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3 Signs That You’re Over Moisturizing

Avatar • Dec 15, 2011

By Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care

Interestingly, overconditioning is not so much a problem among newbies, but rather among those who’ve been around hair care much longer. Now before I get into the meat of the discussion, let me preface my statements by giving the mandatory “what works for some, may not work for all” speech. Obviously overconditioning, and the product usage patterns that tend to encourage it, vary from person to person. There are no official normative standards here, and as with all things hair– the only hard fast rule is that there are no hard fast rules. “Too much” for one head may be “too little” for another, etc. Therefore, all suggestions and advice, including this article, should be taken with a grain of salt and weighed and evaluated against your unique situation. With that said, let’s talk overconditioning!

Out in the “real world” overconditioning, or “tipping too far” on the moisture side of the protein/moisture balance, is virtually rare. Most ladies who aren’t particularly into hair care rarely use true moisturizing hair products, and when they do-it’s often sparingly. When hair breakage problems arise, this group tends to reach for heavy protein reconstructors that clearly state that they are formulated to prevent breakage. Because most moisturizing products do not tout their breakage reduction or strengthening capabilities on their bottles and packaging, these ladies tend to skip them over when breakage problems arise. Later, when these ladies find their way onto hair forums around the web, they are typically instructed to reduce their use of proteins and increase their moisture levels. 99.9% of the time, this infusion of moisture and increase in washing and deep conditioning frequency stops the breakage and gets their hair growing and healthy.

The problem of overconditioning seems to arise once the individual has been indoctrinated into all things hair. By now, she has figured out which products are protein-based and which are more moisture leaning-and here, the tendency to over moisturize tends to develop. She develops an aversion to protein and throws all of her resources into achieving a perpetual “moisture high.” The proliferation of true “protein overload” stories may have gotten her to this point! She knows that there is a gentle, often tricky balance to maintain but she puts all of her eggs in her moisturizing basket just to be safe. She may even realize that different proteins have different properties, and some actually improve the hair’s elasticity rather than toughen the strands-but she’s not taking any chances with protein period. This aversion causes her to moisturize and overcondition her hair until the cows come home often through:

• overzealous “baggying”
• back-to-back conditioner washes that don’t allow the hair to ever dry
• regular lengthy/ overnight deep conditioning
• keeping the hair wet in general (water or oil) for extended periods of time without a break
• the complete elimination of protein products altogether

She may have taken my “err on the side of moisture” advice to heart just a little too much! Yes, protein overload is problematic-and it can take a while to correct, but overconditioning also has its own set of issues.

We are indeed dealing with a precarious balance, and we have to keep in mind that each product session affects this balance in some way. If you are “erring on the side of moisture” with each and every product you are using in a given period, it stands to reason that eventually you will have gone too far over into overconditioning land. The same can be said for overzealous protein users. The thing is, choosing moisture when in doubt almost always works for “newbies”-ladies who are just in the initial weeks and months of getting into their hair regimen. It can also work in those uncertain clutch situations for hair vets too, but it should not itself be the basis for your balance and regimen. It is simply a temporary strategy, and those who’ve been around a bit must be careful to avoid falling into the overconditioning trap. It is not a difficult trap to fall into either. Hair that is getting infused with moisture on a regular basis tends to feel really soft and nice-at first. This softness contrasts greatly with the beginnings of protein overload which tend to have the hair feeling crispy and dry much sooner. The softness can become addictive, but a strong protein infrastructure is needed to offer support/strength to that softness, improve the hair’s porosity, and increase the likelihood that moisture gets in and stays in where it needs to be.

Then over time, overconditioned hair becomes porous and starts to develop its own sort of dryness as a result. Excessive conditioning with only moisture-based conditioners weakens the hair’s protein binding structure which in turn increases the hair’s porosity. The increased porosity causes moisture to pass in, then right back out just as quickly. Hair that is overconditioned then begins to feel dry, weak, limp and flat, no matter how much additional conditioning is done to it. The key is to use protein and moisture together, varying the ratios to keep your hair balanced.

How do you know if you are overconditioning?
1. Stretchy, gummy, limp/lank hair.

The number one sign of overconditioning is simply limp, stretchy, gummy feeling hair. This stretchiness can occur with or without hair breakage. Though the hair is typically very soft when it is in an overconditioned state, it is this softness that can cause it to eventually break, often with little manipulation. Stretchiness without breakage is the first warning sign that protein is needed to strengthen the hair. When your hair reaches a degree of pliability (stretch factor) that is acceptable to you, introduce a bit of protein to help your hair maintain this level of moisturization. Remember–The protein/moisture balance is not about having to experience breakage on one end before correcting, and then starting to feel breakage on the other side before correcting that. What you do NOT want to do is wait for the breakage to happen before you start correcting with protein. Breakage is the final warning sign.

2. No moisture retention, chronic dryness

One other sign of overconditioning is that your hair is not retaining moisture, and feels porous. As stated above, overconditioning leads to porosity issues- though, in a less invasive way compared to chemical treatments like chemical relaxing or coloring.

3. Low protein use and chemical use

You may be over-conditioning your hair if your hair is relaxed or chemically colored, and you haven’t given your hair even a light protein boost in months.

Who needs more restructuring proteins?

Chemically treated hair needs more moisture and protein conditioning than non-treated heads of hair. If you are relaxed and/or color-treated, and you’ve been several weeks and/or months without some form of protein conditioning you should anticipate problems with overconditioning to eventually arise. Those who’ve undergone chemical services need extra protein supplementation with their moisture on a regular basis. The schedule of product use will vary from head to head as always; however, the basic nature of those services makes protein restructuring a necessity for chemically treated populations. Overconditioning chemically treated hair almost always results in porosity isssues down the line if regular protein is not added to regimen to provide strength to the hair’s infrastructure.

How I Balance with Protein

I use two product lines exclusively on my hair-Kenra for moisture and Joico for protein. When I plan to deep condition my hair, I often use a combination of these two lines for a customized conditioning experience. So on hand, I’ll have:

Joico Moisture Recovery Balm or Joico K‑Pac (protein line)
Kenra Moisturizing Conditioner or Kenra Platinum Conditioner (moisture line)

You can use whichever products you like for your moisture and protein needs. The ratios of the products you use will help you achieve a customized balance, and will depend on your exact mission at the time.

For example, If I’m using protein just for moisture assistance-meaning my hair needs a more moisture-focused conditioning session — I use just a little of the lighter protein conditioner. (For me that is about a nickel sized amount of Joico Moisture recovery mixed with a bunch of Kenra). If I’m using protein to try to maintain my regular moisture/protein balance when its fairly balanced right where I want it, no breakage — I’ll add a bit more of the Joico Moisture Recovery to the Kenra generally at a 50/50 ratio, or a bit less. If I am trying to correct a balance that has starting to edge a bit too far over onto my moisture side, I’ll use the stronger protein conditioner from Joico’s K‑Pak5f line and will up the ratio of Joico to Kenra.

Ladies, have you ever been guilty of over-moisturizing? How did you know you were going overboard?

Audrey Sivasothy is a Houston-based freelance writer, health scientist and author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care (available on Amazon.com & Barnes&Noble.com).

For more insight from The Science of Black Hair— relaxed, natural or in between, visit us on the web atwww.blackhairscience.com and on facebook & twitter.

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ambi
ambi
8 years ago

great article this is me all day, I can not seem to find any balance to my hair and it’s a long term problem so now I feel my hair is very damaged and yes I’m all natural LOL even natural folks can have damaged hair

K Jordan
K Jordan
8 years ago
Reply to  ambi

Giovanni Smooth as Silk

LA
LA
8 years ago

Does anyone know a good protein based conditioner? (a cheap one as i’m a student)

Jareca
Jareca
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

Queene Helene’s Cholesterol Deep Conditioner works well and it’s only about $3.00 for a 15oz. jar.

Ananya
Ananya
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

Sofn’free GroHealthy — Milk Protein and Olive Oil Daily Growth Lotion

hairgirlreginapearl
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

Namaste has a great protein deep treatment! Bought a 32oz bottle for about 10 bucks… at a hair show tho. May be a lil more than that.
I also love Astelance repair cream… but that is more expensive and more of a in salon brand. But sooo worth the money!
Another one I just started using was paul mitchell keratin triplex awapuhi treatment. So far so wondrous!

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

I like the Shea Moisture Yucca conditioner.

LA
LA
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

Thank you guys!!! 🙂

Eboni
Eboni
8 years ago

I’ve been certainly guilty of doing this, lol. whenever I don’t wear my hair in twists, just my TWA, my hair becomes SUPER dry and it’s extremely difficult to lock in the moisture. I notice I’m going overboard when I have to keep spritzing my hair with water/leave-in conditioners every 2–3 hours. At that point, it’s time to deep condition and put my twists back in for the week 🙂 It’s a bit frustrating because everyone swears by effectively moisturizing your hair consistently, but then the problem of “over-moisturzing” occurrs…ugh. I guess it’s about finding that happy medium/balance with our… Read more »

Applesauce
Applesauce
8 years ago
Reply to  Eboni

I can relate to having dry hair with a TWA. Now that my hair is a lot longer, it still doesn’t appreciate afros and even ponytails or buns on loose hair. Exposing my loose hair to the elements just doesn’t work for my hair,regardless of what I put in it. I don’t even bother with these styles anymore. If my strands are clumped together in a braid/twist-out or twists and braids, they’re able to retain moisture very well.

Jazmin
Jazmin
8 years ago
Reply to  Applesauce

I agree i just put my hair in two strand twist because my hair was too dry when it was loose. I’ll be keeping these in throughout the winter!

df
df
8 years ago
Reply to  Eboni

this is true…i had the same problem till i started drinking more water, eating healthier and discovered qhemet…aww yeahh.…i thank God because I’m way to lazy to put twists in my hair.

I’m hoping my longer hair will be fine with being pinned up and away. I will still be learning to do flat twists though when I want to completely cover my hair though

Adrian
Adrian
8 years ago

Right now I condition my hair with mayonaise, honey, and olive oil. Is this a protein conditioner or moisture??

hairgirlreginapearl
8 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

Moisture. 🙂

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago

I think the eggs in the mayo add a shot of protein.….

Kesha
Kesha
8 years ago

I agree protein has me scared. I am a 4a natural with no color or other treatments. I am addicted to the soft hair I get from my DC, leave-in, and other products I use. I dislike the way my hair feels after a 100% pure protein conditioner. I really like the idea of mixing two products together and allowing the protein and moisturizing conditioners to work together. Thanks!

Cherry
Cherry
8 years ago

I didnt even thnk that was possible but that wud explain why my hair is dry. Glad i brot that protein the other day

deb
deb
8 years ago

I used to overcondition in my product junkie phase, slathering one thing on top of another. Over conditioning is taxing on time, money, and hair. My hair barely grew and usually became even more damaged after all the build up and maniupulation. Now, I just ‘listen’ to my hair. If its a bit on the dry side, I just use whatever’s in my bathroom, and keep it moving.

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago
Reply to  deb

I don’t think slathering on too many products has anything to do with being a product junkie.

Applesauce
Applesauce
8 years ago

I tend to use conditioner only as a pre-poo to rehydrate and/or detangle my hair before washing. I apply the conditioner to my dry hair and leave it on with a shower cap for no more than 30 minutes. For me, leaving conditioner on for any longer and/or wetting the hair before applying the conditioner just makes my hair too elastic and more likely to snap when being handled. In between washes, I keep my hair moisturized by spritzing with water and sealing with an oil or butter mix at night just before putting a silk scarf on. Now that… Read more »

mangomadness
mangomadness
8 years ago
Reply to  Applesauce

In my opinion, in most cases the condition after-shampoo step can be skipped altogether for most naturals unless it’s being used to detangle the hair because most naturals apply a cream or hair butter to freshly washed hair. If you really think about it, the condion after-shampoo step was created for people who add little to no additional moisturizer to the hair.”

I agree. I skip after-shampoo conditioning because I detangle and pre-poo with oil, an oil/aloe vera gel mix or conditioner before shampooing.

Ms. Amena
8 years ago
Reply to  mangomadness

+1

ttemfash
ttemfash
8 years ago

I learned the hard way that my fine, porous strands need regular light protein treatments.
My hair was breaking terribly, I kept deep conditioning, moisturising, co-washing until one day last year I had a eureka moment. Whilst I was standing in front of the mirror I looked at my strands and realised they were weak and fragile and needed strengthening not the moisture I had been overdosing on. Out came the aphogee 2 step my hair breathed a sigh of relief henceforth I now incorporate protein into my regimen regularly and try to keep my hair balanced.

Nubia
Nubia
8 years ago

I beleive some naturals tend to be very heavy handed with their products. Also, over zealous with routines in general. I use Paul Mitchell Emergencee it is a little costly but it WORKS! I used it pre and post relaxer and I only use it maybe 4x a year. It is an intense treatment and I ususally use it after my very infrequent straight looks or if the weather has been extremely hot or cold for a spell. A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY! The small bottle that you get for nearly $20 last me for a year. I have… Read more »

napfrocurlzgirl
8 years ago

I definitely over-moisturized after looking at my first Youtube videos and other Internet tutorials where people said to moisturize every day. My hair definitely does not like that regimen and now that I just do it once a week, my hair is fine and thriving.

clarek
clarek
8 years ago

This is an interesting article. However, I wonder if it is ok to focus on moisturizing your hair in the winter. I ask this because I have read on several sites that people should put down the protein treatments in the winter and focus on moisture rich products.

Jami
Jami
8 years ago

SO, I have never done a protien treatment. I may have used a conditioner with protien, but it was unknowingly. Now I feel like I may need to. BTW, been natural for 3 years (last BC about a year ago) Can I throw an egg in my hair mask mixture (usually Avacado honey and some essential oils) and get protien that way??

caribbeancurl
caribbeancurl
8 years ago
Reply to  Jami

No… check out the naural haven’s blogspot about egg proteins for hair. By the way doesn’t the avocado AND honey have a combined drying effect on your hair. It certainly did mine so I’ll never trod that way again.

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago

I do a regular medium protein treatment 1x a month and that works for my medium-coarse, low porosity hair. I could probably get away with doing protein treatments less frequently if my regimen was different. I work out a lot so I need to rinse out my scalp. I co-wash almost every day so I incorporate protein 1x a month to keep my hair at the right balance. I will co-wash with a cheapie conditioner that contains protein once or so a week as well. I squeeze out excess water before putting products on my hair so it is usually… Read more »

Jaeda Barbie
8 years ago

I take this article with a grain of salt. Everyones hair has different needs or issues, I dc and henna frequent, I bagged my hair and I have seen a lot of growth, so it really varies.

Sunnigrl
Sunnigrl
8 years ago

I moisturize everyday,I’m a cowash girl. Everyday I cowash with Aussie Moist conditioner. Then I get out of the shower and, by sections, apply Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing smoothie,then Garnier Fructis conditioner (not the leave in) into my hair, then seal with EVOO. Then shake shake shake. Super soft, non dry hair that is thriving. I have fine 4a pen spring and s curls. I do this every single day. Wash weekly with Suave Coconut Naturals…so with sulfates). When I do wash, I use Mane and Tail–which is a protein rich conditioner.. Then the V05 strawberries and cream with soy… Read more »

Samster
8 years ago

Well, I’m not sure if I’m over moisturizing or what, but: When I do weekly twist/braid-outs, I have a nightly routine of section by section applying oil, detangling, spritzing on a very small amount of water (to seal), and applying a small amount of cream/butter. In the morning my hair is shiny and soft. On my lazy days when I bun my hair to go to sleep, my hair is kinda dry… does this mean I’m over moisturizing or not moisturizing enough? I think my hair is 4b, but I’m not sure. The method seems to work, but I want… Read more »

Hannah
Hannah
3 years ago
Reply to  Samster

I wouldn’t recommend doing this every night if your super paranoid about this. You should do this once then cover your hair with a silk or satin head wrap/scarf. Continue to just cover your hair with a silk or satin head scarf at night until your hair needs to be moisturised again. You should several porosity tests to see if it is your hair’s porosity making it difficult for obtaining moisture. If you do find your porosity you should search for articles and you tubers who have the same porosity as you to help find products that work for you.… Read more »

Lena
8 years ago

Yes I’ve experienced over moisturizing my hair a couple of times. The first was from doing a deep moisturizing treatment weekly that eventually made my hair start feeling limp. The second was when I tried the overnight baggying method with an oil; that was terrible. My hair became real limp, soggy, and gummy it was gross. It took weeks and a few applications of aphogee protein treatments for it to return to normal. I still don’t really understand how to do the protein / moister balance deal with my hair but my hair feels and looks very healthy so I… Read more »

Rciyah
8 years ago

WHAT IF YOU’RE PROTEIN SENSITIVE? GET BREAKAGE WITH PROTEIN BASED PRODUCTS. GET CRUNCHY HARD HAIR AFTER YOUR PROTEIN TREATMENT, NO MATTER HOW YOU MOISTURIZE IT? ALSO RECEIVE ITCHY SCALP AFTER PROTEIN IS APPLYED
SUGGESTIONS?

Thin and Natural
Thin and Natural
8 years ago
Reply to  Rciyah

From 1st paragraph: “Now before I get into the meat of the discussion, let me preface my statements by giving the mandatory “what works for some, may not work for all” speech. Obviously overconditioning, and the product usage patterns that tend to encourage it, vary from person to person. There are no official normative standards here, and as with all things hair– the only hard fast rule is that there are no hard fast rules. “Too much” for one head may be “too little” for another, etc. Therefore, all suggestions and advice, including this article, should be taken with a… Read more »

df
df
8 years ago

Wow, you are so unnecessarily rude.

tammy
tammy
8 years ago

I am newbie, just learning how to take care of my hair…but i’m confuae about protein treatment, why does our hair need it and when can we use it?

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago

Thanks for the information. I just do a moisture deep condition one week then a protein condition the next week. And that keeps my hair balance. I shampoo with Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus shampoo. but I’m looking at 4bnfree YT channel and learning about making my castile soap shampoo. I make my own shea butter mixes and seal with coconut oil. My hair is doing okay.

Michele
8 years ago

I bought the author’s book and am reading it as we speak. I’m half way through the book. Very informative in easy to understand terms (the science of it). I recommend her book to anybody who’s interested in learning more about the anatomy of our hair in order to better care for it. Bravo Audrey!

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago
Reply to  Michele

I have her book also. I agree with you.

Silvia
Silvia
8 years ago

When I feel like I’m over moisturizing, I hurry and throw Benoite clay on my hair to set my protein and moisture balance straight. It’s back strong, shiny and isn’t gummy or pop when I touch it. Over moisturizing is bad.

Noelleabelle
Noelleabelle
8 years ago

THANK YOU for this article! And for the wonderful edifying comments. My hair has been a horror show of late, and I had no idea that over-moisturizing was a thing — but then, we curly-haired white girls with straight-haired mothers are a clueless lot indeed. First thing in the morning, I’m heading out to buy a protein conditioner (of which I have never heard until just now… dear sweet jesus, I need help).

Marie Rascon
Marie Rascon
7 years ago

That was a very good article. I was on my way to over moisturizing my hair and over bagging it too. Thank you for writing this article, it has been so helpful.

caribbeancurl
caribbeancurl
7 years ago

How do you correct the problem of the hairs at the back of my head being over-moisturised while the centre and top of my hair is balanced? I think this is the problem because right now they are in medium sized twists and those at the back are all stretchy as if I had a blow-out a few days ago ( which I didn’t). The twists are not really locking into place, threatening to unravel but not just yet. While the rest of my head is bouncy, and the twists have stayed put. Help any suggestions will be greatly appreciated… Read more »

Dawn
Dawn
7 years ago

I think I have overmoisturized!! My corkscrew curls are no more! I’m soooo sad 🙁

trackback

[…] A year or two ago, I realized I had fine hair. However, I didn’t realize that the diameter of your hair kind of dictates how much protein you should be using in your regimen. The smaller the diameter, the less natural protein you have in your hair. So you have to add some now and again. Or maybe a lot, on the regular, if you have very fine hair. In all the natural hair spaces online, I feel like this information gets lost among the desire to keep our moisturized. In fact, you can damage your hair by over-moisturizing. […]

Dorism57
Dorism57
6 years ago

THis is sooooo hard!!!! I over moisturized once, and now I’m protein overload!!! I have to read ingredient on products????????????????????

Arbi
6 years ago
Reply to  Dorism57

, I also use sunscreen when I must be out for loengr than usual, like at the beach, or gardening. Next, I never used alcohol containing after-shaves like Aqua Velva. I never put on anything that feel like burning after I shave. I wash my face morning, evening and before bed with bath soap and warm water. My shaving cream is Old Spices or a similar, non expensive one. I shave daily because of my heavy beard and used the best razor blades I know (now Fussion or similar ones).As you can notice, I really don’t do anything that is… Read more »

Cidriana
Cidriana
6 years ago

I thought I was in danger of this because I deep conditioned my hair once already earlier this week and did a high puff on a twist out that turned out really nice. Then I got a phone call from a place I’d applied to a while ago asking me to come work, so I figured I’d recreate the style by deep conditioning again, so I did another DC TWO DAYS after I’d just done one, and then today I decided not to wear the puff, so I ended up running conditioner through my hair to get my curls back.… Read more »

Alexis
Alexis
5 years ago

On Sunday morning I deep conditioned my hair, blow dried and left it for the rest of the day. Later on that night I only wet it with water and then air dried while I slept. The following day I deep conditioned my hair AGAIN with Mill Creek biotin conditioner and put and put a splash of hydrogen peroxide on my hair afterwards, because I wanted it to have a lighter hue. After I rinsed my hair my coils and some curls became frizz and my hair started to dry faster than usual. The most unusual thing is that the… Read more »

trackback

[…] in the profile picture no way your (too) soft strands is able to hold your soft curls(as in loose). http://bglh-marketplace.com/2011/12…-moisturizing/ Skinny hair with no curves and proud! *hair is still heatdamaged, I’m growing it out* […]

Public_Programming
Public_Programming
3 years ago

This is a great article!

Keneesha Hodge
4 years ago

I’m going through it now and for the second time in a year. I’m finally accepting I can’t be lazy with certain things my hair needs

Heather Way
Heather Way
2 years ago

Hi there, and thank you for this informative article! I am not sure what I did to my hair, but I mixed the exact same Joico product that you mention with keratin. I left it on overnight with a cap, thinking that hair would only absorb so much, but wow! I have shampooed probably 12 times now, and still have a greasy slick. My hair is naturally blonde, wavy, Caucasian. I never thought that it was possible to over condition before. I am learning. Thank you!

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