Q: What is the difference between moisturizing, sealants and styling products? Are those interchangeable definitions? If these are separate products, what is the proper method of layering (1) after washing and (2) to re-moisturize in between washes? I wash weekly and my hair feels great for about 2 days, then it’s just a mess after that.
A: Regarding the differences between the three kinds of products:
- A moisturizer provides moisture to the hair (fatty alcohols, humectants, water)
- A sealer seals moisture into the hair, helping you retain moisture, but does not provide it (butter, oil, silicones)
- A styling product is a more vague term for products you use to “do” your hair. They can contain moisturizers, sealers, or both.
HOWEVER…a lot of companies use the term moisturizer and sealer interchangeably. The true definition of moisturizer is to “add moisture to,” but they also use it because the sealer may be helping you keep moisture in. In my opinion, companies do this because moisture is a huge concern for hair, skin, etc, and when we see the word moisture, we think of softness. Is it dishonest? Nah, it’s just marketing. The thing that consumers need to be aware of is what ingredients do. If you put a product containing only butters and oils on dry hair, you are not giving additional moisture to your hair.
How you layer your products is up to you, and whether you even need all of these products is also up to you. I personally do not seal my hair unless I am skipping a leave-in conditioner and using a gel (usually a light gel like aloe vera gel). Some people like to wash, condition, seal, use leave-in, then styling product. Others wash, condition, leave-in, seal, styling product, or….you also have wash, condition, leave-in, styling product, seal (I’ve done this when my styler has a humectant but the weather is not optimal). Therefore, it’s really up to you to experiment and find out what your hair likes the best.
The best way to make sure your hair does not dry out after you wash, style and it dries is to ensure it is properly moisturized in the first place, and it also depends on how you are wearing your hair. When I do wash and gos, I moisturize my hair with a conditioner every day pretty much in order to make my hair more pliable so I can fluff it back out, but sometimes I just fluff out with oil as well. On the other hand, if I am doing a twist out or braid out, I do not use any water based products on my hair, but I prepare for this “no additional moisture” week by deep conditioning and using conditioning products with sealers when doing my hair.
Again, there is no surefire concrete correct way to care for hair. You just have to figure out the correct way to care for your hair.