The ques­tion — ‘I have very dry hair, will a mois­turis­er fix that?’

The answer to this ques­tion is yes and no. The effec­tive­ness of the mois­turis­er depends on the amount of prod­uct already on your hair, the ingre­di­ents of the mois­turis­er and your hair’s response.

Q: How much ‘dirt’ is on your hair?

If you have a rou­tine where you damp­en and oil your hair on a dai­ly basis, whether you see it or not, your hair is like­ly to be very oily. This oil lay­er coats the out­side of your hair and pre­vents water from access­ing the strand ful­ly. If you find that your hair is dry while fol­low­ing this rou­tine, a mois­turis­er may not work effec­tive­ly sim­ply because water in the prod­uct will remain out­side the hair blocked by the oil lay­er. In order to make the mois­turis­er effec­tive, you should clean off the hair with a gen­tle sham­poo or if co-wash­ing is effec­tive for you then it can also help.

Q: What is in the moisturiser?

Dif­fer­ent mois­turis­ers have dif­fer­ent ingre­di­ents but they can broad­ly be grouped into these main cat­e­gories for the pur­pose of mois­tur­is­ing

1. Water for mois­ture

2. Emol­lients to soft­en hair e.g cetyl alco­hol, stearyl alco­hol and cer­tain oils like shea but­ter

3. Humec­tants to increase the humid­i­ty at the hair sur­face e.g glyc­erin, aloe vera, hon­ey

4. Oils to lubri­cate the strand and to help seal in the mois­ture e.g coconut oil, shea but­ter, min­er­al oil and sil­i­cones

5. Amino acids and pro­teins — These also help hair to hold on to water and there­fore play a role in mois­ture e.g glu­tam­ic acid, hydroylsed silk and wheat pro­tein

6. Acid­i­fiers which help the prod­uct pH to a range between 4–6 e.g cit­ric acid and some fruit extracts.

Many com­mer­cial mois­turis­ers will con­tain all of these ingre­di­ents. The appear­ance of the prod­uct and the ingre­di­ent order (if cor­rect­ly labelled) will how­ev­er give you an indi­ca­tion of the quan­ti­ties.

Water based mois­turis­ers will tend to be clear and come in a spray bot­tle (e.g home­made mix­es of water and oil or dilut­ed con­di­tion­er, carol’s daugh­ter tui leave in) .

Emol­lient rich prod­ucts tend to be creamy and come in a pump action or pour out type bot­tle (e.g gio­van­ni direct leave in, herbal essences long term rela­tion­ship).

Humec­tant rich prod­ucts will tend to have a jel­ly like con­sis­ten­cy in appear­ance or if in creamy form may feel sticky if you do not add water (e.g curl acti­va­tor, kinky curly curl­ing cus­tard, eco styler gel) .

Oil rich prod­ucts also tend to be creamy but will tend to come in a scoop up con­tain­ers (e.g shea mois­ture curl enhanc­ing smooth­ie).

Q: How does your hair respond to the moisturiser?

The key to find­ing a good mois­turis­er lies in know­ing which prod­ucts have most effect on your hair and its envi­ron­ment. If your hair does not tend to care for deep con­di­tion­ing (there is little/no dif­fer­ence whether you use heat or not and whether you leave the con­di­tion­er on for 20 min­utes or  2 hours), you may find that your hair will respond bet­ter to humec­tant heavy con­di­tion­ers which cre­ate humid­i­ty around your hair shaft (exam­ples curl acti­va­tor, non dry­ing gels such as ecostyler). This is as opposed to con­di­tion­ers that attempt to soft­en hair (emol­lient rich) or dri­ve mois­ture into your hair (water rich). Your hair may be less respon­sive to these type of mois­turis­ers. How­ev­er, if you live in an area with dry air (low humid­i­ty), you may need to use a water rich mois­turis­er in addi­tion to make sure the humec­tant can work.

If you find that your hair has a ten­den­cy to become soft very quick­ly when you leave hair con­di­tion­er on it and also main­tain that soft­ness for a few days, then you may find water based, emol­lient and oil rich mois­turis­er may work for you (exam­ples home­made water oil mix­es, gio­van­ni direct, herbal essences long term rela­tion­ship). You may want to avoid humec­tant rich con­di­tion­ers as they may make your hair feel mushy or sticky espe­cial­ly if you live some­where humid.

Ladies, which mois­tur­iz­ers work best for you?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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30 Comments on "Dry Hair Solutions: How Moisturizers Work"

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I believe that you have to know the true rea­son your hair is dry before you can prop­er­ly address it. This arti­cle was help­ful for me so I’d like to share it with my fel­low nat­u­ral­is­tas.


[…] Black Girl Long Hair: Dry Hair Solu­tions: How Mois­tur­iz­ers Work […]
hel­lo there and thank you for your info – I’ve cer­tain­ly picked up some­thing new from right here. I did how­ev­er exper­tise sev­er­al tech­ni­cal points using this web­site, since I expe­ri­enced to reload the web site a lot of times pre­vi­ous to I could get it to load cor­rect­ly. I had been won­der­ing if your web host is OK? Not that I’m com­plain­ing, but slow load­ing instances times will very fre­quent­ly affect your place­ment in google and could dam­age your high-qual­i­ty score if adver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing with Adwords. Any­way I’m adding this RSS to my e-mail and could look out for much more of… Read more »

If you have dry hair then use sul­fate free sham­poo! Seri­ous­ly I changed over and it makes a HUGE dif­fer­ence. If you get sil­i­cone free con­di­tion­er then even bet­ter. I use every­thing by the Pro Nat­u­rals argan oil line and I real­ly real­ly rec­om­mend their stuff. Espe­cial­ly the leave in argan oil, total life­saver for dry hair.


What if hair is oily after you mois­tur­ize and seal?
Do you still mois­tur­ize and seal the next day?
I’ve heard that your sup­posed to do it every­day or every oth­er day, but my hair just gets so oily.
I usu­al­ly just moisturze and seal my hair after I wash it, and don’t do it again until I wash again wich is once every two weeks and some­times once a week.

Nina Day

No, that means you should find a lighter oil to seal with or use a tee­ny bit of oil. I per­son­al­ly nev­er real­ly got the point of seal­ing with oil. It nev­er worked for me no mat­ter how light the oil is. If your hair is actu­al­ly well mois­tur­ized, i would prob­a­bly switch to using less oil per sec­tion of hair

Can some­one help me out with this..I have low poros­i­ty, fine hair. My hair is like 3a, or b with the right prod­uct and a dif­fuser or plop. My hair is also extreme­ly long. The author men­tions that oils already coat­ing the shaft can block your hair from tak­ing in mois­ture. So, let’s say that I do not have time to co-wash my hair every day, and I don’t think many of us do, espe­cial­ly with longer hair, it’s a pain and prob­a­bly not rec­om­mend­ed. What would be a good way to bypass the pre­vi­ous appli­ca­tion of mois­tur­iz­er + oil,… Read more »

Hey! I real­ize this is some­what off-top­ic how­ev­er I need­ed to ask.
Does build­ing a well-estab­lished web­site like yours take a mas­sive amount work?

I’m com­plete­ly new to run­ning a blog how­ev­er I do write in my jour­nal on a dai­ly basis. I’d like to start a blog so I can eas­i­ly share my per­son­al expe­ri­ence and views online.
Please let me know if you have any rec­om­men­da­tions or tips for brand
new aspir­ing blog­gers. Thanky­ou!


I have anoth­er ques­tion about nat­ur­al hair. What is some good Deep con­di­tion­er, leave in con­di­tion­er, and sham­poo too? How can I tell what type of hair I have? I have a lot of ques­tion about nat­ur­al hair


I just went natural…and my hair is not dry, but I wan­na know what can I buy to keep it from get­ting dry? I’m using now organ­ics olive oil etc prod­uct. I have read about home­made product..not to sure about that just yet…I need some­thing I can get from the store. Some one help me.


i want to know how to prop­er­ly mois­turise my 4c extra coarse TWA, in braids, since its get­ting cold and i want to pro­tect it.

Cathey Poindexter-Taylor
Cathey Poindexter-Taylor

I find that my hair real­ly likes Emol­lients for Leave-Ins as well as Water-based con­di­tion­ers, while, it responds to humec­tants for styling prod­ucts.


The best nat­ur­al solu­tion for dry hair is ARGAN OIL. Seri­ous­ly, you guys have to try this. But make sure there’s no sil­i­cone in it, that will ruin the argan oil and weigh hair down. I got Pro Nat­u­rals moroc­can argan oil and it’s the best one I’ve used so far, I had to order it online from but it was worth the wait. My hair is real­ly smooth and healthy, has been since I start­ed with argan oil! :D


argan oil is fan­tas­tic, im using it every day too to seal my mois­ture in.. but don’t over­look that it is an oil / sealant and not a mois­tur­iz­er.


Can I use shea but­ter as a mois­tur­iz­er and seal it with olive oil or coconut oil?

Nina Day

Nope, but you can use aloe vera gel or rose­wa­ter as a mois­tur­iz­er then seal with shea but­ter. You can also just apply shea but­ter on damp hair after wash­ing your hair to seal in mois­ture




Has any­one used coconut oil mixed with she’s but­ter?

barbie 3000

I use can­tu coconut she­abut­ter prod­uct


I’m not nat­ur­al but I love this site :) I am some­one who does the afore­men­tioned rou­tine is spray­ing sec­tions of hair with water before apply­ing a mois­tur­iz­er and coconut oil, but here it is described as poten­tial­ly dirty­ing your hair (which I guess I can agree with as my hair does get smelli­er faster when I do this)…Is this then wrong to do? Should I rely on the mois­tur­iz­er and oil alone?

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My hair feels dry and tan­gled after use­ing emol­lients and humec­tants leave my hair greasy and heavy with no body. What can I use to help me enjoy wear­ing my nat­ur­al heair free and wild with­out fear of it dry­ing out quick or being weighed down by pud­dings?

Signed, Tired of curly pony­tails


My tight­ly coiled, afro-tex­tured hair likes water-based creamy mois­tur­iz­ers with glyc­erin and oils/butters.

Glyc­erin is the key to soft, pli­able hair for me–If it’s not in a prod­uct, it needs to be in a spritz or some­thing. I need oils/butters in my mois­tur­iz­ers because adding them full-stength to my stands leads to hard/greasy hair. Because of this, I only seal my ends and edges (w/ cas­tor oil).

Exam­ples of mois­tur­iz­ers my hair likes are Alba Botan­i­ca Leave-In Con­di­tion­er, Shea Mois­ture Curl & Style Milk and Shea Mois­ture Deep Treat­ment Masque.

My hair loves humec­tants and water based mois­turis­ers, but with water based mois­turis­ers I have to lay­er on a humec­tant oth­er­wise my hair will dry out. Of course I seal but with oils as my hair doesn’t like but­ters either. I love the feel of emol­lients but my hair hates them so I use them as con­di­tion­ers instead or mix a lit­tle into a humec­tant. It took a lot of trail and error before I final­ly fig­ured out what my hair want­ed. I start­ed treat­ing my hair with respect in Jan 2011 and that Sep­tem­ber I final­ly clicked that my… Read more »

I think the biggest mis­take that many new nat­ur­al make (that I made myself) is think­ing that you can use oil alone as a mois­tur­iz­er. I used to end up with greasy yet crunchy dry hair all the time and not know why. For mois­tur­iz­ers I like Kinky curly knot today, Bee mine hair milk, or Karen’s body beau­ti­ful hair milk.


I’m fair­ly new to the Nat­ur­al world and am scared that I do not mois­tur­ize my 4b hair well enough.
Often­times, I do not both­er to buy a mois­tur­iz­er and all I do is to damp­en my hair with water and seal it with shea but­ter. Is that suf­fi­cient to keep my hair mois­tur­ized?
And if so should I do that every day or rather every 2 days or some­thing?
Thanks in advance :)


Thank You very much ladies :)!
I guess I’ll just have to take a clos­er look on how my hair behaves in the com­ing weeks and might try out some­thing else if my hair still feels brit­tle.

The Natural Haven
San­dra all you need to ask your­self is 1. Does your hair feel brit­tle? 2. Does your hair break? If the answer to this is no, your rou­tine is per­fect­ly fine. Hair of African ori­gin can feel dry a few hours after it has been wet­ted but if your hair is not break­ing or if it is in a pro­tec­tive style which does not require the hair to be flex­i­ble then you have noth­ing to wor­ry about. This post is only in answer to the ques­tion of com­mer­cial mois­turis­ers. Some women have a lot of suc­cess with just water and oil or mak­ing… Read more »

Hi San­dra
That was me like 2 or 3 months ago. Like Amy said you have to try to make a reg­i­men that’s unique to you. It’s a jour­ney to find the per­fect prod­ucts that will make your hair feel the way you are hap­py with. I have read of ladies who use exact­ly the same reg­i­men as you — water and shea — and are hap­py. It might help you to exper­i­ment a bit, and not be too scared.

Hey San­dra, I know EXACTLY what you’re going through. But with all the prod­ucts and com­bi­na­tions of prod­ucts I have used, I have found that it is bet­ter to see the dif­fer­ence in your hair when you mois­tur­ize dai­ly, or every oth­er day. Rather than fol­low some­ones’ reg­i­men, I found that I need to mois­tur­ize every day in the warmer months, and every oth­er day in the cool­er months. Also when my hair is out,[ rather than a bun] I mois­tur­ize by spritz­ing my hair with water, AV juice, and an oil. Then I seal with a lit­tle more oil… Read more »