Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Reader Questions Week: Moisture and Sealing

Reader Questions Week continues with moisture and sealing questions today!
Chinwe asks - Is there a benefit to deep conditioning before shampooing versus after? What are the pros and cons of each? Does it penetrate better in either case?

Shampoo is packed full of surfactants to clean the hair, lift debris and oils. It is used before conditioner because the conditioner deposits ‘conditioning agents’ which help add softness to the hair. Shampoo alone can leave the hair feeling dry and using it after conditioner will strip off the conditioning agents needed 

Chinwe asks - Is there a benefit to using coconut oil before/after shampooing? Is doing one over the other better for the hair in terms of penetration, moisture retention, protection, etc.?

Using coconut oil before shampooing helps to protect the hair from hygral fatigue and protein loss (see this post) .Using it after is good for moisture and again for protein loss. So both have their advantages.

Avril asks - does it matter if coconut oil and olive oil (since it's proven that it is able to enter the cortex of the hair) is mixed into lets say Shea butter which cannot penetrate the cortex? If not will it then take those oils longer to penetrate or will the Shea butter prevent it from entering because it coats the cuticle? 

Lydia asks - What is the best kind/type of sealer to use, oil or butter? If there is not a solid answer at to which one can you tell me what oils or butters work best for sealing hair? I know some oils penetrate and some don't so I'm guessing I would want to try the oil(s) that don't penetrate. 

Mellowyel asks - Is there a significant difference between applying oils and butters separately to your hair, and mixing them all together and applying them just once? 

Anon - Thanks for raising this mellowyel, since reading this blog i've wanted to know if it mattered that coconut oil was mixed into the product? If that product would (especially if it contained silicones) allow the oil to penetrate the hair. 

One sealing product I did find was a mix of glycerine and jojoba oil (Cosmetic Dermatology, pg 268-278, 2008). Neither of these are known to penetrate into the hair. I do think formulation is a complicated science. The reason why this glycerine/jojoba oil mix may be good is because of the combination of humectants and the wax which sits on the outer shaft, not simply because of the oil.

Also, just because an oil penetrates into the hair does not mean it will not coat the cuticle too. In most (if not all) cases the oil is mainly outside the hair shaft and some of it gets into the cortex. There is no firm science that I could find on this subject but I think that mixing oils and or butters for sealing purposes may not necessarily be bad. This is because the oils/butters are made up of fats which can freely mix. I do think there will be batch variance depending on how much of each you add. I would suggest adding a moisturising oil to the mix (coconut or olive oil).

I think any oil/butter could be useful for a sealing effect but care does need to be taken not to end up with a greasy hair/scalp (which can cause more problems). I do think that it is a matter of trial and error for the mixers among us. I do think for those who prefer a simpler routine just stick to the oil or butter that gives your hair the most joy!

As for silicones, they are actually more complicated, there are some soluble silicones and some that are not. I’ll do a post on this later

Didi asks - Quick question please - can you tell me about glycerin? Does it actually "seal in moisture"? 

Kelly asks – Is vegetable glycerine good for hair?
Glycerin combined with jojoba oil has been seen to seal moisture on the skin. I did do a post on glycerin with a picture of KY lol but really it was about glycerin – click here to read it


  1. Great information. I stopped sealing my hair with oil though. In the mornings I spray my hair with a vegetable glycerine-based spritz, then shake my hair. Then I do some individual finger coils. I found that if I massaged my hair with oil after that my curls did not look defined anymore. I could put some oil in at night, but not any time I want to actually style my hair. Sealing with oil may be the reason why some women have frizz. They are manipulating their hair too much after doing a wash and go.

  2. @Bronze - You know that may make sense because if the hair is coated in oil it may not be able to clump up as each strand has its own 'non-stick' layer.

    Interesting observation!

  3. Great post! After I co-wash, I mix a quarter size amount of my favorite conditioner with a few drops of oil then just apply in one step. My curls are still well defined and tend to be very soft through the day.

  4. Some great information here! I love using virgin coconut oil on my hair. I apply it after shampooing as a moisturizer and hair conditioner. Try not to use too much as it may leave your hair overly greasy. If you do use too much, you can simply shampoo your hair the next day. I find it really thickens and smoothes out the hair shaft.


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