Hot, humid days are fast approaching, so I asked The Curl Whisperer to give us her expert opinion on how to cope:
It’s no surprise to find that weather plays a huge role in how our hair behaves on any given day. What most of us don’t know, however, is that humidity has little to do with how our hair acts and responds climate-wise. Believe it or not, there are times when the humidity can reach 100% and your hair will be dry, loose and in desperate need of additional moisture.
Sounds like a huge contradiction, doesn’t it? But for optimum curl behavior, the humidity is the last piece of weather information we need to make informed choices about our curl maintenance routine. Believe it or not, it’s not about the humidity–it’s actually all about the dew point.
The dew point is, simply put, the temperature to which the air must be cooled in order for it to reach total moisture saturation and any additional moisture must “leak” out of the air. Unlike humidity, it is the true measure of the amount of moisture in the air. For example: if the current air temperature is 69°F and the dew point is 57°F, condensation (and dew) will form if the air temperature is cooled down to 57°F because the air is then saturated with moisture and can’t hold any more.
And that’s when the relative humidity reaches 100%. Just because the relative humidity is 100%, however, doesn’t automatically mean you’ll have a bad hair day. That humidity figure isn’t an indication of how much moisture is in the air–how high the dew point is. The higher the dew point, the more moisture is in the air; conversely, the lower the dew point, the less moisture is in the air, because cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air can.
Think of it this way. Imagine a one-cup measure and a 10-gallon jug in front of you. Fill the one-cup measure completely to the top with water, then fill the 10-gallon jug about two-thirds of the way full. Now, the one-cup measure represents 100% humidity because the cup can’t hold any more moisture. But so what? If the air temperature is 38°F and the dew point is 38°F, there isn’t a lot of moisture in the air. The fact that the humidity is 100% doesn’t mean a thing because the cup just doesn’t hold that much water in the first place.
Now, the jug is a different story. Let’s say the air temperature is 86°F and the dew point is 72°F, relative humidity is 62%. Your first reaction on seeing the 62% humidity might be, “Hmmm, it’s not too humid today.” I guarantee you if you walk outdoors, however, you are going to feel like you ran right into a wall of wet, humid air. The air is just laden with moisture because the jug is capable of holding so much more of it, and that 72°F dew point tells us so.
What does this mean for us curly girls? It means once you start paying attention to the dew point instead of the relative humidity and observe how your hair reacts during low and high dew point days, you will then start to understand and anticipate how your hair will behave on any given day–and then you will instinctively know how to adjust your curl maintenance routine and product application accordingly.
Which is exactly where every naturally glamorous curly girl wants to be, I think 🙂
If you have a question for Tiffany, shoot me an email at email@example.com, using “Tiffany” as the subject line. We’ll pick one question per week.
More info on humidity and humectants– http://www.curlynikki.com/2009/06/curl-whisperer-on-humectants-and.html
The dew point? I never knew about the dew point. So that's what it means!Thanks!
Just for clarity
I normally apply my leave-in, aloe vera, Barry Fletcher’s Loc serum or KMS Curl-up curling balm aftering each wash. I really don’t like KMS but I havent been able to find BF serum lately. Anyways, do you thing the aloe vera is contributing to this problem?
where’s Jc our ‘resident chemist’?
i miss her 🙁
I’m going to have to be a dittohead and just “amen” with everyone else fawning over the new layout. It looks great! Also, Tiff the curl whisperer is a GODSEND. I’ve been reading all these posts referring to dew point and people mentioning predicting how their hair behaves, but it was Greek to me. Frankly, it was starting to drive me nuts! I’m glad I finally have a clear explanation on all this. Now I’ll be prepared for any eventuality.
Nikki I love the new look!!!! Beautiful!
Tiffany, thanks for the article I had no idea about the dew point. Explains why sometimes it can be only 65 degrees and my hair looks frizzy/flat. In the winter, forget about it.
Thanks for the love ladies!
Brownbrows, I used to have this problem when I used gel and other drying stylers. My hair would look amazing until I left the house…it would then shrink up…all the way up! Once I started doing weekly DTs, henna, and only using conditioner to style, I no longer have this problem.
@anonymous 6:03, your wish is my command. The search box is back!
@anonymous 7:22, I’ve heard that one before! Her and Robin Givens…it must be the fo’head 🙂
Ok, I know this is off topic, but Ms. Nikki reminds me sooooo much of Malinda Williams back in the day when she used to rock her curly hair!
Wow, I thought I enter the wrong address. It’s very welcoming. Regarding the humidity, can someone give 4b girl some producr advise on how to hold onto my volume. My hair will hold its curl as well as its moisture but it draws closer to my head, this drives me nuts.
VERY cute and sophisticated layout Nikki. I likey. Keep doing your thing girl!
I ♥ the new layout Nik…
but please don’t be offended by this but, is there a Search box anymore?
Love the new layout! By the way, thanks to you and those 115 pages of the NC Henna thread, I'm post-henna DT-ing (1st time)as I type. I stopped worrying so much about humidity, etc. when every time I thought my hair looked like a frizzy, crappy mess, strangers would stop me & compliment me on how pretty my big hair looked. As long as it's conditioned and moist, I treat moisture in the air as a "treatment" and keep it moving.
ITA w/everyone! This is such a great layout! When it came up on my screen, I was like oh WOW, Nik’s done it..again!
I majored in Meteorology at FSU, and let me say, this is a perfect explanation of the difference between relative humidity and dew point! And you are right on, dew point is indeed a much better indication of how your hair will behave. Dew point is a measure of what meteorologists call absolute humidity.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to plug my website, dedicated to this exact subject. HairForecast.com
I created it for my curly haired wife, who’s hair gets frizzy when it’s humid (absolute humidity, that is! 😉
HairForecast.com takes the dew point forecasts for cities all over the US and Canada, factors in wind and rain, and condenses this to a scale of 1 thru 10, 1 is a BAD hair day, 10 is an AWESOME hair day! It’s free, and the advertising revenue goes to provide clean water in Africa.
OMG! Everything is different! I love it!! Keep up the fab work, girlie!
beautiful layout… hope it stays like this for a very, very, very long time 🙂
Ahhh what happened!?!?!? I LOVE it but it was a shock! Great new look!
This layout is so appropriate, well done 😉
I haven’t read the article yet but just had to say the new layout is gorgeous.
I love your new web page!
I love the new layout.
thanks for this article! I am loving this new blog design.. clicked on it twice because i thought i was reading someone else!!
have a great day!!
Cute layout! I thought I was on the wrong page, lol
Great article! I just looked at Weather.com, but I didn’t need the site to tell me about this humidity down in NOLA. LOL I mean, I was just outside…