How to Moisturize Natural Hair Like a Pro

Eunice Lucero | 26 April 2016

Gamechanging tips abound.

The number one concern for those with natural hair is learning how to combat dryness and frizz. Natural hair is largely defined as the texture that those of African-American descent are usually born with. It is also used to define hair that has not been relaxed or chemically altered. It is characterized by being a dry hair type and has a curly, kinky or afro texture, making moisturization a main priority. If you’ve ever tried to moisturize natural hair, you’ve probably found that the process is a tricky balancing act involving the amount of conditioner you use. Apply too little and it’s a battle of the frizzies; too much, and you risk weighing your curls down and flattening your style altogether. It is also good to know your specific curl type in order to help you find the ideal moisturizing schedule or cocktail for your strands.

The Best Way to Moisturize Natural Hair

how to moisturize natural hair and shiny springy afros
Regular conditioning keeps curls shiny and springy. Photo credit:

To determine the most optimal way to give your natural hair the nourishment it needs, it’s best to take note of the following:

1. Figure out your curl type

Curly hair can be considered dry across the board—it takes longer for the sebum in your scalp to make its way down your coils, versus if you had strands that were straight. That said, curls still come in a variety of types, each with its own moisture requirements. Locking down your specific hair category is extremely helpful to know before you even start buying any products.

2. Pre-poo

To moisturize natural hair, start before you wash. Applying a conditioning treatment or oil, such as Suave Professionals Moisture Mask with Almond + Shea Butter, to your hair before shampooing (hence the name) can help protect delicate natural strands from getting stripped dry during the washing process. Good to note: Some women prefer to co-wash, or wash with just a cleansing conditioner, altogether. Washing can cause hair cuticles to open, and pre-pooing via a hair oil, protein conditioner or creamy treatment can help lubricate frayed strands and prevent too much washing trauma.

3. Shampoo and condition

Even the driest of curls have to start with a clean slate! Moisturizing ingredients and styling products may latch better onto strands that have no prior product build-up, rendering them more effective. Start your week by cleansing hair with a wash and care system that rids hair of any styling detritus, grime and sebum. We love the moisturizing yet clarifying properties in TRESemmé Purify & Replenish Shampoo (it has Vitamin C!) and TRESemmé Purify & Replenish Conditioner.

4. Go for after-care

After rinsing off conditioner, a lot of women prefer to lock in that freshly imparted moisture by coating their strands with a lightweight liquid moisturizer, oil or cream (or all three, following the LOC, or liquid-oil-cream, order). This helps seal the cuticles in their hair and shield it from humidity. Some women choose to use a leave-in conditioner in lieu of everything else—it’s a matter of knowing how much your strands need, really—as their after-conditioning product of choice. Dove Regenerative Nourishment Serum-in-Oil is potently restorative and penetrative, like an oil, but is easily spreadable on strands, and imparts shine and smoothness, just like a serum.

5. Give strands a rest

On your off days, simply invigorate strands with a dry shampoo (we like the lightweight refreshing formula of Nexxus New York Salon Care Dry Shampoo Refreshing Mist) if things end up getting greasy or sweaty. Or use a leave-in hair moisturizer that also works to define second- or third-day curls. An easy-to-follow day-off cheat sheet: First spritz hair with some water, then seal in that moisture with a water-based moisturizer for a fresh, glossy refresh, and simply use some recall cream like Bed Head by TIGI On the Rebound to spring them back to life

6. Spoil your strands on Sunday

When you moisturize natural hair, it’s important to indulge your locks in a weekend deep-conditioning treatment. This helps replenish parched strands that may have been exposed to extra damage during the week via city pollution, heat styling or even chlorine or salt water. Starting with wet hair (shampooing optional), apply a conditioning mask like Dove Quench Absolute Intense Restoration Mask evenly onto hair and leave on for three to five minutes. Rinse off and avoid heat-drying immediately after to further preserve hair’s new moisture.

How do you condition and moisturize natural hair?