The 9 Most Ineffective Ways to Moisturize Natural Hair

You’ve heard it before, over and over again — moisture is everything when it comes to natural hair health. Still, many naturals struggle with keeping their curls, kinks and coils well-moisturized. Perhaps you’re guilty of one of our 9 ineffective moisturizing practices. Check it out;

1. Moisturizing dirty hair/hair that has product buildup

The objective of moisturizing is to apply water-based product that penetrates the cuticle (outer layer) of the strand and infuse the cortex (inner layer) with water. If there is too much dirt or product on your cuticle, then there’s little chance that any moisturizing product you apply will make it to the cortex.

2. Using butters or oils as moisturizers

With the exception of a few oils, like coconut oil, that can penetrate the strand — oils and butters will sit on the OUTSIDE of your strand because they are SEALANTS, not moisturizers. Their purpose is to lock in moisture — not apply it. If your hair is feeling dry, and you apply a butter or oil, you are just weighing down dry hair, making it more brittle and susceptible to breakage.

3. Using water based products without sealing

Just like oils and butters aren’t effective as moisturizers, water-based products — and water itself! — isn’t effective at moisturizing unless it’s sealed in. Water quickly evaporate out of the cortex unless a sealing product is applied to the lock it in.

*Note: Spritzes are a great daily moisturizing solution as they contain water, which penetrates the cuticle, as well as oils, that seal the water in. While they aren’t heavy-duty enough to provide long-term moisturizing, they are great as a daily refresher, in between moisture and seal sessions.

4. Under-moisturizing

Just like your body can be thirsty way before your throat actually feels parched, natural hair can need moisture way before it feels crunchy and dry. Start by moisturizing your hair at least once a day. If, in the following hours, your hair feels wet and mushy, you can cut your moisturizing down to every other day. If it still feels dry, then you might need to up your moisturizing to twice daily.

5. Neglecting the re-moisturizing process after a shampoo

Shampooing is a bit of a paradox when it comes to moisturizing — you are dousing your hair with water, while also stripping your strands of dirt and natural oils that help lock in moisture. So, in a sense, your hair is getting dryer as it gets wetter. The squeaky, super dry feeling your hair has after a shampoo is lack of lubrication, and its critical that it be replaced. Be sure to deep condition after every shampoo and follow up with a moisturize & seal.

6. Using styling products as moisturizers

The primary purpose of styling products is NOT to improve the health of your hair. Just like the primary purpose of moisturizing products is NOT to sculpt and style your hair. There are some crossover products that can do both, but most will not. Liquid styling products might look tempting as a fill-in when you need a moisturizer but they might contain alcohols and mineral oil that will dry your hair out in the long run.

7. Focusing on roots instead of ends

Your ends are the driest part of your strands and most susceptible to breakage. The natural oils that your scalp secretes don’t travel down far enough to coat your ends, so it’s important that you are proactive in protecting them. Work moisturizing product into your hair from root to tip. Some naturals even limit their product application to the bottom 75% of their strands.

8. Over Moisturizing

Properly moisturized strands don’t feel soggy and wet, they feel supple and strong — even when they’re dry. Applying too much moisturizing and sealing product can leave your hair perpetually wet, making it difficult to style. Be even-handed with your product application. Not only will it make styling easier, but it will save your bed spread, couches, car seats, and anything else your hair comes into contact with.

9. Deep conditioning/steaming for hours

While there are a few treatments, like henna, that require long-term application, most deep conditioning treatments need 30 minutes or less. Many naturals feel that keeping treatments on overnight helps with softness and moisture, but an increasing number are realizing that 30 minutes (or whatever time the product instructions say) is just as effective as 8 hours. Keep in mind that the makers of your conditioner have tested the product, and know how much time it takes to be effective.

Are you guilty of anything on this list? What are some ineffective moisturizing practices that you’ve been guilty of?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, 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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226 thoughts on “The 9 Most Ineffective Ways to Moisturize Natural Hair

  1. I just spritz with water before bed and when I wake up. I bought a semi expensive sealant and don’t know what to do with it. The text has useful oils but they don’t penetrate my hair. I’ve tried many ways to use it but, I’m not satisfied. What about hair lotions? Most provide moisture but I’m not sure how to use it. Do I just apply that product? Do I apply that product and a sealant? Do I apply when it’s wet or dry? Confused….

    • I’m a bit confused by what you’re asking exactly. However, it sounds lik you’re doing everything correctly. Penetrating oils are still a typical oil except they just work their magic inside the hair shaft instead of on the outside. Trust me, if you’re using a pure penetrating oil such as coconut oil, olive oil, or avacado oil then it is penetrating your hair. You can’t see with your naked eye, but it is penetrating.

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  3. I have locs and for months I tried to figure out how to keep my mane moisturized. I finally discovered that miiing oils worked best for me.I now use a mixture of coconut and olive oil to keep my hair moisturized and happy. I also throw in a little Jamaican Black Castor Oil to thicken up the mix and help with growth. I pledged to never put anything on my hair that can’t be used on the rest of my body (except shampoo). All natural!

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  5. I have to disagree with #6. My Shea Moisture transitioning milk leaves my hair very soft moisturized after I’ve used it. Then again, I use it after I wash out my deep conditioner, so I may feel some of that in there as I’m applying the product.

    • I know this is old, but that is considered a water-based product. If you used NOTHING but just butters/oils in your hair alone then you are only coating the hair. Hair is like a plant – it needs plenty of water to thrive – to grow; stay moist and hydrated. And like soil, butters/oils is nourishment for the hair that keeps water in while helping the hair stay strong and prevent damage. Your product contains a lot more than just shea butter. Water is listed as the first ingredient in your product. Therefore, it is moisturizing your hair. Even conditioners have water listed as first ingredients. Therefore, water is the only true moisturizer.

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  7. I’m a little confused. So it is not enough to just moisturize, we need to seal it too? So, two different products? One for moisturizing and one for sealing the moisturizer ..

    • Exactly! You can use any oil you like and/or can afford as a sealant. You just moisturize with water or a water-based product then seal with an oil. If your hair is more on the rough/damaged end then apply a leave-in conditioner (you can dilute your go-to with water). But to honest, you can still retain length without a sealent too. Growing up, I had a lot of hair that came to my waist. My g-ma and I just kept my hair moisturize on a regular basis (maybe 2 to 3 times a day). Plus, it was kept in a protective style too (braided, plaited, twisted, or in a ponytail). And I didn’t mess with my hair often except to moisturize it. If . I got lazy with moisturizing it daily then I would do the baggy method twice every week at bed time. It is better to do the baggy method if you know you won’t be going anywhere because your hair will take awhile to air dry.

  8. I have 4c hair and live in Los Angeles. What is the best way to keep my hair moist during the dry months (when my hair tends to break/shed the most). I know the excessive shedding is from the climate and I just want to know what to do to keep it from falling out so much in the summer. When I was living in D.C. my hair thrived in the summer humidity and suffered in the cold winter months. Here in Cali it’s the opposite.

    Again, I have 4C HAIR and live in DRY SEASON/CLIMATE looking for a good MOISTURE RETENTION regiment. Thanks in advance :-)

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