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View Full Version : Oil vs Moisture. Are they one in the same, or two different things?



Salmonberry
April 7th, 2013, 02:28 PM
I thought I'd start a discussion about something that's been on my mind for a while. From what I've read here, I've gathered that oiling the hair is generally a good idea for strong healthy hair. Coconut oil, olive oil jojoba oil you name it. Many people, but not all, have had success with oiling in some way or another. We also produce our own natural oil, sebum, and routines like WO, NW or stretching washes seem to be built around the idea of preserving our own natural oils. Many hair products such as conditioners, leave ins and deeps treatments also tout the fact that they contain natural oils that will "moisturize" the hair.

This is where I start to get a little uneasy. I hear the term "moisture" thrown around a lot as it relates to oil. I can accept the concept that oils could be used to seal in moisture already present, but oil in and of itself is everything but moist. I mean, oils (lipids) are hydrophobic by nature. They repel water. Oil and water don't mix without some type of emulsifier. This is why I don't understand oiling dry hair and claiming that it adds moisture. This is, of course, assuming that moisture means water content and not something else. Yes, some oils can be a liquid, but that doesn't mean they contain water. I've oiled dry hair and found that it made my hair shinier and easier to comb, but in no way did it make it more "moist".

This also brings me to the NW (No Water)/ SO (Sebum Only) routines that I see some people have had success with. From what I understand, no water touches the hair and the scalp's natural oils are distributed throughout the hair. I can see this being a very low moisture routine, wouldn't hair dry out? Does the hair get natural moisture from the atmosphere, and if so would that mean that someone in a very dry arid climate couldn't do NW? If there's anyone that does NW successfully, do you live in a humid environment? I ask the same thing of stretching washes. Would a few days of the hair not coming into contact with water dry it out? Does there need to be a certain level of atmospheric humidity for the hair to stay moist? I know from my own experience that my hair can get dry and crunchy if I don't get it wet everyday. I don't shampoo everyday, but it does get wet at least once a day during my normal routine.

Another thing I want to ask about moisture is if there is an ideal moisture level that should be maintained within the hair. I hear a lot that hair is at its weakest point when wet and that water weakens hair. If this is so, then why is moisture something to be sought after? Also, I know from experience that my hair is more likely to break when dry. It's also about 10 times more difficult to detangle dry. I can hear ripping and snapping even if I'm gentle with it when I try to detangle dry. When it's wet, the detangling brush/comb just glides right through. Seems a bit counter-intuitive.

I'm not trying to say one routine is superior over another. What works best for you is what works best for you. I guess I sometimes get confused and frustrated by the fact that what works best for me is sometimes the exact opposite of what is often recommended here. I'd like to know some science behind it so I can better advise others on their own routines.

I guess my overarching question is: Are oil and moisture the same thing, or are they two different qualities that are important in healthy hair? Should they be grouped together, or should they be thought of as two separate things (like how hair shaft thickness f,m,c is different that overall hair thickness i,ii,iii)?

Wildcat Diva
April 7th, 2013, 03:06 PM
You bring up a lot of good points, many of which have been on my mind for a while. I tend to use a misting bottle daily with water and essential oils, and often add mineral oil or Nightblooming Panacea afterwards. Another thing that concerns me which is KINDA related, maybe not really, is the raising of the cuticle. If I continually moisturize my hair (through misting, then adding a leave in), is that raising the cuticle again and again?

PetuniaBlossom
April 7th, 2013, 03:40 PM
You ask very intelligent and thoughtful questions. I don't have answers, mostly because I'm not scientifically knowledgeable. There are lots of people on this forum who are, though, and I'll be looking forward to their responses.
My own hair has always been very dry, wavy/wurly. Until I found LHC I really had no clue as to what could make a difference. I now use coconut oil because it is said to penetrate the hair shaft, bringing some form of nourishment/moisture to the hair. It does help, and I've tried it on both dry and damp hair with equal success. After washing/conditioning my hair, I apply mineral (baby) oil to the ends whilst it is still wet, to 'seal' in the moisture. This also helps.
My hair is now much softer and shinier than ever before, and the ends are also soft, where they always used to be stiff and crunchy.
I'll be checking in on this thread to see others' responses.

spidermom
April 7th, 2013, 04:15 PM
I have often pondered these very questions.

As hair grows, its structure erodes. Proteins and EFAs (essential fatty acids) are lost. If you have an oil that penetrates the hair shaft such as coconut, olive, and argan, these EFA molecules replace the molecules that have been lost. That is why it is beneficial to oil dry hair, although the cuticle might be closed tightly enough that the oil molecules won't penetrate until the atmosphere is humid or your hair gets wet/is washed.

All moisturizing products sold have a combination of oils/waxes/water, they work together. You won't get good results if you merely splash water on dry skin or dry hair. You need the oils, too. And you won't get a nice, plump prune if you soak it in oil; you need the water.

Salmonberry
April 7th, 2013, 04:23 PM
As hair grows, its structure erodes. Proteins and EFAs (essential fatty acids) are lost. If you have an oil that penetrates the hair shaft such as coconut, olive, and argan, these EFA molecules replace the molecules that have been lost. That is why it is beneficial to oil dry hair, although the cuticle might be closed tightly enough that the oil molecules won't penetrate until the atmosphere is humid or your hair gets wet/is washed.


Oh wow, that makes sense.:) So if fatty acids and oils are actually part of hair's natural structure then oiling it will help maintain that structure as the hair gets older and starts to break down.

Thanks for the info.

jacqueline101
April 7th, 2013, 04:55 PM
That's a good point on the fatty acids but I'm not sure if oil is moisture.

Emichiee
April 7th, 2013, 05:24 PM
You bring up a lot of good points, many of which have been on my mind for a while. I tend to use a misting bottle daily with water and essential oils, and often add mineral oil or Nightblooming Panacea afterwards. Another thing that concerns me which is KINDA related, maybe not really, is the raising of the cuticle. If I continually moisturize my hair (through misting, then adding a leave in), is that raising the cuticle again and again?

Oils molecules are small enough to penetrate without lifting (olive, coconut). Some oils don't penetrate, but stay on the outside (jojoba). Most products are also designed this way.


Oh wow, that makes sense.:) So if fatty acids and oils are actually part of hair's natural structure then oiling it will help maintain that structure as the hair gets older and starts to break down.

Thanks for the info.

You replenish some of the oils. Hair will naturally attract moisture from air, but oils we often lack due to stripping them by washing. Even gentle shampoos strip. With long hair oils also won't get all the way down to the ends, so adding oul to your ends is beneficial in preserving the hairs youth.

spirals
April 7th, 2013, 05:29 PM
I'm thinking oils just serve to seal in moisture. My cuticles are always somewhat open, so as I get further from a wash, my hair starts to lose moisture. (Washing adds moisture because curly hair is a sponge.) A few days out I might add oil to calm the frizz or add some shine or slip, but my hair never feels moisturized by that. I can definitely feel a difference between hair that has some moisture still left in it and hair that has lost some of that moisture content. It feels and acts differently, and oil doesn't change that. This may not ring true for other hair types. Oil's still good for easing the stiffeness of my dry ends, though, until another wash.

Kaelee
April 7th, 2013, 05:33 PM
I'd wondered about that too. Good to know, and also about he coconut oil! I had wondered, but didn't know the science behind it.

ravenreed
April 7th, 2013, 06:19 PM
I have much the same experience. If I CO every other day, my hair feels so much more moisturized than if I simply oil and let it go for longer. The oil makes my hair feel smoother, but never moisturized. Perhaps that is a hairtype thing, since I am a wavy with coarse hair...


I'm thinking oils just serve to seal in moisture. My cuticles are always somewhat open, so as I get further from a wash, my hair starts to lose moisture. (Washing adds moisture because curly hair is a sponge.) A few days out I might add oil to calm the frizz or add some shine or slip, but my hair never feels moisturized by that. I can definitely feel a difference between hair that has some moisture still left in it and hair that has lost some of that moisture content. It feels and acts differently, and oil doesn't change that. This may not ring true for other hair types. Oil's still good for easing the stiffeness of my dry ends, though, until another wash.

Naiadryade
April 7th, 2013, 07:43 PM
Really wonderful questions. I've wondered many of the same things. Spidermom, that's a great explanation, thank you! It makes a lot of sense. I look forward to more people's ideas on these questions....

I think when people (myself included) say "moisture," it's often kind of a misnomer. Sometimes it really means moisture... but sometimes in means lipid content of the hair shaft. Both are important, but they're not the same thing. Methinks we need a second word!

Now that I have a conditioner I'm happy with, I'm thinking of washing more frequently (It's been once a week for a while, less frequently before that) and/or CO'ing in between washes and seeing how my hair likes that. What people are saying about their wavy/wurly dry hair benefiting from this makes a lot of sense. My hair certainly does act like a sponge!

goldloli
April 7th, 2013, 08:43 PM
I have much the same experience. If I CO every other day, my hair feels so much more moisturized than if I simply oil and let it go for longer. The oil makes my hair feel smoother, but never moisturized. Perhaps that is a hairtype thing, since I am a wavy with coarse hair...
3rding this. it's just like coated straw if i use oil to 'revive' dry hair, fair much better by just washing.

Salmonberry
April 7th, 2013, 10:40 PM
Wow, thanks for all of the responses everyone. I'm glad these are some good questions.

ravenreed
April 7th, 2013, 11:05 PM
When my skin is really dry, just lathering on lotion or oil doesn't help, nor does hopping in the shower. However, if I take a shower and when my skin is still damp use lotion or oil to seal in the moisture, then I have happy, soft skin. I get the feeling that COing does much the same for my hair. I usually mist my hair before oiling, and even then it doesn't have quite the same benefit as COing does. I think my hair needs to soak, and when I CO I usually leave the conditioner on for at least 10 minutes, so it coats the wet hair for a little while. Maybe that is why it works, I am not sure.

Debra83
April 7th, 2013, 11:46 PM
I've been wondering about oil and moisturizing as well. Really glad you brought it up. Thanks! :D

spirals
April 7th, 2013, 11:53 PM
ravenreed, I think you hit the nail in the head.

Debra83
April 8th, 2013, 12:31 AM
HEY!!! I BET RAVENREED's ANSWER IS WHY the GARNIER FRUCTIS CONDITIONER works so well as a leave in for me (when I remember to use it like that!!! :D

ravenreed
April 8th, 2013, 12:36 AM
I liked that one a lot when I was using SLS shampoos. (Alas, it gives me build up if I don't.)


HEY!!! I BET RAVENREED's ANSWER IS WHY the GARNIER FRUCTIS CONDITIONER works so well as a leave in for me (when I remember to use it like that!!! :D