What have you learnt about moisture and the hair? You've learnt that without moisture your hair will break right? Did anyone tell you about the other side of the coin? Do you know that you can have too much moisture and this can cause breakage too? I bet you are surprised! This is what I'll talk about in this article. 

What is Hygral Fatigue?

Hygral fatigue is a condition that results when the hair is exposed to too much moisture.  It is the result of constant excessive swelling of the hair cuticle as water is absorbed and the contracting of the hair cuticle as it dries. 

Take for example, a rubber band that is repeatedly expanded and contracted will eventually lose its elasticity. This is similar to what happens to the hair. When water enters the hair, the cuticle expands and when the water dries out, the cuticle contracts. This repeated expansion and contraction wears out the cuticle, damaging it and the hair loses its elasticity. This is what hygral fatigue is. A damaged cuticle is weak and this causes the hair to break easily. 

High porosity hair is more susceptible to hygral fatigue because of how easy water enters and leave the cuticle. Low porosity hair has tightly packed cuticles making it hard for water to enter or leave the hair shaft so it's less likely to experience hygral fatigue. This doesn't mean if you have low porosity hair you should expose your hair to too much moisture. Low porosity hair can be overmoisturized too. 

Normal versus damaged hair cuticle

What Causes Hygral Fatigue? 

Hygral fatigue can be caused by;
  • Leaving conditioner on overnight (that's just too long!) 
  • Leaving conditioner on longer than was instructed.
  • Re-wetting the hair without letting it dry.
  • Using only moisturising products without balancing them out with protein products.
  • Not drying the hair properly after washing.
  • Not applying a sealant after hydrating the hair.

How Do You Know If You Have Hygral Fatigue? 

These are common signs of hygral fatigue; 
  • The hair lacks elasticity. It stretches too much and doesn't return to its original state after stretching.
  • The hair is limp and lifeless.
  • The hair feels mushy (extremely soft) and gummy. 
  • Excessive shedding and breakage with little manipulation.
  • Too much frizz. 

How To Prevent Hygral Fatigue 

Protein and Moisture Balance 

The key to avoiding hygral fatigue is to make sure you keep the protein and moisture balance in your hair. Make sure you are adding both protein and moisture to your hair in the right amounts. If your hair has the right amount of protein and moisture, it is strong and less likely to get damaged. I wrote about how to keep protein and moisture balance in natural hair before. I suggest you check it out. 

If you have highly porous hair, try and use daily moisturizers and leave in conditioners with some protein like hydrolyzed keratin, hydrolyzed silk, hydrolyzed wheat protein etc. in them. This will give your hair a boost and some strength. 


Pre-pooing the hair with an oil prior to shampooing is another great way to avoid hygral fatigue on natural hair. Use penetrating oils like extra virgin olive oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, coconut oil etc. These oils will penetrate the hair, bind with the protein and prevent too much swelling when you expose your hair to the excess water during wash day. 

pH Balanced Products 

The hair has a pH of about 4.5 to 5.5 which is slightly acidic. Using products with lower pH helps close the cuticles. Products with pH 8 and above are alkaline and can cause the hair cuticle to lift. This can leave the hair more susceptible to hygral fatigue. To prevent hygral fatigue you need products that have a pH value similar to that of the hair. They will keep the hair in its best state and prevent many hair issues. 

Over Conditioning 

Stop leaving conditioners on for longer than necessary. Stick to the manufacturer's instructions. From 30 to 45 minutes, the conditioner would have done it's work. Leaving it on for longer will only expose the hair to too much moisture. 

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Dry Out Excess Water

After rinsing the hair, dry out excess water with a micro-fiber towel. This will reduce the amount of time the hair is exposed to moisture. The more time the excess water stays, the more water your hair is absorbing, the more it expands. 

Seal In Moisture 

Seal your hair with a leave-in conditioner, an oil and/or cream using the LOC/LCO method to keep moisture in your hair and reduce the rate at which water will evaporate from the hair. This will reduce the contraction when the hair dries. 

How to Treat Hygral Fatigue 

If you are experiencing hygral fatigue, your best shot is to introduce protein into your hair care routine. Your goal should be to restore the protein and moisture balance in your hair. You can read more on how to restore protein and moisture balance here. Use products with pH ranging from 3 to 6. They help close the hair cuticles. 

I hope this helps! Read my previous articles for tips on how to grow healthy natural hair. 

Do you have more questions about this topic? let me know in the comment section or you can contact me directly using the contact page. 

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How to correct hygral fatigue
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  1. Looking for a new deep conditioner? Check out this video for 5 AMAZING Deep Conditioners for your fine, thin, and/or fragile natural hair!