Hair Care Tips & Styling Ideas

How to Moisturize Hair That’s Feeling Dry

woman with strawberry blonde hair

Dry, dehydrated hair can happen to the best of us. It lacks the softness, shine and bounce that we want from our strands. Dry hair—or hair that lacks moisture and oil—hair can be caused by anything from excessive hair washing and blow drying to hormone abnormalities. For example, frequent use of hot hair tools (especially without heat protectant) can dry out and damage your strands.

What Is Dry Hair

“Dry hair may result from problems that stem from the root, but is more often the result of outside influences,” explains Dr. Alicia Zalka, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Surface Deep. “It is noticed as hair breakage, loss of shine, slow growing, split ends, and frizz, among other changes,” Dr. Zalka adds.

What Causes Dry Hair

“Harsh chemicals such as those used in straightening, perming, bleaching, and highlighting can weaken the cuticle of the hair shaft, thus causing dry and dull hair,” says Dr. Zalka. While these are the most common causes of dry hair, she notes that the following can also be at the root of the problem:

  • Environmental causes such as wind, heat, and ultraviolet exposure
  • Lack of frequent trimming/hair cutting which can lead to split ends and a dryer feel
  • Shampoo that leaves residue/build up
  • Overuse of styling products that contain alcohol or other drying ingredients
  • Not using conditioner or other protective hair care products
  • Harsh combing, brushing or rubbing of the hair shaft with rough grooming tools or stiff/rough towels

Note: For some, hair care habits may not be to blame. Depending on your genes, your hair may not be producing enough oil at the root, which will lead to a dry scalp. A hormone imbalance can also be the cause of dryness and dehydration. So, if changing your hair washing and styling routine doesn’t seem to make a difference, contact your health care provider to get to the root cause of your dry hair.

How to Hydrate and Moisturize Dry Hair

To help tackle your dry hair woes, here are the products that will hydrate your hair from the inside out.

  1. Pre-Shampoo Treatment
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    Pre-Shampoo Treatment

    Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector completely disrupted the market when it first launched. Thanks to its unique (and effective) bond-building technology, no wonder it’s a global bestseller. Before you shampoo, leave it on your hair for 20 minutes (or more) and you’ll be blown away by its ability to strengthen and fortify your hair. Pro tip: after you shampoo it out, follow up with your favorite conditioning mask for your softest hair ever.

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  2. Sulfate-Free Shampoo
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    Sulfate-Free Shampoo

    Sulfates are powerful cleansing agents; so while they’re effective at purifying the hair and scalp, they can also be quite drying. If you have naturally dryer hair, it’s a good idea to avoid sulfates in your hair and scalp care products. Try the Recovery Shampoo from VIRTUE. It’s sulfate-free and contains a powerful blend of ingredients—like Alpha Keratin 60ku®—to deposit potent keratin and moisturizing agents directly into the hair.

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  3. Conditioner
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    Conditioner

    Your hair is thirsty for moisture after it’s been shampooed, so it’s crucial to follow up with a quality conditioner after you wash your hair. This formula not only smells and feels like a luxurious treatment, but it’s also packed with the ingredients that dry, damaged hair really needs—like protein-rich hydrolyzed quinoa and intensely moisturizing baobab seed oil.

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  4. Hair Mask
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    Hair Mask

    According to Dr. Zalka, it’s a good idea to swap your favorite conditioner for a rich hair mask every 1-2 weeks (depending on your hair’s needs). Beauty editors and dermatologists alike are big fans of this restorative mask, which contains prickly pear seed oil (among other ingredients) for smoothing, refining, and moisturizing the hair.

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  5. Hair Oil
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    Hair Oil

    When it comes to soothing dry hair, Dr. Zalka’s advice is this: “Replace what the hair is lacking—oils.” Dry hair is often deprived of oils, so those with chronically dry hair should consider adding a hair oil to their routine. Tip: Try heating up Oribe’s Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil (in a microwave-safe dish) before applying to your hair to help open up the follicles to accept the oils.

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  6. Microfiber Towel
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    Microfiber Towel

    When it comes to protecting dry hair, which is often more fragile, “using a non-friction type towel that does not irritate the hair shaft cuticle is a good idea,” says Dr. Zalka. “Specifically, I recommend microfiber towels and hair turbans.” Microfiber towels are not only gentler on the hair, but they can also speed up drying time. Try letting your hair dry in the turban for 15-30 minutes. Then when you remove your hair from the towel, Dr. Zalka recommends detangling with a wide-tooth comb to further prevent friction (and subsequent breakage).

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  7. Leave-In Conditioner
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    Leave-In Conditioner

    A leave-in conditioner should be a staple in any dry hair routine, but goopy tubs can be difficult to distribute evenly and can often weigh down the hair. Instead, look for a lightweight conditioning mist in a spritzer bottle, like the Living Proof Restore Perfecting Spray. Apply to wet hair and wear throughout the day or take a note from Dr. Zalka and use your leave-in conditioner overnight like a hair mask.

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Beauty Writer

Holly Rhue

Holly is a writer and editor based in New York City where she has covered beauty, wellness and travel for three years. Outside of Dermstore, you can find her work on the digital arms of ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Byrdie, Marie Claire, Forbes, Women's Health and more. At any given moment, she's probably in a robe and definitely wearing sunscreen (DM her on Instagram @hollyrhue for SPF recommendations).