How to tell if your curls are dehydrated or dry

How to tell if your curls are dehydrated or dry (and what to do about it)

Waves, curls and coils can feel high maintenance, but the truth is they just need a little extra attention from time to time. And that includes working out whether or not your hair’s dehydrated, dry or damaged.

One thing that curly hair usually needs is moisture. Because of the shape of curly hair strands, natural oils from the scalp don’t always travel from root to tip, leaving hair feeling thirsty and in need of nourishment.

Here’s a deep dive into how to tell if your curls are dehydrated or dry, and what you can do to add much-needed moisture back into your hair.


Why does curly hair get dry or dehydrated?

Curly, coily and textured hair can get drier than other hair types because the natural oils from your scalp struggle to get all the way down to the ends of your hair. This can mean more tangles, frizz and dry hair.

Another couple of reasons that curly hair can be drier: chemical and heat styling. This can be anything from hair colour to perms, using straighteners or bleaching your hair. If you regularly style your curly hair using harsh chemical processes then you might find that your hair dries out.

The same goes for using high heat on your hair regularly or oolour processes like bleaching. Both of these can pull the natural moisture out of your hair, leaving you with dry, dehydrated hair. If you’re going to be heat styling your hair, a leave in conditioning balm like the Curl Jelly Shine can help to protect your hair from the heat, keeping it healthy, shiny and nourished.

If you know your hair doesn’t handle certain ingredients that well, then get into the habit of checking the label. Your hair’s totally personal to you, so treat it that way. If something ithat works for everyone else isn’t working for you (or the other way around), don’t be scared to try something else. Everyone’s hair is different.

For the same reasons, washing your hair too often - or with the wrong products - can be bad news for curly hair. It washes away the natural oils from the scalp, strips the hair and depletes the natural moisture balance of your hair and scalp.

How to tell if you have dry or dehydrated curly hair

Dry hair and dehydrated curly hair have different causes and different treatments, so it’s important to know if your hair is dry or if it’s dehydrated.

So, how do you even know which is which? Dry hair is hair that looks and feels, well, dry. It’ll look flat, dull and might feel coarse to the touch.You might also notice that your hair becomes drier as you get older, especially curly or coily hair.

It usually happens as a result of something that the hair’s been exposed to - such as chemical styling treatments, hair dyes, overwashing and excessive heat. Changes to your environment or lots of exposure to chlorinated pools or salty sea water can also dry out your hair. If you’ve suddenly noticed your hair’s gone drier than the Sahara, then think about if you’ve made any changes to your routine.

Let’s move on to dehydrated hair. This  happens when there’s a lack of water in the hair. It’s an essential part of what your hair’s made from, so if you don’t have it your hair won’t be able to keep that moisture in your hair

One of the easiest ways to check if your hair is dehydrated is to do a hair strands test. It couldn’t be easier. Just take a strand of your hair and stretch it gently - it can be wet or dry. If it doesn’t stretch easily, snaps or feels dry, fragile or rough then you probably need more moisture. 

Looking for some signs of dehydrated curly hair? When your hair’s dehydrated it’ll look dull and feel rough. You’ll probably also find that it’s tough to style, lacks volume and split ends are seriously visible. You might even find that it sometimes gets really oily, which seems like the opposite of what you’d expect from dehydrated hair.

Basically, dehydrated hair needs water to retain moisture while dry hair needs oil to seal the cuticle and lock in moisture.

After you wash your hair, pay attention to how it feels: if it feels mega dry after the wash process, flat and always seems to be greasy at the scalp or rough to the touch (even if you use products to smooth out your hair) you probably have dehydrated hair. If your curls feel dried out and in need of some love, Thirsty Curls is your secret weapon for hours of hydration and weightless, frizz-free curls.

“Moisturising and hydrating are the most common product needs of curly hair. Get into great hair habits by slathering on a deeply moisturising hair mask before your wash routine and leaving on for as long as possible for a double hit of moisture.” Claire Shread, Co-Founder


How to deal with dry or dehydrated hair

Because dry and dehydrated hair are caused by different thingss, they also need to have the right routines for healthy hair and moisturised curls. That’s why knowing whether your hair’s dry or dehydrated is a big deal.

Here’s what to do with your hair care routine to replenish and nourish your curls, coils and waves (whether your hair’s dehydrated or dry).

Haircare and styling for dry hair

When you’re working with dry hair, it’s all about sealing in moisture to stop it from looking dull and  frizzy.  Here’a everything you need to know when it comes to caring for dry curls: 

     1. Don’t overload your hair

It can be tempting to throw products at your hair in order to stop it from feeling dry, but this can mean  dull, overloaded locks. Try the Repair Juice Conditioning Water for lightweight conditioning and nourishment, plus protection from breakage and damage.

      2. Add in some protein

Protein-infused hair care can be your  secret weapon against dry, damaged hair. The Urgent Repair Protein Mask deep-conditions, deals with damage and helps to  repair, strengthen and nourish. It seals the hair cuticle to reduce the appearance of split ends, improve manageability and add shine. Basically, it’s your dry hair bestie.

      3. Seal your style with a nourishing oil

Lock in moisture at the end of your styling with a nourishing oil like the Curl Oil Bond Repair. It’s a defensive shield for waves, curls and coils that deeply nourishes strands, de-frizzes and seals cuticles to protect hair bonds and prevent external damage. The finishing step you need in your routine.

Haircare and styling for dehydrated hair 

With dehydrated hair, you want to focus on hydrating your hair and adding moisture back into your strands. The more you try to do with it, without dealing with the dehydration, the harder you’ll find it to handle. Here are the steps to take to care for dehydrated hair. 

      1. Use hydrating hair care products

Using the right hydrating products for your hair texture is a big deal. Skipping out on drying ingredients like sulphates, silicones and alcohol is important too to make sure that the moisture you’re adding back into your hair isn’t just being stripped out straight away. The Thirsty Curls range ticks all of the above for hydrated, frizz-free curls.

Try the Thirsty Curls Shampoo and Conditioner duo is the ultimate wash day curl quencher! Silicone and sulphate-free and with the Triple-Hydrating Complex of Hyaluronic Acid, Snow Mushroom and Black Oat Extract it delivers a healthy, frizz-free finish with up to 72 hours hydration.

     2. Focus on repairing and replenishing

Repairing and replenishing your hair is important for hair that’s dehydrated or dried out. Try the Thirsty Curls Dehydration SOS Treatment Mask for dry, damaged waves, curls and coils. It’s a repairing treatment mask with coconut oil, cocoa butter and jojoba that’ll seriously hydrate dry curls without build up, weight or silicones. It also seals the hair cuticles for definition, movement and up to 72 hours of hydration.

      3. Protect your hair

A silk pillowcase or hair wrap can help to stop tangles and dehydration. Avoiding heat styling and chemical processes can make a big difference too - if you can’t skip it completely, lower the temperature and reduce how often you use heat on your hair. And always use a heat protector like the Thirsty Curls Hydrating Lotion to stop your hair from becoming dehydrated again.


Ready to rehydrate your natural curls, coils and waves? Step up your curly hair routine with a range specially designed for your hair type. 

Shop the Umberto Giannini Curls & Waves Collection.


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