By Jc of The Natural Haven
Many naturals emphasise the need to apply water to hair in order to moisturise but the real key to having moisturised hair is not constantly reapplying water. The real key lies in preventing water that you have added from evaporating. There are two key principles that you need to be aware of to successfully manage hair moisture. Do remember that you can do all of the following things at the same time or pick and choose what suits you best.
1. Repair damage to your hair cuticle
Why : The hair cuticle is the key surface which protects the inner cortex of hair. Without it, water can flow freely into and out of hair. Cuticle damage is inevitable and applies to hair which is not traditionally damaged (i.e not bleached or colour treated). You can reduce damage by being gentle with your hair at all times and especially when combing and drying (even when towel drying). However, all manipulation, washing and even exposure to the sun eventually affect the cuticle.
How: You can temporarily repair the cuticle, essentially patch it up using hair conditioner. The effect lasts for one wash only, the next shampoo is designed to clean off hair and the conditoner effect goes with it.
The Science: Hair conditioner contains particles known as surfactants (which is geek speak for surface active agent). These surfactants (the agents) make their way to the hair cuticle (surface) and then stick on to the hair (the action!) and the best part of it is that the surfactants are naturally drawn to gaps in hair. Often conditioners will contain more than one surfactant. Common surfactants include behentrimonium chloride/methosulfate and stearalkonium chloride
The second ingredient to help repair damaged hair is to use a good protein conditioner. A good protein conditioner will have hydrolysed/hydrolised (also with a z instead of s) protein. This type of protein has been chopped up and can therefore fit nicely into small gaps in the hair. Some of it can even enter into hair and carry with it ome water.
2. Create an artificial humidity barrier around your hair
Why: Water evaporates from the surface of hair and the amount of water in your hair is related to the humidity of the surrounding air. Very dry air leads water to be expelled from hair while more humid air leads water to be retained.
How: You can create your very own artificial humidity barrier aound your hair by either delaying water loss from the hair using oil or increasing the water surrounding your hair using humectants such as glycerin, aloe vera or honey.
The Science: All oils (coconut, olive, castor, mineral, silicones) form a barrier around hair. The barrier is always permeable, meaning even if you coated your hair with an entire bottle of oil, you can still stand under the shower and your hair will get wet as water will find its way through past the oil. Oils do slow down the passage of water both into and out of hair. As I discussed previously, the best oil scientifically for slowing down the exit of water is mineral oil. However using any oil after wetting your hair is a key step to slowing down water evaporation from the cortex.
Humectants such as glycerin are special because they ‘hold’ water. The key step to successful use of a humectant is to first combine it with water so that it can perform ‘the hold’. The next important step is to use the humectant as a leave in and not as part of the hair conditioner. Most humectants are very soluble in water which means a rinse cycle (or rain) can easily wash them off hair. Humectants are tricky to use because they will be affected by weather and often temperature. Too little will have no effect and too much will create a sticky feeling. There is a lot of trial and error to finding the right balance, just be patient.
Ladies, have you tried these tips? How do you ensure that moisture stays locked in your hair?
For more hair science from Jc check out The Natural Haven.