Moisture, Moisture, Moisture
If you are natural or transitioning your hair to natural, you often hear naturals talk about moisture. But why is it so important? Well for one, if you don’t want dry brittle looking hair, you better moisturize it. Not only should you moisturize your hair, but you also need to do something to lock that moisture in. If your hair is moisturized well, you will be able to retain more length.
Hair that is not naturally straight is more prone to breakage and dryness. I didn’t understand this when I first went natural. I didn’t understand why people were treating their hair like fine china and lace. I actually thought that my hair would be stronger in it’s natural state because I would no longer be damaging it with harsh chemicals. It was a shock to find out that my hair is just as fragile if not more so in it’s natural state than when it was relaxed. The plus side is that I can probably achieve healthier and longer hair in my natural state than if I had continued to relax and dog out my hair.
The reason it is more prone to breakage and dryness is because of how it twists, curls and coils around. Each bend is a weak spot prime for potential breakage. Because of all of the bends and turns, the cuticles that lie on top of the hair shaft are not able to lie flat. Straight hair is the only hair type that has naturally flat cuticles. The cuticles are like the gatekeepers of the hair shaft. They can keep moisture in, or let it seep out. With non-straight hair types, if the cuticles are raised all of the time, moisture can flow in and out, but not stay. It’s like a revolving door. Because the hair cannot hold on and keep the moisture in, hair becomes dry and brittle and starts to break. When the hair is properly moisturized and the cuticles are closed, hair is more pliable and the strands are able to glide against each other smoothly. They do not snag easily onto each other and cause tangles. Another bonus when the cuticles are closed, is that the hair will have a natural shine.
How can you get and keep moisture? Well, you can start with water! Water is hair’s favorite source of moisture and it’s free for the most part. You can also use water based store bought leave in conditioners. Check the first three ingredients and if one of them is water, then you are good to go. Manufacturers list ingredients in the order of the amount present. So if water is first, then there is more water in that product than something that may be listed 8th on the list. Another thing to look for is a product that contains a humectant such as glycerin or honey. Humectants draw moisture. The next thing you want to do is lock the moisture in. A few ways to achieve this is by using an oil or closing the cuticles. Some people do both. You can use an oil like olive, jojoba, coconut, avocado or grapeseed to seal in the moisture. The premise is that the oil will create a type of shield over the hair shaft preventing the moisture from leaving since oil is not permeable. To close your cuticles you can rinse your hair with cool or cold water after conditioning. Hot water opens or raises them more and the opposite will close them. Another way is to use a product that has an acidic pH somewhere around 3.0-3.5. Anything lower could potentially be harmful to the hair. I have used an apple cider vinegar/water dilution in a spray bottle. Once the hair dries, the smell disappears, but if you have somewhere to go while it is wet, I wouldn’t recommend doing this.
Here is what I do to keep my hair moisturized: I deep condition every time I use shampoo, which is once a week. I shampoo, condition and detangle my hair. After I detangle, I lightly rinse and apply my deep conditioner. I then sit under the hair steamer for 20 minutes. The steam opens the cuticles and softens the hair allowing it to receive the moisture better. After I let my head cool down some, I rinse with cool water. I have found that I cannot put too much product in my hair, nor can I moisturize my hair when it is soaking wet. It seems as if I am moisturizing the water instead of my hair! I have better results by allowing my hair to air dry some and while it’s still damp, I spray on a leave-in concoction I made. My spray/spritz is a diluted leave-in conditioner that I like, glycerin, and grapeseed oil. Something else that I have learned in my journey is that after I wash, condition and detangle, if I disturb my curls too much they go crazy and revolt. By using a spray for my leave-in, I don’t have to touch them too much since I am not rubbing a product in. It also prevents me from putting too much product in. I add the oil to the spray so I can moisturize and seal in one step. I’m a simple girl.