When I started my natural hair journey, I quickly learned the importance of moisture. However, I later learned that moisture isn't linear for everyone's hair. Moisture-related education and messaging are usually geared towards looser curls being weighed down with product and tighter curls being stiffened by them. Ultimately, finding the right products and levels of moisture for your hair comes down to understanding your hair's needs and what methods and ingredients work best for you.
To help better understand how to moisturize your natural curls, we spoke to Ana Carolina Nogueira, Ph.D. and Maui Moisture's Global Research and Development Associate Director, who broke down everything you need to know about keeping your curls hydrated, and what to look for in products.
Meet the Expert
Ana Carolina Nogueira, Ph.D. is Maui Moisture's Global Research and Development Associate Director. She is based in New York, New York.
Why is moisture so important for curly hair?
Moisture is essential for all hair types, but it's vital for curly hair types that are drier by nature and more prone to breakage. "Overall, curly hair is more porous and contains fewer lipids than straight hair," Nogueira says. "Lipids are compounds naturally present in human hair and play an important role in keeping hair naturally moisturized." When curly hair is moisturized, strands appear shinier, more defined, and less frizzy.
Nogueira says that products play an essential role in hydrating, in addition to adequately moisturizing your hair with water. "By applying adequate cosmetic products, it is possible to deposit ingredients on hair that keep it moisturized, helping strengthen the fibers and keep it protected from damage," she says.
What are some common misconceptions about moisture and curly hair?
While products can aid in adding and maintaining moisture in curly hair, using more of them doesn't necessarily mean your hair will be more hydrated. "Excessive usage of moisturizing products can lead to an over-conditioned hair that becomes very vulnerable to breakage, also known as hygral fatigue," Nogueira explains. "It's important to apply moisturizing products that don't weigh down curly hair; the products must provide curl definition without leaving hair with a wet appearance." Ultimately, Nogueira stresses using gentle products to avoid fractioning fibers when washing and styling your hair.
How do products play a role in moisture retention?
Maintaining moisturized hair is creating a balanced selection of products that are equally nourishing and gentle to your strands. "For curly hair, it's important that the hair is washed with a gentle formula to keep the hair clean without stripping moisture from hair and scalp," Nogueira says. "Maui Moisture formulas were designed to balance cleansing and moisture retention depending on the different hair needs." In addition to gentle cleansing products, Maui Moisture also offers a range of styling products that provide moisture and definition.
When picking out the best products, Nogueira suggests looking for ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, and coconut oil, which form a protective layer on curls to lock in hydration. She also recommends looking for gentle, sulfate-free cleansers that won't strip hair of natural oils. Maui Moisture's Curl Quench and Coconut Oil Shampoo ($7) has aloe vera, coconut oil, and papaya extract to detangle, hydrate, and define curls before you leave the sink or shower. You can follow up with extra hydration by detangling with Maui Moisture Coconut Milk Combing Cream ($8), which adds nice slip, shine, and definition to curls.
Do you need different products based on your curl type?
It's important to note that hydration isn't the same for all curl types. Some people might need more moisture more frequently, while others may be able to go more extended periods without replenishing strands. Porosity, which is your hair's ability to retain or repel moisture, plays a massive role in your moisture needs. "Slightly curly hair may be less porous than coily hair, which means that wavier hair can be treated with less moisturizing products than coily textures," Nogueira explains. "It's also important to consider habits like washing, styling, and chemical (or heat) treatments."
Ultimately, it's important to remember that hair care isn't one-size-fits-all. Many factors, including your styling habits, lifestyle, and even climate, can impact your hair's moisturization. Still, building a routine of products packed with nourishing ingredients, like aloe vera, will help your hair look and feel its best.