How to Moisturize Hair That Feels Bone Dry

Frizz, dullness, breakage and split ends are all common indicators that your strands are dry and in need of some moisture. But just as one size doesn’t fit all for your skincare needs, the same goes for your hair. “Moisturizing is a tough topic to speak about broadly, as everyone’s hair texture is so different and has its own unique needs,” says Ashley Streicher, a celebrity hairstylist and R+Co collective member.

So, while we can’t exactly customize a regimen for each and every one of you, we can, with the help of some pros, help you figure out why your hair might feel drier than usual and share some ways you can moisturize it more effectively.

What Causes Dry Hair?

“The first thing is to determine is whether or not the hair is dry or if it’s damaged,” says Matt Rez, a celebrity colorist and Redken brand ambassador. “These two issues can be confusing as they can happen at the same time.”

“The difference between the two is that dryness is caused by the absence of moisture, whereas damage is caused by broken bonds, which is a protein issue,” Rez says.

A telltale sign that hair is damaged? “It feels gummy when it’s wet. Also, it’s more prone to breakage. When it’s a moisture issue, the hair has a ton of split ends and looks lackluster when it’s dry. If not cared for with the right products, dry hair will eventually lead to breakage,” explains Rez.

He adds that it’s important to differentiate between the two issues because the way you would care for them is very different. “Treating dry hair with protein—like you would for damaged hair—can make it drier, and simply using moisturizing products on damaged hair won’t help reverse the damage itself.”

If your hair is dry, read on for some ways to keep your hair healthy and well-moisturized.

How to Moisturize Dry Hair

1. Use A Hydrating Shampoo.

These shampoos tend to be creamy, rather than clear in texture and are formulated with moisturizing ingredients like jojoba, argan, avocado, almond or apricot kernel oil. Other ingredients like glycerin and aloe vera also help hydrate parched ends.

2. Skip The Daily Shampoo.

Take a day off between shampooing your hair to give your scalp time to replenish its natural oils. If you have oily roots or your hair tends to fall flat, use a dry shampoo in-between to absorb excess oils and boost volume.

3. But Never Skip Conditioner.

Even on the days where you don’t shampoo, always use conditioner on your mid-lengths and ends. Rake it through so it coats your hair evenly and rinse well to finish.

4. Add An Overnight Mask To Your Routine.

Once or twice a week, apply a conditioning treatment or hydrating hair oil to the mid-lengths and ends (where hair is driest). Wrap it up in a silk scarf before you sleep, and you’ll wake up with smoother, rehydrated stands.

5. Don’t Forget Your Scalp.

Notice that we’ve repeatedly recommended that you only apply conditioners and oils to the mid-lengths and ends? That’s because your scalp already produces natural sebum. Applying additional oils can cause buildup and dandruff (and make your roots greasy). Instead, opt for scalp-friendly products that have anti-fungal or anti-inflammatory properties and will keep your scalp balanced.

6. Use A Leave-in Conditioner.

“Washing, styling and really just being out in the environment can take a toll on your hair in the dryness department,” says Streicher, “which is why we all need to add some daily moisture to our strands.” Streicher likes a leave-in conditioner and recommends applying it to damp (not wet) hair before you apply any other styling products or heat style your hair.

7. Lay Off The Heat Styling.

On that note, whenever possible, try to limit how often you use dryers and irons. And when you do use them, always select a lower setting (within the 200 to 300-degree range).

8. Drop The Brush.

And replace it with a wide-toothed comb to avoid snagging your hair. Another thing: Comb your hair in the shower, when it’s completely soaked and coated in conditioner, starting from the ends and slowly working your way up to safely detangle your strands.

9. Reconsider Your Color Placement.

If you usually get all-over color or highlights, consider switching to partial highlights or balayage, which only lightens the mid-lengths and ends of your hair and requires less touchups to maintain.

10. Don’t Forget The Uv Protection.

Overexposure to the sun can further strip dry hair of moisture. Prevent this as much as possible by wearing a hat or scarf when you’re planning on spending a lot of time in the sun—or apply a UV protectant before heading outdoors.

Looking for more recommendations? Here are three products that our stylists swear by for treating dry hair.

1. R+co Sun Catcher Power C Boosting Leave-in Conditioner

“This can be used straight out of the shower on wet and dry hair,” says Streicher. “It’s lightweight and made to be used every day. It adds moisture to your hair without you even realizing it.”

2. Kopari Coconut Melt

“Coconut oil is a great DIY option, as it has natural healing properties,” says Rez. “To use, warm up a dollop of coconut oil in the microwave for 30 seconds and apply it to freshly shampooed (but non-conditioned), towel-dried hair for as long as possible before rinsing. “The longer you keep it on, the better, but I would avoid applying to roots as it can leave hair looking greasy,” advises Rez.

3.redken Oil For All

For dry hair, Rez recommends this hair oil because it’s weightless and works for all hair types and textures. “You can use it before a blow out as a heat protectant, which also reduces dry time and cuts down on frizz. You can also apply it to dry hair for extra shine and to seal in moisture.”

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023
Jenny Jin

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...
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