Moisture and Hair

The best moisture for hair is actually water. Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. In chemistry speak, this means, it contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds.

Indeed, our bodies contain from 55% to 78% water, depending on body size. To function properly, the body requires between one and seven liters of water per day to avoid dehydration; the precise amount depends on the level of activity, temperature, humidity, and other factors.

Water is good internally and externally for hair. Internally a well-hydrated body means that there is sufficient moisture for hair function, externally it means that the hair can maintain elasticity and suppleness. For moisturizing hair, water is the king. However, hair is porous and keeping this moisture in hair is next to impossible without sealing it in.

Trapping Moisture In Hair

The best way to trap moisture in hair is to use an oil based product. Not just any oil- but natural oils, which will add several benefits to your hair shaft. Oils like jojoba, castor, coconut, almond and olive are good examples. Please see article Oils Explained for a full list of carrier oils that can be used for sealing. Oils are made of large molecules. These molecules are too large to be absorbed by the hair strand. Instead what it does is coat the strands and seal in the moisture that is already in the hair.  It also works by sealing out moisture. So the key to avoiding dry  hair is to apply a  water-based moisturizer to hair first. Some people use plain water in a spritz bottle everyday as a moisturizer and then seal in the moisture with an oil.

The Key To Well Hydrated Hair

So the key to well hydrated hair is to moisturize with a water-based product first (or plain water) and then to seal with an oil. Oils are hydrophobic, they do not mix well with water, you can see this when you put both oil and water in a glass. Hence, the thing to remember is that though oils have several benefits to hair, they should not be used in place of a moisturizer or before a moisturizer. Consider oils as the bulletproof vest on your hair. Nothing can get in after it seals off the area.

Daily Moisturizing

It is recommended that you should moisturize your hair everyday. This I have found is not one size fits all advice for some persons including myself. Some people’s hair will be very moisturized for up to a week depending on the water based moisturizer used and the oil used to seal, the hair style you are wearing and the conditions your uncovered hair is exposed to. In some cases, an everyday moisturizer is unnecessary. There are cases where over-moisturizing the hair can lead to breakage.

Products that contain mineral oil and petroleum oil and purport to be moisturizers should be avoided. You can make your own moisturizers for daily use without having to resort to buying expensive products. Check out Moisturizer Recipes here.

Tips To Keep Hair Moisturized

1. When buying hair moisturizers look to see that the first ingredient is water (aqua). Make sure that the moisturizer does not contain any alcohol, mineral or petroleum oil. Do not overlook liquid moisturizers; they can be very effective when used sparingly. You can always seal with your favorite oil afterwards.

2. Baggy Hair- Applying moisturizer to hair and putting a plastic cap on for at least 30-45 minutes and allow hair to capture some much needed moisture. This process is called “baggying” the plastic cap can be applied to the ends of the hair or put it over the whole head. The plastic cap gives hair a steaming effect after the moisturizer is applied. For maximum moisture, keep the plastic cap on overnight and then seal hair in the morning.

3. Protect Hair at Night- Put hair in a bun or braids and wrap with a silk head scarf before bed. Wear the scarf until morning. This will keep hair moisturized throughout the night.

Some of the better quality moisturizing conditioners on the market are:

Nexxus Humectress, Dove Intense Moisture, Neutragena Triple Moisture Daily Conditioner, Neutragena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Mask, Elucence Moisture Balancing conditioner, Keracare Humecto, Mizani Moisturefuse, Crème of Nature Nourishing Conditioner.


Akbari Lisa, The Black Woman’s Guide to Beautiful Hair: A Positive Approach to Managing Any Hair Type and Style, Sourcebooks, 2002



  • Pete said:

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I to find It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I’m hoping to provide one thing back and help others like you aided me.

  • MommyandDaughter said:

    I am relaxed and trying to promote growth and general hair healthiness. I found your articles to be extremely useful. So I just recently began using organic coconut oil daily(morning/bedtime) and wrap at night. Does this count as a daily moisturizer for me? I also prepoo overnight with coconut oil, should I use a different oil as a prepoo since I use coconut oil daily? I typically have dry hair but I have seen improvement with the coconut oil? I also use olive oil mixed with a market deep conditioner and a mix of olive and coconut oil a couple of times a week. My hair isn’t oily but I want to make certain I am not overdoing it. I am aiming for long relaxed hair and this is a start 8-).

    I have printed your article regarding oils… I understand essential and carrier but what are good sealing oils? Do you only seal to lock in moisture after washes? Your recommendations are greatly appreciated.

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi MommyandDaughter,

      You are most welcome.
      Remember that water or water based moisturizers alone count as moisture. Oil does not count as moisture. Oil seals in moisture. Locks in the water. No I do not only seal after washes, I moisturize with water during the week and then seal if my hair gets dry.
      Please see this article for a bit more clarification on the whole moisture vs. oils. Oil Vs Moisture

  • Thatgirl376 said:

    This was very informative. I had been using only oil to moisturize and couldn’t figure out why my ends kept splitting. The problem ceased when I started using a leave in conditioner before the oil but I’ve still been using oil on my ends every night, thinking I was moisturizing. Now I know I was just wasting my oils.
    I do have one question though. You said that oil seals moisture in and out. Does that mean that if I moisturize and seal, I can’t moisturize again until I’ve washed. I mean if I try to add more moisture to my hair after I’ve already “sealed” it, will the moisturizer get through the oil to my hair?

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      If you feel your hair getting dry again before a wash, that is usually an indication that the oil has worn off and you can re-seal.

  • Kelly said:

    Good day brenda my hair is relaxed and thick . Now I’ve been using the hair regimen but for some reason my hair still looks dry where I have to apply oil to my hair daily. I co-wash every week sometimes with a sulfate free shampoo add morrocco oil , roller set then dryer on low heat.but I still feel like my hair looks dry. Also even started thhis regimen I could of always wrap my hair and my hair is bouncy n nice where I can maintain it. Now its like its too much and my wraps dnt come out the same and they are pretty puffy. Why is that?

  • Nicole said:

    The information on your site is very informative. I am newly transitioning to natural and am overwhelmed with information, products, etc. My hair is very dry and has broken off a lot recently. I am trying to figure out a regimen for washing, co washing, conditioning, moisturizing and applying oils. How often should I be doing all of these things? I have recently purchased 100%coconut oil, olive oils deep conditioner as well as a leave in conditioner. Please help! Thanks!

  • Annie said:

    You Quoted: ” For maximum moisture, keep the plastic cap on overnight and then seal hair in the morning.”

    What exactly do you mean by “seal” hair in the morning?

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Annie,

      To seal is to lock moisture into the hair. In this case putting an oil on the hair to seal/lock in the moisture.

  • sharmyy said:

    Hey, i’m a bit confused by points 2 and 3. Which is better or more effective in terms of hair growth, bagging (moisturizing then leaving a plastic cap on overnight) or moisturizing then using a silk head scarf?

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      In terms of hair growth, both are good. Point 2 speaks to dry ends, helps you to retain length. Point 3 is when your whole hair is dry and needs a pick me up.

  • Stephanie Sanders said:

    Hello, I have a question…I am 50 years old and recently started a relaxed healthy hair regimen. Does the age of your hair have anything to do with the way it accepts moisture and oils? I do the moisture/seal every night on my hair and my 15 year olds hair to, when we get up in the morning her hair is still moist and soft, when I wake up in the morning my hair is drier that a dessert. What am I doing wrong???
    Thanks You!

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Stephanie,
      The older you get the more porous hair becomes and things like dyes and relaxers can make the hair a little dryer. I don’t think its anything that your doing wrong, you just need a little more moisture than your 15 year old every day to get her kind of results.

  • Debby said:

    I have a questen i try to moisturize daily And seal but it likes thas my hair breaks.
    When my hair is flat iron i dont need to moisturize my hair daily but when i do not flat iron And i do twist out it likes That i do have to moisturize daily. Can it be what i Tols you

  • concerned and desperate said:

    Ive been relaxed for all of 2 years. When i started after a year my hair grew significantly but now i have had to chop them off constantly i bought lusters pink npurish and restore moisturizer in stocked amount and cant return it. I bought this because my mom use to us it in my natural hair when i was younger and it grew my hair grew thick and long, so i thought why not go back to something im already accustomed to. After reading this article i realized that it contains mineral oil! What do i do? Shpul i continue to use it, is it ok if i dont use it in large amounts? #desperate

  • Daisy said:

    I have recently started an intense work out regime. my hair is relaxed with a straight perm. However my head sweats tremendously and am at a loss on what to do. Am wrapping a silk scarf during the work outs and holding my head high in a pony tail. However at the end of it all my hair is sweaty, limp and awful. Am really wondering what to do. Please advice as I sweat tons and tons. I really don’t want to lose weight. hair.

  • natruallife said:


  • colleen smith said:

    I need to die my hair, what kind of die can i used on my relax hair

  • Kimmie said:

    This was very informative, however I have relaxed hair and I normally hear that water and relaxed hair are not a very good combination. Is this myth or fact?

  • Niah said:

    Hi I was just wondering what moisturizer works best for you??

  • Marsha said:

    Many thanks. This was extremely informative. I’m a few months in on my relaxed hair journey and what I’ve just realized that both of my deep conditioners are light protein conditioners. That explains why my hair has been on the dry side. I think I will do the baggie method and go on the hunt for a moisturizing DC.

  • Hamza said:

    Hi Brenda Barrett great article!
    what hair products count as moisturizes if u could list me the type of hair products? also what can be put for hair so as to make it smell pleasant and when in terms of moisturizing and sealing the hair?
    can you just use water on hair as mositruzer and then put cap over it, then in morning apply oil?

  • Sherry said:

    Hi I’m trying to figure out why every time I use a water based moisturizer and a oil my hair starts to have the wet look and makes my edges frizzy? Any answers? Good read by the way.

  • M C said:

    One day i washed my hair it my roots were super oily i dont konw how to fix it.What can i do

  • kerry said:

    My hair is brown. It’s breaking constantly and always dry especially the ends. I am using affirm relaxer and okay brand liquid coconut oil. But that’s not helping the breakage. I don’t know what more to try on my hair. I am fustrated with it.

  • Alisha said:


    This was very informative. Lots of this information I follow already. I’m somewhat a beginner to transitioning. So I’m just trying to get all information that I can. I have my spray bottle with water and my organic coconut oil that I use in the morning and at night. I wash my hair once a week with Organic Olive Oil shampoo and a deep conditioner. Is this ok? I’m also wanting to know more about co-washing and how often to do this. Also will I need to purchase a regular conditioner like suave to do the co-wash? And I know that a leave in conditioner adds more moisture. But I don’t have not been doing the leave in conditioner nor do I have one. What would you recommend for this?

    Thank you in advance for all of your help.

  • Joyce said:

    I just came across this article after reading an article about protein and moisture. Over the past 5 years, I’ve watched my hair go from luscious, bouncy vibrate Curls, to brittle thinning hair that breaks too often. My hair is so brittle that it tangles up into knots. This morning I felt like I was brushing through thick dread locks, and as I combed / brushed my hair, I watched it all come out before. I’m scared to even wash my hair more than once a week as the breakage can literally fill a ziplock bag.

    How do I know If I’m lack moisture and protein, is this something just seen and felt or is there a place or doctor to go to to find out body and hair deficiencies?

    How often should one wash their hair a week? Are there also shampoos I should be avoiding?

    My dream would be to her most ire back into my hair. I always say,”the way I walk in the shower (dry brittle hair), is the way o walk out.” It is as of, the water never penetrated.

    By the way, what roles do stress or hormonal levels play into this all. Even if I moisturize, would it make a difference if there are hormonal or even chemical things happening in the body?

    Thank you

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