When To Use & Not Use Humectants

I reached out to KK after watching her curlBOX review video and noticed the she said she had to wait on using the Karen’s Body Beautiful samples and Hair Rules Kinky Curling Cream and here’s what she had to say:

When to use and not use humectants

When my CurlBOX arrived, I was incredibly excited. I had been looking forward to it for several weeks. And when I opened it and found a 2 oz. sample of Karen’s Body Beautiful Sweet Ambrosia leave-in conditioner and a full sized 8 oz. Hair Rules Kinky Curling Cream, I really flipped out. I couldn’t wait to try these well-reviewed products for the first time.

However, upon inspection of the ingredients of each product, I sighed. Each contained glycerin among the ingredients. I would have to wait until the winter was over to try them.

Glycerin is a natural humectant. Humectants help retain moisture — which, for us natural hair girls is a godsend. Our hair is so naturally dry, we need all the moisture we can get! One of the ways in which humectants help moisturize our hair is by grabbing the moisture that’s naturally in the air. However, when there is no moisture in the air to grab, humectants will steal the moisture in your hair!

When you’re in very low-humidity conditions, there is very little water in the air for the glycerin to grab. So, using products containing glycerin during the dry wintertime is a recipe for dry, brittle hair. As there is no moisture in the air for the humectant to attract to the surface of your hair, it will remove the moisture from your hair shaft — the opposite of what you want. This is why in the wintertime it is important to use products that do not contain humectants, and I will include a list of popular humectants below, courtesy

When I saw in the forecast that DC could expect temperatures in the 60′s and rain, I jumped at the chance to use my KBB and Hair Rules. I applied the products to my wet hair in the morning and went to work. The air was a bit cold and dry in the morning, and my hair was beginning to feel a little crispy as the glycerin began to suck the moisture out of my hair. But then in the evening as I walked through a misty DC, my hair plumped up and felt absolutely luscious. The glycerin was doing it’s job, moisturizing my hair using my humid environment. I can’t wait to use these products more often during the humid summertime!


Examples of Humectants

Diols and Triols
Propylene glycol 1,2,6 hexanetriol Butylene Glycol Dipropylene glycol Hexylene Glycol Glycerin Triethylene glycol Erythritol Capryl glycol Phytantriol Hexanediol or -triol beeswax

Humectants of biological origin
Panthenol Sodium PCA Hyaluronic acid Inositol Glycogen

Sugars and modified sugars
Sorbitol Polyglyceryl sorbitol Glucose Fructose Xylitol

Hydrolyzed proteins
Elastin, Collagen Silk Keratin

Isoceteth-x, Isolaureth-x, Laneth-x, Laureth-x, Steareth-x PEG-x (polyethylene glycol)Silicone copolyols

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on March 7, 2012 Marjorie said:

Wow1 Thanks for the info. I never realized this before.

on March 7, 2012 Barbette said:

Thanks for this awesome post. I’ve read so many posts and articles I’ve forgotten some of the basics, I will post this next to my product shelves for reference.

on March 15, 2012 Randi415 said:

Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about this here in northern California, but this is good information for whenever I travel. Thank You.

on March 17, 2012 CurvyCEO said:

See, this confuses me. One product I’ve been using this winter is Brilliant Humectant Pomade by Aveda, which is described as being “especially effective in dry climates.” And, I will say, that when I use this (along with other curl-boosting products), I have less frizz. This summer, I plan on using Aveda’s Anti-Humectant Pomade – it’s supposed to lock moisture out — again in the summer, with high humidity, I can imagine that a humectant would only draw in all the excess moisture, making my hair a frizzy . . . right? I guess ultimately, as long as I seal my hair with oil, I should be okay. Somehow I will figure this out!

on August 13, 2012 719designs said:

This is awesome information! Thanks for the insight.

on August 15, 2012 Emma Labadie said:

I’ve heard that honey is a humectant but not on the list. Is it really?

on August 23, 2012 Limalu said:

This is such a useful post! Please tell me, if humectants are good for humid weather what is good for dry weather?

on October 10, 2012 Peggy said:

This article is a God send. I was just about to purchase glycerin to add to my daily mist bottle and add to my leave-in. However, the Chicago weather would’ve killed my fro! I

on December 23, 2012 Sandy said:

honey is indeed a humectant. Thanks for this info — you can apply this knowledge in achieving beautiful skin too. Don’t apply humectants in low humidity as they will steal moisture from your skin. I grew up in Chicago where the winters were bone dry and the summers were very humid. Now, in Australia, the weather is the opposite. the winters are on the humid side and the summers are dry. so now I’ll be careful to use humectants only in the humid winter and emollients (eg castor oil, olive oil, coconut oil, etc) in the dry summer. this info will be really helpful in keeping my skin soft and moist this summer! ty!

on February 21, 2013 ashanti said:

Felicia Leatherwood says that it is OKAY to use humectants in the winter. Just use what works. I use a flaxseed and honey gel that I made and my hair loves it. I wet my hair , use the gel and seal with castor oil. I may switch up my products as it gets warmer but I’m not freaking out over humectants.

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