Afro Hair & Hygral Fatigue
Updated: Jul 23
I have afro-textured hair, and I know how it behaves. What I didn’t know, is that there are scientific terms for some of its behavior! Or, at least there weren’t any when I went to Cosmetology school in the late 90’s.
I’m late to this party, but I’m going to address this subject as it's new to me, and I am just now realizing how I am affected by it. It can also be noted that when I googled the term “hygral fatigue” the first videos that popped up from YouTube, were gurus who have heads of hair that are much less affected by this issue than heads of hair like mine! The irony!
What prompted this posting is the fact that we are currently facing a public health crisis. This has given me (along with millions of other people) the extra downtime needed to read, and acquire additional information about topics that interest me.
My Hair Type?
“Spongy”. Those of us with spongy, dry, afro hair, have a type of hair that expands considerably when it's wet. When dried naturally, it shrinks into a teeny, tiny puff. We can experience damage to our hair from this process. The additional wear and tear causes breakage to the ends of our hair, stunts its growth and dulls its appearance. There’s a name for this damage! Hygral fatigue! Yay!
It’s so frustrating to know the “what” and the “why” but not have the proper verbiage (especially if you are a hairstylist trying to give a proper consultation).
How to address hygral fatigue?
With oils! How? Through the ever so popular L.O.C. (Liquid, Oil, Cream) method that is trending all over social media in seemingly every natural hair care space. Most of our favorite oil combinations (for those of us who are connoisseurs of oils) will do the trick, short of mineral oil and petroleum.
Now, for some commonly known styling knowledge…
After the L.O.C. is applied, if your coils or kinks are still springing too tightly back on to one another, try a styling custard or gel for hold, which will “catch the curl” to prevent the “extreme shrink” back into a tight, golf ball sized puff.
A styling custard or gel can also be substituted for the “C” in the L.O.C. method to prevent layering too many products that can cause build up, or for the products to separate and form “flakes” on top of the hair. Results will vary from person to person.
Styling options such as twists, braids, buns, or even rollers can also help keep the hair stretched as it dries, to possibly prevent hygral fatigue.
How do I address hygral fatigue with my hair?
I personally have chosen to work with my hair instead of against it, and have chosen to cut my hair short once a year. It can't coil up nearly as much if the length isn't there. I keep the hair moisturized with conditioning treatments, my own cocktail of oils, leave-in sprays and occasionally butter creams, custards and gels. I stay with products that aren’t too heavy and don’t have much fragrance. I also style my hair with a hair sponge for creating coils. The coils last for a few days, work well with hair that shrinks tightly, and it gives me a slight variation in style options with little manipulation (which can cause even more wear and tear to fragile hair).
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Davis-Sivasothy, Audrey. The Science of Black Hair, A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care. Stafford, TX, Saja Publishing Company, LLC., 2011