Keeping black hair moisturised is our biggest challenge. If you follow most of the below tips you will help to keep your hair soft and hydrated. Hydrated hair breaks less.
1. Wash your hair at least weekly.
Water is the supreme moisturiser. When you wet your hair the water molecules actually penetrate the hair shaft and make the hair softer and more elastic.
Moisture = hydration, hydration = water, hydrated hair = less breakage.
2. Use a shampoo and conditioner within the same product line or test the pH of your chosen shampoo and conditioner to ensure they complement each other.
Conditioner is meant to be more acidic than shampoo. The lower pH of the final product used in the cleaning process (typically the conditioner) helps to seal off the hair; sealing the hair means hair cuticles are smoothed down and moisture is held in better. A shampoo and conditioner within the same product line will be developed with this requirement in mind.
For example, the shampoo of one brand may have a pH of 4.5 and the conditioner 3.5 meaning that your hair is properly sealed off. But if you then go and use a conditioner of another brand whose pH is 5.0, this sealing off process won't happen properly.
3. Deep condition every week.
Deep conditioners contain moisture-boosting elements and proteins that a) strengthen the hair cuticle and b) enhance the hair strand's moisture.
I didn't know this until recently but not all conditioners are made equal. There are five main types:
The weaker types (e.g. instant conditioners) are designed for daily use, some are designed for weekly use, e.g. deep conditioners and some shouldn't be used more than once a month (e.g. those very high in protein).
4. Finish every wash off with a cold rinse
Washing your hair with warm water helps to dislodge dirt and oil. It also increases the hair's porosity i.e. the cuticles open up so that all the good stuff from your shampoo and conditioner is easily absorbed.
Rinsing your hair in cold water at the end of the washing process will help to flatten the cuticle and lock in moisture. I also do this when I wash my face. It helped to clear up my acne.
5. Apply a moisturiser to your hair before you apply any oil.
Oil is not a moisturiser. Oil and water do not mix hence oil, if at all used, needs to be applied last so that it stops moisture from escaping. Oil is fantastic at locking in moisture.
In terms of applying hair products (leave-in moisturisers, creams, oils), you need to figure our which order keeps your hair most moisturised: LOC Method or LCO Method.
6. Buy a good moisturiser.
Moisturisers can be water-based or oil-based. In oil-based moisturisers water and oil are blended using "emuslifiers"; emulsifiers stop the water and oil from separating. A shea butter based moisturiser is the best option in my opinion.
A buttery one works best on wet hair and a creamy one is fantastic for dry hair.
7. Avoid petrolatum, petroleum and mineral oils.
Although they are great for sealing in moisture, they provide no additional benefit.
That said, if you have a moisturiser where one of these appears low down the list of ingredients, it means they don't form a major part of the moisturiser. According to The Science of Black Hair, "as a rule of thumb, these sealants should never be listed in the top five ingredients of any moisturiser you use".
8. Seal-in the moisture with a good oil.
Great oils for sealing moisture within the hair cuticle (most to least preferred):
9. Drink lots of water.
A lot of hydration operates from the inside out.
10. If you have a dry scalp massage a small amount of oil onto it regularly.
Keeping a dry scalp moisturised will ensure that the scalp's environment is conducive for hair growth and is efficiently supplying hair with oil (sebum) to help in the hydration of hair.
The best oil you can apply to your scalp? Jojoba.
Jojoba is very similar in structure to sebum (the oil produced by the scalp) and as such is my oil of choice.
11. Spritz your hair with water twice a day.
This will help to keep it hydrated. Note that if your hair is damaged or if you have a build up of minerals on your hair (e.g. from hard water) or if you're using a product high in petrolatum/petroleum/mineral oil, water will find it hard to penetrate to the cuticle.
12. Sleep with a satin bonnet at night and/or use a satin pillow case
Cotton absorbs the moisture from your hair a lot more than satin does. In addition, satin fibres are smoother than cotton ones so you're less vulnerable to breakage with satin.
13. Wear protective hairstyles when the weather is harsh.
If it's very hot or windy your hair will dry out VERY quickly.
Reference: The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy
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By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I was a natural hair blogger and mixtress living between London & Chicago from 2012 to 2017. I always thought I was 4C but some say 4B; images below - you decide! Heather xx