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Wash day is never complete without locking in the moisture. After deep conditioning, there are three ways to seal moisture in your strands: moisturizers and milks, leave-in conditioners, and oils. You do not have to use them all, but here are the differences to know what will work best for you.
Moisturizers help to retain moisture between wash days. If you prefer something more lightweight, then consider hair milk. Although most moisturizers are water-based, it is best to apply them while the hair is wet so it can retain as much moisture as possible, as they are most effective when trapping moisture that is present. These two product types are chock-full of emollients, humectants, and oils. They are also great options if your hair is protein-sensitive.
Leave-in conditioners contain moisturizing and strengthening properties. According to trichologist Dr. Kari Williams, they are meant to replace your daily or deep conditioner periodically. If you are in a hurry and do not have time to allow the ingredients in your daily conditioners and deep conditioners to absorb, then use a leave-in conditioner. Note that all leave-in conditioners are not formulated with hydrolyzed proteins, so the bottle may say leave-in conditioner even though it functions more like a moisturizer. Always check the ingredients list.
Read more: Moisturizers vs. Leave-in Conditioners
2. Seal in Your Moisture
Some curlies follow up their conditioner with only oil, while others layer oil atop their moisturizer or leave-in conditioner. Using oils after washing your hair is called sealing; this reduces the rate of moisture depletion. People will use oil as a part of their LOC method to prevent dryness, reduce frizz, and stave off wash day. You can use a pure oil or create your blend.
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You do not have to use all these products, but you should use at least one. I gravitate toward leave-in conditioners because they are lightweight, provide great slip, and add moisture and strengthening benefits to my coils. Since my hair is fine, I usually forgo sealing, as my moisturizers and leave-in conditioners tend to be formulated with lots of oils and butters.
If you have fine strands or looser curls and waves, hair milk is a great option. If you want a refresher between wash days but don’t want to co-wash, consider fluffing your hair with a moisturizer to quench your parched ends.
3. Define Your Curls
Now that your hair is properly moisturized, it’s time to give your curls hold and definition. If you’ve ever thought, “My hair looks so good… when it’s wet,” you are not alone! Our curls look their most defined when soaking wet, and things can get a lot more complicated when they dry. Depending on your texture type, you may be dealing with frizz, your curls may lose their definition and turn into a “pouf,” or they may lose their spiral shape.
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To lock in that gorgeous curl definition you have when it’s wet, it’s critical to apply a curl-defining product to your hair before it dries. If you prefer strong-hold products, then reach for gels or mousses that leave a cast, and if you prefer lighter-hold products that leave your hair soft and touchable, consider a lightweight spray styler or curl cream.
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There are many ways to apply your styler, and it depends on the end style you are trying to achieve, but if you start your routine with these three steps, you have an excellent foundation for healthy, moisturized curls.
What do you end your wash day with? Share with us in the comments!
This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.