Expert Tips For Hydrating Every Hair Type

Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
If our ever-growing stash of lip balms, pocket-size hand creams, and cuticle oils are any proof, it's safe to say we have a thing for moisturizing — and our hair is no exception. From thick masks and creamy leave-ins to light sprays, we've tried (and collected) them all. Some were moderate successes, others total fails. That's because, unlike the products we use on our hands and lips, the best ingredients for our strands are entirely dependent on our hair types. And despite what that chic packaging might tell you, even the fanciest product can add too much weight, kill shine, or cause frizz if it's not right for you.

So with our upcoming winter beauty woes (read: parched everything) in mind, we partnered with SheaMoisture and two top dermatologists, Dr. Jeanine Downie and Dr. Melissa Piliang, to help us find the most effective moisturizers for every hair type — from thin and fragile to kinky curly. And while it'd be easy to say the first step to healthier, hydrated hair is putting down that flat iron and cutting out the coloring, that's not everyone's cup of tea. So for you lovers of heat tools and highlights, fear not: We've got you covered, too. Click ahead to find your hair's new BFF (and finally pare back that towering stack of products in your shower). Happy hydrating!

1 of 4
Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Hair Type: Fine

How To Hydrate: Lightweight conditioners that rinse out thoroughly are best for fine hair types, says Dr. Downie. Look for ingredients that draw moisture into the hair without weighing it down, like glycerin and glyceride. And with fine hair, application matters. Work conditioner toward the ends of your hair, keeping product away from the roots, says Dr. Piliang. The closer to the scalp you apply product, the more it will weigh the hair down, making it limp and lifeless.
2 of 4
Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Hair Type: Straight(ish)

How To Hydrate: Straight hair in general is one of the most amenable hair types, says Dr. Downie. But dullness and damage can still be major issues. If you're a flat-iron addict, look for protein-infused conditioners to combat breakage. And stay away from excessively heavy moisturizers that can dull your hair's natural shine. Instead, stick to medium-density conditioners containing shea butter and shine-enhancing antioxidants, like the SheaMoisture SuperFruit Complex Hair Masque. Comb the product through from mid-strand to ends, let it sit for five minutes, then rinse out thoroughly.
3 of 4
Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Hair Type: Curly

How To Hydrate: Textured hair isn’t easily weighed down and inherently requires more moisture, so feel free to layer conditioner higher up on your strands — close to, but not touching the scalp. Scan labels for argan oil, a powerhouse ingredient that coats curly hair, giving you both a boost of shine and an infusion of moisture, sans buildup. But, if a product contains mineral oil —beware, says Dr. Piliang. Lower-grade mineral oil can include impurities and toxins. And because it's petroleum-derived, you'll likely experience buildup.
4 of 4
Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Hair Type: Kinky

How To Hydrate: The curlier your hair is, the more hydration it needs. Look for humectants (to draw in moisture), combined with oils (to add shine). Leave-in conditioners, like SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Grow — which contains both — will help strengthen your hair against breakage, as well as detangle it. But the real challenge can lie in making sure your hair gets fully coated. Try dividing your hair into four or more sections, combing conditioner through each section from root to tip. You can also look for products with fatty acids, like stearyl acid, which coats the hair and leaves it feeling smooth, says Dr. Piliang.

More from Hair


R29 Original Series