Curly Care: Seasonal Changes, Dew Points, Humectants, and Emollients

Hi there curlies! It's been a long time since I've posted here, but I've decided to reserve my blog for videos that need a little extra explanation in text. Today I am going to write about what a curly should change in her hair routine when the seasons change, and how this is affected by dew point. Some important ingredient categories for seasonal changes are humectants and emollients.

In the summer, the sun, chlorine, and salt can make the hair very dry, so it's important to keep your hair moisturized. Deep conditioner and cover your hair up when you go out sun bathing. For more tips, here's an old video about taking care of your hair in the summer:

In the winter months our hair gets dry too, because the air around us gets dryer. I also think internal heating sucks moisture out of hair. So for curly hair moisture is important in the summer and the winter. Deep conditioner and using a leave in are extra important.

Now, let's break down the specific humidity levels you're going to see as the seasons change. After all, we don't just get low humidity (dry) and high humidity (wet), we get a huge range in between, depending on the area of the world where you live. The best measure of humidity that will correlate to how our hair reacts is called "dew point." This is the temperature at which water will condense and form dew (or fog). The higher the dew point, the more humid the air, and vice versa. You can find dew points on any weather website.

Dew point at the "current data" section of Wunderground

Some ingredients work well in different levels of humidity. 

Humectants like glycerin, sorbitol, propylene glycol, and panthenol work well with higher dew points above 30°F (-1° C), but can cause frizz for many curlies when the dew point goes over 60°F (16°C).  Film-forming natural humectants like honey, aloe, and agave are less likely to cause frizz in humid weather.

Glycerin, sorbitol, and propylene glycol draw in moisture from the air, but also lose it quicky, which can cause the hair to be hard, brittle, and frizzy when the humidity is low (less than 30F).  This is because they are made up of small molecules and water easily escapes. When humidity is very high (greater than 60F), glycerin can draw water into the hair causing it to be puffy, bloated, and frizzy. Some hair types are not as sensitive to these humectants. Others find their hair frizzes far less often when they cut out glycerin in these humidity ranges.

On the other hand, the film-forming humectants (like honey, aloe, agave) AKA the natural humectants, form a film with thicker molecules over the hair, which makes it harder for water to pass through, and out, preventing frizz, and keeping the hair moisturized. 

Emollients include are moisturizing alcohols and natural oils; they can pretty much be used year round, but are most important to incorporate in your routine in the low dewpoints.

Here's a quick breakdown of the dew point ranges, and what ingredients to look for or avoid in your routine: 

 30° F (-1°C) and lower: dry
  • richer thicker conditioners, DTs
  • avoid humectants - especially glycerin
  • leave ins
  • light hold products
  • incorporate emollients
30°-40° F (-1° to 4°C): middle
  • trial and error
  • some tolerate humectants, some don't
  • incorporate emollients 
40°-60° F (4° to 16°C): somewhat humid
  • happy haven for most curlies
  • moisture and humectants should be used
  • incorporate emollients 
60° F (16° C ) and above: humid!
  • may skip leave in
  • hard hold products
  • avoid humectants - especially glycerin
  • incorporate emollients 

Also keep in mind that some curlies may have more sensitive hair than others. But in general if that glycerin loaded gel stops working for you, it's probably because the dew points are too low (or too high) and you need to switch to a glycerin free gel. Also if glycerin is pretty far down on the ingredients list (10+ items), it may not cause frizz, as opposed to it being in the top 5 or top 10 ingredients. Also the ingredients in your cleansers and rinse out conditioners are not all that important, especially if you are rinsing them out completely during your shower.

Some suggestions for products that work well in high humidity and are glycerin free:

  • Jessicurl Spiralicious Gel
  • Aussie Instant Freeze Gel
  • TreLuxe Reflex Serum
  • Innersense I Create Volume Lotion
  • Kinky Curly Knot Today leave in
  • CURLS Blueberry Bliss leave in

Low Glycerin Products (after first 10 ingredients):
  • As I Am Naturally leave in
  • Original Moxie Hold up Serum
Products with Form-Filming Humectants (used as post glycerin sealers in stylers):
  • Mop Top Curl Custard 
  • Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gel

Wishing everyone a good hair day,

Sarah @:-)

See also/Sources:
Curly Chemist: Humidity, Humectants, and Hair

Dewpoint - Pittsburgh Curly 

The 411 on Dew Points & Humectants: Diane Mary

Film-forming Humectants: What are they? - Science-y Hair Blog

Glycerin and Humidity - Science-y Hair Blog