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—it’s worth it. No one should have to live with hair that isn’t looking and feeling its best, which is why we’re doing a deep dive on how to moisturize dry hair.
It 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. You may have to contend with a slightly more high-maintenance hair routine than you’re currently used to, but in the end, you’ll be glad you went the extra mile.
To get to the bottom of how to moisturize hair, we tapped a couple of pros: 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 dry hair regardless of hair type. Read on for their expert insights!
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!
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. Hair with low porosity is also an issue since it lacks moisture as a result of the structure of the cuticle. However, it’s not always genetic—colored hair is more porous and can’t hold onto moisture as easily as non-colored hair.
Sully also noted that sun exposure and swimming in chlorinated water can cause dry hair. Keeping a hat handy when you’re out in the sun and taking extra care when swimming can make a huge difference in the quality of your hair, too.
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.
10 expert tips for how to moisturize hair:
Use regular hair masques
Ultra-hydrating hair masks help to nourish, moisturize, strengthen, and protect hair. Use them a couple of times a week and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your hair develops 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.
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.
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.
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.
Add plenty of water to the hair 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.
Image courtesy of SIDIA.
Read on for our experts’ favorite products for moisturizing dry hair:
Kayganich loves this serum because it locks in moisture (aka water!)
If you’re new to the wonders of Olaplex, start here. It’s a clinically proven treatment system that fortifies and restores all types of damaged hair.
This non-sudsing cleanser also hydrates the hair, so you don’t need to condition it separately. Kayganich explains that it helps to keep the pH balance of the hair while working with its natural oils.
If you must use heat styling tools, then check out this lightweight, silicone-free heat protectant cream. It not only effectively protects against heat up to 450°F, but it also minimizes frizz, smoothes hair, and boosts shine.
The only at-home treatments that Kayganich recommends are Olaplex treatments. They are disulfide bond builders that give the hair integrity, moisturize, and strengthen the entire cuticle.
If you’re worried about sun exposure, check out this leave-on milk. It’s enriched with UV protective filters that keep color safe and hair hydrated, soft, and light.
Nourish your hair with this multipurpose hair oil. It’s made with sustainably sourced Mirsalehi honey, which is a natural humectant that restores hair’s natural balance and leaves it soft, smooth, and moisturized.
Repair and renew dry, coarse hair with this deeply penetrating and hydrating oil.
Another great leave-in option, this styler and heat protectant is made with cactus flower and prickly pear extract. It has essential vitamins and minerals that keep hair follicles healthy as well as delivering intense hydration with a high content of vitamin E, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants.