Up until this point all of the things covered in my “Covering the Basics” series are things you’ve heard of, even prior to embarking on your healthy hair journey. Shampooing and conditioning your hair are common practices that you’ve most likely been doing since birth. Where most people get a bit lost is during talk about moisturizing and sealing (M&S).
It is a fact that Black hair is the driest type of hair. A number of scientific studies have confirmed that not only is it dry but that its naturally coiled structure makes it difficult for natural oils (sebum) to travel down the hair shaft, contributing to the problem. Dry hair snaps and breaks making it impossible to retain length. So solving the dryness issue will lead to better retention and longer hair. Simple enough, right?
The ultimate moisturizer is water. Hair, skin, food, wood – just about anything that needs to be moistened – water is the best way to do it. Now think back to your elementary school days. I’m sure we all did the experiment where we left a cup of water out to demonstrate evaporation right? Now if you were to do the exact same experiment and add a layer of oil to the top, there would be little to no evaporation. In fact, one blogger did this experiment (check out this post - Healthy Hair by Ren) and sure enough the oil worked to effectively maintain the same amount of water. This is the principle behind moisturizing and sealing, you moisturize to prevent dryness and seal to maintain the moisture you just put in and prevent it from escaping. Again, a pretty simple concept, right? But as simple as it seems many of us were not familiar with this hair practice prior to our HHJs and trust me it makes a HUGE difference in the health and appearance of your hair, and in my opinion is one of the major “secrets” to length retention.
That should help you understand why water based moisturizers are the best for moisturizing your hair. When we say water based, we mean those that have water as the first or second ingredient (I prefer first) and also ingredients that aid in maintaining high amounts of water (humectants – glycerin, panthenol).
Sealing is to apply an oil (or sometimes a butter like shea, coconut or mango) following your moisturizer to help keep your strands moisturized and to lubricate your hair. I prefer natural oils to seal rather than commercially prepared ones. Some oils are heavier than others (olive & castor) and generally are thought to seal more effectively, but the tradeoff is that they can also weigh the hair down particularly if you have thin or fine hair. Other oils are lightweight but may have other properties that are beneficial to the hair such as ceramides (hemp, safflower, grapeseed oils) or the ability to penetrate the hair cuticle (coconut). My personal favorite is one that contains a mixture of most of my favorite oils conveniently packaged in a pump top bottle, Rapunzel’s Hair Silk. It saves me the effort of having to mix a bunch of my favorite oils and find storage for them until they are used.
How often you should moisturize and seal is an area of heavy debate. I used to moisturize and seal faithfully every single day, sometimes twice a day. Now that my hair has reached a certain level of health and I’ve found a great core group of products, I sometimes only do it every other day. I would suggest daily moisturizing and sealing when first beginning. The goal is not to only do it when your hair feels dry, but to do it regularly to prevent your hair from EVER feeling dry.
The next part will cover HOW to moisturize and seal and the products I personally use (which can also be found on my Hair Regimen tab).