Dry hair is frustrating, and it can lead to breakage, but there are several reasons you might experience excessively dry hair. Natural hair leans toward being dry due to its tight curl pattern that hinders natural oils from easily making their way down the hair shaft. If your hair seems drier than usual, you can work to get moisture levels back up by giving your hair some extra love. You won't fix your dry hair overnight, but with time and with patience, you'll notice your hair getting softer and easier to style. We spoke to natural hair experts, who offered tips on how to restore it by following the following methods.
Meet the Expert
- Nigella Miller is an NYC-based natural hair and grooming expert with over 13 years of experience. She is also a member of Byrdie's Beauty & Wellness Review Board.
- Michelle O'Connor is the Artistic Director for Matrix.
Keep reading to learn how to add moisture back into dry natural hair.
Cut Back on Heat Styling
"Heat styling is extremely damaging as heat affects the hair cuticle and your natural elasticity, creating split ends and possibly permanent heat damage," says Miller of blow-dryers, flat irons, curling irons, and hot combs that can all cause dryness. "The most damaging is heat above 350 that doesn’t require any chemical services. I would highly recommend using low heat when heat styling, and, of course, use a heat protector."
O'Connor recommends Matrix Miracle Creator Multi-Tasking Hair Treatment, a leave-in conditioner, which has nourishing and heat-protecting properties thanks to sweet almond oil, leaving hair sleek and shiny.
Experiment with wet sets, wraps, and air-drying instead. If you can cut out all heat styling, your hair will recover much more quickly. Plus, you'll get to explore gentler options in styling that you might not have tried before.
If you think your hair is more damaged than dry, set up a consultation with a professional who can address the root of the problem.
Keep Your Natural Color
While hair color agrees with many people, sometimes it can disrupt moisture. According to O'Connor, the culprit is generally ammonia found in color products. Put that bleach on top of relaxers, and dry hair is sure to be the result.
"The natural oils your hair produces get stripped from your hair follicle, leaving your natural hair dry and more brittle than before," says Miller. "Coloring natural hair is a high maintenance hair choice that requires extra care to stay healthy and luxurious, but it’s still a damaging hair service."
Try sticking to rinses, which are gentler, or avoid color altogether until your hair is less dry. And when you do return to color, stick to shades that don't vary much from your natural hair color. The more you stray from your natural shade, the harsher the process is on your hair. If you must color, try a semi-permanent dye like Clairol's Professional Beautiful Collection Semi-Permanent Color. which contains aloe vera, jojoba, and vitamin E for long-lasting, deep conditioning results.
Wear Protective Styles
When you wear your hair out and it rubs against cotton clothing, wool hats, and wool sweaters, your ends take a beating. Because dry ends often split and break, you'll experience hair loss. "You don’t always have to wear a protective style if you are natural, however, braids and twists are always a winner," says O'Connor. Cornrows, topknots, buns, chignons, and French rolls are also options to keep your ends protected and less prone to dryness and breakage.
Protect Your Hair at Night
In addition to wearing protective styles during the day, it's important to protect your hair at night while you sleep. Satin caps and silk or satin pillowcases are much gentler on hair than cotton pillowcases or scarves. (Your hair glides against silky fabrics while it clings to cotton). Plus, cotton may suck moisture out of your hair, leading to, you guessed it, dryness.
Skip the Shampoo
Black hair does better if not shampooed daily. However, if you work out regularly or swim during the summer, you need to rinse perspiration, salt water, or chlorine out. "Don't wait too long between washes and use a co-wash for mid-week cleansing," says O'Connor. Conditioner washes are good in between shampoos for keeping your scalp and hair clean without over-drying your hair. Unwash Bio-Cleansing conditioner was rated a Byrdie top pick in our list of best cleansers.
It's very hard to over-condition Black hair, especially if you wear yours natural. Regular deep conditioning can restore the moisture levels you need. For excessively dry hair, deep condition once or twice per week. You don't need a hood dryer for this. Slather on a good deep conditioner, cover it with a plastic cap, and relax for a couple of hours. Wrap your head in a towel for additional heat to soften your hair. Any heat may help the conditioner penetrate your hair cuticles more effectively. Don't forget to apply a rinse-out conditioner after each shampoo and a leave-in conditioner after that.
"I cannot recommend Matrix A Curl Can Dream collection enough to my clients," says O'Connor of the collection, which features something for everyone to preserve natural and textured hair. "The Moisturizing Cream is infused with manuka honey extract to quench parched strands. After shampooing and conditioning, apply the moisturizing cream section by section to achieve beautifully defined and moisturized curls or coils."
Layer Your Products
If you have natural hair, you most likely have an arsenal of products to help care for it, which O'Connor says is key to retaining moisture.
"Layering products and topping off your strands with a lightweight oil on top of your styler will help prolong your moisturization," she says.
The steps to a good routine or hair regimen require products that add hydration to your hair, adds Miller.
"The type of products I would consider using to add moisture back into natural hair would be curly mousses, curl creams, and puddles, curly leave-ins, hydrating masks, and deep conditioners," she says.