Moisture, moisture, moisture!
Whether your introduction to the new approach to haircare came in dedicated online forums or the hair advice page of your favourite magazine, one message rings loud and clear; moisture, moisture, moisture! Magazine columns regularly feature the latest hydrating spritz, shampoo or cream, and hair sites abound with posters touting the benefits of their homemade spray blend that they apply, at minimum, twice a day. If you've just entered from a world in which oil moisturizer or straight-up grease – applied only after a wash or before a major restyle, often to the scalp only – was the closest you came to hydration, then this will be more than just a little overwhelming.
Don't be surprised if your eyebrows rise (and your hearts sinks) at the high-maintenance sound of all this: even the quickest learner will have a hard time trying to square advice to minimise manipulation with advice to adopt a moisturising routine that usually includes, at minimum, daily manipulation.
The moisture-manipulation compromise. . .
So what to do? And does moisture, moisture, moisture even work? Well, some people do benefit from this extensive, intense moisture schedule.
It tends to be a fave of newly-naturals suffering from “scab hair”, an extremely dry and unruly temporary hair type that often emerges in the interval between the last relaxer, and the first several months of being fully natural.
Others simply find their hair more malleable and controllable when it is kept at least slightly damp around the clock. Still others, who find their hair loses moisture quickly, find topping up their hydration super-frequently is the only way to keep their hair in good condition. However. . .
The day in, day out manipulation – almost inevitable if you want to be thorough and get that moisture to every strand – is a threat to the condition and length of your hair. The combs, brushes, and even fingers you use to distribute that moisturiser cause some strain on your strands. What's more, the moisture itself could be having a detrimental effect.
If you've ever wondered, there is such a thing as over-moisturization. If you notice your hair starting to feel mushy and fragile after intensifying your moisturising routine, then you know you've moisturized too much. It's the same kind of feeling you may have gotten if you switched from a weekly or biweekly wash to enthusiastically embrace daily co-washes, only to find your hair gained a rubbery, snap-prone texture after only a few days of washing this way.
Hygral Fatigue: results of over-moisturization
This state you find your hair in is known as hygral fatigue: it's a form of damage to the hair fibre as a result of too much wetting and drying. Whenever your hair is wet, it swells and as it dries, it contracts.
If this cycle happens too frequently, your hair will eventually lose much of the elasticity and strength that the inner cortex provides, as well as the protection afforded by the outer layer, the cuticle.
Some hair is more tolerant of hygral fatigue and can easily stand up to, even thrive from the daily wetting.
However, this type of damage does have an effect on all hair; it only differs in terms of the degree. For most, it will eventually have a noticeable impact – for the worst. This is why, unless you're in a pretty-polluted environment, swim or work out daily, or suffer from allergies, stylists and trichologists alike tend to advise against the daily shampoo on most hair types. Humid weather, too, seems to diminish the impact of hygral fatigue, which is great news for those hot summer days when the highlight of your evening is a long, refreshing shower to cleanse you from head to toe. As a rule, however, daily moisture tends to equal moisture overload most of the time.
The moisture-length connection. . .
Still, with all this talk about too much moisture, it's still important to remember that maintaining a good moisture level is essential for strong hair that will reach luxurious lengths without snapping off before its time.
For best results, minimizing manipulation should always be balanced against maintaining optimal moisture. Ideally, this means applying moisture in a way that it is conserved in your hair, allowing you to keep the manipulation to a minimum.
For example, if you insulate your hair by layering your conditioners, you should do a better job of trapping hydration inside your hair shaft. The multiple layers create a series of barriers which slow down water loss.
As a result, you might be able to go between washes without needing a second dose of moisture – or just need to reinsulate your hair once before wash day. The idea is to layer right so you don't have to remoisturize – and re-stress – your hair too much.
Personalise your moisture. . .
Learning the correct way to moisturise your hair is a very individual process; you have to watch and water it like a plant. Get to know your hair's own inherent moisture schedule – pin down how long after a wash it tends to dry out and reinsulate it just before it reaches that point.
If you find your hair works best with a daily dose of moisture, opt for a light mist instead of a heavier spritz.
The larger, heavier droplets from a spritz can wet the hair thoroughly and be more of a worry in terms of damage. Bear in mind, though, that for the most sensitive heads of hair, even this little bit might be too much.
Moisture-style considerations. . .
How often you moisturise also depends on the styles you choose to wear your hair in. Daily re-wetting can be an important part of your styling process when it comes to reactivating curls after sleeping on them and crushing them. And if you wear your hair loose and exposed to the elements, you might need to top-up the moisture on a daily basis as it gets sucked away into the environment.
To conserve moisture, try these hydration-hoarding styles instead. If, however, your hair doesn't show a negative response to daily moisture, then it should be fine to continue, making sure to apply a judicious amount.
Finding that balance. . .
Whatever you do, don't let your hair get too thirsty! If there's a choice between tumbleweed dry and a little moisture and manipulation, then choose the moisture and manipulation! If it gets too dry, it will be even more prone to breakage, so you might a well give it a little H20 and keep it flexible. Good haircare is a question of balancing; while zero manipulation or zero damage are not achievable, thankfully, healthy, lengthy, flourishing hair certainly is.
|Tom Wachtel| Inessa Akhmedova| Theen Moy| Abigail Toribio|Lady Dragonfly CC|
DHA Hair Care Experts
Dominican Hair Alliance