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.
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