT FOR GLYCERIN / GLYCERINE

Using products containing a lot of glycerin will cause your hair to hold moisture in the short term but during the course of the day the glycerin will slowly pull the moisture out of your hair and to itself. This is especially true in dry environments, like in air conditioning and in low humidity. This may be why when you put your product on in the morning the moisture doesn't last. This is the GLYCERIN doing this, not your hair. If you have any state of fine hair, try to avoid glycerin altogether. For all other hair types:

  • Limit your use of products with glycerin listed as one of the first 3 ingredients.
  • Use glycerin-based products on your ends only when your ends will be protected by tucking in and under.
  • Use a moisturizing product without glycerin under a glycerin-based product to extend the moisture-keeping time.
  • Use a product containing aloe on top of the glycerin-based product to keep the glycerin from penetrating into your hair.
  • Carry a spritz bottle containing water and aloe with you to moisturize your hair during the day.
  • If your product is glycerin-based, don't expose your hair to long periods of direct sunlight.

MOISTURE FOR COARSE / DAMAGED / NO ELASTICITY HAIR

If your cuticles are open and/or your hair has little or no elasticity, you can probably gather that your hair has been damaged. This may be through excessive heat styling products, chemical application, UV damage, illness or drug use/medication. This is not the healthy natural state of your hair but there is a positive. This hair will soak up products like a sponge. You need to keep the moisture in to stop the damage getting worse and affecting your new hair growing in. Follow the glycerin protocol and...

  • Throw away any shampoos containing sulfates, which will strip your hair.
  • Use a clarifying treatment shampoo ONCE, to remove excess product buildup, before embarking on your new regimen.
  • Use a hair steamer once a week. This will force moisture deep into your hair follicles, helping with elasticity and softness.
  • Buy a water filter and use this filtered water to spritz, steam and condition.
  • Sleep on satin pillowcases or in a satin bonnet to minimize friction and breakage.
  • Only use oil-based products right after steaming or while hair is warm and wet or very damp. Oil will not penetrate dry hair.
  • Use rich butters containing shea and coconut. Leave ins should also have as few chemicals as possible.
  • Do not use products or gels containing silicone or alcohol (cetearyl alcohol is OK).
  • Use a UV-blocker on your hair if you plan on being out in the sun without a hat please wear a hat whenever you can).
  • ACV rinse once a week to help close the cuticle and prevent snagging.

MOISTURE FOR FINE AND AVERAGE, CUTICLE-CLOSED HAIR

Products may take a long time to soak in (if at all), water may bead up and roll off. Hair may be hold on to products containing silicone, which coat the hair and keep it impenetrable. You need to apply products when your hair cuticles aren't slammed shut. Follow the glycerin protocol and...

  • Apply hair oils after a warm rinse and towel-dry - before any other product.
  • Go for products that combine rich butters and nourishing oils together.
  • Use a steamer once every 2 weeks or as needed, more often in winter and apply a light oil sparingly afterwards.
  • Do not use shampoos containing sulfates.
  • Shampoo bars are great for this hair type.
  • When installing extensions or protective styling, make sure your hair is moisturized underneath.
  • Scalp massages help bring blood flow and natural oils to the scalp. A drop of lavender in a teaspoon of jojoba oil is soothing, cinnamon oil is warming, peppermint oil is both.
  • A natural, soft-bristled brush can help stimulate and distribute natural oils and moisture evenly. And it feels great on the scalp, if you can get to it. Part your hair and brush in sections from root to end. This is not a detangling thing. It may not feel like it's doing anything, but it is.


The tips I will give to everyone, no matter hair type, are to

  • Hydrate internally
  • Drink plenty of water or a hydrate solution.
  • Take a vitamin supplement for hair, skin and nails.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.


If your hair is getting worse or is falling out, seek the advice of a doctor or specialist for some professional advice. Your hair health is an indication of what is going on within you. It can b changed by hormones, medication, stress and illness. So if you are concerned, don't hesitate. Talk to a professional. 

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