Moisture overload usually happens gradually, so you may not spot it straight away.
If your hair’s been in a funk recently and the thing that normally work no longer do, it may be overmoisturised. Keep a look out for the following signs and symptoms:
Struggles to hold a curl and falls limp easily
Feels overly soft and mushy
Won’t behave as normal
Doesn’t form a cast after using gel or mousse
Minimal elasticity (e.g. you pull a curl and it doesn’t bounce back)
Overmoisturised vs overconditioned - what’s the difference?
You may have also heard the term ‘overconditioned’ used in the curly hair community. Overmoisturised and overconditioned mean the same thing – the latter makes more sense scientifically, but the reason we say overmoisturised is because we usually refer to ‘conditioning’ products (such as those listed above) as ‘moisturising’ products (that’s how they’re marketed).
If you think your curly or wavy hair may be overmoisturised, follow these steps over the next few wash days.
1. Clarify your hair
Using a clarifying shampoo will deeply cleanse your hair and scalp, removing any product buildup and giving you a clean slate.
To clarify, you can either use:
A sulphate-free clarifying shampoo, like the Noughty Detox Dynamo
A sulphate shampoo, like the Simple Gentle Cleansing Shampoo
I usually clarify my hair once or twice a month, however the low-poos (sulphate-free shampoos) I use are on the more cleansing side, so if you’re only using a co-wash, you may need to clarify more often.
2. Stop deep conditioning
If your hair is overmoisturised, that’s a good sign that you don’t need to deep condition. Not all hair needs deep conditioning. I haven’t deep conditioned my hair (other than just my ends) for a couple of years, because my hair is naturally soft and regular conditioner is enough.
Even if a deep conditioner contains protein it still contains lots of moisturising ingredients, because that’s its main purpose.
3. Swap co-wash for a low poo
Co-wash is a cream-based cleanser, and while its main purpose is to gently cleanse the scalp, when you rinse it through the lengths of your hair it acts as a conditioner, too. So, if you’re deep conditioning, co-washing and conditioning, you’re essentially conditioning your hair three times, which is too much for most hair types.
Instead, switch to a lathering shampoo, which provides a deeper cleanse and won’t be as moisturising. You can get some very gentle lathering sulphate-free shampoos!
4. Minimal regular conditioning
Leaving your conditioner on for a prolonged period of time can weigh your curls down, so I personally rinse it out as soon as I’ve detangled. I usually apply conditioner to the ends and lengths of my hair, and nape of my neck first, as these parts get the most dry and tangled. After detangling the lengths of my hair, I’ll use a bit of the excess product (and lots of water) to detangle the top section of my hair and make sure not to leave it on too long.
Remember: Always add more water before more conditioner!
5. Less curl cream/leave-in conditioner
Often when people have overmoisturised, weighed down or greasy-looking hair (lengths) it turns out they’ve been using too much curl cream or leave-in conditioner.
I only use a small amount of curl cream for my hair (I’m talking blueberry-size), and I focus this on the underneath where my hair is slightly coarser, the ends where my hair is slightly drier and the lengths. I don’t ever apply curl cream directly to my roots, but sometimes take the excess product towards that area after applying everywhere else.
If your hair is prone to being overmoisturised you also don’t need to use a leave-in conditioner and curl cream at the same time. One or the other is enough. In fact, you may not need to use a leave-in or cream at all, and may be able to skip straight to your other stylers!
6. Using products with protein
Once you’ve pulled back on the moisturising products as per the steps above, your curls may benefit from introducing some protein products into your routine.
Protein adds strength and structure to our hair, and fine hair (which is easily overmoisturised) tends to need more protein than medium or coarse hair.