Most of us are doing it, but few of us are aware of it, says a top hair stylist. From spotting the signs to what to do instead, here’s what you need to know
Ask anyone what their key hair concerns were, and it's likely that ‘dryness’ would come up time and time again. The demand for moisture has never been greater, but is it possible to have too much of a good thing? According to top hair stylist Kevin Murphy, yes.
Over-hydrating our hair is something that too many of us are doing in his experience, with our insatiable thirst for conditioning-boosting products resulting in our hair becoming greasier and limper quicker.
Product misuse and improper layering are also largely responsible, explains Sam Burnett , owner and creative director of Hare & Bone: “When hair is hydrated and healthy it can no longer absorb bigger hydrating molecules found in moisture products, so it will just layer up and sit on the outer surface of the hair.”
If you’ve noticed a shift in the oiliness of your hair, it could be because of hydration overload. Here’s what could be causing it and what to do instead to strike the balance between glossy and greasy.
1. Using a shampoo that’s too rich
When it comes to hydration, save it for your conditioners, hair masks or pre-shampoo treatments. Throwing a rich shampoo laden with oils and emollients into the mix too is likely to weigh hair down and lead to it getting slicker quicker. On the whole, a shampoo’s main objective should be to remove dirt and build-up and so it doesn’t really need to be as specialised as the other products in your routine. If you’re looking for a less stripping alternative though, (say if you have coloured, treated or breakage-prone hair), your cash is probably better spent on a low-sulphate or sulphate-free shampoo instead of a moisturising one.
2. Not using a conditioner that’s right for your hair type
Conditioner plays an important role in our hair care regime - not only does it help replenish moisture levels, but it also smooths out cuticles (which become raised during shampooing) and protects strands from damage. It’s like a moisturiser for hair and just like its skincare equivalent, a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t likely to fly in the long-term. Some ingredients work better for certain hair types than others. For instance, for dry thick or coarse hair, Kevin recommends richer ingredients such as shea or cocoa butter or murumuru oil (if hydration is your main objective). For fine hair, try mango seed butter. The higher up an ingredient is on your label, the greater its concentration.
If you’re especially worried about conditioners weighing your hair down though, try a silicone-free option. Briogeo is one of my favourite brands in this regard.
3. Pre-pooing too often
For those with curly, coily or Afro hair types, a pre-shampoo treatment is a common hair care staple. However, some can feel too heavy and cause curls to become limp and less defined. This is where a co-wash can be a useful product to incorporate into your regime. Containing tiny amounts of detergent, it’s essentially a cleansing conditioner designed to leave hair clean but moisturised.
For particularly dry thick and coarse hair types, Kevin recommends avoiding shampooing every time you wash it (as this can make it drier) and swapping your normal cleanser out for his Re:Store co-wash , £27, every second wash. Designed to be used in place of your shampoo and conditioner, its blend of proteins and amino acids leaves hair stronger and healthier.
4. Using too much product
While product selection forms one half of the overhydration avoidance plan, application forms the other. The general consensus among stylists is to start small. “I would always recommend starting with less and then building it up slowly until you have the right amount,” says Sam. “Start with one pump, see how it feels and if it needs some more, add a little extra.” This also goes for how many hydrating products you use too - swap/add them in and out of your routine to find out the number you actually need and what fits best into your lifestyle.
When it comes to conditioner, make sure your shampoo is completely rinsed out beforehand and start with a 50p pence-sized blob. Smooth it over the fronts and backs of hands to allow for more even distribution and apply to mid-lengths and ends. Ensure to take a little extra time washing it out to avoid a greasy film being left behind.
5. Applying product too close to the roots
I don’t know about you, but I’m often tempted to smother oils/serums/conditioners from root to tip - basically, anywhere my straighteners come into contact with my hair. As a result, my roots can often be found lying horizontally across my scalp. To avoid the same deflated feeling, apply your hydrating products on mid-lengths and ends only - roots often get more than their share of oils from the scalp and so don’t really need a helping hand in the hydration department.
6. And finally, using hair masks too often
Deep conditioners are popping up everywhere, but they aren’t necessarily for everyone. Containing heavier ingredients such as oils, they may not be the best fit for fine hair types. “If you have medium to thick hair that’s straight, wavy, curly or coarse, then using a mask once or twice a week is a brilliant idea,” says top hair stylist Luke Hersheson in his new book, Great Hair Days & How to Have Them , £13.77. “The conditioner works a little harder so your hair looks and feels stronger, glossier and smoother - which is no bad thing. Try not to use a hair mask more than twice a week as this could only serve to weigh your hair down.” Focus on ends as they’re the oldest and most damaged sections of your hair and use it in place of your normal conditioner and not on top of it to avoid that overloaded feeling.
Read more: The best ways to treat a dry and itchy scalp.