Humectants and Naturally Textured (Waves, Curls, Coils, Etc.) Hair

Get the best out of your naturally textured hair with this guide to humectants. Learn how to use humectants and emollients for luscious waves or curls, plus discover nature's finest ingredients that will help you achieve beautiful locks!

Hello Again My Beautiful #RedCarpetCurlsRoyalty,

Welcome back to my humble little scientific corner of the internet. When it comes to learning/mastering a Natural Hair Care Routine, it can get pretty confusing and overwhelming with so many new terms such as humectants.

But fear not, that’s why you have me! Think of me as your Naturally Textured Hair Yoda. I am here to help you use the force within to reveal the beautiful texture of your crown (Told you, I’m a huge nerd, but I digress).

If you are brand new to the Curly Girl Method or caring for your Naturally Textured Hair, I strongly recommend starting with these resources. If you still feel overwhelmed, please feel free to book a 1-on-1 consultation with me

Now that we got all that out the way, let’s jump into the world of humectants

Are you looking to give your naturally textured hair an extra boost? 

Humectants may just be the secret weapon you’ve been seeking! With a little bit of knowledge and care, humectants can help nourish and protect your waves, curls, coils – whatever unique texture you rock – while guaranteeing that irresistible softness and hydration. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore what exactly a humectant is, why it’s so beneficial for natural hair types specifically, how to use them correctly in your own routine for optimal results – and what tricks are most helpful when trying to minimize potential pitfalls. Let’s get started discovering everything humectants have to offer!


What Are Humectants? 

Ready to learn about a hair care superhero? 

Meet humectants! These ingredients work overtime to attract and retain moisture in your locks, leaving them healthier and more resilient. (Bouhanna 2015).  

Think of them as tiny water magnets that keep your hair hydrated and less prone to damage. Plus, they’re often found in moisturizing products, so you can easily reap their benefits. With humectants on your side, dryness and breakage don’t stand a chance. (Crawford, Karla, and Claudia Hernandez 2017

Say hello to your new hair care BFF!


Why Does Naturally Textured Hair Need


You may be wondering, why exactly does naturally textured hair need humectants?

 Well, let’s delve into the science a bit. Our scalp actually produces its own magical conditioner called Sebum. This protective substance helps shield our hair from environmental damage. However, if you have damaged or high porosity hair, moisture can easily escape until the damage is fixed. 

This is where humectants come in! 

By increasing our hair’s natural moisture retention levels over time, these handy little ingredients help keep our locks hydrated and healthy. Plus, they also have the added bonus of volumizing our hair by binding and expanding the hair shaft. Who knew science could be so good for our tresses?


How Do Humectants Work?

Are you curious about how humectants work their magic on your hair?

 Well, let me break it down for you! Humectants are like moisture magnets, able to attract water molecules from both the air and the hair products you use. These hydrophilic molecules are a must-have for anyone looking to combat dry hair. Plus, if you live in a humid environment, textured hair can become easily saturated with water molecules from the air, making humectants even more essential. 

But that’s not all!

Meet the brilliant Chemist Tonya McKay! According to her, understanding humectants requires a basic understanding of the Theory of Thermodynamics – it’s just a fancy way of studying energy. 

Remember how in seventh-grade science, we learned that energy comes in many forms? Nature ensures that all energy always reaches a state of equilibrium or balance. This also applies to molecules in highly concentrated areas. They always move to lower concentrated areas – a process known as diffusion. Yes, our precious hair is no exception to these scientific laws!

But wait, the good news is, humectants can work wonders if used properly! By keeping hair moisturized and hydrated, they make it soft, bouncy, and prevent damage. It’s like a protective shield for your hair, shielding it from drying out and breaking off. Additionally, humectants effectively increase hair elasticity. So, next time someone asks you about humectants, you can wow them with your scientific hair knowledge!


Can Humectants Potentially Harm Your

Luscious Mane?

 I’ve got the information you need. You see, humectants are not always the hair heroes they claim to be. 

In fact, during certain times of the year, like high humidity or low humidity, they can actually work against you.

 Picture this: your hair is frizzy and voluminous, but not in a fun way. That’s because the humectants have absorbed too much moisture from the environment, causing your hair shaft to expand uncontrollably.

 And in low humidity, they try to pull moisture from the environment where there is none, ultimately leading to dryness and brittleness. So, the next time you reach for a product with humectants, keep in mind the pesky effects they may have on your hair in certain conditions. 


When Can You Expect Humectants to Work

Best For Your Hair? 

Natural hair care can be a tricky subject, especially when it comes to using humectants. But fear not, I’ve got the inside scoop on when they work best. 

When considering using humectants, it’s important to take climate and weather into account. 

The dew point is key here, as it tells us how much moisture is in the air.

 For optimal results, use humectants when the dew point is between 35-50 degrees Fahrenheit, and be sure to seal with an emollient

But if the dew point is 60 degrees Fahrenheit or above, opt for anti-humectants( a.k.a. Emollients) instead. Now you can rock your natural hair with confidence, whatever the weather may be!


What is an Emollient?

Say goodbye to dry, dull hair with the help of emollients! 

These magical ingredients work by smoothing down hair cuticles, locking in much-needed moisture and giving your hair strands a brilliant shine. 

If you’re looking for natural emollients to add to your hair care routine, look no further than coconut, castor, grapeseed, jojoba, olive or argan oil. You can also try shea butter, sunflower oil, avocado oil or mango butter to give your tresses some TLC. 

And for a unique tip, try SOTC-ing (scrunch out the crunch) with broccoli oil– it acts just like silicone, helping to seal in moisture for healthy, happy hair!

What Are Some Powerful Humectants to Look For on Labels?

Keeping your natural hair looking bouncy and hydrated is a top priority, and you know that checking your product labels is key

But with so many humectants to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. Luckily, there are some super-strong options that pack a hydrating punch, like glycerin, sodium PCA, and sodium lactate. 

But before you slather them on, keep in mind that too much of a good thing can sometimes be…too much! 

When the weather is too dry or too humid, these powerful humectants might not do the trick. Instead, opt for a gentler alternative, like panthenol or hydrolyzed silk protein. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to keep your natural locks looking and feeling their very best.

Are you wondering whether the placement of the humectant on your hair product’s ingredient label matters? 

Well, the answer is a resounding YES! 

Here’s why: the first five ingredients on any label account for approximately 80% of the product. 

That means if the humectant (like glycerin) is listed within those first five ingredients, then the product is largely made up of humectants. 

So, if you’re trying to avoid them, it’s probably best to put the bottle down. On the other hand, if the humectant is listed below the first five ingredients, it’s impact on your hair should be much less. 

So now you know, be sure to check those labels carefully!


List of All Humectants:


Natural Humectants:

  • Glycerin (includes vegetable glycerin)
  • Honey
  • Panthenol (Pro Vitamin B5)
  • Lecithin

Synthetic Humectants:

  • Propylene Glycol (Has been known to cause irritation and contact dermatitis in some people)
  • Ethylene/Diethylene Glycol – Causes irritation and contact dermatitis in some)
  • PEG Compounds (Example polyethylene glycol)- May possibly contain the toxic byproduct dioxane)

Biological Origin Humectants:

  • Sorbitol
  • Sodium PCA
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Inositol
  • Glycogen
  • Sugars and Modified Sugars
  • Polyglyceryl Sorbitol
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Xylitol
  • Hydrolyzed Proteins
  • Isoceteth-x
  • Steareth-x
  • PEG-x (example polyethylene glycol)
  • Silicon Polyols
  • Panthenol

Common Humectants:

  • 1,2,6 Hexanetriol
  • Butylene Glycol
  • Triethylene Glycol
  • Sorbitol
  • Sodium PCA
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Panthenol
  • Hexylene Glycol
  • Phytantriol
  • Glycerin
  • Dipropylene Glycol
  • Trideceth-(5-50)
  • Inositol
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Potassium PCA
  • Urea
  • Polydextrose
  • Hydrolyzed Elastin
  • Agave Nectar


Final Tips For Healthy Hydrated Hair

So there you have it – the ultimate guide to finding a great hair care product that will make your locks look and feel amazing. 

Humectants are like magnets, attracting moisture to your hair, while emollients are like bodyguards, locking in all the moisture so it stays put.

 For best results, opt for a product that has a good balance of both humectants and emollients. Use nature’s finest ingredients such as vegetable oils and butter. Achieving luscious locks will be easy with this incredible formula in hand!  

If you follow my  advice, you’ll be sporting smooth, silky hair with enough hydration to rival any lake or ocean! 

Now all that’s left for you to do is try out these tips for yourself. And if you get stuck or have any questions about what we’ve discussed here today, don’t worry – leave them in the comments section below or shoot me an email!


Updated March 27, 2023


Picture of Queen Monroe

Queen Monroe

Curly Girl Method enthusiast and educator. I have been on my own CGM journey for a bit over three years now. I take a scientific approach to the Curly Girl Method. I believe by learning Trichology (the study of hair and scalp) you can better understand your hair's needs and behaviors. This will help when you need to learn ingredients to read product labels. I research and write each and every article in this site. The information used and referenced on this website come from open access, peer-reviewed journal articles from publications such as the Journal of Cosmetic Science and the International Journal of Trichology.

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About Adrienne Monroe and Red Carpet Curls : In this section you’ll get to meet your guide…me! I’ll tell you more about my Curly Girl Method Journey along with all the resources you can expect to find on this website. You will also find out exactly what makes Red Carpet Curls different from any other Curly Girl Method Website.

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