Let’s Talk Moisture – How To Really Moisturise Natural Hair

How to properly moisturise natural afro (or relaxed) hair is something that is not widely known among the black community. Most of us believe that moisturising our hair means applying ‘grease’ or oils to our hair alone. As a hairdresser i was not taught any differently and now i have been properly educated on taking care of black hair, be it natural or not, i see the lack of knowledge and understanding in the Black hair salon industry (here in the UK anyway!). We suffocate our hair and scalps with petroleum based products and refuse to wash our hair often. No wonder our hair doesn’t grow well.

Black afro hair is the most delicate hair on the planet. No other race has hair like ours. Ours is the driest due to our natural curl pattern and as a result it is prone to breakage rather easily. If you relax your hair the chemicals in the relaxer further damage your strands, stripping off the cuticles leaving your hair even weaker. This is the reason why it seems as though afro hair doesn’t grow as well as other races. The issue is not with the hair God has blessed us with, the issue is the lack of understanding on how to properly care for it.

Moisturising

Our hair NEEDS MOISTURE!!! I can’t stress that enough. When our hair is properly moisturised it keeps the hair soft and elastic which means that it will stretch before it breaks.

WATER is the only true source of moisture. Nothing else will do. However water alone is not adequate at successfully KEEPING your hair moisturised. Alone it evaporates too quickly leaving your hair feeling crispy. A partnership is needed here with water and oils. The water moisturises and hydrates the hair shaft and the oils work to coat the hair and seal in the moisture helping it to evaporate more slowly and keep your hair moisturised for longer.

Think of it this way. Take a blade of grass. When it is watered it is green, soft and flexible. Trying to snap the grass in half isn’t easy due to it’s moisture content. Now picture a dry blade of grass. It’s brown, hard and crispy in texture. It is not difficult to snap the blade, in fact most of the time it will just crumble into little pieces. Now if you coat the dry blade of grass with oil will it hydrate and moisturise it? No. It just coats it. It does nothing to replenish the lost moisture.

Now transfer that illustration to your own hair. This is also true of our hair. If it’s kept dry it will break just as easily but if it is well hydrated then it will not be as easy to break off.

So armed with this new knowledge how do we apply this practically?

Keep your hair well watered and oiled or moisturised and sealed. It’s that simple.

Now the term moisturised may not be new to you but now you understand that when i say moisturised i mean watered. I use a spritz made up of aloe vera juice, floral water and glycerine. You could use plain ole water if you wanted but i like the extra nourishment the Aloe juice imparts. The glycerine is a humectant that draws moisture to itself which will help keep your hair hydrated for longer. You could also use a commercial moisturiser which is a water and oil emulsion. Just make sure the first ingredient is aqua or water otherwise it will not work to properly moisturise your hair.

Our hair needs moisture DAILY. This is the key in keeping our hair healthy. Over the course of the day the water will slowly evaporate, so giving your hair a daily dose of water will ensure it is constantly moisturised. Try not to go more than two days without hydrating your hair or else it could start breaking due to excessive dryness.

Sealing

Oil Drop

Now the next part of the equation is SEALING. Now sealing your hair may very well be a new term to you. What does it mean. Sealing your hair means to seal or lock in the moisture you have applied to your hair in the first step. Using oils or butters such as Coconut oil or Shea butter will coat the hair shaft which slows down the evaporation of the water thus keeping your hair moisturised for longer.

Now there are some oils that are better at sealing your hair than others. Some oils absorb into your hair softening or conditioning it from the inside out. These oils are good for maintaining soft, healthy hair but will not work as well to seal moisture in. Some of these oils are Olive oil and Avocado oil. They are very light oils and absorb well which is why i use them mostly for my Deep Conditions (DC’s) as the conditioning and softening effects of these oils work very well in this capacity.

Oils that partially penetrate the hair shaft include Coconut oil and Meadowfoam seed oil. What this means is that some of the oil absorbs into the hair and some of it remains on the outside, coating or sealing it. These oils are excellent in that they kill two birds with one stone, as it were. They will condition your hair and seal in moisture at the same time.

Oils that do not absorb into your hair at all include Jojoba oil and sunflower oil. Castor oil is also in this category as it’s so thick. Butters, such as Shea, Murumuru and Mango will also be placed here. They work very well at coating the hair and sealing in moisture.

You could also buy a commercial product that is suitable for sealing. Make sure it contains a mix of some of the oils or butters mentioned and that it has no water in it.

So, after you hydrate your hair with water apply a small amount of oil or butter, making sure to evenly distribute it well.

How do i apply these principles in my regime?

Due to my super shrinky (type 4b/a) hair i moisturise and seal at night before bed. I section my hair into four and working one section at a time, i lightly spritz with my Aloe juice mix (and sometimes apply a little leave-in after spritzing depending on how dry my hair is) and seal with my Shea butter mix before twisting or braiding the section. I repeat for the rest of the sections and tie it down with a satin scarf. In the morning my hair is well stretched out and ready for styling.

Deep Conditioning

Creamy Conditioner

Other ways to keep your hair properly moisturised include washing and conditioning your hair often. Most of the time a light misting of water is all your hair gets but it is beneficial to completely saturate your strands with water. This is why washing often helps. It allows the water to fully soak into the shaft. DC’ing regularly makes sure your hair gets this healthy dose of prolonged moisture along with the conditioning agents in the conditioners and added oils.

Deep Conditioning, moisturising and sealing your hair often is the best recipe for healthy hair success (along with protein). It will keep your hair soft and maintain elasticity resulting in less breakage.

What does this mean for you? It means length retention. You will actually see your hair getting longer. Our hair is always growing but when not properly maintained it is always breaking, so we don’t see the growth. Following these steps will see your ends are fully capable of withstanding the test of time and you will finally begin to see your dreams of longer, fuller, healthier hair realised. I know i am!

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13 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Moisture – How To Really Moisturise Natural Hair

  1. Awesome informational site! Thank you for this post! I will definitely be posting a link to your site once i start my blog! I just did my big chop a month ago and since i’ve been experimenting with natural products. Your site has help tremendiously. Thank you again.

  2. I’ve just been struggling recently with trying to naturally moisurise my “permed hair”. (I do realise that sounds like a contradiction in terms)

    Wetting my perm in the morning or evening before bed leaves it frizzy and knotty even when I apply oil to seal in the water.
    But applying the oils alone (I bought many of the natural ones listed above) leaves my hair feeling and looking much like the blade of grass you described, with shiny oil on the surface.

    So I’ve learnt something today and maybe I could make my own moisturiser mixing oil and water? Except, as we know, they don’t mix. maybe I’ll try the aloe & floral water.

    Really really really helpful. Thank you. Although I think I still need help because if I don’t get this working I’ll be tempted to run out and purchse a bottle of moisuriser from the shelf.

    • You are more than welcome Remona.

      Don’t shoot the moisturiser on the shelf just yet. lol. Some are very good.

      If you find your hair doesn’t like straight up water then maybe a moisturising emulsion might work better. You could make your own by mixing oil and water but you will need to add something like emulsifying wax to stop it from separating.

      If you do find yourself browsing the isles of a hair shop, then look at the ingredients of the moisturisers there. Water (aqua) needs to be the first ingredient. The first 5 ingredients are the most important so make sure you’re happy with them and be sure to seal your hair after with a little oil to keep the moisture in.

  3. Great information! Within the last 3mths I have spritzed my hair nightly with water and sealed with Shea Butter. Previously I used creme moisturisers instead of water. I did 2 things which greatly improved my length retention. First I switched to water which is the most effective moisturiser and started DCing with dry heat. When I did these my hair developed major shrinkage which I considered a sign of hydrated hair. Also doing oil rinses really helped with detangling and length retention.

    Thanks for the info it’s great! Keep it coming.

  4. Thank you for a rich source of information especially for african american/ethnic hair. We are terrified of water on our hair and learned something new. So I guess this means no blow/or flat drying the hair? right or is there a way of doing it with while using the flat iron

    Will Almond oil do the same? The Indian/South Asians swear by it and they are known for keeping their length and beautiful hair. I know they also love Coconut oil but I prefer the smell of Sweet Almond oil and wondered if it would do the trick.

    • Hi Natalie,

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m not sure i understand your question properly. Are you asking whether or not you can blow dry or flat iron the hair safely with oils? If you are, then research has shown the best heat protectants to be silicones. So if you wish to straighten your hair safely with minimal damage then silicone based heat protectants are best (technique is also very important if you don’t want to sustain any damage). If you wish to know what oils are best for sealing in moisture, i can’t really answer that question for you. It’s about trial and error to find what works best for your hair. You can try coconut oil or sweet almond oil alone and see which one you prefer. You can even mix the two in different ratios if you would like a bit of coconut oil in with your almond oil. It’s really up to you. Hope that helps!

  5. Firstly Thankyou for writing this article I think it is great, I have so much more knowledge Can I use a leave in containing water/aloe vera and a sealant like coconut oil/ shea butter as a sort of 2 in 1 or will it not work as well?

    • Hi Sammer, thanks for your kind words. My suggestion is give it a go. It sounds like it should work just fine. The key to finding out which products or methods really moisturise your hair is in trial and monitoring. Use the combinations you’ve mentioned above and if your hair responds favorably to them (feels soft) then continue with it. If it doesn’t respond well (feels dry/straw like) then you can maybe adjust the ingredients or how you apply it and see if it makes a difference. Hope that helps.

  6. Hello again. I heard that putting oils in damp hair or just washed hair would not benefit it as well as it does for dry hair is this true ? So if I step out of the shower and then apply coconut oil would it work in sealing moisture effectively ?

    • Hi sammer. I have not personally heard this before. In fact the very opposite is true. Oils work better on damp hair as they help seal in moisture. The only thing i’ve heard is concerning the use of coconut oil in preventing water damage when washing. Coconut oil for this purpose is better used on dry hair to allow as much of the coconut oil as possible to absorb into the hair (overnight is best or at least 15 mins with heat). That way, when you get into the shower to wash your hair, the coconut oil will prevent your hair from absorbing too much water and sustaining damage. But in terms of moisturising, oils are better applied to damp hair. Hope that helps.

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