“Didn’t I just moisturize this head?”
If you’re anything like us, it’s a question you’ve frustratingly posed to yourself at some, maybe multiple points in your natural hair journey. All hair gets dry–but why does textured hair seem like it’s nearly impenetrable?
There are many reasons why your hair could suffer from exasperated dryness, such as: harsh climate conditions, consistent use of heat tools, using mineralized water, stripping hair products, hydro fatigue, or simply your hair's porosity level (which we will discuss in our next blog post). However, one reason remains common to all folks with textured hair: Sebum distribution.
What is Sebum?
Sebum (se·bum) is a waxy and oily substance secreted from your body's sebaceous glands, which are located in the middle of your skin (mid-dermis). Sebaceous glands develop next to nearly every hair follicle on your body–especially your scalp.
What does it have to do with hair?
Everything! Sebum coats hair with a natural fatty layer that helps moisture stay on the strands. We all know that sulfates, mineral oil, and parabens are ingredient no-no’s–but we hardly talk about why. We avoid these ingredients not because they are inherently malicious, but because they have the tendency to irritate the sebaceous glands, or, as we hear more frequently, ‘strip hair of its natural oils’ (sebum!).
So do people with textured hair produce less sebum?
Not necessarily. Sebum volume is a genetic trait, and affects all humans differently. The texture of your hair has not been shown to be indicative of the amount of sebum follicles secret.
Then why is sebum an issue for me?
Sebum distribution is a bit more difficult with textured hair because of simple physics. All inanimate objects, when acted on by gravity, stay sedentary or follow the path of least resistance. The inanimate objects on your head are no different. Because of the tight z or s patterned follicles in textured hair, sebum takes a much longer time to reach the bottom of curly strands. People with straight hair follicles have little to no texture resistance, and sebum slides straight down the hair shaft fairly quickly.
Think about it like a road. It is much quicker to drive down a straight road than a windy one. This is one of the primary genetic causes of dry ends in type 4 hair.
This could also be correlated to why, even though all human hair grows at about the same rate, there are significant time differences between hair length recovery among different ethnic groups. (We talk a bit more about this in our “Let’s pull the race card” article.)
How can I fix this?
Unfortunately, the rate at which your sebum is secreted is genetic, and unless you chemically alter the texture of your hair (which we do not recommend) there is not much you can do to 'speed up' your natural oils.
However, here are some methods to help enhance sebum distribution in your hair:
- Place as much time as you can between washes
- Use shampoos free of sulfates, parabens, and minerals
- Utilize (non heat) stretched styles to help reduce sebum resistance
- Find your hair’s porosity and use products specifically for it
- Shy away from over manipulation and consistent heat application
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