Check out the newest installment in CurlyNikki's reader Q&A series:
READER QUESTION: I’m heading to the Bahamas in two weeks and I’m already fearing the humidity. I want to be able to rock my loose styles but know that my twist out will probably quickly turn into a fro out. What can I do to guard my hair against humidity?
CURLYNIKKI'S RESPONSE: Humidity proofing is a beautiful, utopian notion, but sadly, it’s probably impossible. Our hair is naturally more porous (allows more water in and out) than our straight hair counterparts and the humidity on those islands can be intolerable. But to better understand humidity’s effect on hair, we must first understand dew points — dew point is the temperature at which water will condense and form dew (or fog), hence the name dew point. The catch is that the dew point cannot be higher than the air temperature. If it’s 20 degrees with 100% humidity, the dew point will be 20 or so. If it’s 90 degrees with high humidity, the dew point will often be in the 70’s.
How much water the air can hold all depends on the air temperature. Think of a cold day as a shot glass. It can only hold a little bit of water. Now, think of a hot day as a keg. It can hold a lot more water. So, even if your cold day or shot glass is 100% full of water, it still isn’t that much water compared to a 1/4 full keg or hot day.
What most people consider a “humid” day really means a “high dew point day.” Many people start to feel uncomfortable when the dew point reaches 60 degrees, and at 70 degrees, it feels quite oppressive.
Here are a few ways to reduce the effects of steamy weather on your naturally curly locks.
1. Don’t fight nature: Don’t waste your valuable vacation time prepping for a twist-out… it will end in disaster! Instead, opt for wash and gos, buns, braids and twists. Also, keep one of those super chic, oversized sun hats for days that you don’t want to be bothered.
2. Ingredient hunt: I’ve tried many a product that claimed to de-frizz or weather proof my hair. The only ones that work fairly well — which means my hair shrunk to my chin rather than my ears- contain silicones (amodimethicone) and polymers (PVP/VA Copolymer) in the first five ingredients. These ingredients help to create a barrier on your strands, locking moisture from your conditioner in and moisture from the atmosphere out. Ingredients like glycerin swell my highly porous strands and cause immediate reversion, so I avoid it like the plague in high dew point/humidity conditions.
3. Pack on the protein: A wise cosmetic chemist once told me, “Products that contain hydrolyzed protein temporarily patch up some of the cuticle holes in porous hair. If African American hair doesn't get additional protein regularly, it will frizz out very quickly no matter what you do.” And so following the advice of Nicole Harmon from Hair Liberty, I now regularly use products that contain hydrolyzed proteins and do notice that my humidity fighting products do a better job. Good luck and have an umbrella drink for me!
Nikki "CurlyNikki" Walton is a successful psychotherapist and creator of one of the most credible online sources about natural haircare, maintenance, and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. Visit her at her blog CurlyNikki or follow her on Twitter @CurlyNikki.