Properly moisturizing naturally kinky or curly hair of any texture is a often an obstacle for many curly women (no matter their race), and it was something that I myself battled for a while until I learned these three easy steps to get me through what used to be “fighting with my dry hair” during the week. There are no spells involved nor any special ingredients really, just a little tweaking of what you are already doing. So take note and follow these three easy steps that will have you on your way to moisturize, soft and supple hair in no time.
1. UNDERSTAND HOW MOISTURE WORKS
Water is what moisturizes hair, but water alone does not work very well. Without going into a scientific breakdown that will bore you to death, just know that’s simply because of evaporation. Water is the supreme moisturizer, but alone it’s just not as effective.
Washing your hair is important, but our hair naturally trades (or evaporates off) water into the air to keep a balance of wet and dry. Because of the evaporation that takes place while our hair is drying, our hair goes from soft, plump and supple to dry and crunchy. When you wash your hair, water penetrates the hair shaft, going deep into the hair cuticle. With washing comes a sort of hair strand “expansion.” this “expansion” helps to keep your hair plump and supple.
To better understand exactly how water works on your hair, it’s easiest to understand by comparing it to how it works on other parts of your body. Think back to a moment when you had dry skin – after swimming in a chlorinated pool or a salty ocean on a hot day, for example. Right after you get out of the water, your skin is fine, but as you sit out in the sun and the water evaporates you’re left with tight, dry skin. When it’s in need of water, skin is dry, and flaky or what we often call “ashy”, but when it’s introduced to water it’s soft and plump. Think about how your skin feels after a warm shower immediately after you seal in the water with your body lotion, your skin stays plump and supple – moisturized – and you keep that soft skin feeling all day.
The same goes for water and your hair. After washing your hair or wetting it really well, it’s been loaded with moisture, but if you do nothing to seal in that moisture, what happens is that all of the moisturizing water goes “poof!”, and with that poof comes frizz, matted roots, knots and tangles and hard to comb hair.
2. SEAL IN YOUR MOISTURE WITH AN OIL — THE L.O.C. METHOD (LIQUID, OIL, CREAM)
Have you every wondered why your friends with straight hair complain of greasy hair two days or so after washing and in some cases by the end of the first day? It’s because our bodies naturally produce sebum – or scalp oils – that are designed to coat the hair strand. But with our curls and kinks, that oil has a hard time getting down our strands, usually stopping at our roots unlike straight hair where it has no obstacles – it’s a straight path from root to tip. This is why oiling your hair helps to move the natural sealing process along.
To counter dryness induced by our curls, the first step in moisturizing naturally kinky or curly hair is to be diligent after you have just washed and conditioned your hair with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner combo. If you’re not sure what to use, check out: The Best Shampoo For Your Curls Guide and The Best Shampoos And Conditioners For Curly Color Treated Hair.
The Liquid Oil Cream Method or L.O.C method is a method for moisturizing natural hair. With this method, you hydrate your hair with with water or a water-based liquid product like a watery leave-in then follow that up by sealing in you moisture with an oil and then finishing with a cream-based product to fully seal your hair.
For example, after washing and while your hair is in it’s supreme moisturized state, you’d seal in that moisture with a naturally occurring oil such as olive or coconut oil. You can do that with the oil alone and/or with a leave-in that has these oils listed in the first five ingredients. These oils help by creating a barrier at the cuticle, preventing the water from evaporating off of your strands at an accelerated rate. Keep in mind that these are not the only oils you can use, but some of the best ones that have not only been proven as great “sealing” oils or “sealants”, but also oils that have the ability to penetrate the cuticle shafts as well and can also moisturize hair. Not all oils have the ability to penetrate the hair shaft – one example of this is grapeseed oil.
2.2 OR SEAL YOUR HAIR WITH THE L.C.O METHOD (LIQUID, CREAM, OIL)
This is simply reversing the oil and cream in your hair care routine and is a personal preference based on what you feel your hair likes best.
3. MAKE SURE YOUR ARE SEALING YOUR HAIR CORRECTLY
For some, sealing with oil may not be enough, and this is okay. Many naturals, especially those with the kinkiest and coarsest strands may find that they need to add either a watery leave-in conditioner, before sealing, and/or a oil-based, creamy leave-in conditioner, after sealing, for their hair to remain properly moisturized after it is completely dry. Using a creamy, oil-based leave-in is definitely a must for me. If I don’t use a creamy leave-in conditioner, my hair won’t be as optimally moisturized as it would be when I use a creamy leave-in after sealing with olive oil.
After washing and sealing with oil or cream, ask yourself, “Does my hair still feel soft and moisturized after it is fully dry?”, the answer to this question will tell you if what you are doing is working for your hair. It may take a couple of rounds of washing to do a comparison, but you’ll soon figure it out. Another way to test is to just wash your hair, seal with oil all over and apply a creamy, oil-based leave-in to only one side of your head and not the other (or do the revers if your hair prefers). By the end of the day, you may notice a difference. No difference probably means you can opt to not do a oil-based leave-in, but if the side without the leave-in is dry and the other isn’t, then you know that you have to add a creamy, oil-based leave-in to your hair after sealing. Great, light weight leave-in options for leave-ins for curly hair prone to dryness are Pureology Essential Repair Instant Repair, As I Am Leave-In Conditioner and Desert Essence Coconut Conditioner (which can be used as a leave-in), Beautiful Textures Tangle Taming Leave-in Conditioner, It’s A 10 Miracle Leave-In, Giovanni Direct Leave-In Weightless Moisture Conditioner, Kinky Curly Knot Today and Kerastase Nectar Thermique
4. REPLENISH YOUR MOISTURE DURING THE WEEK AS NEEDED
Even though oiling your hair after washing is highly effective, it’s important to note that for many naturals, you will find that you’ll need to replenish your moisture between washes. For some this could be every other day and for others it could be every three days or more.
Moisturizing simply means sealing in moisture. Meaning, if you seal your dry hair – it’s just sealed (oiled) dry hair and nothing more (and this is never a good idea). Moisturizing means water is always involved so to moisturize your hair, water has to be incorporated on some level – like a watery leave-in spray conditioner or water is the first ingredient in your leave-in. You cannot seal with a watery moisturizing product (it will evaporate) and you cannot effectively moisturize with a sealing product (it will keep your hair dry). Though olive and coconut oil do penetrate the hair shaft and “moisturize”, they are not effective moisturizers alone. They work best with water.
You will know when your curls and kinks need moisture by the way your hair begins to feel going from supple to the beginning stages of frizzy, dry and also stiffness. the quickest way to replenish moisture when needed in-between washes is to spritz your hair with (rose) water and seal with oil or spray your hair with a water and oil mix. Water-based leave-ins and moisturizing refreshing sprays we like are: Elma&Sana 100% Pure Moroccan Rose Water, Pantene Moisture Mist Light Conditioning Detangler, Rene Furterer Okara UV Radiance Enhancing Spray, Ouidad Botanical Boost Moisture Infusing & Refreshing Spray and As I Am CocoShea Moisturizer Hair Spray
5. ONCE YOU FIND YOUR MOISTURE ROUTINE, STICK TO IT
You may be a shampoo, condition, watery-leave-in and oil girl, or you may be a shampoo, condition, oil-based, creamy leave-in conditioner girl or any other combination. In the end, what’s important is that you do what works best for you. You’ll probably find that less product is more as you start to get your hair in an optimally moisturized state. Because we are so used to plastering our hair and scalps with thick, heavy products, it may seem like you need “more stuff.” But less is more. You’ve already got what you need the most – the water – everything else is icing on the cake.
As a basic starting block, this should help to get you to where you need to be. Don’t worry, after doing this for a while, it will all start to come together and you will know what products do what for your hair when it comes to moisturizing. But always remember that water is key. Just stick with it. After a couple of weeks of being diligent with your hair moisture routine, you can’t help but see a difference.