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Curly Nikki

The Curl Whisperer on Humectants and Humidity

By January 27th, 202110 Comments

With the onset of summer and hot, sticky weather, it’s time to talk about one of the most moisturizing (yet frustrating) product ingredients found in hair care products: humectants.

Humectants are included in many hair care product formulations to promote moisture retention within the hair shaft by absorbing water from the atmosphere. They can also slow down the evaporation of liquid, keeping moisture in the hair shaft for longer periods of time. Under ideal conditions, humectants help curly hair to retain its hydration and spring.

In less than ideal conditions, however, humectants can cause a world of problems if you aren’t aware of their possible drawbacks.

In very low moisture areas, dry climates, or during the wintertime, humectants can actually dry the hair out further by absorbing water from the hair itself when there is no moisture in the surrounding atmosphere. Because the sole purpose of a humectant is to find and absorb moisture, it will find it and take it wherever it can get it–and that includes yanking out the moisture from inside your curly locks, leaving you with a dry, frizzy mess.

In very high moisture areas, wet climates, or during the summertime, however, humectants will force overly porous hair to continuously “drink” water from the humid, moisture-laden atmosphere until the hair shaft is swollen, bloated and tangled. Products with heavy humectants are often the cause of the humidity-induced frizz common to many girls with curls in the hot, humid summertime.

Both overly dry and overly swollen hair can become frizzy and/or lose their wave pattern due to improper use of humectants. Depending on your hair type—and, most especially if you are overly porous—humectants should not be used in very dry or very wet climates, or when dew points indicate there is too little or too much moisture in the atmosphere.

10 Comments

  • Kareyboo says:

    AHHHHHH! Thank you SO MUCH! I have been researching all day to get to the bottom of humectants and anti humectants; their differences and how I should apply them in regards to my hair at this time. There is so much information out there, to the point it all can be overwhelming, so you have made it short and to the point. Much appreciated!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    So what are some product or recipe options?

  • No Bob Canada says:

    Great article dear. Really Nice ! Many people don't know about humidity & humectant you provide so nice stuff to them…

  • danniebella says:

    Very informative. Thanks!

  • Maria says:

    Great article! Are there any hair products that you can recommend us?

  • ~Crazy/Beautiful~ says:

    Great article! Honey is also a good humectant I often use in my pre-poos.

  • momo7 says:

    Some things to mention though are a couple of examples of both artificial and natural humectants (mineral oil, glycerine, etc) and anti-humectants/anti-humectant like substances (silicone, coconut oil, shea butter, olive oil, etc).

  • Unknown says:

    When the Minnesota summer kicks into high gear and all 10,000 lakes are oozing moisture into air, I simplify. Pantene R&N conditioner for a leave in and maybe some Redken Ringlet ( way light hold) I am HEAVY handed with the Pantene and it really helps!

    Course when it doesn't I just, bun or pony tail 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    Great article. So, I currently spray a mixture of vegetable glycerin, aloe vera juice, distilled water, and a few drops of an essential oil in my hair every day for moisture and seal my ends with shea butter. I have noticed my hair is frizzy because of the humidity. How should I modify my conditioning spray for the summer months. Is there a substitute for the humectant glycerin??

  • Anonymous says:

    Great article. I think humidity and the combination of products that I've been using on my hair have recently translated into increased frizz especially with the change in weather. I live in Atlanta and the humidity here is always off the chain. It does bum me out though to think of coming up with a whole new grouping of products that I will have to use in the summertime…..

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