CNN Underscored September 12, 2022

CNN Underscored


Keep natural hair healthy and hydrated with these 25 expert-approved products


There are a few things that beauty lovers can anticipate in the summer: Oily skin will undoubtedly get shiny by the afternoon, SPF is non-negotiable, even indoors, and people who wear their hair natural may have to deal with drier strands than usual — that is, unless you rehydrate your hair with moisture-rich products.

According to the pros, chlorine from the pool, salt from the ocean and the sun’s harsh rays can leave coarse hair parched. “Summer is a tricky time of year for hair care,” says Annagjid “Kee” Taylor, celebrity hairstylist and author of “All Hair Is Good Hair.” “It’s super important to add extra moisture to your hair during the summer. When your hair dries out, it not only causes annoying frizz, but can lead to damage, breakage, a dull appearance. Essentially, everything you don’t want your hair to be.”

Stacey Ciceron, Oribe brand ambassador and textured hair expert, says that hydrating natural hair shouldn’t be limited to one season. “Moisturizing is important year-round,” she says. “In the summer, people’s activities change, so if you’re exposed more to the sun, you have to protect your hair. Be sure to rinse out chlorine and salt and keep hair moisturized.”

The first step to achieve well-moisturized natural hair is to understand the ingredients to look out for in natural hair care products. Hairstylist Courtney Foster says the best ingredients are aloe vera, shea butter, olive oil and jojoba oil.

“Aloe vera is great for stimulating hair follicles, which promotes hair growth,” she says. “Shea butter acts as a sealant, so it is great for moisture retention. Olive oil is an amazing moisturizer for hair and penetrates the cuticle to soften hair strands. Jojoba consists of similar ingredients that make up our natural scalp oils. It’s a very lightweight oil that does not weigh the hair down.”

Now that you know which ingredients will help hydrate hair, here are three that you should avoid: alcohol, parabens and formaldehyde.

“Alcohol is very drying to the scalp and hair. Both alcohol and sulfates strip the natural oils, leaving hair dry and brittle,” Foster says. “For curly hair, this is too harsh, but sulfates may be beneficial to people that have very oily hair. Parabens are used as a preservative and linked to cancer because it can cause a trigger in hormones. Formaldehyde irritates the scalp, skin and eyes.”

Protective styles such as braids, twists and bantu knots will help keep your natural hair hydrated this summer. “There’s something about braids that scream summer. It allows your hair to rest, and it’s low maintenance, so there’s not a lot of manipulation of the hair,” says Foster.

You can also make your washday routine low-maintenance by using the wash-n-go method, a go-to beauty move for Whitney Hunt, a stylist at Oscar Blandi Salon in New York City. “The wash-n-go method allows my scalp to breathe and recover my coils curl pattern. It allows my hair to be in its most natural state, giving me the option to embrace the beach-y textured summer look most women crave during the summer season,” she says.

No matter the hairstyle you choose this summer, be sure to wash your hair once a week, so your scalp is clean. Experts agree that you should also take time to do a weekly hair mask, especially during the summer months.

Before we get into the best natural hair products for hydration, you can determine how much moisture your hair needs by testing your hair porosity.

“Porosity is the characteristic that will help to determine how much moisture hair needs, fragility and the ability to withstand heat temperatures and chemical strengths,” says Leigh Hardges, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. “High porosity needs the most moisture, whereas low porosity needs the least.”

After you wash your hair to remove product buildup, fill a bowl with water, then drop a clean strand of hair into it. “Low-porosity hair will stay on top of the water; medium porosity hair will float and stay suspended in the middle; high porosity hair will sink to the bottom of the bowl,” she says.

Ahead, 11 hairstylists across the country reveal the must-have products they keep in their salons and at home, to hydrate natural hair all year long.

Kim Kimble Curl Defining Conditioner

“To really make natural hair pop, go for hydrating products that provide curl definition,” says Kim Kimble, hairstylist to Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Mary J. Blige and Zendaya. “I like to use my Curl Defining Conditioner and Curl Spray Gel ($23; for soft, defined curls that are hydrated and bouncy.”

Botanical extracts including grapefruit extract and avocado oil flood your natural hair with plenty of hydration, leaving your curls and coils softer and more manageable. Who wouldn’t want that?

Now Solutions Oils

“Now Solutions offers great all-natural oils that help keep curls hydrated,” says Kimble. “Hot oil treatments are a great way to keep the hair and scalp hydrated! Warm a natural oil, like avocado or sweet almond oil, then dab it on your scalp and massage the oil through the ends of the hair. Then, steam the hair either in the shower or with a hair steamer.”

Oribe Invisible Defense Universal Protection Spray

Ciceron likes to spritz on this spray to shield hair from UV rays, which can dry out natural hair. It contains plant-based collagen to hydrate and soften hair and offers up to 450-degree heat protection.

Oribe Moisture & Control Deep Treatment Masque

Ciceron recommends you do a weekly hair treatment to keep natural hair hydrated in the summer, then follow up with the Oribe Priming Lotion Leave-In Conditioning Detangler ($38; Oribe’s signature ingredients — watermelon, lychee, and edelweiss flower extracts — are used to protect natural hair from oxidative stress. Panthenol is the hero ingredient that’s known to hydrate strands and prevent breakage.

Oribe Curl Gelée for Shine & Definition

“The summertime is perfect for wash-and-go styles,” says Ciceron. “Just apply the product and let it air-dry for the best results. It is important to note that in the humidity, defined curls will struggle. You need proper products to seal in moisture like butters and gels, and provides a medium hold for defined curls.”

E'tae Buttershine Moisturizing Hair and Scalp Cream

“If you’re looking for extra moisture, this cream is a must,” says Taylor, who works with Keke Palmer, Tika Sumpter, Nafessa Williams, Tiffany Haddish and more. “It has great moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and it helps soften and smooth strands. It also absorbs into the scalp really well, which will help prevent any dryness or flaking.”

Daily Dose Miracle Moisture Spray Leave-In Conditioner Detangler

“This leave-in conditioner provides great slip to the hair, so it’s great for detangling, but also provides moisture to prevent frizz,” says Taylor. “I like that it’s vegan and cruelty-free, plus free of parabens, phthalates and other suspicious ingredients. You can spray this on damp hair before working through your tangles with a wide-tooth comb.”

The Mane Choice Tropical Moringa Sweet Oil and Honey Endless Moisture Restorative Spray

“This spray smells like summer,” Foster says. “It is a must to keep in your purse or beach bag for refreshing curls and adding moisture.”

Design Essentials Honey Creme Moisture Retention Shampoo

“This is one of my favorite shampoos. I use it in the salon because it’s great at adding and locking in moisture to the driest hair,” Foster says.

Olaplex No 3 Hair Perfector

“An at-home treatment that helps restore damaged hair, it’s great to use in the summer, especially with excessive sun exposure,” says Foster.

Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Kiwi Mega Moisture Superfood Mask

“It’s like a green smoothie for your hair,” says Foster. “Loaded with tons of good-for-your-hair ingredients, this mask hydrates very dull thirsty hair, which is perfect during summertime.”

Maui Moisture Shine + Awapuhi Shampoo

“Reach for products with ingredients that are hydrating and gentle. I love this because it works on super curly hair to waves, adds shine and tames frizz,” says Nikki Nelms, celebrity hairstylist and Maui Moisture brand ambassador. “Aloe vera is at the base of all Maui Moisture vegan hair care products and they’re infused with additional hydrating ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil and more for different hydration levels to address hair porosity, texture and heat damage.”

Maui Moisture Coconut Milk Weightless Oil Mist

“I love multi-use oil,” says Nelms, whose clients include Janelle Monae, Solange, and Zoë Kravitz. “This one is super lightweight so you can use it on wet or dry hair and it won’t weigh curls down. It’s great to use on-the-go when you need to freshen up, tame frizz, add shine and more.”

Kerastase Discipline Maskeratine

“This product is loaded with ingredients to replenish the hair with maximum moisture, and it tames the most unruly tresses,” says Nai’vasha, hairstylist to Tracee Ellis Ross, Alicia Keys and Storm Reid.

Emerge It's Knot Happening Sulfate-Free Shampoo

“I love this shampoo because it deep-cleans the hair but doesn’t strip the necessary oils and moisture that the hair needs to thrive,” Nai’vasha says.

Uncle Funky's Daughter Curly Magic Curl Stimulator

Hunt calls this aloe-based gel one of her favorite products for naturally tight, coily hair textures. “It elongates my tough curl pattern,” she says.

The Doux Mousse Def Texture Foam

“It’s known for its lightweight feel but maximum hold for textured curl patterns,” says Hunt. “The solution gives your hair a lightweight airy feel giving your scalp a chance to feel airflow in between the hair follicles. It’s magical.”

Design Essentials Wash Day Deep Moisture Masque

“This hair moisture treatment is great, especially on wash day, because it helps detangle hair while infusing hydration,” says hairstylist Ro Morgan. “The almond aids in strengthening hair, and at the same time, the avocado provides moisture and improves manageability.”

Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Detangling Leave-In Conditioner

“This lightweight leave-in is great on all textures of hair,” says Morgan, who styles Naomi Campbell’s hair. “Light enough to layer under styling products. The almond, avocado and jojoba oils replenish moisture lost through environmental factors, different weather conditions, and even everyday styling.”

Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Daily Moisturizing Lotion

“This daily lotion helps restore moisture and seal the cuticle to prevent split ends and breakage,” says Morgan. “It is lightweight enough to use every day on curls and coils. Hair is left feeling soft and free of frizz.”

Thank God It's Natural Honey Miracle Hair Mask

Michelle Dixon, stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, says her go-to hair care line for natural hair is Thank God It’s Natural (or TGIN), a Black-owned business. “My favorite is the Honey Miracle Hair Mask,” she says. “It has raw honey, jojoba and olive oils, which nourish and heal strands in need of repair. The mask leaves your hair feeling soft and ultra-hydrated no matter what hair texture you have.”

Pro Tip: You can use it with a plastic cap under heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or 30 minutes to an hour without heat. “Personally, sometimes, I sleep in it,” she says. “It really is a hidden gem and is life-changing.”

TGIN Moisture Rich Sulfate-Free Shampoo

“This shampoo has coconut oils that gently cleanse the hair and Amal oil to reduce breakage and increase moisture retention,” Dixon says. “The result is healthy hair that is left feeling soft, smooth and moisturized, which many people with natural hair strive to find.”

The products are gentle enough for Dixon to use the line on her daughter’s hair as well.

EZ Detangler Brush

“I recommend detangling natural hair starting from ends to roots while a mask or conditioner is in the hair,” Dixon says. “This brush helps with tender heads with its flexible bristles, which are great for preventing breakage while detangling. I also like using the Tangle Teezer Ultimate Detangler ($11.75;, again working from ends to roots.”

Christophe Robin Luscious Curl Cream

“It’s a lightweight cream that helps define the curls,” says Hos Hounkpatin, hairstylist to top models Joan Smalls, Imaan Hammam, Jourdan Dunn and Cindy Bruna. Aloe vera and moringa extracts are known to hydrate your scalp and strands while flaxseed oil can prevent breakage.

Vernon François Curl Conditioner

“I love the Vernon François Curl Revitalisant Conditioner, which helps control frizz and keeps the hair moisturized and maintains the natural curl pattern,” says Hounkpatin. Castor and coconut oils plus macadamia seed oil extract can soften your hair, and add some much-needed hydration during the summer months.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.