Wondering how to moisturise your hair to combat dry curls?

We know we need moisture! Curly hair tends to be dry by nature and knowing the ways to moisturise it will really help to keep our curls healthy.

how to moisturise curly hair

Want to know how to moisturise your hair? I’ve rounded up 7 of the best ways

Some are for every time you wash your hair and some are for once a week or once a month even! You know your hair best and experimenting with a few of these methods will tell you which work the best for you.

Let’s get in there..

1. How to moisturise your hair the right way – the importance of conditioning

I’m going to start with something that blew my mind when I first heard it. 

When you apply conditioner to your hair in the shower, it isn’t the conditioner that is actually hydrating your hair. It’s the water! 

In fact, water is behind most of the items on this list! It is all about using water to hydrate your hair and then retaining that moisture.

For this reason it is good to use water based products. Check the ingredients and see if water is listed in the first 5.

Conditioners can contain amazing ingredients like shea butter which are softening, but the conditioner is really there to seal in the water. This is how it hydrates your hair.

This is why a leave-in conditioner is crucial. You are ensuring that the water is retained.

Leave-in conditioners can be in the form of sprays or creams or even your usual conditioner. You can achieve a leave-in conditioner by simply not rinsing all of the conditioner out of your hair. 

Squish to Condish

I was smoothing conditioner all over my hair and then waiting 5 minutes before rinsing it out.

As mentioned above, the conditioner has a crucial role in keeping hair hydrated, and this means that the application of it is so important.

Smoothing it on isn’t enough for curly hair. To ensure you are retaining the water in your hair, there is now the ‘squish to condish’ method.

Don’t be put off by the name, I almost was.

The idea is that you apply conditioner while your hair is forwards and soaking wet.

You scrunch your hair upwards towards your scalp with conditioner on your hands. Doing this ensures that you are ‘trapping’ the water in your hair. You are literally ‘squishing’ the water through the cuticle of your hair! The conditioner then acts as the sealant on top. 

You can do this by not fully rinsing the conditioner out, or, better still, as the very last step when you get out of the shower.

Take a small blob of conditioner and squeeze it in..and leave it there!

2. How to moisturise your hair with styling products

gel to style and moisturise curly hair

Gel is the perfect example.

Long touted by the Curly Girl Method as the best styling product for curly hair, gel not only styles hair by holding the shape of your curl while it is wet and avoiding frizz, but the cast that the gel forms around your curl clumps will actually retain moisture as your hair dries.

A note – this is as long as your gel doesn’t contain drying alcohols or silicones.

Some alcohols can actually suck moisture from your hair and silicones will form a barrier which prevents moisture from penetrating your stands and will actually build up on the hair shaft. 

3. Scrunching with oil to moisturise

If you are using a gel to style your hair you will be familiar with scrunching out the crunch – ‘SOTC’ . This is my favourite part!

Once your hair is completely dry you remove the gel cast by gently scrunching it away to reveal the curls underneath. 

You can ensure that the hair retains the moisture held in by the cast by scrunching with a few drops of oil on your hands.

Certain ‘sealing’ oils will do just that – create a seal around the hair to keep moisture in and also reduce the chance of frizz at the same time! Sealing oils are

They lubricate the hair and prevent moisture loss.

4. Sticking with oils as a method of moisturising your hair..there is another way that you can harness their benefits!

Oil can be applied as a pre-poo treatment. This means pre-shampoo. 

You use the oil like a masque but you apply it onto your dry hair before you shampoo, and then shampoo it out afterwards. 

penetrating oils for pre-poo treatment

This is an intense way to condition and moisturise your hair.

Oil treatments can be heavy. You know your hair and how much moisture it needs. My hair is curl pattern 2c/3a, high porosity and generally very dry. I will do a pre-poo oil treatment about once a month. This is how I do mine.

The main goal with a pre-poo is to protect your hair during washing. Even gentle, sulphate-free shampoos will remove some of your hair’s natural oils.

The oil will also help when it comes to detangling your hair during washing. 

Using a pre-poo treatment can be a balancing act.

You want to add additional oils to your hair to compensate for natural oils which we lose, however, the oils we add can build up over time.

We want to cleanse our hair gently with a sulphate-free shampoo but this same gentleness may mean that not all of the pre-poo oil is removed. You need to find a balance between the 2 which works for your hair. 

Which oils are best? 

Natural hair oils can broadly be split into 2 categories – penetrating and sealing. 

Penetrating oils will penetrate into the inner cuticle layers of your hair and protect the outer layers too, giving your hair the full range of nourishment and protection.

Sealing oils will remain on the outer cuticle of the hair and can help to seal in moisture. For a pre-poo treatment we will be looking at penetrating oils.

Good examples of penetrating oils are

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • coconut oil
  • sunflower oil and
  • argan oil. Personally I like argan oil. It is one of the lighter oils and works well on my hair without weighing it down

How do you apply the oil?

Pre-poo oil treatments should be applied to dry hair.

Oil and water won’t mix so if your hair is already saturated with water you will prevent the oil from penetrating it. Section your hair and apply a thin layer of oil all over your hair.

Leave the oil on for at least 30 minutes but the longer the better, some people like to leave it overnight! Applying a little heat can also help the oil to permeate the hair. Once you are ready to take it off, shampoo and condition your hair as usual. 

applying oil as a pre shampoo treatment

5. Use a hair masque to deep condition

When we think about how to moisturise our hair, deep conditioner is the first thing we usually think of!

Hair masques/deep conditioners improve softness, nourish the hair and help to detangle. 

Unlike pre-poo treatments, deep conditioning masques should be applied to wet hair after you have shampooed. 

This is for 2 reasons –

  • If you are using products to style your hair these will be sitting on the shaft of your hair and will prohibit the conditioner entering the cuticle. Shampooing first will remove these products.
  • Secondly, water raises the cuticle of your hair, making it easier for the conditioner to penetrate.

You use the masque in place of your usual conditioner, it just stays on your hair for longer and has more moisturising and nourishing benefits!

Ideally we should be deep-conditioning our hair every 1-2 weeks. 

A little bit of heat can be helpful, so place a shower cap or towel over your hair and apply a low heat with a hairdryer. 

applying deep conditioner to hair to moisturise

Leave the conditioner on your hair for around 30 minutes.

It isn’t advised to leave it on for hours or overnight. It is possible to over-moisturise your hair which can lead to ‘hydral fatigue’.

Excess moisture in your hair can actually cause it to look frizzy and lose elasticity. The excess moisture lifts and pushes the outer cuticle away from the strand. Over time this effect can also lead to loss of curl pattern. 

After 30 minutes rinse your hair well. 

Great ingredients to look out for in deep conditioners include coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, argan oil, aloe vera, babassu oil, shea butter and avocado oil. 

6. Avoid product build-up

avoid product build up on curly hair

Products can build up on your hair and prevent it from being properly moisturised. 

The Curly Girl Method advises against using products which contain silicones for this reason. They build up on the hair shaft and are difficult to remove without using a harsh sulphate shampoo. 

Some waxes are also guilty of this.

There is a great tool called Curlsbot which will analyse ingredients for you.

Just copy and paste a list of ingredients in and it will tell you whether the product contains anything which will build up on your hair.

It can also be a good idea to avoid shampoos which contain heavy butters.

They have their place as great moisturisers in conditioners, but ingredients like shea butter can build up if used to cleanse.

The exception to this is co-washing.

If you are using one product to wash and condition your hair it should contain all the amazing conditioning ingredients upfront.

Co-washing is a gently way to care for curly hair without stripping natural oils but still removing dirt/product build up.

Clarifying

If you find that you do have product build-up, this is where clarifying comes in.

Your hair may start to feel greasy or limp from the weight of product build up from heavy butters or silicones. In this instance it can be a good idea to use a gently clarifying shampoo every so often when your hair needs it, then you can go back to your usual routine.

Clarify sparingly. Clarifying shampoos will be harsher on your hair so you don’t want to use one more than is absolutely necessary. I would say once a month at the most.

Keeping your hair clear of these heavy products means that they key ingredients in your moisturising products will be able to penetrate the hair shaft and work their magic!

7. Know your water!

When we think about how we moisturise our hair we need to think about the water we are using to cleanse.

If you live in an area with hard water this can affect your hair. Typically hard water contains more calcium and magnesium.

hard or soft water for hair

Ways to tell if you have hard water –

  • You may feel a thin ‘film’ on your hands after washing – this is the soap reacting with the calcium 
  • There are ‘spots’ on glasses when removed from the dishwasher – these are mineral deposits
  • You may experience low water pressure – this is due to mineral build up in pipes

It can be more difficult to remove shampoo or product build-up from your hair when you wash with hard water. This can lead to build up on your hair and mean that it won’t be able to absorb moisture as easily. 

You can combat hard water by rinsing hair with distilled water before you apply conditioner in the shower.

You can also use a chelating shampoo occasionally.

Chelating shampoos are stronger than clarifying shampoos and will remove mineral deposits from your hair.

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This clarifying, detoxing shampoo removes build up from hard water as well as pollution, products and chlorine.

As an alternative you can do an apple cider vinegar hair rinse once a month.

To do this add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to about 500ml of distilled or filtered water. Wash and condition your hair, then apply the rinse. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and rinse thoroughly.

Bonus tip!

Work from the inside out! As well as eating a balanced diet to ensure healthy hair, make sure you drink plenty of water too! Hair requires water from the inside as well as the outside.

Dehydration can lead to dry, brittle hair and breakage so lets add more water 😉

Lauren xx

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