View Full Version : Oil and water - confusion

April 27th, 2008, 03:09 AM

For the past few months, I've read these boards and learned so much that has helped my hair to improve. You've all got such gorgeous hair, I feel like a troll by comparison, but I'll fight on to achieve my goals.

There have been numerous threads posted here about applying oil to wet / damp hair, and this confuses me because oil and water do not mix !! If you place a few drops of oil in a bowl of water the oil drops will rise to the surface. They will not mix in. Could you please bear with my newbie ignorance regarding this issue and explain why oil works better on wet / damp hair as opposed to dry.
I've always used my oils on dry hair, but judging by all the beautiful hair I'm seeing here I've got a lot to learn, and hope one day to have hair as healthy looking as the rest of you.:cool:

Riot Crrl
April 27th, 2008, 03:17 AM
I will try to answer the best I know how, but I'm no chemist or guru either.

They don't mix to create a permanent emulsion, no. But they can create a dispersion, like when you shake up oil and vinegar for a salad.

The reason I have to distribute oil on wet hair mostly, is that my hair is porous, peroxide damaged, and curly. Imagine trying to spread a certain amount of oil on a dry sponge. One corner of the sponge would just soak up all of it, and you would run out before you got to the rest of the sponge. Now imagine trying to spread the same amount of oil over a damp sponge. You would probably be able to distribute it over the whole outer surface of the sponge.

The oil and water did not emulsify, but you distributed the oil and trapped some of the water in to the sponge.

I hope that kinda explains it.

April 27th, 2008, 03:22 AM
I have experimented with this and found that putting oil on newly washed hair that has just only just dried (air-dried) and still retains a very, very slight dampness to it works best for me. I don't know the scientific basis for this and like you I was sceptical about putting it on wet hair for the very same reasons as you. I tried it and the oil appeared to stay on my hands rather than go into the hair.

I am a newbie to this oiling business too. But I have found that it really works well on my hair, giving it a bit more weight and thickness.

April 27th, 2008, 03:36 AM
IIRC, oil does not in fact moisturise your hair; rather, it locks in moisture. Ergo if your hair is wet when you apply the oil, the oil will lock in the water to moisturise your hair better.

April 27th, 2008, 03:40 AM
Honestly, putting oil on wet or damp hair does nothing for me at all.

I'm also confused about the whole locking water in the hair shaft thing. STILL confused about this...
As I understood it, water does not moisturise hair anyway... I thought it was useful for cleaning hair but just as skin does not absorb water for moisturising purposes, neither does hair... I'm very confused! Would somebody please explain how this works?

April 27th, 2008, 03:43 AM
Hmmm, Well I just heavily oil before a washing. Ive not done anything else with it as yet. Probably because I know that I wont leave it as a little if I was to oil properly

I guess I could try doing it damp :)

Hmm interesting question :)

Riot Crrl
April 27th, 2008, 03:54 AM
Water does play a role in moisturizing skin and hair. It's not everything, but it plays a role. I know some people do great here with never putting water on their hair, but my hair can't abide that, and neither can my skin.

Oiling damp hair is not really about locking anything in. Plant oils don't really do that. It would be like the vinegar being locked in to a salad. They are just kinda commingled.

April 27th, 2008, 04:41 AM
I have tried oil on dry vs wet/damp hair. My hair gets crunchy if I put it on wet hair, no idea why. If I put it on dry hair it looks greasy, but no crunchies. It has done wonderful thing for my hair, so I just use it on my hair at night or if I'm going to be sitting around the house. I still don't really understand the whole adds moisture, doesn't add moisture, thing, all I know is it has made my hair feel less dry and look shinier. Not to mention it makes my skin feel great too.


Oh and the whole oil and water thing, I kind of had the same question, I just was too weeny to ask it.

April 27th, 2008, 05:35 AM
I really don't know. I only put oil on dry hair and it seems to work just fine for me. My hair is much softer after oiling and easier to put up. Why don't you just try them and see if you achieve desired result? I don't think "moisture" is everyone's hair priority anyway.

April 27th, 2008, 05:38 AM
It's not a hard rule that you have to oil wet/damp hair.....some people find their hair responds well to this and others find their hair responds well to dry oiling, and others like both methods (like me).
Water does constitute a certain percentage of well conditioned hair....in the region of 10%-ish so in that sense it is needed to moisturise the hair, same as skin....imagine if the skin had no water in it....it would just turn to dust.

Here's a study explaining how an oil works to increase the moisture content of hair (coconut oil)


April 27th, 2008, 07:45 AM
Oil and water DON'T mix, which is the point.

The oil basically covers the surface of the hair saturated with water. Thus, it seals in the moisture within the hair follicle. Oils don't typically penetrate the hair (coconut and olive being the exception) and even if they do, I'm not sure WHAT they do. xD But coating wet hair with oil seals in moisture.

With DRY hair, it's more like filling in the flaws in the hair shaft. IF there''s any moisture in it, it seals it in, but it can also make things smoother by getting those little rough spots filled in with oil. Thus it improves texture and promotes that 'soft' feeling. IN that way, it's much like a silicone.

Or at least that's my take on it. XD

April 27th, 2008, 08:54 AM
Lots of good answers so far. I'm not convinced that oil forms a good coating over wet hair, though damp/near-dry hair is fairly easy to coat with oil.

I think the main reason many people oil their hair while it's wet is that for them, it works better. Pure and simple. Some people experience "crunchy hair" when they oil dry hair, and they don't when they oil wet hair. A few like Faepirate experience the exact opposite. Try both, see what works for you. As you go along, you may find that how your hair likes to be oiled changes. It did for mine -- I used to get "crunchy ends" from coconut oil on dry hair, now I don't. Go figure!

April 27th, 2008, 09:27 AM
For me, putting oil on dry hair mean in increased likelyhood of stringy oily clumps amid non-oiled sections. Oiling damp hair results in a much more even oiling and happy hair, I guess since the oil slides over the damp areas easier than just sticking to a few spots.

As far as moisture and oil...I don't think oil 'locks' in moisture so much as reduces the evaporation of it, otherwise if you oiled wet hair it wouldn't dry. I've heavily oiled damp hair and it did, dry just took a lot longer. Oil on dry hair seems to work best if your hair has a pretty good moisture balance already, if it's very dry already it may not help much.

As far skin and hair needing water for moisture, this is true, but too much plain water without any other emollients (like oil) can evaporate out again, leaving you even drier. Like if your hands are very dry and you run them under water to hydrate- they will be okay for a few minutes until all the water evaporates, then be dry and cracking again. Opposed to just oiling very dry hands (I did this once with olive), you just have very dry sore hands coated in oil. I then went to the sink and briefly wetted my oiled yet dry hands- the water droplets first stood on top of the oil, but when I rubbed my hands together for a moment the water and oil mixed and a few minutes later I had moisturized and supple hands again.

April 27th, 2008, 09:52 AM
I have experimented with this and found that putting oil on newly washed hair that has just only just dried (air-dried) and still retains a very, very slight dampness to it works best for me.

This is what works best for me as well. If I put oil on dry hair, my hair does not seem to absorb the oil and my hair will just look really greasy even though I use only a tiny bit.

I have no explanation why this is though. But if comparing to your skin, the skin always absorbes oil and lotion best when still "damp" from taking a bath or a shower. If you apply oil or lotion to dry skin, it does not seem to absorb at all, and the oil just layes kind of "on top" of the skin.

April 27th, 2008, 09:54 AM
Thanks for all the responses. I think I'll do some experimenting. Presently I do a weekly overnight oil treatment on my hair when it's dry, so for a change I'll switch to applying it to dampened hair and see what kind of results I get that way. :D

April 27th, 2008, 10:27 AM
Bear in mind that you aren't mixing oil and water; you're mixing oil and water and HAIR. That last ingredient is a very complex set of molecules, and a large part of the reacting materials. It changes the results a whole lot!

April 27th, 2008, 10:32 AM
Oil works wonderfully on wet/damp hair , sealing in that lovely moisture.

Water works as a carrier for the oil, when used in a spritzer bottle. Wouldn't be without my distilled water/jojoba oil/orange blossom water.

April 27th, 2008, 11:17 AM
I then went to the sink and briefly wetted my oiled yet dry hands- the water droplets first stood on top of the oil, but when I rubbed my hands together for a moment the water and oil mixed and a few minutes later I had moisturized and supple hands again.

Hey, I may just try this! My hands are so dry and cracked right now...
Hehe, pardon the hijack.