Moisturize Vs Hydrate Hair

Are You on #TeamMoisturise or #TeamHydrate? 

Here’s Why You Should be on Both.

Hydrating and moisturizing comes hand in hand; a hydrating product replenishes the water in your hair and a moisturizer forms a barrier to lock the moisture in. Therefore, to cultivate a healthy set of hair, you cannot have one without the other. 

Differences between Moisturize and Hydrate for Hair

Step into any beauty store and you will find yourself greeted by a treasure trove of skincare products ready to whisk you away to your dream complexion. 

Often times, you will find one skincare gem that promises a boost of hydration while another offers a moisturizing treat for your skin. What are these terms and is there a difference? Read on as we break them down. 

Why We Hydrate

When you exercise, your body loses fluids due to sweating and dehydration, leading it to consume water in order to restore normal water levels and remain hydrated. According to CNN Health, a well-hydrated body helps improve sleep quality, mood, and more—these are factors that coincidentally, affects the health of your hair. 

Therefore, in skincare terms, hydration refers to the process of adding water to the hair. There are two ways to ensure this: 

  1. the first is to consume a daily water intake that is optimal for your body. 
  2. The second is by using water-based products that contain proteins, amino acids, and critical vitamins that penetrate the hair fiber. By doing so, the hair will be kept well hydrated.

However, having water content within the strands does not mean that it is protected against factors that lead to dehydration. This is where moisturizing comes in. 

Why We Moisturise

According to Diane Shawe, author of ‘How Hair Extensions are Sourced, Treated and Graded,’ when moisture levels drop below 10-10.2% (depending on the type of hair and the level of environmental humidity), the hair will appear to be 3x weaker and brittle.

In haircare, moisture refers to the presence of water or the wetness of something. If your hair care product offers moisturizing benefits, it is referring to the ability to prevent your tresses from losing moisture. Hence, moisturizers help to seal in the water, nourishing the hair and keeping it strong and healthy throughout the day. 

There are several ways a product can include a moisturizing ingredient and one is through humectants.

Humectants help the hair attract and retain water content from the inner to the outer layer of your skin as well as from the atmosphere. Naturally found in the cell layer, this certifies them as the Natural Moisturising Factors (NMF) of the body.

Here’s a quick guide to the natural humectants that you can look out for:

  • Honey: contains both emollient and humectant properties that moisturize and lock in shine to improve the natural luster of your hair.

  • Aloe vera:  repairs dead skin cells on the scalp and leaves the hair smooth and shiny. This haircare gem also promotes hair growth and prevents itching on the scalp.

  • Witch hazel extract:  increases blood flow and reduces irritation to hair follicles to promote hair growth.

  • Coconut water: promotes cell growth, improves blood circulation, and fortifies strands for thicker hair.

  • Lactic acid: strips the hair of dirt, pollutants, and products without stripping the hair of its moisture.

However, while humectants are fast workers, they are not necessarily fast thinkers. 

  • When the humidity in the air turns low (dry), humectants will draw out the water content from your hair into the atmosphere instead. Hence, the strands will be hydrated for a moment before it becomes even drier than before, leading to hair breakage. 
  • Alternatively, in high humidity conditions, humectants may attract too much water to the hair.  This can cause the hair shaft to swell, cuticle to become ruffled, and hair to lose its shape, turning it big and frizzy. People with porous hair face this problem more so than those with non-porous hair. The porosity of your hair affects how well oils and moisture pass in and out of the outermost layer of your hair, known as the cuticle.  

Therefore, use products that contain humectants with caution as the seasons and humidities change. 

To learn more about healthy hair care routines, read our latest updates on hair care guides, news, and more. 



Efforts have been made to get the information as accurate and updated as possible. If you found any incorrect information with credible source, please send it via the contact us form
Ria Chia
A geek and education enthusiast living in Singapore. I write about personal development, health and mostly anything that comes along.
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