Regardless of hair type, dry, brittle hair comes for most of us at some point in our lives. It’s a huge bummer and can be perplexing to manage if you’ve never dealt with it before. Luckily, healthy and hydrated hair is possible for everyone, even if it does take a bit of troubleshooting and extra TLC. Trust me—learning how to moisturize hair is worth it. No one should have to live with hair that isn’t looking and feeling its best!
Turns out, there are many different reasons why your tresses may be drier than usual—everything from genetics to the weather can play a part. But once you find the best treatments and products for your hair type, you’ll be on the road to happy, moisturized hair.
To answer the question of how to moisturize hair, we tapped a couple of pros: Devin Graciano, hair stylist and Head of Product Development at Goldie Locks, hairstylist and curl expert, April Kayganich, and Mane Addicts hairstylist, Brittany Sully. They had a lot to say about the causes of dry hair, as well as how to moisturize hair regardless of hair type. Read on for their expert insights!
Featured image by Belathée Photography.
What causes dry hair?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. According to Kayganich, there can be multiple causes of dry hair. Genetics, hormones, and even the environment you live in can all be a factor. And did you know that both dry and humid climates can zap hair of its moisture depending on your hair texture or porosity? Yup, we can’t win!
Graciano breaks down the science, citing the hair’s cuticle as being the key player in taking and sealing in hydration. “Anytime our cuticle layer is exposed to natural and chemical compositions, it’s affecting your hair and many times will start to expose or lift layers of our cuticle causing hydration to slip away.”
Using the wrong products also plays a part. Low-quality ingredients like alcohols or silicones that aren’t water-soluble can contribute to dry, brittle hair. Sully also noted that sun exposure and swimming in chlorinated water can cause dry hair.
Newly graying hair can also be a cause for dry hair! You can embrace it or you can dye it, and there are plenty of amazing products to keep hair healthy, shiny, and smooth regardless. Luckily, using hydrating shampoos and masks makes a huge difference with gray hair.
How can we keep our strands and scalp moisturized when air drying hair?
While we love the look of a fresh blowout, in the summer heat, spending quality time with your hair dryer sounds less than ideal. While we’re all for giving our strands a break from heat-styling tools, Graciano emphasizes the importance of removing “most of the water with a quick blowout” to support scalp health. This, she says, strengthens “the hydro and salt bonds in our hair.”
Graciano’s Tips for How to Moisturize (Mostly) Air-Dried Hair
- Add a hydrating leave-in conditioner (for those with unruly or frizz prone hair, try a few pumps of Goldie Locks Signature Hair Serum on towel-dried hair).
- Comb or brush through for even distribution.
- Gently blow out excess water with a blow dryer on low-mid heat and mid-strength. Focus on getting the hair near the scalp mostly dry.
- For those wanting to go out on the town looking their best with an air dry—the trick is to polish the ends of the hair and the front hairline. Focus a blow dry with a round brush on the tips of the hair and around the front hairline while allowing everything else to dry au natural.
12 Expert Tips for How to Moisturize Hair
Use regular hair masks
Ultra-hydrating hair masks help to nourish, moisturize, strengthen, and protect hair. “Invest in a hydrating hair mask that you can supplement in lieu of your daily conditioner,” says Graciano. She recommends using a mask no more than once a week to help your hair develop a healthier, shinier, and softer texture.
Wet your hair before swimming
If you’re planning on taking a dip in the pool, Sully reminds us to try wetting the hair first so that it’s already saturated before getting in. This way, it isn’t able to absorb the chlorinated water. Not only does chlorine lead to dry hair, but it also affects hair color.
Use hot oil treatments
In general, hot oil treatments are great for your hair, but you’ll definitely want to check them out if you’re dealing with dry hair. Hot oil treatments not only reduce dryness of both the scalp and hair, but they increase hair strength, reduce frizz, and prevent split ends.
Ditch shampoos with sulfates
Sulfates can potentially damage the hair, stripping it of its natural moisture and proteins, causing irritated, itchy skin and dryness. Luckily, most brands have sulfate-free options these days. On the topic of shampoo, Graciano also encourages opting for a protein-free shampoo. “Protein is selfish and thrives to strengthen your inner hair strands but it only works well after it eliminates hydration and moisture,” she notes.
Avoid products with alcohol
Those with curly tresses especially want to keep away from drying alcohols like isopropyl and ethyl alcohol, warns Kayganich. They can actually cause changes in your curl patterns.
Wear a Hat
An easy, but effective tip. If you’re already wearing one as a part of your skin’s suncare routine, then this is a win-win. Graciano loves incorporating hats into her hair-protecting wardrobe to keep strands hydrated and fresh. “While hair products can provide UV protection, it is even better to add the accessory of a hat adding a layer of protection.”
Don’t over-process hair
Invest in a great stylist if you want to go lighter or dye your hair—it’s worth it to go to a professional who won’t over-process and damage your hair. Graciano adds a word of caution: go easy on the hair lightening. “For those persistent to get blonde, take it slow and through a few appointments rather than an 8 hr+ appointment in one day.” She notes that the chemicals used in these treatments dehydrate hair, creating an “escape route for your hair’s moisture.”
Avoid heat styling
We all know that excess heat styling dries your hair out, but if you can’t get around it, Kayganich recommends investing in a good hairdryer and heat protectant.
wet hair thoroughly before adding styling product
If you’re rocking waves, curls, or coils, Kayganich recommends making sure that the hair is saturated with water before you begin adding styling products. In her opinion, water is the best thing you can add to curly and wavy hair since it’s where they get their moisture.
Kayganich explains that since silicones aren’t water-soluble, they merely create the illusion of shiny, healthy hair. They actually coat the hair and have to be removed with sulfates, which, you guessed it, dries out hair.
Cut back on washes
By now we know that most people (regardless of hair type) should not be washing their hair every day. Kayganich stresses that those who struggle with dry hair should really only wash it once a week, twice max. Sully suggests rinsing the hair or co-washing in between your wash days for a refresh that won’t strip your hair of its natural oils.
Add a Leave-In Conditioner To Your Routine
“These products are true heroes in balancing your hair’s pH and ensuring you have a light protective cast of hydration penetrating your strands throughout the day,” says Graciano.
16 Best Products For Moisturizing Hair
This post was originally published on July 14, 2021, and has since been updated.