Hair doesn't absorb water until manipulated - weird, or normal?

This is something I noticed years ago but never really thought anything of it until the other day when I water dipped/washed in the sink.

When my hair first gets wet, whether it's in the shower, a pool, a sink, bath...whatever, the water practically goes through it without actually wetting my hair until I do something to it. Like a shampoo bar being rubbed over it (at first I thought it was just buildup that was then being washed away, but read on!), excessive manipulation like squeezing out water, or (and this was what I thought was odd) just brushing my denman through wet hair. No conditioner or anything - just water and a brush, and it turned to silk. But until I actually do something, it's like water through dry grass - it's very odd.

Has anybody else noticed this, and if so, why do you think it happens? Can anybody offer a possible explanation or even take a wild guess? Cuz I got nuthin'.

ETA: The only thing I can think of is that my hair is constantly drying with the cuticle open (but I usually air dry, so...?), and it takes manipulation to shut the cuticle down, which is why I actually have to shove my hair under the water and hold it if I'm doing a sink dip.
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Last edited by BotticelliBabe; 11-03-2008 at 02:23 PM.
Mine does the same thing, as does my sister's.

The only thing I could come up with when I first noticed it is the thickness of the individual strands. We both have fairly thick, coarse hair and it just seems to repell water unless I move the strands around and allow the water droplets to have access in between all the wiry little hairs. Otherwise, the VERY topmost hairs might get a little wet, but the rest is BONE dry. I think thicker hair is just harder to penetrate.
CG/Mod CG (soap bars) since 8/12/08
CO wash/Cond: Kathymack & Flowermoon Castille soap bars, V05 Chamomile Tea, Suave Ocean Breeze, Biolage Conditioning Balm
Styling loves: DIFFUSING! CK, KCNT, KCCC, FOTE (on dry hair only), Re:coil, Proclaim gel
Not sure about: Boots, Tweek, KBB Milk, DMHJ
HATE: plopping, FOTE on wet hair, BRHG
Maybe it's like surface tension on the surface of a body of water. I remember doing experiments in school where we had to make a pin or something small like that "float" on top of the water, and you did it by putting it there very carefully, so you didn't disturb the surface of the water. And the pin would stay, until you disrupted the water surface, and then it would fall through. Maybe you have hair surface tension!

Ok, I realize what a dork I sound like for remembering that, particularly since my 20th high school reunion is coming up in a couple of weeks.....

By the way, I'm new here, and I just wanna say you have some seriously awesome hair. I have been lurking for a couple of months, and have appreciated all your insights!
I have the same problem. I can stand underneath the shower with the water pounding over my hair and it won't get wet until I manipulate my hair.

My own deep-dark-depths-of-my-butt theory is that I tend to use products that have oil in them. My hair loves oil and absorbs it pretty readily. That would account for my hair not getting wet until the oil molecules are broken up a bit. Clear as mud? Me, too.
2B...ish
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This area is under construction as my hair type changed and nothing works well for me. I shampoo, I condition and pretty much have done nothing but chuck my hair in a messy bun for the past oh...year? Yeah, I'm that lazy.

No...going no-poo or CG does not work for me. It leaves me overconditioned and oily in a second no matter what I use, so that's not what's not working.
I remember doing experiments in school where we had to make a pin or something small like that "float" on top of the water, and you did it by putting it there very carefully, so you didn't disturb the surface of the water. And the pin would stay, until you disrupted the water surface, and then it would fall through. Maybe you have hair surface tension!

Ok, I realize what a dork I sound like for remembering that, particularly since my 20th high school reunion is coming up in a couple of weeks.....

By the way, I'm new here, and I just wanna say you have some seriously awesome hair. I have been lurking for a couple of months, and have appreciated all your insights!
Originally Posted by curlykristen
Okay, I'm going to have to try that. And Welcome to NC.com
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I am wondering how you know that it is not because of build up? If you use silicones or oils then they can definitely cause this to happen.
I can't recall all of the particulars, but isn't there something in the LOIS hair typing system that deals with this? I was thinking it was either strand size or porosity related.

My hair won't get fully wet unless maipulated too.
Kiva! Microfinance works.

Med/Coarse, porous curly.
I can only properly wet my hair through in the shower. If i have a bath and dunk my hair under the water, and move my head around when I come back up my hair will still be very dry, only actually wet right on the ends. Its very odd. I think maybe it is so thick it needs the water to be 'combed' through with my hands.
I have the same problem! I can sit under the shower for hours, even if I manipulate my hair, it never gets wet!
My hair's on the fine side of normal and will get wet as soon as I'm under the shower, my son has very thick coarse curls and his hair repels water until it's manipulated. It's certainly not build-up as he's 11 and doesn't use any product (unless he allows me to "play"!).

His swimming instructor was fascinated by it.
3b in South Australia.
Mine does the same thing only my hair is fine and very silky/slippery.

My theory is that it's finally moisturized enough that it doesn't readily absorb water.
Loose botticelli curls and waves
No silicones/no sulfates since March 2008
The same thing happens to me.
Natural since Jan 2,07
I did a BC
Hair type:3C\3B
Multi-racial hair
Hair length:Started at neck and ears(in its curly state).In Dec 08 (2 years natural) My hair was somewhere near armpit length with bentonite clay in my hair.

Mission: to obtain healthy hair every day!!

Hair products:homemade products.....


Me too. My hair doesn't seem properly wet unless I give it a good squidge!

Kerry xx
UK curly - mostly 2c
  • Going back to basics!
  • Happily using a mixture of sulphates, cones and CG products.
  • Permanently undecided whether to cut or grow!
Currently loving:
Lush I Love Juicy shampoo
Charles Worthington frizz smoothing conditioner

Superdrug coconut & almond intensive conditioner
Montagne Jeunesse avocado & cherry bark mask
Umberto Giannini curl gel
Boots 'pink' curl creme
If you Google 'hair repels water' or something similar you can read explanations of how our glands produce a waxy coating for our hair that's similar to what coats a duck's feathers. It's pretty common in animals. Shampooing probably makes it less so in humans.
My hair is the same. It is not very porous at all. I have found that it helps to turn the shower from a spray to a heavy rainfall, like ribbons of water coming out. This penetrates the hair better when I manipulate it. Actually, my 11 yr old son found this out and LMK.

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3b/c/a mix. medium texture, low porosity
* pw: just4curlies
* My Motto: Strand Test!
some hair pics
-- gone, but never forgotten.
Well the firstly my hair does this and its so strange because sometimes I straighten my hair and when it comes to washing my hair again, either in the bath or in shower it stays stick straight! However with a bit of scrunching and brushing my curls start to come back and my hair begins to get wet.

Secondly I seem to recall alot of years ago when my friend was doing a hairdressing course that they said something relating to wetting hair. It was something about the natural oils in your hair and scalp that protect it from picking up nasty bacteria and stuff that coats it and fills or flattens the cuticals so you have to manipulate and move the hair to loosen the cuticals to let the water "in".

The same kind of theory applys to skin as it is water proof. You can wet it but it doesnt soak through.

Anyway this was a long long time ago but at least it may shed a little light on it for you.
From U.K & started CG 13th July 08

Using VO5 Moisture Milks Passion Fruit Smoothie for co-washing and conditioning.

Using Boots curl creme

Considering going Mod-CG and using H&S once a week to prevent build up, flakes and other nastys.

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