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Moisture overload: what is it and how can you fix it?

Do you suffer from limp, lifeless hair that feels sticky and doesn’t curl properly? Then you probably have a moisture overload. Something that’s really easy to do as a Curly Girl. Many people think that adding more moisture always is a good idea, but it’s not. In this article we’ll explain what a moisture overload is, how to fix it and how to prevent it in the future.

Also read: This is how to treat frizzy hair

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In this article:

What is moisture?

Moisture is an important part of your hair. Hair is made up of protein and moisture, and the balance between them determines the elasticity of your hair. With too much moisture and too little protein, your hair will stretch too much.

Your curls will sag and may feel dry. With too much protein and too little moisture, your hair will not stretch enough.

This makes your hair brittle and lifeless.

Curly hair is naturally drier than straight hair, so it needs more hydration. Compared to straight hair, the oils your scalp produces take longer to reach the ends of your hair and seal in moisture within our strands.

That’s why it’s so important to use a co-wash instead of shampoo. Because where a shampoo removes the oils that moisturize your hair, a co-wash ensures that you keep them and still are able to clean your scalp and hair.

Also read: Everything you want to know about co-washing

What products contain moisture?

Any hair products you’d expect to moisturize, generally do. Think of conditioner and leave in conditioners. But even though it may be obvious that they contain moisture, it’s still important to check the ingredients to see how moisturizing they actually are.

These are the most common moisturizing ingredients:

  • Emollient: soothing. Think of fatty alcohols, oil (coconut and argan oil) and butter (shea). These ingredients form a film on the surface of the cuticle, smoothing it, to seal in moisture and then add softness and shine. 
  • Humectant: moisturizing. Think of glycerin, propylene glycol, panthenol, agave and honey. These ingredients provide soft and bouncy curls.
  • Aloe has both humectant and emollient properties, making it a common ingredient in curly hair products.

Wondering how often you should use a moisturizing product? It’s not really an ingredient that you choose to use: you already use it every day! You can choose to use it more often, by using a deep conditioner for example.

What is a moisture overload?

A moisture overload literally means an excess of moisture. Hair must contain both moisture and protein, and with a moisture overload, the balance between them is off.

Your curls are hydrated to such an extent, that it becomes harmful. It can cause breakage and split ends.

Shower, build up, overload

Signs of a moisture overload

Like we said, it’s quite easy to get a moisture overload as a Curly Girl. Many people think that more hydration is always good, but it’s not. Protein and moisture has to be in balance, that’s what it’s all about. There are a few signs of a moisture overload. Your hair is:

  • Limp
  • Lifeless
  • Overly soft
  • Mushy
  • Elastic and stretches
  • Not really curling well
  • Feels dry and fluffy
  • Your haircut will collapse quickly after styling

How to fix a moisture overload?

With a moisture overload it’s best to start with a clarify. This removes build-up and purifies your hair, literally allowing you to start your hair routine with a clean slate.

Then you can do a protein treatment, for example with a rice water rinse.

Rice water is 100% natural and can help to regain the balance. It simply is water that has contained rice and is full of proteins, but also vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids.

It repairs your hair and provides long-lasting protection. You can make rice water yourself, but you can also buy it ready-made.

It’s also useful to use more styling products that are high on protein, gel for example, and to cut back on moisturizing styling products.

The proteins penetrate into your hair and fill up the cracks that have arisen in it, for example as a result of over-treatment with incorrect products or styling tools.

This will make your hair shine again and feel more bouncy.

How do you know that a product contains protein? Examples of natural and Curly Girl proof proteins are wheat, silk, oats, quinoa and some seeds such as flaxseed.

The higher the ingredient is on the ingredient list, the more of it. This way you can find out whether there is a lot or little protein in a hair product. You can also see it on the packaging, in terms such as: strengthening, firming and restorative.

The balance between moisture and proteïne

You can see the balance between moisture and protein as a scale: on one side there is moisture, on the other side protein. When it’s in balance, your hair is happy.

If you have a bad hair day or a hair product suddenly stops working for you, your hair probably is out of balance.

Every time you use a hair product, the balance of your hair shifts. Especially the hair products with which you style your hair affect this: the products you don’t wash out.

If you don’t pay attention to what your hair needs or to the ingredients of the hair products you’re using, it’s easy to throw your hair out of balance. And hair that is off balance, is not going to get better right away: it might take a few washes. 

Of course you would prefer to prevent your hair from having a moisture or protein overload in the future. You do this by paying close attention to which products you use, and keeping an eye on the balance between moisture and protein.

Hopefully everything about a moisture overload is clear to you now! If you have any questions, feel free to ask us on Instagram!


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  3. The balance of our hair changes every time we apply a hair product. This is influenced by the hair products we use to style our hair, particularly those that we do not wash out.

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  10. Remember, hair is dead, so once it is damaged you can’t technically repair it. You can however arrest the amount of damage to your hair while changing your hair care regimen to maintain your hair’s integrity.

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