Sunday, January 2, 2011

No Daily Moisturizer?? Penetrating Oils?? Say it ain't so!


Now...for this blog I was preparing to get all science-y and technical. But I've decided to make it less of a science lesson and more of Kimora speaking, providing you with my personal experiences, my opinion, the experiences of others, and a little bit of info from those articles I read.

Moisturizing. It seems like a simple enough concept. All hair websites I've visited, and black hair books I've read, have advised us to moisturize our hair with a water-based moisturizer. Some sites even advise us to seal in this moisture by way of an oil.

Ideally, healthy hair is supposed to have its own internal moisture/water content, which is then protected and waterproofed by an oily waxy substance that is secreted from our sebaceous glands, called sebum.

In my opinion, this should be the model of moisturizing and sealing. I call it Nature's M&S. What I mean by this is that we shouldn't have such a difficult time finding a moisturizer that works for us. We shouldn't have to clean out Aisle 11 in Walgreen's to find out which commercial moisturizer will best suit us. While nature may have the best formula for moisturizing and sealing, most times, African American/Black hair does not have sebum running freely to the ends, so we must supplement that with products and techniques.

Hair's Water Content

Hair has several different components, but the one that is pertinent to this blog is water content. Most people have hair that contains 8% to 12% water---which is the ideal range. Anything below that is considered dry hair, and as we know, is more prone to breakage. Chemical treatments such as relaxers can bring the moisture content to as low as 2%. Yowza!!
According to a article:

"Water content is important in the chemical composition of hair. It promotes normal and healthy hair growth. The weight of the hair is 1.37 in accordance with metric measurements, but when it is impregnated with water the weight increases by 12-18%. The process of water absorption is very rapid, about 75% of the maximum of water that hair can take up is absorbed within 4 minutes of exposure of the hair to water...The absorption of water gives the hair its required moisture content which is essential for healthy hair appearance"

So from this, we know that maintaining a certain percentage of water in the hair is very important, but how do we do that?

We already know (well most of us do anyway) how to properly infuse moisture into our hair via our regimens. Look for shampoos and conditioners that contain humectants, use conditioners that contain proteins, deep condition, in the wintertime use your humidifier to keep your home's moisture levels in check, reduce direct heat and heat styling. If possible, wash your hair about every 3 days. Once you do all of these things, it is highly unlikely that a commercial moisturizer must be used daily to restore moisture in your hair. If you are experiencing dry hair soon after a moisturizing treatment or washing your hair, you may have a Porosity issue, and in order to maintain an ideal moisture content in your hair, this must first be addressed.

I know, personally, after a good wash (sulfate-free), and Deep Conditioning, I don't moisturize my hair. I use an oil or oil mixture to seal in the moisture that's already there. If I do feel my hair getting a bit dry, I give it a light mist of water, then apply the oils. This usually holds me over until my next wash day.

Using Oils Daily in Place of Daily Moisturizer

This was the main point of me writing this blog. I have been experimenting lately with using only oils to nourish my hair. I came to this realization that since our natural Sebum is a sort of waxy/oily substance, I should be using products similar to it to nourish my hair and protect the moisture that's already in there. So far, I have had far greater results with my oils than when using my commercial moisturizers. I know you're probably thinking, "Kimora, oils don't moisturize or penetrate".. and you would be partly correct.

In a 2005 study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, entitled Investigation of Penetration Abilities of Various Oils into Human Hair Fibers , it was concluded that

"With coconut, olive, and sunflower oils the capillary adhesion was found to decrease with time, but not with mineral oil. Application of heat reduced the capillary adhesion further for coconut and sunflower oils. Again, this was not observed with mineral oil. Based on an earlier study, where coconut oil was found to penetrate hair while mineral oil was unable to do so, it was hypothesized that the reduction in capillary adhesion resulted from the penetration of oil into the fiber, leaving a thinner oil film on the surface."

To paraphrase this quote, and summarize the study: Various oils were applied to strands of hair. After 24 hours, there was less coconut oil, sunflower oil, and olive oil on the surface of the hairs. Contrarily, and as one would expect, this did not apply to mineral oil: The amount of mineral oil applied on the hair stayed the same after 24 hours. When heat was added to the equation, even less coconut, olive, and sunflower oil was observed on the surface of the hairs. And still, mineral oil remained the same. So yes, some oils do penetrate the hair shaft, namely Olive, Coconut, and Sunflower to name a few. Other oils were tested, but those three that were mentioned had the highest absorption rates, especially with the application of heat.

On a less formal note, in one of my Hairlista discussions, several women were asked of their experiences with using oils in place of a daily moisturizer. 13 reported using oils only. Of those 13 women, 12 reported using at least one of these penetrating oils with good results. 1 reported spraying her hair with water before applying these oils.

For the past few weeks, I have been using oils on my hair on a daily basis. Namely, a mix of Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, and Jojoba Oil. My hair feels very soft, manageable, and has had less tangles. So far this has been working for me. I am continually working on ways to streamline and simplify my hair regimen that will benefit my hair as well as my wallet.

In Conclusion

I know this was a lot of info to digest at one time, but I hope you were able to stick through it and learn something in the process. I'm not here to convince you to buy stock in Coconut Oil. I'm just bringing a different perspective to your door and letting you ladies know that it's OK to think outside the box and do what works for your hair. I'm also encouraging you ladies to do your own research if you are unsure what a certain product may do for your hair. Also, if you are experiencing wonderful results from what you're already doing, there's always the saying: If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Have any of you tried skipping the daily water-based moisturizer, and applying oils only? Please feel free to comment!

Happy Hair Growing!


  1. This post was so interesting. I's a scaredy cat to try it in the winter. But come spring, I'm gonna really give this a go to see how it works for my hair. (sounds like a moneysaver *wink-wink*) Thanks for posting!

  2. Hey Rauney! Thanks!! LOL yeah the winter-time is a scary time for hair, I'm just getting into a really SOLID Winter reggie. But i think my hair is loving the combination of oils i'm using. I actually did a DC with just coconut oil and my hair LOVED it. i did it on dry hair and it was just maahhhh-velous!

  3. I cut off my perm and has gone all natural this year. It has been quite an ordeal to find what works for my hair. I think I have a porosity problem. I can wash my hair but I don't need to dry it because my hair soaks most all the water (strange). Anyway, I am currently wearing coils. When I use water based moisturizers, my coils become loose. They actually jump out of their coiled state. Therefore, I've been experimenting with oil based products like coconut oil, shea butter, and Carol's Daughter Mimosa Hair Oil. I can't say that my hair LOVES it but I have better results with oil based products vs. water base.

  4. I am looking at the water only hair washing method which teaches how to get your own sebum to cover your hair from root to tip, so no need for products as it acts as a conditioner, sealant etc and keeps hair moisturised, A handful of you tubers have sarted doing this and have recorded their journeys. Moat swearing off never to use conditioner again!