6 Ways Moisture Impacts Hair Growth and Length Retention

By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom

One of my friends recently decided to become serious about her hair health. Her goals are to increase the fullness of her hair by minimising breakage and increase her length retention. She diligently did her reading up on the internet and came to me with questions about moisture. I realized on speaking to her that moisture can be a complete red herring for some naturals. There is the perception on natural sites that eliminating dry hair is the path to full and long healthy hair. I think that this is only a partial truth, there are certain aspects of handling natural hair where moisture has no role. This is my breakdown of what moisture can and cannot do.

1. Moisture will not help your hair to grow

This is perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about moisture. The level of water in your hair has no influence on hair growth. The growth rate of your hair is determined genetically and can be influenced by diet. In general even a poor diet will still allow your hair to grow at a normal rate, it is usually in starvation or deprivation of protein when your hair will slow down, stop growing or fall out. Having moisturised hair will not help your hair to grow faster.

2. Moisture can play a role in helping retain growth

The real role of moisture is in mitigating damage to hair during handling. This has a valuable role in ensuring that hair growth can be retained as less damage to the strand means that the hair can continue to be present for more years.

Handling hair is not restricted to just washing and combing, it is also crucial when styling both free hair and hair in a protective style (e.g braids and twists). A little bit of water helps to make hair more flexible allowing it to be manipulated without breaking. Dry hair will tend to snap easily even with gentle force, therefore moisture is important even in a protective style.

3. Moisture can help your hair look and feel better

I do not really need to explain this point too much. The look and feel of moisturised hair is much nicer than very dry hair which has a tendency to look dull and brittle.

4. You cannot eliminate dry hair

If your hair is naturally dry, it will always be dry because added moisture is temporary. For some naturals, hair can be dry as a result of using certain products e.g a drying shampoo and eliminating that product is able to restore moisture. However, the vast majority of people with natural hair, will tend to have naturally dry hair. The reason why the term moisture routine exists is because adding water to hair and keeping it around and in the shaft with oils and moisturisers is a task that has to be repeated several times as hair switches from its moisturised state to its default dry state. The only way to influence the level of water trapped inside your hair or on its surface without physically adding water to it is to change the external environment – i.e high humidity = moisture heaven.

5. Moisture and shrinkage go hand in hand

If your goal is to showcase as much length as possible or if you are aiming to stretch your hair, you have to bear in mind that added moisture brings in shrinkage. Some styles require that you use less moisture for example if you are maintaining a heat straightened style or some naturals who wear twists as a protective style, may find it easier to maintain the style for longer and reduce meshing/ matting by reducing shrinkage due to frequent water addition.

6. Moisture routines vary

There is no set formula for maintaining moisturised hair. There is no rule book that you have to apply water, oil or a moisturiser every day or every other day. For some naturals, it is sufficient to shampoo, condition and apply a leave in once a week. For other naturals, it is a routine involving misting hair once or twice a day and using an oil or butter to help maintain the moisture for longer. For others it is a rotation between shampooing and conditioner washing. In other words, a moisture routine has to be individual and you have to experiment to find the products, washing and moisturising routines as well as frequency that work best for your hair.

Ladies, do these 6 facts ring true for you? How does moisture play a role in your regimen?

The Natural Haven

The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!


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24 thoughts on “6 Ways Moisture Impacts Hair Growth and Length Retention

  1. It plays a big role. I have just learned that after 8 years of being natural. This is the first time I am acutally trying to grow it out know so I have to keep it moisturized. I ususally use water and then shae butter to seal the moisture in.

  2. I used to be obsessed with my hair — literally. I added moisture (with water and a leave in) every other day, washed and twisted every Sunday, etc.

    Now that it has reached a certain length, I’ve begun to slack off. And, my main method of slackery is to not moisturize it. I’ve gone the last 2-3 months without doing my added-moisture+leave-in routine. And, my hair has definitely suffered. It’s crunchier, drier, duller, and any other -er you can think of.

    This week, I got back on the wagon and started adding water to my hair and then sealing with my moisturizer!! And, it did a world of wonder!! It definitely made it look & feel better.

  3. This article couldn’t have come more on time. I happened to find it as I was rubbing coconut oil between my yarn braids. For the moment my moisture routine is spray with a water/condish mist, moisturize w/ coconut oil and alternating sealing with castor oil and aloe vera gel.
    When not in yarn braids, it gets much more complicated lol.

  4. Moisture has played a big part in length retention for my hair. I stopped using shampoo and I spray water on my hair and seal with oil or shea butter everyday. I usually wear my hair in twists and twistouts. Also, my hair is much shiner since I gave up shampoo. My hair also blows in the wind now and isn’t so stiff :)

  5. I think the points made are very true, I’ve accepted that my hair is naturally dry and will never look glossy and shiny like in the magazines. When I used to “water” my hair everyday it was not happy and the shrinkage was awful I found it very difficult to style my hair.

    So, I used to be mad on moisturising my hair but now I just let it do it’s own thing. I usually find that if when I wash it I give it a good deep condition then I don’t need to moisurise it until the third day. So I wash on Monday I moisturise on Wednesday then Friday and on Sunday will apply my coconut oil prepoo. I always moisturise at night my hair seems to like it better.

    I also find if I don’t manipulate my hair too much, leave it in protective styles and sleep with a charmeuse scarf I don’t have to moisturise it too much.

    I usually spritz with a herbal hair tea then apply a little of my Kimmay Leave in conditioner at night, plait/twists and scarf and that keeps me going. I’ve also made a body cream and after I moisturise my body I’ll smooth anything left on my hands onto my hair especially those pesky dry edges.

    I don’t know if my drinking 2 litres of water a day has anything to do with not having to moisturise my hair everyday anymore.
    When I first started to properly look after my hair I’d drench my poor hair in homemade oil concoctions it was so nasty, glad I’ve discovered how to Keep It Simple.
    I don’t baggy or do any of the other extra methods suggested on black hair websites.

  6. Everything in this post rings true for my hair.

    I wash and style my hair every 5-7 days so I moisturize about once every 5-7 days. I always moisturize before I transition my hair style from a braid-out to a puff or bun.

    For me moisturizing it using a water-based, oil/butter-rich cream on damp hair (Example: Shea Moisture Deep Treatment Masque). With that said, no amount of spritz, moisturizer and/or oil/butter will revive my hair if it is in need of a wash. Washing and conditioning on a regular basis is the foundation of my hair’s moisture.

    I also find that keeping my hair well-moisturized and handling it gently keep breakage at a minimum.

  7. All of the research I’ve done, including consulting a nutritionist, disagrees with this post. My experience with my own hair does as well.

    • When I was iron deficient my hair stopped growing. Some of it then fell out and I had noticeable bald patches.

      3 months after I was ill and had surgery my hair fell out.

      When I was severely vitamin D deficient my hair stopped growing.

      Research has shown I’m not unique in this as it happens to people of all hair types. So if your hair isn’t growing and you haven’t been I’ll get your iron and vitamin D level tested.

  8. My hair is naturally very dry & extremely tight coiled like the spring In ball point pens. I have to wash at least every 7 days as my hair is very porous, more if I exercise a lot in the week. During the week I’ve now realised a water spritz & castor oil application before re twisting works to replace moisture & curl. Miss Jessie’s Buttercreme works best to retain moisture but I’d need a tub a month if use twice a week minimum. Whereas my friend has stopped washing her hair and it remains soft without oils, etc.

  9. When I use oil and water as moisturiser, my hair looks amazing but I get shrinkage. When I use oil straight-up (either coconut, or olive, or brand-names like ‘Africa’s Best’ and the like) my curl pattern loosens up like nobody’s business, you wouldn’t believe it’s the same hair…I don’t believe that it’s MY hair!!!! My hair still looks amazing BUT plain oil tends to be sweated out faster and the amazing results are usually short-lived.

  10. Well, Good article but I beg to differ with some points. It’s a well written article but it’s a bit to ‘harsh’. I got a bit discouraged when I read your article. #thinking. Living in South Africa, water is a MUST. If u say water doesnt grow hair, and I stop spritzing my hair with water, my hair would be fried by the sun because its quickly evaporated. So i don’t look much for length (since you say water causes shtinkage. True, but going natural , one has to expect that). Oh well, keep up your flawless work. I’ll keep spritzing my hair with water and sealing either way.

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  12. One very important factor that is listed in the article that most people don’t like to hear…is. “Genetics.” I have long said that genetics plays a key role in hair growth, hair loss, receeding hairlines, the works. It doesn’t negate the fact that healthy hair care regimens can still grown hair, but it is still very true. I look at a lot of the videos on youtube and women growing their hair and most are very steadfast on their views that genetics had nothing to do with their hair growth. Then how do Indian women have hair to their waist by age 9? Or brazilian women have naturally curly satin brown or deep chocolate brown hair down their backs?

    Yes there are a lot of tips in this article that african american women utilize daily and some with very good progress, but I just want to take note that your genes are passed on through your parents. My mothers hair has been mid-back length at the longest, just as my hair has been. I permed my hair 10 years ago and never did it again. My hair sits on my shoulders with very little growth each year. I have normal shedding.

    • se as brasileiras ou indianas tem cabelos compridos e porque elas sabem como cuidar deles e nos as africanos temos um tipo de cabelo diferente. tambem ha negras em africa com cabelos bem longos… as negras tem que aprender a cuidar dos seus cabelos individualmente e ver o que funciona melhor e devo dizer que a genetica nada tem a ver so te diz a cor dos teus cabelo o tipo de cabelo que iras ter mas nunca te diz se iras ter o cabelo comprido ou curto…. e as vezes essas brasileiras e indianas que ves tem o cabelo comprido sim mas tambem esta uma porcaria ou bastante danificado porque muitas delas tambem nao sabem cuidar dos seus cabelos… deixem de se inferiorizar perante outras raças ok sejam voces mesmas…e quanto e essa coisa da hidrataçao eu prefiro a escola antiga: usar o meu azeite e a minha pomada dax preto e o meu cabelo anda sempre suave e macio e sempre maliavel tenho muito boa retençao de cabelos e sao bem saudaveis e fortes nao uso agua porque o meu cabelo nao gosta e porque encolhe muito e sou do tipo puro 4c cabelo

      • google translation-whether Brazilian or Indian has long hair and because they know how to take care of them and the Africans have a different kind of hair. also black ha in Africa with very long black hair … the have to learn to take care of their hair individually and see what works best and I must say that genetics has nothing to do so tells you the color of your hair the kind of hair iRAs have but never tells you if anger have long or short hair …. and sometimes these Brazilian and Indian ves who has long hair but also yes this crap or severely damaged because many of them also do not know to take care of her hair … cease to degrade before other races ok you guys are the same … and as this thing and the hydration I prefer the old school: use my oil and my ointment dax black and my hair’s always smooth and soft and always maliavel have very good retention of hair and are very healthy and strong not use water because my hair does not like and why shrinks a lot and I am the pure type 4c hair

  13. I was surprised to see people disagreeing with the posting and stating that water “grows” their hair. My hair is definitely healthier when I water it often, co-wash and seal with olive oil. I’m able to retain more length. The only thing that seems to affect the rate of growth is what goes inside of my body. I have to add iron to maintain a normal rate (great for my eyebrows, too!) and biotin/protein, fish oil and greens seem to help. Perhaps drinking water helps. But how could something applied topically affect the rate of growth instead of the amount of retention?

  14. Moisture is very important to hair growth. I was wearing a weave, and my hair was braided. I washed my hair every two weeks braided, and put the weave back in. After six months I took the braids out to wash and re braid and my hair was the same length of the weave. Shampoo and conditioner was the key to my hair growth.

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