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Damaged Hair: Too Little Moisture or Hygral Fatigue?

Damaged Hair: Too Little Moisture or Hygral Fatigue?

back view of woman with wet hair dripping down her back

What Is Hygral Fatigue?

Hygral fatigue refers to a condition where the hair follicles are swollen due to excessive moisture.  It is essentially a moisture/protein imbalance.  In this case, there is too much moisture and not enough protein.  If you wash or wet your hair daily, the constant and excessive swelling of your hair cuticle can lead to hygral fatigue. With constant swelling, your strands can become weaker, causing your hair to stretch too much and break. 

How Can You Tell If There Is Too Much Moisture? 

Although everyone’s hair is different, here are a few signs that will signal your hair is over-moisturized. With hygral fatigue, the hair:

  • Will not hold a curl
  • Has a gummy, mushy feeling when wet
  • Has low elasticity, is limp and lifeless
  • Frizzes excessively
  • Feels heavy and weighed down
  • Looks dull
  • May have excessive breakage

What Factors Can Lead To Development Of Hygral Fatigue?

  • Your Genes

Specifically, the genes that determine how porous your hair is.  Low porosity hair has tightly packed cuticle cells and rarely suffers from hygral fatigue. High porosity hair has more damaged and raised cuticle cells and is more susceptible to hygral fatigue.  

  • Over Moisturizing

Using excessive amounts of conditioners, deep conditioners, or hair masks designed to moisturize the hair, can make the hair more susceptible to developing hygral fatigue.  

  • Damaged Hair

Damaged hair by definition is more porous allowing water access to the cortex.  Chemical treatments, high heat, harsh grooming, and environmental factors can all cause hair damage

  • Loss of Protective Oils 

Using harsh shampoos or alkaline chemicals such as baking soda on porous hair strips the hair of its natural protective fatty oils (sebum) and coats the hair. This makes the hair less able to repel water.  

  • Loss of pH Balance 

The pH of healthy hair is acidic, with a pH between 4 and 5.5.  At this pH, the cuticles stay tight and flat.  However, if alkaline products are used, the pH of the hair is disrupted, raising the cuticles.  

How Can You Prevent Hygral Fatigue?  

  • Maintain proper moisture vs protein balance in your routine
  • Do not wet or wash your hair too frequently
  • Consider pre-pooing – applying protective penetrating oils (such as coconut oil) to the hair before washing. The oil is absorbed into the hair strands keeping the amount of water that can enter to a minimum. 
  • Wash your hair with gentle cleansers 
  • Be gentle and avoid vigorously rubbing the cleanser into the hair
  • Maintain the hair’s natural acidity to keep the cuticles tight. Do ACV rinses, if needed.
  • After washing, squeeze out excess water with a microfiber towel  
  • Air dry to prevent heat damage or diffuse on low heat 
  • Reduce or stop chemical treatments, harsh grooming, hair straightening, various heat treatments, hair coloring, or bleaching
  • Get regular haircuts or trims to remove damaged split ends
  • Protect your hair from swimming pool chemicals

Various Resources We Find Useful:

  1. Developing a Healthy Hair Regimen I: Formulating an Optimal Cleansing and Conditioning Regimen, Aguh, Crystal, Fundamentals of Ethnic Hair. Springer, Cham, 2017. 79-89
  2. Hair cosmetics: an overview. Dias, Maria Fernanda Reis Gavazzoni. International journal of trichology 7.1 (2015): 2
  3. Quantitative measurement of the penetration of coconut oil into human hair using radiolabeled coconut oil. Gode, V., et al.  J Cosmet Sci 63.1 (2012): 27-31
  4. Secondary ion mass spectrometric investigation of penetration of coconut and mineral oils into human hair. Ruetsch, S. B., Y. K. Kamath, and Aarti S. Rele. J. Cosmet. Sci 52 (2001): 169-184.

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