Here's Why Your Curly Hair Falls Victim To Flash Drying And What To Do About It

Lately, your hair has turned dull, dry, and brittle, and you can trace the change to soon after you get out of the shower. It's as though your hair drains off all its moisture. And it happens so fast that the moisture is gone in a flash. You're experiencing a phenomenon fittingly known as flash drying, which The Mestiza Muse defines as "an instant flush out of the water from hair as a result of a product application or treatment."

So which application or treatment is causing your hair to become so rigid that it's a real pain to style? Most likely, the culprit is one that contains one of three ingredients, per Absolutely Everything Curly. These ingredients are aloe vera, which can attract and withhold water from the hair; film-forming polymers, which form a coating that can accumulate and cause stiffness; and glycerin, which is the most likely culprit and can often reduce hair to a mass of frizz. Hard water may be a contributor, too. It can build up on hair to the point that it forms a shield against water and hair products.

What to do about flash drying

Identifying these flash-drying culprits is simple enough, but figuring out which one, in particular, is wreaking havoc with your curly hair is another matter. Absolutely Everything Curly sets realistic expectations for what you can do: put products to the test to see whether they're negatively affecting your hair. Once you know for sure, you can either use them peacefully or avoid them.

As a practical matter, this could mean assembling all your hair care products, comparing the ingredient labels, and, if there's one culprit per product, testing them one at a time. This is more of a longer-term solution, which is probably what you're after, but if you're staring in the mirror, assessing your rough, hard hair, you may want an immediate solution, too.

If so, The Mestiza Muse recommends jumping back in the shower and shampooing your hair — and maybe twice until it feels free of residue. By now, your fingers probably know what this feels like. When you think the product is gone, apply your regular conditioner, let it settle in, and then rinse it free. On top of that, use a leave-in conditioner that contains no polymers (or a scant amount). This may seem like a lot of conditioning power at once, but remember that your hair needs it. Flash drying won't cause permanent damage, but it's not healthy for your hair, either (via We Value Beauty). Conditioner will help restore it.

Move to prevent flash drying

Curly-haired people often are realists. They know they'll have "good hair" days and their share of "bad hair" days. Once you know you're prone to flash drying, you'll have to work a little harder to achieve the former. Stack the odds in your favor by reading ingredient labels, if you don't already. You may not be able to eliminate all three ingredient culprits, but you can probably come close or, more likely, make a substitution. Asking for advice at a beauty supply store or a salon where someone can inspect your hair might save you a bundle of time.

Otherwise, We Value Beauty recommends using a good cleansing shampoo — one that will purge your hair of product. In addition to aloe vera, polymers, and glycerin, sidestep products that contain sulfate, which can disrupt the balance of moisture in your hair. Also avoid products that contain heavy ingredients like beeswax, carnauba wax, and butter (via The Mestiza Muse).

Even people with straight hair complain about the effects of hard water (on their hair as well as their skin). Short of installing a water softener, consider using a "hard water shampoo." It may not be easy to find, but it should be easy to spot: this specialized product is imprinted with those three words (via Sally Beauty). With vigilance and a little luck, it should be only a matter of time before you're back to being fully confident in yourself and your hair.