Stacking up the layers
Layering your hair keeps moisture in your tresses by trapping it between levels of emollients from your conditioner, treatment, leave in and sealant, so that you don't need to hit it up with moisturizer everyday. Not only do you save on time, but you save your hair the constant manipulation and stress that rehydrating on the daily brings.
Still, even the best sealing method is not permanently effective. Day by day, a little bit of moisture will seep out; sealing your hair slows down, not eliminates, that moisture loss.
Water is a tiny molecule, much smaller than the oils, butters, silicones, humectants and fatty alcohols that your layers use to keep moisture in your hair. Even dimethicone, a silicone with high sealing capacity, is semi-permeable to water.
Bit by bit, as the protective layers you have stacked up begin to give way, water will start to evaporate out. To keep your hair from becoming desiccated, you'll need to reinsulate, and soon.
How long before I need to insulate again?
The first layer of insulation, done on freshly washed hair, should last 4-5 days before needing to be reapplied. Some hair will last longer or lose moisture quicker – remember to tailor your reinsulation to how your individual head of hair reacts. You'll know when it's time, by these telltale signs of dryness:
Once these signs emerge, you can either wash and reinsulate from scratch, or reinsulate on dry hair.
How to reinsulate on dry hair
To top up your layers, take your hair in sections, just as you did when laying down the insulation the first time, and gently work through just the last two steps of the layering process. First, apply more leave in, followed by sealant. Just as the first time around, apply your leave in until your hair feels comfortably saturated, then just lightly glaze the surface with the sealant.
The deepest hydration your hair can get is when it is soaked in water. Reinsulating the second time round on unwashed hair is usually not worth it – the buildup of products will also inhibit your hair's ability to take up moisture and conditioners from fresh applications.
Does everyone need to reinsulate between washes?
If you find your hair can go the distance without needing to remoisturise, then it's not necessary to top up between washes. Be careful not to stretch the washes themselves too far – you could push your hair over the dryness edge, running into some serious dehydration that puts a damper on your efforts to keep your hair in good condition – especially if you are on a long hair journey.
Remember: the moisture your hair gets while being cleansed is exactly the moisture we are trying lock in when we insulate. So even if you don't reinsulate on dry hair, keep your hair on a tight wash schedule that allows you to infuse and lock in moisture on a regular basis.
Finally, take notes...
Make a note of how long it takes for your hair to start feeling dry again, so that in future you know when its time to reinsulate your hair, without having to let it get to that point of dryness, where it becomes vulnerable. Simply working through the cycle of insulating and reinsulating will help you and your hair get through the colder months. What's more, getting a feel for how your hair reacts when it needs moisture, and how to pace your conditioning, will help you fulfill its needs all year round.
Helen Adilia Arceyut Frixione
DHA Hair Care Experts