The 9 Most Ineffective Ways to Moisturize Your Hair

by BlackGirlLongHair

You’ve heard it before, over and over again — moisture is everything when it comes to natural hair health. Still, many naturals struggle with keeping their curls, kinks and coils well-moisturized. Perhaps you’re guilty of one of our 9 ineffective moisturizing practices. Check it out;

1. Moisturizing dirty hair/hair that has product buildup

The objective of moisturizing is to apply water-based product that penetrates the cuticle (outer layer) of the strand and infuse the cortex (inner layer) with water. If there is too much dirt or product on your cuticle, then there’s little chance that any moisturizing product you apply will make it to the cortex.

Shea Butter2. Using butters or oils as moisturizers

With the exception of a few oils, like coconut oil, that can penetrate the strand — oils and butters will sit on the OUTSIDE of your strand because they are SEALANTS, not moisturizers. Their purpose is to lock in moisture — not apply it. If your hair is feeling dry, and you apply a butter or oil, you are just weighing down dry hair, making it more brittle and susceptible to breakage.

3. Using water based products without sealing

Just like oils and butters aren’t effective as moisturizers, water-based products — and water itself! — isn’t effective at moisturizing unless it’s sealed in. Water quickly evaporate out of the cortex unless a sealing product is applied to the lock it in.

*Note: Spritzes are a great daily moisturizing solution as they contain water, which penetrates the cuticle, as well as oils, that seal the water in. While they aren’t heavy-duty enough to provide long-term moisturizing, they are great as a daily refresher, in between moisture and seal sessions.

4. Under-moisturizing

Just like your body can be thirsty way before your throat actually feels parched, natural hair can need moisture way before it feels crunchy and dry. Start by moisturizing your hair at least once a day. If, in the following hours, your hair feels wet and mushy, you can cut your moisturizing down to every other day. If it still feels dry, then you might need to up your moisturizing to twice daily.

5. Neglecting the re-moisturizing process after a shampoo

Shampooing is a bit of a paradox when it comes to moisturizing — you are dousing your hair with water, while also stripping your strands of dirt and natural oils that help lock in moisture. So, in a sense, your hair is getting dryer as it gets wetter. The squeaky, super dry feeling your hair has after a shampoo is lack of lubrication, and its critical that it be replaced. Be sure to deep condition after every shampoo and follow up with a moisturize & seal.

Dry-Hair1-378x2826. Using styling products as moisturizers

The primary purpose of styling products is NOT to improve the health of your hair. Just like the primary purpose of moisturizing products is NOT to sculpt and style your hair. There are some crossover products that can do both, but most will not. Liquid styling products might look tempting as a fill-in when you need a moisturizer but they might contain alcohols and mineral oil that will dry your hair out in the long run.

7. Focusing on roots instead of ends

Your ends are the driest part of your strands and most susceptible to breakage. The natural oils that your scalp secretes don’t travel down far enough to coat your ends, so it’s important that you are proactive in protecting them. Work moisturizing product into your hair from root to tip. Some naturals even limit their product application to the bottom 75% of their strands.

8. Over Moisturizing

Properly moisturized strands don’t feel soggy and wet, they feel supple and strong — even when they’re dry. Applying too much moisturizing and sealing product can leave your hair perpetually wet, making it difficult to style. Be even-handed with your product application. Not only will it make styling easier, but it will save your bed spread, couches, car seats, and anything else your hair comes into contact with.

9. Deep conditioning/steaming for hours

While there are a few treatments, like henna, that require long-term application, most deep conditioning treatments need 30 minutes or less. Many naturals feel that keeping treatments on overnight helps with softness and moisture, but an increasing number are realizing that 30 minutes (or whatever time the product instructions say) is just as effective as 8 hours. Keep in mind that the makers of your conditioner have tested the product, and know how much time it takes to be effective.

Are you guilty of anything on this list?

What are some ineffective moisturizing practices that you’ve been guilty of?

About Jenell B Stewart

Jenell Stewart MS, the founder and editor in chief of the award winning website KinkyCurlyCoilyMe.com dedicates most of her free time educating and uplifting women with natural hair by way of her extremely popular website and YouTube channel. Jenell has been featured in Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise.com, and starred on the Dr.Oz television show as a Beauty Expert. In 2012 she was named one of Essences top Instagramers and that same year KinkyCurlyCoilyMe won an award for “Favorite Website” of the Natural Hair Community.
  • Tisha13

    I was guilty of #1. And I spent lots of money on different products, and lost a lot of my hair until a fellow naturalista advised me to use a clarifying shampoo. I noticed the difference instantly!

  • Shanda

    i was guilty of #1 and 3. I didn’t realize the benefits of deep conditioning after each shampoo when i had a relaxer and did not do it when i transitioned. I thought it was enough with the conditioner after shampooing. i am a lot nicer to my hair and it is very happy now :)

  • Lisa Middleton

    I am guilty of using water based products without sealing. My leave-ins and oils are all mixed together in a spray bottle. I spray, rub-in and go. I am not using the LOC or the LCO method.

    • Christine Higgins-Reid

      Are saying your soray bottle is what you use to to moisturise now? Sorry bout typo! I cant delete or it messes up the msg

      • Lisa Middleton

        Yes. I spray and rub in twice a day. My spray bottle contains two types of water base leave-in, a thickening milk, evoo and water. Of course, wash day is a different routine.

  • Mai Curls

    Great Tips! Very helpful…I wish I had read about stuff like this while I was transitioning. As I am typing this I just finished doing a Henna & Amla DC and have my moisturizing DC on. I have an abundance of love for Deep Conditioners :)

  • NoLongerSilent -MrsB2

    Loving the tips here. Each of them make so much sense and when I’m being lazy and attempt to do either one of these I notice poor results.

  • Anais EpicRealist Owens

    Thanks for the tips! The only one that I’m guilty of is deep conditioning overnight. O_O http://www.curlsofinnocence.blogspot.com

  • coo

    im guity of deep conditioning for hours. i get busy round the house and been done forgot

  • queenbee9

    I am guilty of one of these 9 and will continue to be guilty of it because quite simply, it works for me. After a henna I use a dc but often , my hair is still hard and crunchy. I then apply a moisturizing butter as a dc (Qhemet Amla and olive oil) and leave it on overnight–30 minutes won’t do, neither will a steaming session–been there and done that. After about 9 hours with the amla and olive oil, I use an ACV rinse and get it out then follow up with my 3rd dc which is with the Lush–once that is rinsed out, my hair is back to being soft, springy and lush with no hint of greasiness –this regimen was not done by chance or overzealousness, but the result of my own research. My hair needs this down time to allow penetration of the moisturizers. I have only skimped a few times but those few times left me with dry, brittle hair that was a harsh as dolls hair. Learned my lesson. One girls’ ineffective method is another’s tried and true. works for me,.

  • D-Light Full

    Can you have a blog detailing what we SHOULD do? I’ve been natural my whole life, so it’s always just been a hit and miss, my hair grows so much before it stops growing… I just want to have a daily routine that I can follow and stick to

    • http://kinkycurlycoilyme.com/ Jenell Stewart

      Of course! We have a bunch here -http://kinkycurlycoilyme.com/tag/moisturize/

  • http://www.mayagatewood.com/ Maya Gatewood

    Great article. I’m guilty of using butters as moisturizers. Sometimes I like the look of twistouts or bantu knotouts done on dry hair. I feel that if I spritz or re-wet my hair daily (I need 1-2 moisturizing sessions daily), it’ll shrink and I won’t get to enjoy my length. Maybe I’ll try using the butters in conjunction with my leave-in, which is water-based.

  • ShaySweets

    Guilty! So many times I’ve let a deep conditioner sir for hours thinking it was better for my hair

    • http://kinkycurlycoilyme.com/ Jenell Stewart

      Me too! But my hair just feels sooo good when I do it overnight.

      • queenbee9


  • Miranda

    I’m guilty of using butters as moisturizers. I’m still figuring out my hair.

    • http://kinkycurlycoilyme.com/ Jenell Stewart

      It takes time to learn what works.

    • queenbee9

      Some butters ARE moisturizers. True butters are waxy and can be sticky and are water repellent but some companies call any rich and creamy moisturizer a butter because it sounds rich. to know the difference, any butter that has water in it is probably not a true sealing butter–also by the feel, moisturizing butters feel like rich lotion, true sealing butters are stiff or feel like paste.

  • Nisha Glenn

    I am guilty of over moisturizing. I felt that because my hair is super thick that I needed more moisture plus my hair soaks up product. Thanks for the tips.

  • Adeola @ *The Mane Captain*

    moisturizing on dirty hair. It also makes my hair feel gunky and dry over time. So I have to wash my hair and start the cycle again. I agree with the last point, theres no need to do a DCT (deep conditioning treatment) for 3days when 30minutes is sufficient.

  • Natashia Carrington Harper

    i love this article and im guilty of leaven my dc on too long but stop doing that a couple mths ago.

  • Wanda Herbert Romain

    Should I use a bonnet dryer to apply soft heat to my deep conditioning process?

    • Katherine

      I workout while my deep conditioner sits. Just an alternative “heating” method.

    • queenbee9

      You can use a bonnet dryer or a thermal cap or just bag your hair, and put a warm, wooly winter cap on and use body heat–the point of heat is to open the cuticles so the product can seep in then to close those same cuticles to hold the product in–any type of heat will do, either from a heated device or from your own body heat.

  • Roseanne Lino

    i sometimes mosturize with she butter… :s

    • queenbee9

      Shea butter is a sealer, it cannot moisturize alone because there is not any water in it. Shea butter is water repellent it can only be used as a moisturizer if a LOT OF moisturizer is added to it.

      • Roseanne Lino

        Thanks for the time you took to reply to this <3

  • MAG!

    I’m new to this transitioning natural thing (9 months in – woo hoo). But I’m a little confused regarding number 2. I’ve been using a Castor oil and Extra Virgin Olive oil mix for the past month or so as a moisturizer. I also use this as a pre poo and in my deep conditions as well. But, in regards to moisturizing, I’m guessing this is the wrong thing to do?? Any suggestions as to what I should be using as a moisturizer. Note- I was using Wonder Gro Shea Butter grease to moisturize the months before. Any help is appreciated! Thanks Ladies!

    • queenbee9

      A moisturizer is nothing more than water held in suspension with emollients (hair softeners) and oils. a moisturizer has water in it. This suspension helps the water to slowly be released over time so that it does not just evaporate back into the air. Oils are NOT moisturizers.
      Oils can be used to soten the hair, help to add more “oomph” to conditioners or pretreatments or if an oil is heavy enough they can seal hair. Feeder oils such as coconut oil and jojobal oil have molecules small enough to allow them to penetrate the hair shaft.
      You must know the difference between a moisturizer and an oil or grease and a “grease” and a butter. Butters are very heavy, pasty oils usually mixed with some type of wax or petroleum product to make them sticky and water resistant.
      For YOUR hair–do not rely on what other people say to you–you must find out for yourself based on:
      1. where you live (what kind of weather you have)
      2. type of hair you have
      3. your diet
      4. type of water you are using on your hair.
      Shea butter is a sealer and a naturally waxy butter–it is good at keeping water out of hair and holding water in to hair. Most heavy butters can do this–it is NOT a moisturizer.
      Castor oil is NOT a moisturizer it is a humectant. This means it draws water from where it is most and sends it to where there is the least amount of water. This means if the air is moist or humid, castor oil will draw water out of the air and into your hair BUT it also means that if the air is dry (like in winter in many areas) then castor oil may draw the moisture out of your hair and send it out into the air. Humectants have to be used at the right time to be effective.
      Whether you can use castor oil as a humectant in your winter depend on if your winter is wet (rainy) or dry (just cold with snow)
      Since Castor oil will always be a humectant, even if it cannot be used as a sealer it can be used as a feeder oil.
      if you spray your hair with water then apply coconut oil and then castor oil THEN a moisturizer or conditioner/butter and then a sealing butter, the Castor oil will slowly draw the moisture out of the moisturizer and back into your hair (because the CO will be sandwiched between an oil and the moisturizer.
      Olive oil is NOT a moisturizer–if a product does not have water in it is NOT a moisturizer. There are many products on the market that are sold as moisturizers–most leave in conditioners contain moisturizers–two popular ones are “cantu shea butter leave in and Jessicurl too shea leave in. Many butters may also be moisturizers–if you go to a website such as Curlmart, you will see many brands, and if you click on products you can look at the ingredients and the reviews which say how different people with different hair types liked certain products.
      if you have the money, products to try are the Qhemet line, the Oyins line, Darcy botanicals, and My honeychild and Bee Mine.
      some of my favoritie moisturizers are:
      Bee Mine curly butter (really too light to be a butter and it does wonders for type 4a hair)
      Oyins Honey hemp conditioner and Oyins Honey Dew–these products MUST have a sealer applied over them so that the water in them do not evaporate
      Right now, I am loving on –Darcy Botanicals Tucuma butter whip.
      Here is something that this article did not say:
      All Butters are not really butters. True butters are stiff or heavy and are water repellent, they are used to give hair both form and hold–but companies started naming many rich creams “butters” because the name butter sounds rich and thick NOT because the products are really true butters,
      True butters such as shea butter Cupuacu , Coffee Bean, Marumaru and Tucuma are really stiff and heavy butters–you know when you take some in your hands that it will act as a water repellent because the butters are very stiff and sticky many naturals mix them with other products but I normally use them uncut so that they provide the most moisture barrier.
      Other products called butters are really heavy duty moisturizers–here are some heavy duty moisturizers that are called “butters” and I have great success with them:
      1. Qhemet Amla and oilive oil in heavy cream–very, very rich, and heavy–great prepoo for finer hair and I use it as a heavy duty conditioner, if you have 4b or 4c hair it can be used as a moisturizer–be aware that a little goes a long way, if you use too much your hair will be a grease pit
      2.Qhemet Burdock root and butter cream–much lighter than the Amla formula, this moisturizer is great sandwiched in between a feeder oil and a sealant
      3. Bee Mine curly butter–light–very similar to the Burdock root but you can also mix it with the Burdock root cream for a super moisturizing formula
      4. Oyins honey dew–I like this in the summer, it is not heavy enough for my hair in the winter
      5. CAntu shea butter –I mix this inexpensive leave in with CO to create a decadent moisturizer–about 2 TBSP of CO mixed into a whole jar is enough to make a very rich yet not too oily moisturizer.
      There are many more–the key is to know how to moisturize AND NEVER use a butter on your scalp (or grease) if the molecule of the products used are too large, then you will just be starving/suffocating your scalp. oils to use on scalps are
      1. grapeseed, olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil. sunflower and hemp oil
      Here is the technique for moisturized and sealed hair:
      1. spray hair with water,, squeeze out the excess–make sure hair is misted from root to ends
      2. apply Coconut oil from root to ends, can put on scalp also
      3. apply CO or JBCO–concentrate on root to ends can get on scalp but not necessary for daily application
      4. apply MOISTURIZE root to ends do not get on scalp unless very light moisturizer
      5. apply sealing butter to hold it all in–root to ends, make sure ends are coated
      6. Twist or braid hair
      7. put satin bonnet on.
      Do this 1 time every other day (unless you have very dry hair then do it every day)

      • MAG!

        Wow, thanks Queenbee for the detailed reply. This is very informative. I neglected to mention in my original post that the Castor Oil I’m using is JBCO. I may look into purchasing some of the Cantu leave in to mix with the JBCO for a moisturizer. Again, thanks for the detailed information. On another note, how is the Castor Oil Challenge so successful for growth if it does not penetrate the hair shaft? In addition to deep conditions and pre poos, it appears that many of the participants will be using it solely without other products to achieve a desired growth goal. How exactly is that possible? Just curious…

        • queenbee9

          The secret to the success of the Co challenge is that it forces participants to do the following:

          1. develop a regimen for their hair
          2. THINK about their hair more often and go into protective styles
          3. the persons who usually show the most growth are those who use CO as part of an LOC, LOCO and GHE program also castor oil on the ends (even without water) help protect those ends and so there is retention of hair.

          I will let you in on a little secret–if you can keep your ends and do not get much breakage you will ALWAYS see a lot of growth. The fact is hair grows whether we use CO or any other product or not–that is not why so many people cannot grow their hair–it is growing, but they are not retaining the length , this means as fast as it grows it is breaking off–even if no product is used, if CO is used, on the ends, they will be retained for a while, overall the hair will not be moisturized or healthy but there may still be growth.

          We don’t just want length–we want health and bouncy, shiny, happy hair–for that, hair must be moisturized root to tip. There are many in the challenge that will experience about 2 inches of growth or less for the 3 months–since hair on avg grows .5 inch per month such a level of growth is no more than they would have had without the CO.

          So CO when it works can make hair grow thicker or longer and it certainly can make hair softer–but the real value of the challenge is that for many, for the first time in their lives, are really paying attention to their hair and are developing healthy routines as well as learning about products–many people change their diets and get more healthy while on a healthy hair journey and for over all health as well as hair health, nothing could be better.

  • Ameenah J.

    If I use a water based product, do I still need to use water itself as a moisturizer?

  • Damarys

    At the end of my first month I realized the mistakes I made mentioned above. I often moisturized my short 3A hair during the day with a spritz combo of water, oil and conditioner, I applied coconut oil directly to my scalp and slept with it overnight almost every night, resulting with crazy built up. My first shampoo wash after a month of co-wash was great. Starting my 2nd month with a new game plan.

  • dearcurls

    1. I live in Dearborn, MI. I have seen an increasing number of naturals in the metro Detroit area. 2. I am the only naturalista in my family. I am encouraging a cousin to take the journey by sharing what I have learned. I use castor oil on my scalp 3-4 times weekly, and I also use castor oil to seal in moisture as part of the LCO method. I use JCBO.

  • Ladylanita

    I WAS guilty of 2 and 3– using butters and oils as moisturizers or not sealing in moisture with oils. Once I started the L.O.C. (Liquid + Oil + Cream) method, it changed the game for me and my family. Now none of us suffer from dry hair in the winter.

  • CJeanPoet

    For years I was focusing on the roots of my hair (cleansing and moisturizing); I mean a healthy scalp grows hair and maintains healthy hair right? of course! but not quite…once i started focusing on my ends more with my moisturizer and sealant I started retaining more length than before.

  • Komalah

    I dont understand this. I have dry hair and maybe it breaks. (most probably does). But I didn’t know it was because I used oil on my hair. Just like every other Indian, I use oil as leave on conditioner. I am currently using the Amla. And I switche brands a lot but I only pick Amla. Is Amla oil an effective way of moisturizing my naturally dry hair??? Please help me. —–> Using butters or oils as moisturizers