I have often been asked to give advice on how one might achieve moisturized hair. I learned fairly quickly that the person asking the question wasn’t only interested the moisture of their hair but, more often than not, achieving soft, supple hair. I have been clear in this blog that hair may feel dry to the touch even if it is in fact moisturized. It is therefore important to focus more on healthy hair practices and monitoring how your hair responds to those practices over time than how it feels. In this article I’d like to focus on the distinction between “soft” hair and “moisturized” hair since it’s an issue I used to grapple with and one I know some women still face.
In the same way an individual may confuse dry hair with hair that is not properly moisturized, it is not uncommon to think that achieving “softness” means that your hair is moisturized. Moreover, soft hair is sometimes used as a proxy for one’s ability to retain hair length over a long period of time. Without understanding that your hair may be able to feel soft without the necessary moisture you might find yourself frustrated if you remain stuck in your hair journey. So, what are some reasons your hair may feel soft without actually being moisturized?
1. You may be using a product containing ingredients designed to smooth the cuticles of your hair without adding any moisture to the strands.
While smoothing the cuticles of the hair may diminish frizz and give the illusion of soft hair, you are actually coating the hair with a product that may temporarily prevent your hair from absorbing moisture. We often think of heavy, greasy products with loads of mineral oil as coating our strands and blocking moisture. However, glossers and anti-frizz serums are light weight silicones that can give the hair an almost silky feel. Don’t get me wrong. Those products serve a purpose if you are wearing your hair straight and want to maintain the style. However, if you use similar products on a regular basis you may find that your hair feels good and even looks shiny but is actually depriving your hair of moisture.
2. It may be over moisturized.
Wait, did she just imply there’s such a thing as too much moisture? Yup, I did! Just as dry, brittle hair can weaken your hair so too can hair that is overly moisturized. Now, using a moisturizer every day or spritzing with water likely won’t lead to damaging results. However, if your hair rarely has time to dry and a section of your hair is constantly damp or wet it can be more prone to breakage when manipulated. I found this to be a problem if I chose to wear a bun the day after I washed my hair. My dense hair takes about 12 hours dry (I have to dry my hair in 12 large twists to prevent tangling). While the ends of my hair would get dry the section tied with the hair elastic would remain damp. If I re-moisturized my hair every morning my hair would spend far more time damp than dry, making the hair prone to breakage. The hair felt soft and quite frankly met my ideal of what I thought moisturized hair should feel like but it was weak and prone to breakage.
There is nothing wrong with soft hair. In a future article I plan to address how to regularly achieve soft and moisturized hair. It is important, however, to note that soft hair does not automatically equate moisturized hair. Knowing the difference can hopefully prevent you from repeating practices that lead to unintentional damage.
Have you ever mistaken soft hair for moisturized hair? What were you doing wrong?