Key Differences between Moisturizing and Hydrating Your Hair

Key Differences Between Moisturizing and Hydrating Your Hair
Photo Credit: @_christineamor on Instagram

They key to achieving almost any style is to having properly moisturized hair.  However, things can get kind of confusing when we talk about moisture and hydration.  Did you realize that these are actually two different things, as they relate to hair? Yup, they sure are!

How exactly do you know whether a hair product is truly a moisturizer or a hydration treatment when basically most natural hair products tend to  promise the same benefits?

In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between hydrating and moisturizing products. This will help you to make a more informed choice when buying hair care products (because we realize that those products are an investment in your crown).


The purpose of a moisturizer is to moisten the hair. More specifically, it is designed to attract water to your hair.  Moisturizers can be oil-based or water-based.  Oil-based moisturizers are made by using “emulsifiers,” which actually help the water and oil to blend together (since water and oil do not naturally blend).  However, the best moisturizing products will have water as the first ingredient and not oil.  Did you know that oils don’t actually add moisture to your hair, they only replace lost lipids from the hair, nourish it and create a barrier to seal in moisture.  It is not only about retaining moisture on the surface of the hair, it is about retention of water to the interior shaft of the hair.  Moisturized hair helps prevent breakage and encourage length retention.  


According to the Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology  hydrating substances are used in cosmetic products to reduce moisture loss from the product during use and to increase the moisture content in material that is in contact with the product. This function is generally performed by hygroscopic substances or humectants, which are able to absorb water from the surroundings.  One of the most common humectants is glycerin because it is affordable and highly effective.  Other natural humectants that may not be as effective as glycerin include honey and agave nectar.  However, depending on the humidity in your area glycerin could create a sticky situation in your hair so it’s important to also use a natural butter that can seal in the moisture, such as shea butter.  Sealants and humectants can work well together to keep the hair properly hydrated and moisturized.

So what does this mean for your current hair regimen?

A great moisturizing product will have water and a humectant (which absorbs water from the hair and a sealant to keep that moisture in).  Everyone’s hair is different but for most kinky, curly girls using a humectant with a sealant with keep your hair nice and hydrated. 

If your hair feels chronically dry, brittle, or just not like itself, and your products aren’t working (even spritzing water and other concoctions don’t help), your issue may be hydration levels in your hair.  The most common advice for those hair ailments is clarifying the hair and scalp, regularly deep conditioning. We recommend that you use the PureFix Hair Elixir which is a great scalp moisturizer. Its all-natural ingredients work together to support longer, stronger hair and to promote hair growth.

As always, seek professional help when you can’t seem to get your hair to cooperate.   Youtube and blogs are great supplements but sometimes you need someone to take a look at your problem and deal with it head on.


Here is a video to further demonstrate how these concepts work:

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Brandelyn Green is the Founder of VoiceOfHair, a platform to help women of color find the best hair care products, regimens and hairstyles! Since starting VoiceOfHair in 2014 she has grown the social media platform to over 1MM+ on Instagram and Facebook. As a natural who is also a salon goer, she wanted to create a platform where people could find the best products, hairstylists, advice and trends.
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