What Is Hygral Fatigue?
Hygral fatigue is the result of constant, excessive swelling of the hair cuticle as water is absorbed and the contracting of the hair cuticle as it dries. Often associated with porosity issues, this continual swelling and contracting can lead to weaker strands over time, causing the hair to stretch beyond normal and eventually lead to breakage. In essence, the hair shaft is working overtime when too much water penetrates and leaves the hair quickly. Although everyone's hair and texture are unique, here are a few things you may be practicing right now without knowing the potential harm:
- Perpetual overnight conditioning
- Deep conditioning longer than the recommended use
- Rewetting a wash & go style daily without allowing the hair to completely dry
- Solely using moisturizing conditioners that are void of protein
So what’s a girl to do to prevent hygral fatigue without fearing a simple wash day?
The Balancing Act
The key to avoiding hygral fatigue is having the proper balance between moisture and protein. According to The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair, if the protein structure is intact then the hair fiber will resist excessive expansion when wet, so ensuring a proper protein structure through timely conditioning is essential. Therefore, you should create a hair regimen that alternates between moisturizing and protein-based conditioners throughout the month. Check for ingredients in your deep conditioners such as hydrolyzed wheat protein, hydrolyzed keratin, and hydrolyzed silk protein, which will help restore the needed balance and repair weakness all in one step. Solely using a moisturizing conditioner that is void of protein does not provide strengthening properties and may eventually lead to breakage.
Preventing Hygral Fatigue
If you believe your hair suffers from hygral fatigue, there are a few steps you can do to prevent this issue.
- Limit the amount of time your hair is drenched in water, such as overnight conditioning. After rinsing out your conditioner, opt for sealing the moisture with a great leave-in conditioner.
- Pre-poo with an oil like coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado oil, which are small enough to penetrate the hair shaft, attach to the protein structure, and reduce the amount of swelling to the hair cuticle.
- Utilize pH-balanced products to help close the hair cuticle combating overly porous hair.
How to Tell If Your Hair Is Over-Moisturized
Low elasticity is one of the main indicators of over-moisturized hair. If your hair has a hard time stretching when wet and does not return to its natural state after pulling, your hair more than likely has low elasticity. Research shows elasticity cannot exist when there is an imbalance of moisture and protein. Keratin helps to strengthen the hair strands, which ultimately reduces breakage when stretched while moisture aids in helping the hair stretch and return to its natural state.
Overly moisturized hair is also associated with a limp, gummy-feeling of the hair when wet. This is where most women turn to intense protein treatments, such as the Aphogee Two Step Protein Treatment or lighter treatments such as Joico Moisture Recovery Treatment Balm. However, before jumping headfirst into either one of these options, it is best to consult a professional stylist if you are unsure of your needs. Too much protein can send your hair into the opposite spectrum of hygral fatigue resulting in protein overload, also known as protein sensitivity, which can also result in breakage. Remember it is all about balance.
Has your hair experienced hygral fatigue? How did you deal with this issue?