If your curls are lacking bounce, dropping quickly, feeling overly soft and nothing seems to be working, your hair may be overmoisturised.
In this guide, I’m going to explain what ‘overmoisturised’ means, some of the symptoms of moisture overload, and various tips to rebalance your overmoisturised curls.
Skip to the following sections:
- What does overmoisturised mean?
- Symptoms of overmoisturised hair
- Overmoisturised vs overconditioned
- How to rebalance overmoisturised hair
Be sure to bookmark this page so you can refer back to it in future.
What does overmoisturised mean?
A lot of curly hair products are aimed at adding moisture and softening the hair, but not all hair types need a ton of moisture.
Moisture overload happens when you use too many moisturising products for your hair, and is most common on hair that’s fine and naturally soft.
Some common moisturising products include:
- Leave-in conditioners
- Deep conditioners and hair masks
For more information on how to give your hair moisture, see my guide to protein moisture balance.
Symptoms of overmoisturised hair
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).
How to re-balance overmoisturised hair
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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.
Take a look at my protein moisture balance guide for more information on how to give your hair protein!
7. Protein treatments
Finally, if your curls still haven’t bounced back after trying the steps above, a protein treatment may help.
My personal favourite protein treatment is a DIY Gelatine Treatment (partly hydrolyzed collagen), but you could also try:
- Botanika The Mender (contains hydrolyzed collagen)
- Aphogee 2-step Protein Treatment (contains hydrolyzed collagen)
- DIY beer rinse (contains protein from grains and yeasts) *vegetarian option*
DIY rice water rinse (contains some protein and inositol, a carbohydrate with protective benefits) *vegetarian option*
In most cases, if your hair is overmoisturised, you’ll need to follow these steps over a few wash days to re-balance your hair.
Ultimately, you want to get to a point where you notice the signs and symptoms of what your hair needs, so you can address this before it becomes any issues arise.
Something that can help you pinpoint what your hair needs is writing things down – and I created my curly hair journal to help you with just that!
Remember that your hair is unique, so what works for one person may not work for you; but if you pay attention to your hair’s needs it’ll all become much simpler!
Do you struggle with hair that’s easily overmoisturised?