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What Is Hygral Fatigue And How To Prevent It?

Moisture and water are the two best friends of our curls, but sometimes curly girls exaggerate in this relation, hoping to have better results in their battle against dryness, the worst curly hair enemy. Unfortunately, that exaggeration leads to many unwanted results such as Hygral Fatigue.

Most of us in curly hair club know the importance of moisturizing, but as I mentioned, going over the limit may cause some hair issues, and may let you confuse and struggle in wondering about what happens with your curls.

So it’s essential to know more about one of the common curly hair problems to be able to discover and solve it.

What is Hygral Fatigue?

Hygral fatigue is hair cuticle damage that occurs because of entering and exiting excessive water.

The outer layer of the hair strand -the cuticle- is swilling when it absorbs too much water and contracts while it gets dry, that process weakens the hair and makes it less able to hold water and moisture.

An enlarged image that shows the difference between healthy hair cuticle and damaged hair cuticle.

High hair porosity, chemical and heat-treated hair, and coloring one are very prone to hygral fatigue because the cuticles of hair strands are far from each other so it is supposed to absorb too much water and lose water faster than other types of hair. So due to that process of repeated swelling and contracts, your hair will damage and breakage over time. 

What causes hygral fatigue? 

The repeated process of entering and exiting the water from hair will make hygral fatigue occur, this case is more likely to happen because of some reasons: 

  • Over-conditioning.
  • Damaged hair.
  • Lose the natural oil layer that coats the hair.
  • Defect in hair pH balance.
  • Lack of protein.

Signs of hygral fatigue

Despite some people mistake hygral fatigue with over-conditioning hair but some symptoms help in determining hygral fatigue: 

  • Hair feels gummy and limp when it’s wet
  • Frizzy and dull hair
  • Porous hair which can’t keep moisture
  • Dehydrated hair
  • Curls are weighed down
  • Hair breakage
  • Hair strand stretch considerably when it’s wet

How to prevent hygral fatigue?

As I mentioned, hygral fatigue will ruin hair cuticles, unfortunately, that damage can’t be fixed, and the only way to get rid of it is by cutting down the ends of your hair from time to time to let the hair follicle produce new hair length.

The good news, you can take some steps to prevent hygral fatigue in order to control the amount of water that enters and exits from your hair. These steps are:

Choose the right products

It’s normally the water-based products that contain humectants (honey, glycerin, etc) attract water molecules from the local environment into hair, especially if those ingredients are at the top of the ingredients list on the products.

To avoid hygral fatigue it’s better to use products that contain oils, and butter because those substances will coat the hair strand and reduce the swelling and contracts of hair because of absorbing too much water.

Avoid hydrating methods

All curly girls seek to find a way to hydrate their naturally dry hair, but usually going over the limit of something even if it is good may turn the scales and give unwanted results.

So once you notice that your hair have hygral fatigue stop doing those hydrating method, which focuses on helping the hair to soak more water, such as:

Reduce the time your hair is soaked in water

Moisturizing your hair with water for a longer period of time, whether it is a long bath or deep conditioning masks, will allow your hair to absorb too much water and may be supposed to cause hygral fatigue.

Try pre-poo technique

Pre-poo means to apply the treatment (it usually an oil treatment) to your hair before wash, that process will help in reducing the amount of swelling water to the hair cuticle. The most recommended oil to use is coconut oil because there is some research which talks about its treating effect on hygral fatigue.   

Avoid bad habits that increase the porosity

Porous hair is more prone to hygral fatigue due to its separate cuticles of the outer layer of the hair strand, so harsh habits like use heat, coloring hair, and the chemical process will increase the hair porosity, and surely the amount of adsorbed water will be bigger. 

pH balance

Shampooing your hair daily especially if it Alkaline one to strip the protective 18-MEA layer from the hair strands which is responsible for giving hair its natural hydrophobicity, as a result, your hair will absorb too much water and swelling more than usual.

The right step here is to use a shampoo with a pH similar to your scalp’s pH value of 5.5, to avoid losing the protection layer and end up with Hygral Fatigue.

Protein treatment for hygral fatigue

Protein is the main component of the hair which gives it its strength, so when your hair is lacking a protein that means it tends to breakage especially if you have high hair porosity.

Therefore, using protein-based products besides moisturizing products will balance the two of them in your hair and keep the Hygral fatigue away from your curls.

Hygral fatigue VS moisture overload

Most people think that moisture overload and hygral fatigue are the same things. In fact, each one of them is a different case, but it can relate to each other, where hygral fatigue hair means over-moisture but not the other way around.

The main reason for the confusion between them is because they have similar symptoms but when it comes to causes there are big differences, and mostly when you use too much water and expose your hair to long conditioning time it is probably a hygral fatigue.

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