Curly hair has no greater love than moisture. A good hair moisturizer is what helps it thrive and keeps it bouncy, defined, and smooth. Your scalp is an extension of your skin, which needs water for sheer survival.
Naturally, the hairs that grow from it benefit when properly hydrated as well. But maintaining moisturized hair isn’t always easy. In general, curls have a hard time holding moisture, making dry hair a consistent concern. Hair porosity plays a big role in this, but there are lots of other factors, like the curl pattern itself, styling habits, and environmental exposure—just to name a few—that can really suck both the moisture and life out of your curls.

The good news is, much like skin, replenishing moisture in your hair isn’t that difficult. You probably have many questions on why your hair is dry and what you can do about it, and we’re here to help. Below, learn about how to moisturize natural hair with the right techniques and which are the best natural hair moisturizers for curly hair.

Why Is My Natural Hair So Dry?

It’s hard to talk about moisturizing hair without going into why hair needs that moisture in the first place. If you’ve been wondering, “Why is my natural hair so dry?,” let’s break it down.

There are a few reasons why natural hair gets dry. For starters, it’s just the way curls grow. The natural shape of a curl makes it tricky for the natural oils that your scalp produces to work their way down each hair shaft. Generally, on straighter hair, this is what keeps it moisturized.

On the flip side, some people with curly hair may find that they have moisturized roots, but really dry hair from the mid-shaft to the ends. If you ever blow-dry your curls straight, you may notice that your hair gets greasy faster, and this could be why.

Another one of the more common reasons for dry hair is washing it with water that’s too hot. You know how skin reacts during the winter when most people like to luxuriate in hot showers and baths? Well, your hair reacts the exact same way. Shampooing with anything more than lukewarm water causes the cuticle to open, and when that happens, it’s like a leaky faucet—any moisture you’ve stored up in there is going to escape. If you don’t put that moisture back and then seal it in with a natural hair moisturizer, you’ll find yourself in a constant cycle of dryness.

There’s also the porosity consideration. Your hair’s porosity is determined by how well it holds in moisture. Think of it like a piece of fabric. Depending on how permeable the fabric is, moisture can either flow through it or sit on top. In hair, porosity depends greatly on the state of the cuticle. On healthy hair, the cuticle opens to let moisture in and then seals back up to keep it there. A compromised cuticle might not open at all, or if it does open, it may have a hard time sealing shut. If you’re on one either end of the porosity spectrum, experiencing dry hair is likely.

What Is Hair Moisturizer?

Have you ever asked, “How can I hydrate my hair?” Good news, we know the answer: hair moisturizer. Hair moisturizer is to curls what lotion is to skin. In the same way that certain skincare ingredients like humectants attract water to skin when it’s thirsty, natural hair care products do just that for curls. Natural hair moisturizers can come in various forms, with some of the best ones being oils, serums, hair creams, butters, and leave-in conditioners. While they can offer a multitude of benefits, it’s really all about boosting moisture—and locking it in.

What Are The Best Ingredients To Moisturize My Natural Hair?

The best hair moisturizers are made up of two parts: a hydrating component that uses moisture attracting ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and panthenol to go deep into each cuticle, then a sealant like a non-penetrating hair oil such as castor or jojoba oil that both smooths the cuticle and helps seals it shut.

Humectants are what draw moisture into hair, whether it’s from the environment on a humid day or your shower as you wash. In addition to hyaluronic acid and glycerin, honey, aloe vera, and agave nectar are also humectants. While both honey and aloe effectively attract moisture to the hair, the naturally thicker viscosity of honey makes it one of the best moisturizers for 4C hair, while aloe is the better choice for fine curls. You can certainly use both, it’s all a matter of personal preference—do a test run to see how your hair takes to certain ingredients. In addition to humectants, certain oils like grapeseed, olive, and almond oils can actually penetrate the hair shaft to help impart moisture.

Adding these ingredients to your wash and styling routine can help make your hair more supple and add elasticity to each strand so that it’s less prone to snapping and breaking.

What Is The Best Natural Moisturizer For Hair?

If you’ve come to the realization that your curly hair care routine is lacking moisturizer for your hair, we’re prepared to help you stock your shower and vanity with the best hair moisturizers for natural hair. Here, find seven must-have dry hair treatments and moisturizers.

Monoi (Repair + Moisture Star Strength Leave-In Cream: Leave-ins are one of the best product types for upping your hair’s moisture levels, and this one is no exception. Formulated with glycerin and coconut oil, the hair moisturizer helps hydrate, soften, and strengthen curls, coils, kinks, and waves.

Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Leave-In Conditioner: This lightweight formula delivers long-lasting hydration and shiny definition for moisturized hair that has plenty of bounce and sheen.

Hair Milk 4-in-1 Combing Creme: Dry, tangled hair is a nuisance that this combing creme can help solve. The formula instantly detangles and deeply moisturizes to make hair more manageable.

Black Vanilla 4-in1 Combing Creme: Another deeply nourishing option, this natural hair moisturizer helps strengthen and add moisture while it untangles your trickiest knots.

Coco Creme Curl Perfecting Water Coco Mist Spray: Use this lightweight, coconut water-, mango-, and papaya-infused moisturizer to rehydrate hair in between washes.

Hair Milk Curl Defining Butter: This curl-enhancing styling butter helps moisturize curls while providing lasting definition.

Monoi (Repair + Protect) Multi-Styling Milk: Last but not least, this multi-purpose hair moisturizer repairs, primes, protects, and moisturizes, making it a perfect everyday product.

How to Moisturize Natural Hair

Once you have your products in place, you may still be wondering, “How do I hydrate and moisturize my hair?” Keep in mind that hair moisturizing starts at the beginning of your shower. So, gather up all your wash day goods, and prepare to layer on the moisture.

Step 1. Shampoo smartly: Many, but not all, shampoos contain moisturizing ingredients. Pick one that does and be sure to use sulfate-free shampoos on natural hair. There are strong detergents in some shampoos, and these formulas can be overly harsh on hair and strip it of natural oils and moisture, which is the opposite of your goal here.

The water you wash with is also important. You can use slightly warmer H2O to shampoo, but you don’t want it to be hot. Massage your moisturizing shampoo—we love the Coco Crème Sulfate Free Shampoo—into your roots, then in a downward motion throughout the length of your hair.

Step 2. Replenish and seal: Once your strands are clean, a moisturizing conditioner can help put back any moisture that may have been lost during the washing process. Stick with a repairing and moisturizing conditioner that coordinates with your shampoo, like the Coco Crème Creamy Conditioner.

This is also the right step to detangle your hair. Finger combing to remove any knots is best, as it will help reduce breakage, and you can also use your hands to smooth down the cuticle. Don’t forget about your edges when moisturizing, either. Baby hairs can get dry and break, too! Try an anti-breakage spray around your hairline to protect those fragile strands.

Step 3. Use a leave-in: Leave-in conditioners are like the icing on a cake; they add another layer of replenishing moisture with penetrating ingredients and extra sealing power. Leave-ins are an important step because you don’t wash them out. There’s a chance that when you rinse a regular moisturizing conditioner out, you’re also getting rid of some of those nutrients that didn’t fully serve their purpose. Leave-ins can help top off what was lost.

Step 4. Supplement where needed: This is where you can use more of the best hair moisturizers we told you about before. Allow them to fill in for whatever your strands still need by opting for a serum, oil, styling spray, or detangler to get the job done.

The best hair moisturizer for you to reach for in this step will depend on your curl type. If your hair is more coily, like 4A, 4B, or 4C, you may need a richer supplemental moisturizer. Alternatively, if you have highly porous hair, you may want something a little lighter that won’t weigh your hair down. Much of it depends on what your mane needs, but how it feels on your hair also matters.

Can You Moisturize Natural Hair With Just Water?

While water is the gold standard for moisture, there are a few reasons why it’s not always enough to sustain moisturized hair. For starters, you’ll need a lot of it, and chances are you’ll have to re-wet your hair every few days to keep it hydrated. In addition to your hair porosity being a contributing factor in the moisture retention equation, you need ingredients that will help hold moisture in each strand.

Once moisture has absorbed into your hair from water, you’ll need to gather the right ingredients to seal it all in. Hair oils are an easy option to help retain moisture, but these should be picked, again, based on your hair texture. Finer hair may have a hard time maintaining bounce and volume with a denser oil like castor, but a lighter weight coconut oil not only hydrates, but also helps seal in some of the gaps that more porous hair has so that moisture doesn’t escape as easily.

How Often Should I Moisturize My Hair?

With curls, there’s no such thing as too much moisture—you can moisturize your hair daily, depending on what you choose to use. As mentioned, some scalp moisturizers are heavier than others, so daily use can weigh hair down, even if your hair needs it. Since you won’t be doing the moisturizing routine mentioned above daily, it may be a good idea to reserve a heavier dry hair treatment for wash day when you’re conditioning, deep treating, and putting your strands into new curly hairstyles with twists and flexi-rod sets. A lighter scalp moisturizer, like a hair serum, can be applied more often.

5 Quick Fixes For Dry Hair

While building a hair moisturizing routine is important, we know a few quick natural hair moisturizing tips you can also try. For a quick dose of moisture, try one of these:

1. Do a steam treatment: Treat your hair by applying a deep conditioner and covering your mane with either a steam cap or a regular shower cap in a steamy bathroom. The steam will help open the cuticle so that the hair treatment can quickly absorb into your hair and pump moisture back in.

2. Use curl refreshers: If your curls feel limp and crunchy just a few days into your twist out or wash ‘n go, try reviving them with a moisturizing refresher spray. You can either saturate your hair with it and then re-twist, letting it dry overnight, or you can spray, use your fingers to recoil any pieces of hair that have lost their shape, then let them air dry. The moisturizers in these sprays help plump hair back up, which is a must.

3. Change out your bedding: If you’re not using a bonnet to sleep, the material of your bedding may be drying out your hair. Satin pillowcases have become a standard for helping to prevent hair from getting dry or frizzy. Other materials soak up the oils on your hair and cause friction that disrupts the cuticle and lets moisture out.

4. Don’t forget a leave-in: It’s easy to go right from your shower to your styling, but it’s important to add a layer of moisture between those two steps. The easiest way to remember is to follow the L.O.C. method of applying your products where you layer a leave-in conditioner under an oil, and then top both off with a cream. Using a leave-in is also the answer to another common question: “How can I make my hair super soft?” A leave-in will give hair the moisture it needs to keep dryness and frizz at bay.

5. Stick with protective styling: Now that you’ve sorted out the products that you need to moisturize your curly hair, you can think about styling, too. Consider giving your hair a hydration reset with a protective style. Load on a repairing hair mask, and then put your hair into braids or twists to give the hydrators time to settle in. Try this style switch-up between seasons when your hair may be feeling drier than usual.

Next up: As we shared our hair and scalp moisturizer recommendations, you may have noticed monoi oil make an appearance more than once. That’s because it’s another one of the best moisturizing ingredients for hair. For more of its uses, check out our article: The Monoi Oil Benefits You Need to Know About.

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