Guide to using ingredients: Water

Water took the number 2 place on your top ingredients poll. Interesting since water can be both good and bad.

Why is water good?

1. Water is a fundamental part of hair - different books tell you different things but if we stick to Chemical and Physical Behaviour of Hair by Robbins, this is between 6 and13% depending on the humidity.
2. Water is thought to contribute to the flexibility and strength of hair.
3. Moisture in hair reduces static, meaning a frizz-free life!

How to use water?

I have not found any paper that recommends applying water to hair but studies of heat treated hair do show that hair needs to be re-wetted in order to get back its internal moisture level. I therefore suggest that perhaps using water on hair that feels dry is good.

How not to use water

1. Hair especially weakened hair is more likely to break when wet combed - handle it gently (Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings, pg 2–5, 2007)
2. Wet combing is just as damaging as dry combing, the difference arises only in how the hair is combed. Conditioner combing works because of the thickness of the conditioner and partly because of the conditioning agents. It is not about the water. (Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings, pg 2–5, 2007 and International Journal of Cosmetic Science, pg 76, 2008)
3. Hygral fatigue (keep reading!) is thought to be damaging to hair. It arises from wetting hair, letting it dry and repeating the cycle several times. It is suggested that hair expands and contracts several times during this process and could weaken hair.
4. Chlorine in water can damage the protein in hair leading to weakened hair.

The one thing that does fascinate me is deep conditioning. Usually this is said to allow penetration. Penetration of what I wonder? My scientific mind says to me that water is the only ingredient that would probably be good. Therefore I'm putting up a new poll and if you do deep condition, do tell me, why do you and what are your results?


  1. I have a question about hygral fatigue. You may not know this, but what's the threshold for textured hair? Does washing/wetting more than once a week lead to hygral fatigue? More than 2x a week? What are your thoughts?

  2. MJ - I haven't seen any work towards answering this question. Therefore I cannot say accurately. Most papers I have read show washing 1-3 times a week is considered normal. Some even report daily washing (but not for African hair usually).

    That will probably be another question for a poll!

  3. So.... do we have to moiturize with a waterbased product daily or not? Also, do i understand that using a water based product do not cause hydral fatigue? I'm a little confused but i thing i have always been with the water topic. For exemple, they say that we lose water from the hair during the winter time but i also notice that my cloth take longer to dry when it is cold so i'm not retaining more water in the hair then?

  4. i leave conditioner on for about 5 minutes for a regular wash, but then I recently started following the suggestion on the back of Aubrey Organics conditioners, which is to apply their conditioner to dry hair for fifteen minutes for a deep condition. I've done this once with their conditioner and once with Herbal Essences Hello Hydration, and my hair felt considerably softer afterwards than it did after my usual 5 minute condition. What do you make of that? Does it make sense?

  5. @Kadiane, hair expands when it is wetted, this disturbs the cuticle. We have to accept this as a consequence of wanting clean hair. Tests for hygral fatigue would involve wetting the hair in water then allowing it to dry. Hair is fully saturated by water in about 15minutes. I think with conditioner or other water based product it would take longer because they have less water (50-60% water). Plus you have to account for the fact that the product will also evaporate off the hair.

    @Mellowyel - Interesting observation which makes me ask many questions. Did you just apply conditioner to dry hair and then rinse off (no pretreatment or shampoo?)? How long did the softness last, was it longer than usual?

  6. For the deep conditioning, according to paula begoun (the cosmetic cop) the longer the better when leaving conditionner on the hair. It is not about penetration. It is about the time it takes to slide true the cuticles and patch them so that they lay flat. Now she did not say how long and she was not using the term deep conditionning. She was just talking about waiting longer b4 rinsing the conditionner out of the hair. I do not have the book in front of me right now but i think the whole routine of putting a shower cap on and going under the dryer was not something she even bothered with specially shen she says heat is demaging for the hair. Like you do she always cite her sources. When i get my book back i will look and tell you exactly what she says.Overall, i do not think she is pro deep conditionning per se but she is pro longer conditionning time !?! hummm

    Question: if water penetrates the heart of the hair only when it is wetted then our water based conditioners only help for styling puposes or to soften the cuticles for them not to break then ( no heat involved)? So the fact that our hair feels dry means the surface of our hair is in danger becuz it can break but it does not mean the heart of it is necessarily dry witch ( witch is damaging)? Conclusion: if we use a non water base cond that is emolient enought to soften the cuticles we should be fine too ?? So the whole "kinky hair needs water" is not that accurate?

  7. just like @mellowyel i used Aubrey Organics. I read the same instructions, but do not follow them!

    i wore weaves for years and when i finally stopped this summer, i started weekly deep conditioning, but i would actually do it over night. my hair was really dry during my weave days i must say, especially compared to now. although this last year i started paying more attention to caring for my hair because i knew i would be stopping the weave, i just didn't know what i was going to do next. when i discovered the online community, i read or watched videos daily for two months. i sort of compared notes and came up with the weekly deep conditioning regimen that i've been doing regularly since july 31. in the last month i stopped the overnight DC and just do 3 hrs. i do put on a plastic cap and i usually go running too for extra heat. then i just rinse out and proceed with ACV and then i use giovanni's direct leave in and whipped shea butter.

    i feel like there are a lot of issues ive read about that i haven't experienced. i dont have serious shedding problems, barely any knots, my ends look really good and when i go to wet/wash my hair it absorbs water quickly (especially when i compare how long it took to saturate my hair during the weave days). i started out using Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle and i noticed a huge difference with Aubreys; i prefer the slip from Aubrey's and i feel like i use less. i should mention that i add 2 tbsp of honey and 1 tbsp of olive oil to Aubreys. when the week is over, i have honestly asked myself why do i keep doing this; my hair isn't even dry. i only wash once a week and i do work out a lot so, i just stick to this schedule if for nothing else to combat the effects from sweat.

    during the week i use coconut oil on my scalp and for retwisting at night i spritz a mix of: 1/3 giovanni's and a tsp of coconut oil, olive oil and 2/3 water (but i just use enough to dampen).

    i wanted to include everything as to not be misleading about the effects of the DC. not sure how much DCing helps in comparison to the weekly routine. maybe we'll have a clearer picture as we compare notes.

  8. I usually leave my conditioner on under a shower cap for about 5 to 10 minutes. That's just how long it takes me to clean and shave myself whereever it's necessary. I learned from your 'Deep Conditioning Myth' post that conditioner mainly works on the outside of the hair. What use would it be then to leave it on for 30 minutes if the ingredients don't penetrate into the hair?

  9. Sorry i actually ment the cortex ( heart of the hair lol.

  10. I don't know why but for me it does make a difference. I noticed that my hair has more slip when I DC under a saran wrap and a warm towel for a while, as opposed to as when I use the very same product for only about 5 minutes under the shower.
    Could it be that moderate heat makes the product runnier, which might be beneficial for some sort of reason? Just guessing here.

  11. @Jc
    Sorry i took so long getting back to you! I applied it to dry hair, no pre-treatment (i rarely pretreat - i'm so busy i tend to forget) It was softer, and it stayed soft about two days longer than usual (so four days as opposed to 2 days, 3 days max) How I moisturized my hair may have affected that result though - and I'm still trying to work out my moisturizing plan so that changes all the time.


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