Regardless of hair type, dry, brittle hair comes for most of us at some point in our lives. It’s a huge bummer and can be perplexing to manage if you’ve never dealt with it before. Luckily, healthy and hydrated hair is possible for everyone, even if it does take a bit of troubleshooting and extra TLC. Trust me—learning how to moisturize hair is worth it. No one should have to live with hair that isn’t looking and feeling its best!

Turns out, there are many different reasons why your tresses may be drier than usual—everything from genetics to the weather can play a part. But once you find the best treatments and products for your hair type, you’ll be on the road to happy, moisturized hair.

To answer the question of how to moisturize hair, we tapped a couple of pros: Devin Graciano, hair stylist and Head of Product Development at Goldie Locks, hairstylist and curl expert, April Kayganich, and Mane Addicts hairstylist, Brittany Sully. They had a lot to say about the causes of dry hair, as well as how to moisturize hair regardless of hair type. Read on for their expert insights!

Featured image by Belathée Photography.

Image by Michelle Nash

What causes dry hair?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. According to Kayganich, there can be multiple causes of dry hair. Genetics, hormones, and even the environment you live in can all be a factor. And did you know that both dry and humid climates can zap hair of its moisture depending on your hair texture or porosity? Yup, we can’t win!

Graciano breaks down the science, citing the hair’s cuticle as being the key player in taking and sealing in hydration. “Anytime our cuticle layer is exposed to natural and chemical compositions, it’s affecting your hair and many times will start to expose or lift layers of our cuticle causing hydration to slip away.”

Using the wrong products also plays a part. Low-quality ingredients like alcohols or silicones that aren’t water-soluble can contribute to dry, brittle hair. Sully also noted that sun exposure and swimming in chlorinated water can cause dry hair.

Newly graying hair can also be a cause for dry hair! You can embrace it or you can dye it, and there are plenty of amazing products to keep hair healthy, shiny, and smooth regardless. Luckily, using hydrating shampoos and masks makes a huge difference with gray hair.

Image by Michelle Nash

How can we keep our strands and scalp moisturized when air drying hair?

While we love the look of a fresh blowout, in the summer heat, spending quality time with your hair dryer sounds less than ideal. While we’re all for giving our strands a break from heat-styling tools, Graciano emphasizes the importance of removing “most of the water with a quick blowout” to support scalp health. This, she says, strengthens “the hydro and salt bonds in our hair.”

Graciano’s Tips for How to Moisturize (Mostly) Air-Dried Hair

  1. Add a hydrating leave-in conditioner (for those with unruly or frizz prone hair, try a few pumps of Goldie Locks Signature Hair Serum on towel-dried hair).
  2. Comb or brush through for even distribution.
  3. Gently blow out excess water with a blow dryer on low-mid heat and mid-strength. Focus on getting the hair near the scalp mostly dry.
  4. For those wanting to go out on the town looking their best with an air dry—the trick is to polish the ends of the hair and the front hairline. Focus a blow dry with a round brush on the tips of the hair and around the front hairline while allowing everything else to dry au natural.
Image by Michelle Nash

12 Expert Tips for How to Moisturize Hair

Use regular hair masks

Ultra-hydrating hair masks help to nourish, moisturize, strengthen, and protect hair. “Invest in a hydrating hair mask that you can supplement in lieu of your daily conditioner,” says Graciano. She recommends using a mask no more than once a week to help your hair develop a healthier, shinier, and softer texture.

Wet your hair before swimming

If you’re planning on taking a dip in the pool, Sully reminds us to try wetting the hair first so that it’s already saturated before getting in. This way, it isn’t able to absorb the chlorinated water. Not only does chlorine lead to dry hair, but it also affects hair color.

Use hot oil treatments

In general, hot oil treatments are great for your hair, but you’ll definitely want to check them out if you’re dealing with dry hair. Hot oil treatments not only reduce dryness of both the scalp and hair, but they increase hair strength, reduce frizz, and prevent split ends.

Image by Michelle Nash

Ditch shampoos with sulfates

Sulfates can potentially damage the hair, stripping it of its natural moisture and proteins, causing irritated, itchy skin and dryness. Luckily, most brands have sulfate-free options these days. On the topic of shampoo, Graciano also encourages opting for a protein-free shampoo. “Protein is selfish and thrives to strengthen your inner hair strands but it only works well after it eliminates hydration and moisture,” she notes.

Avoid products with alcohol

Those with curly tresses especially want to keep away from drying alcohols like isopropyl and ethyl alcohol, warns Kayganich. They can actually cause changes in your curl patterns.

Wear a Hat

An easy, but effective tip. If you’re already wearing one as a part of your skin’s suncare routine, then this is a win-win. Graciano loves incorporating hats into her hair-protecting wardrobe to keep strands hydrated and fresh. “While hair products can provide UV protection, it is even better to add the accessory of a hat adding a layer of protection.”

Image by Claire Huntsberger

Don’t over-process hair

Invest in a great stylist if you want to go lighter or dye your hair—it’s worth it to go to a professional who won’t over-process and damage your hair. Graciano adds a word of caution: go easy on the hair lightening. “For those persistent to get blonde, take it slow and through a few appointments rather than an 8 hr+ appointment in one day.” She notes that the chemicals used in these treatments dehydrate hair, creating an “escape route for your hair’s moisture.”

Avoid heat styling

We all know that excess heat styling dries your hair out, but if you can’t get around it, Kayganich recommends investing in a good hairdryer and heat protectant.

wet hair thoroughly before adding styling product

If you’re rocking waves, curls, or coils, Kayganich recommends making sure that the hair is saturated with water before you begin adding styling products. In her opinion, water is the best thing you can add to curly and wavy hair since it’s where they get their moisture.

Image by Teal Thomsen

Avoid silicones

Kayganich explains that since silicones aren’t water-soluble, they merely create the illusion of shiny, healthy hair. They actually coat the hair and have to be removed with sulfates, which, you guessed it, dries out hair.

Cut back on washes

By now we know that most people (regardless of hair type) should not be washing their hair every day. Kayganich stresses that those who struggle with dry hair should really only wash it once a week, twice max. Sully suggests rinsing the hair or co-washing in between your wash days for a refresh that won’t strip your hair of its natural oils.

Add a Leave-In Conditioner To Your Routine

“These products are true heroes in balancing your hair’s pH and ensuring you have a light protective cast of hydration penetrating your strands throughout the day,” says Graciano.

16 Best Products For Moisturizing Hair

Afterworld Organics Moisture Lock Curl Serum

Kayganich loves this serum because it locks in moisture (aka water!).


Goldie Locks Signature Hydrating Shampoo

“This protein-free option is highly luxurious. Just the feel of this shampoo in your hands brings an experience in and of itself. This will be a non-greasy yet ultimate hydrating oasis for all hair types.” — Devin Graciano


Goldie Locks Daily Signature Hydrating Conditioner

“For those wanting a deep hydrating and moisturizing conditioner that won’t weigh the hair down, this conditioner brings a protein-free pairing to its shampoo and delivers instant hydrating relief to thirsty strands.” — Devin Graciano


Olaplex No. 0 Intense Bond Building Hair Treatment

If you’re new to the wonders of Olaplex, start here. It’s a clinically-proven treatment system that fortifies and restores all types of damaged hair.


Hairstory New Wash Rich

This non-sudsing cleanser also hydrates the hair, so you don’t need to condition it separately. Kayganich explains that it helps to keep the pH balance of the hair while working with its natural oils.


Amika Dream Routine

“This is a great overnight hair treatment that brings hydration while you sleep. It soaks in the hair pretty quickly so it does not leave anything behind on your pillow while you sleep.” — Devin Graciano


Davines Melu Hair Shield

“This hair shield protects your strands before your reach for your blow dryer and other heat tools. This mist will take the heat so your hair won’t have to.” — Devin Graciano


Briogeo Farewell Frizz Blow Dry Perfection Heat Protectant Cream

If you must use heat styling tools, then check out this lightweight, silicone-free heat protectant cream. It not only effectively protects against heat up to 450°F, but it also minimizes frizz, smoothes hair, and boosts shine.


Olaplex No 8 Bond Intense Moisture Mask

The only at-home treatments that Kayganich recommends are Olaplex treatments. They are disulfide bond builders that give the hair integrity, moisturize, and strengthen the entire cuticle.


Davines Su Milk

If you’re worried about sun exposure, check out this leave-on milk. It’s enriched with UV protective filters that keep color safe and hair hydrated, soft, and light.


Gisou Honey Infused Hair Oil

Nourish your hair with this multipurpose hair oil. It’s made with sustainably sourced Mirsalehi honey, a natural humectant that restores hair’s natural balance and leaves it soft, smooth, and moisturized.


OGX Coconut Miracle Oil Penetrating Oil

Repair and renew dry, coarse hair with this deeply penetrating and hydrating oil.


Goldie Locks Signature Hydrating Hair Mask

“This hair mask is the ultimate indulgence for those looking for weekly maintenance and supports those in need of a total resurgence. This will help hair become more manageable as the hydrating benefits soothe hair, restoring lost hydration and sealing it with moisturizing ingredients.” — Devin Graciano


Goldie Locks Signature Hair Serum

“A great hair oil and serum hybrid. This serum works underneath the cuticle to help strengthen hair through moisturizing and protects the outside of your strands with UV and heat protection that hair serum’s are known to do.” — Devin Graciano


dae Cactus Flower Leave-In Conditioner

Another great leave-in option, this styler and heat protectant is made with cactus flower and prickly pear extract. It has essential vitamins and minerals that keep hair follicles healthy as well as delivering intense hydration with a high content of vitamin E, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants.


Briogeo Curl Charisma

“Amino acids and avocado bring nourishment to all of our curly hair types that need their coils back. When curly hair is dehydrated, they lose their bounce and definition so it is also important to ensure you are feeding your curls what they need.” — Devin Graciano


This post was originally published on July 14, 2021, and has since been updated.

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Comments (3)
  1. 1
    Martie Raper July 15, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    I had a gloss color tone treatment ? It’s been a month, & since then my hairs coming out from the roots. I also have really bad breakage, tangles & fizzy hair all over. I’ve been using hair oils serums. I use sulfate/Paarabens free shampoo &conditioners. I recently brought biotin hair spray for thickness & tangles but I feel I loose more hair. I also purchased Ginseng & caffine Grow Long conditioner. Biotin & Collagen thickening shampoo safe for color treated hair. Help!! What hot oil treatments/brands do you recommend?

    Reply
    • Paula May 11, 2022 at 9:26 am

      My hair stylist of 30 years said for damaged hair she recommends olive oil as a treatment. Rub it all over your hair and let it soak in for 20 minutes. Because it’s a natural oil it will shampoo out nicely and it will moisture your hair

      Reply
  2. 2
    lester July 19, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    There are plenty of silicones that are water soluble and easily removed with water alone, the silicones that aren’t soluble in water require shampoo to disolve and remove the silicone from hair. ANY shampoo works, sulfates are not required or needed.

    Reply