By Ari Edwards
Finding a moisturizing routine that works for you is going to be key in creating healthy habits, which lead to healthy hair. Kinky hair textures often suffer from dryness since the shape of the hair strand makes it hard for sebum to travel down the shaft and moisturize the hair. But dryness isn’t fate! I know it can seem like having dry hair is just apart of being a 4c queen, but that’s not exactly the case. It just means that imparting moisture to your hair on a regular basis is absolutely necessary, like drinking water. Our bodies can’t function without being constantly hydrated and the same goes for our hair.
Hydrating vs. Moisturizing: There’s a Difference
Okay, it’s time to get real for a second. We always talk about moisture in the natural hair community, raving that it is the way to maintain healthy natural hair. While that’s partially true, we need to take a deeper look into what having healthy, moisturized hair actually looks like, and it starts with hydration.
Hydrating the hair is the process of fully saturating the hair with water for an amount of time, allowing the water molecules to penetrate deep into the hair strands. Think: wash day. This has lasting effects on the hair since, while washing, water is able to go beneath the surface of the strand and fully penetrate all parts of the hair.
Moisturizing, on the other hand, is more of a temporary fix. This process can involve water, but often in much smaller amounts, meaning water molecules don’t get the chance to fully penetrate the hair strands, but sit on the superficial layers. Think: spraying the hair with water and applying a refresher or moisturizer, for example. This is great to do between wash days, but without frequently saturating the hair with water (hydrating) it doesn’t do much for the health of the hair in the long run.
In order to maintain luscious, healthy locks, you need both components--hydration and moisture--in regular intervals. Here’s how.
How to Hydrate
Wash day is a dreaded term for a lot naturals, but it doesn’t have to be! This is a glorious time when your hair gets reinvigorated and replenished. It’s the only time during the week when your hair is fully hydrated. Regular hydration is super important--a good rule of thumb is once a week--and routinely cleaning your hair and scalp is also crucial. So make a day of it! Let your wash day be a day to take care of your physical self. I personally love to take my time; this is super important, by the way, doing your hair in a rush can cause unnecessary breakage. I detangle/pre-poo and deep condition my hair, put on a face mask, read while my masks are on so that I can stay on top of my book goals, or get work done--you know, really make the most of it.
Approaching my wash day as a day for self care has helped to make the process much easier and actually enjoyable. If your schedule allows, dedicate this time to yourself. If you’re on the run and super busy, make this your time to get things done. Fully saturate your hair with water, wash and apply your deep conditioner. Throw on your plastic bag and a cute scarf on and now you’re free to run errands, or cook, or make that phone call--whatever you need to do for the day. You might get busy or sidetracked, and leave your deep conditioner in for hours, and that’s totally fine! More time for your hair to absorb the nutrients.
Try hydrating your hair each week to keep moisture levels up in your hair, which make retention of moisture on the days in between that much easier. Your hair will thrive.
How to Moisturize
This is where your day-to-day routine comes in. In order to maintain all the work you do during wash day, you’ve got to implement moisture during the week. Grab your spray bottle and fav products! Trust me, your hair will thank you.
In sections, spray your hair with water so that it’s damp, rather than soaking wet (unless you’re okay with that and your style won’t suffer) and follow up with an oil and cream of your choice. Remember: the types of products that best suit you hair are heavily determined by your hair’s porosity level, or how porous your hair is. Doing this simple routine on a daily basis is all you need to maintain moisturized hair in between wash days. Life does get in the way and sometimes it’s hard to find time to go through the full LOC or LCO method. In that case, simply create a refresher spray (something like water, aloe vera juice, a bit of conditioner) or buy one you trust and use that daily. It’s one step that provides adequate moisture.
Check out this video on how to make a simple refresher spray at home!
Now, something I struggle with is being too heavy-handed. I often use lots of product when doing my hair but honestly, that’s not necessary. More product doesn’t equal more benefits. So when moisturizing your hair remember to use just enough product for your hair to absorb, no need to wild out. You want your hair to feel soft and pliable; if you’re left with oil on your hands after simply touching your hair, chances are you used too much product or you’re using something that doesn’t penetrate your hair shaft. Another wrench in the process, I know. Trust me, along your journey you’ll understand which products work for your hair and which don’t. If it feels like the products are absorbed into your hair, perfect! If it seems like they’re just sitting on top of your hair, back to the drawing board. We mention porosity a lot, but understanding how your hair absorbs water is really going to help you determine which products to buy.
So once you understand if your hair is low or high porosity and you choose the right products accordingly, remember to go light when applying them.
Shrinkage is Your Best Friend
Isn’t it so annoying when, after taking down your twist out or your wash and go dries, your hair is like three inches shorter than it was fresh out of the shower? Natural hair shrinks by up to 70% and after months or years of growing your hair out, this can be a bummer. But you know, I think it’s time we embrace shrinkage-- it’s actually a really good thing. If your hair is super shrunken that’s a sign that it’s thriving; it means your hair is well hydrated and moisturized. Think of how a sponge swells when filled with water; your hair draws up in a similar fashion when it has soaked up and retained enough water and goodness. Pretty cool huh?
Next time you style your hair and sigh at the way it’s decreased in length, don’t view it as a bad thing. Your hair is happy and doing great, and that’s what we want, right, healthy hair?
If shrinkage is just not your thing, check out this banding method to stretch your hair.
Tomorrow we get into styling 4c hair!