Question of the Day: Moisturizers, Sealers, er?

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.

10 thoughts on “Question of the Day: Moisturizers, Sealers, er?

  1. Jennifer says:

    Yea, and I tried that but I don’t know, no curls we’re clumping. I used Pattern Pusha and I would put on gel and my hair acted like there was no gel in it (so I’d put on more). There was no pattern just indivdual hairs doing their own thing. So then I saw my scalp wasn’t completely clean so I washed it again. And still nothing. It was a lot going on in my head (for one day) and I don’t know if it was my technique or the gel. So I’ll try it again and let you know. I know you said that after detangling, your curls take a while to calm back down. So I’ll try it on a day when I’m not detangling with a comb. Thanks for getting back to me.

  2. Jennifer says:

    This may be seem like a question with an obvious answer but I’m new to using gels. Soo I wanted to ask. How do you “scrunch out the crunch” or ” fluff out your hair.” And what’s the difference? I did my first wash & go and I got frustrated. But I want to try again. So I’ve been watching some videos and reading & I’m still a little unsure on how to get rid of hard parts of my hair.

    It probably didn’t help that I detangled my hair that night and tried to do a wash & go in the morning. There was nearly no clumping of curls. So no clumps, a lot of frizz, too much and what seemed like not enough product all at once. Plus stiff parts/ crunchy parts of my hair. I tried smoothing some leave in on my hair but my hair was still mainly wet at the time. I just wanted to not even think about my hair so I put it in a low ponytail and let it dry. So I know u say we should figure it out with trial and error, so I’ll try again but I don’t know when.

    Thanks for reading

    • Elle says:

      They’re basically the same thing. I just like to say I fluff my hair because I am also making it bigger. Have you watched my wash and go tutorials?

  3. louloumatou says:

    great answer Elle, right on! may i just add something i am sure many already know.
    When you seal your hair with a butter, oil or silicone, depending on what you have used, it may be difficult to “re-moisturise” the hair until your next wash.
    If it’s saturated oils (like coconut oil, certain butters, etc …) then the barrier they provide is fairly partial as with time some of the oils/butters absorb into the hair, making it possible to add additional moisture later on. But if you have used petroleum or its derivatives, then you are effectively blocking (by up to 98%) additional moisture from getting into the hair, although whatever moisture you first put in is safely sealed in. Similar stuff with heavy silicones based products.
    Now, can you tell i am so into The Science of Black Hair book? i already knew this stuff before, just didn’t care for the details!

  4. Felicia says:

    I was going to ask the same question… thanks for reading my thoughts! LOL I am also “slowly” gathering the HG list products.

  5. Gnatural says:

    Thank you for this because I haven’t been natural long and I have been using coconut oil as my moisturizer/sealer. So I guess I will go back to the drawing board on this one! Thanks!!!

  6. Barbara says:

    you are the bomb diggity! thanks for such a thorough explanation. i can definitely appreciate your constant recurring theme of autonomy. even though you provide great information, you always encourage your readers to become experts with their own hair. if you’ve said it once you’ve said it a thousand times … yet it never comes off as condescending or insensitive. i guess you’re talented like that;-). thanks a bunch.

    • HB says:

      LMAO yes, and I’m going to keep on saying it! I truly believe that there is a start off point in learning natural hair through the internet or books, but in the end you gotta tweak it to fit you. The problem is that some people want an end all, be all solution to hair care, and that’s not going to happen. When I began my hair journey, I thought that I HAD to do this, do that, blah blah, then I started changing some things around, and maybe thought I was going off the deep end because it seemed no one was coming with me, but it was working for me, ya know? And lo and behold, the world didn’t end and all my hair didn’t fall out. Glad it doesn’t sound condescending though, I just think it is a very important point.

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