How to spot the signs of dehydrated hair and revitalize your dry locks


Is your hair dry, brittle, and frizzy? Do you feel like no amount of conditioner can get your strands back to a healthy state? You may be dealing with dehydrated hair. Read on to learn the signs of dehydrated hair and what you can do to get your hair back to its soft, shiny, hydrated best.

How to spot the signs of dehydrated hair and revitalize your dry locks

Dehydrated hair is hair that lacks water or moisture content. This leaves the hair shaft dry, brittle and thirsty for hydration. Dehydrated hair happens when the outer layer or cuticle of the hair opens or lifts from the strands. This leaves it unable to properly retain moisture, leaving your hair dry, rough and damaged. Dehydrated hair is often caused by lack of proper hair care, overstyling, some kinds of hot tools and treatments, wash routines and more.

The good news is that dehydrated hair can benefit from specific types of at-home care and treatments. There are ways to identify if your hair is dehydrated or just dry, and relevant tips and methods for restoring hydration and bounce back to your thirsty locks. Read on for a guide on getting your hair back to a supple, healthy state no matter your hair type or texture!

How to Tell if Your Hair is Dehydrated

Here are some of the main signs and symptoms that your hair may be lacking proper moisture and hydration:

  • Frizzy, flyaway hairs that seem impossible to control or smooth
  • Increased tangles and knots, especially toward the ends of hair
  • Split ends seem to just keep splitting and won’t stop
  • Hair feels rough, dry or straw-like to the touch, even when wet
  • Increased hair breakage and shedding
  • Limp, lifeless hair that lacks bounce
  • Hair seems to tangle more and may even dreadlock on itself
  • Cuticle damage causes the hair to appear dull, versus shiny
  • Your curls seem to lack definition
  • Chemical treatments like hair dye and perms have damaged your hair over time
  • You regularly use very hot styling tools without heat protectants
  • Hair takes longer to dry and feels stiff or coarse when dry
  • Products like conditioners and masks seem to stop working on your hair

Basically, if your hair is exhibiting multiple symptoms of dryness, brittleness, lack of elasticity and shine, you likely have dehydrated hair that could benefit from some deep conditioning and TLC.

Now let’s go over some ways to tell if you are just dealing with regular dry hair, or if your hair is truly lacking hydration and moisture.

What’s the Difference Between Dry Hair and Dehydrated Hair?

Dry hair and dehydrated hair share some similar qualities, but have some key differences. Dry hair lacks oil and can often be fixed with a good conditioner to add moisture. Dehydrated hair lacks water content in the actual hair fiber, so it needs treatments with ingredients that attract and seal in moisture.

Here are some signs your hair is dry, not dehydrated:

  • Hair responds well to your usual conditioner
  • Your ends feel a bit rough but the rest of your hair feels relatively healthy
  • Using a hair oil, mask or cream can get your hair back to soft and smooth
  • Your hair strands don’t exhibit a lot of frizz or flyaways
  • Hair still has shine, elasticity and body
  • No increase in breakage and tangling
  • You don’t regularly use hot styling tools or chemical treatments
  • Washing, conditioning and air drying leaves your hair feeling decent

Basically, if you’re only seeing dryness on your ends or your hair still has some shine and bounce, then a moisturizing conditioner and hair masks are likely all you need to combat regular dry hair. But if your hair is exhibiting multiple and more extreme symptoms of dryness and damage throughout the length, then read on for tips to combat dehydrated hair.

What Causes Dehydrated Hair?

There are a few key causes of lacking moisture and hydration in your hair:

Washing Hair Too Often - Washing your hair daily strips the strands of the oils that help seal in moisture. This can lead to dehydration over time.

Harsh Shampoos - Sulfate-filled shampoos and harsh cleansers damage the hair cuticle, causing moisture loss.

Overstyling - Too much use of hot styling tools and products can literally cook the moisture from your hair over time.

Hard Water - Mineral deposits damage and dry out the hair over time.

Hot Showers - Very hot water opens the cuticle, allowing moisture to escape.

Towel Drying - Vigorously drying with a towel roughens up the cuticle.

Chlorine and Saltwater - Swimming can damage and dry out your hair.

Sun Damage - The sun’s UV rays damage and weaken the hair over time.

Chemical Processing - Perms, relaxers, dyes and bleaching damage the hair cuticle.

Damaged Cuticle - Existing damage to your cuticle makes it hard for your hair to retain moisture.

Hormonal Changes - Hormonal fluctuations and changes can cause temporary hair dryness.

Medications - Some medications like acne treatments can cause hair dryness.

Aging - As we get older, our hair loses moisture content and elasticity.

Hair Products Buildup - Too much product and not enough clarifying can lock out moisture.

Medical Conditions - Some medical conditions and nutrient deficiencies can contribute to dry, damaged hair.

No matter the cause, the treatment for dehydrated hair is to attract and seal in long-lasting moisture into the hair shaft and smooth the cuticle.

10 Tips for Hydrating and Reviving Dehydrated Hair

If your hair is exhibiting multiple signs of lacking moisture content and your usual conditioner isn’t cutting it, try using some of these tips and treatments to get your hair back to a supple, hydrated state:

1. Use a Clarifying Shampoo - Remove built-up product by periodically clarifying with a gentle chelating shampoo to start fresh.

2. Switch to a Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner - Look for options with ingredients like shea butter, glycerin, macadamia oil and aloe vera.

3. Limit Washing to Twice a Week - Resist overwashing, which strips away the hair’s natural oils.

4. Use Cooler Water to Wash and Rinse - Hot water can damage the cuticle - go lukewarm if your hair is dehydrated.

5. Apply Conditioner Before Shampooing - Letting it soak for a few minutes helps infuse moisture into damaged hair before washing.

6. Skip Shampoo Altogether - Use a cleansing conditioner or “co-wash” to gently cleanse and condition hair.

7. Treat with a Weekly Nourishing Hair Mask - Look for hydrating ingredients like shea butter, avocado oil, honey and coconut oil.

8. Apply an Anti-Frizz Serum - Serums with silicones can help seal the cuticle to protect from moisture loss.

9. Change Up Your Styling - Avoid constant heat styling and tight hairstyles that can dry and damage hair.

10. Get Regular Trims - This prevents dry split ends from working up the hair shaft.

It may take some trial-and-error to find the right hydrating shampoo, conditioner and hair mask for your hair type and texture. But with some TLC and a hydrating hair care routine, you can nurse your damaged strands back to health!

At-Home Hair Hydration Treatment

For an intensive at-home hydration treatment, try this easy hair mask recipe and method:


  • 1 mashed avocado
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut milk


  • Combine the ingredients into a bowl and stir to mix thoroughly into a creamy mask.
  • Shampoo and towel dry hair.
  • Section hair and work the mask through strands from roots to ends.
  • Put your hair in a shower cap or plastic wrap, and leave the mask on for 20-30 minutes.
  • Rinse out the mask with cool water until strands are clean.
  • Follow with a moisturizing conditioner.

The avocado and oils will penetrate to deeply hydrate, while the honey and coconut milk help attract and seal in moisture. Use this rejuvenating mask on your parched strands once a week to restore glossy shine and touchable softness.

When to Seek Professional Hair Help

If your at-home hair care regimen doesn’t seem to be improving your hair’s moisture levels, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A stylist may recommend moisture-locking services and treatments like:

  • Deep conditioning treatment
  • Hot oil treatment
  • Hair smoothing treatment
  • Hydrating hair mask treatment
  • Olaplex treatment
  • Moisturizing leave-in treatment
  • Dry hair cuticle sealing treatment

For very damaged hair, a keratin treatment or Brazilian Blowout can help revitalize the hair by sealing the cuticle. But these pro salon treatments use harsh chemicals, so consider them with caution.

Tips for Preventing Dehydrated Hair

Once you’ve got your dehydrated strands back to a healthy state, keep them looking lush and hydrated with these pro tips:

  • Use a shower filter to filter out minerals
  • Wash hair twice a week max
  • Alternate moisturizing and protein products
  • Apply oil or mask before swimming
  • Lower heat and frequency of hot tools
  • Always use heat protectant before hot tools
  • Reduce or eliminate chemical processing
  • Wear a hat for sun protection outside
  • Sleep on a silk pillowcase for less friction
  • Get regular trims to prevent split ends
  • Drink lots of water for hair health from inside out

Key Takeaways for Hydrating Hair

  • Dehydrated hair lacks water moisture content, leaving strands brittle and dry
  • This is caused by damage to the outer hair cuticle layer
  • Wash hair less often and use moisturizing products
  • Treat hair to weekly masks and natural oils to attract and seal in hydration
  • Protect hair from heat damage, chemical processing, hard water and chlorine
  • Get regular trims and deep treatments to restore moisture

No matter your hair type or texture, with some TLC and the right hydrating regimen, you can nurse your parched strands back to their glossy, soft glory. Pay attention to the signs of dehydrated hair and don’t hesitate to switch up your hair care routine if your hair is chronically dry and thirsty. With time and deep conditioning, you’ll be back to hair that shines with healthy hydration.

What are the signs of dehydrated hair?

Some signs of dehydrated hair include dryness, frizz, brittleness, lack of shine, and split ends.

How can I tell if I have dry or damaged hair?

Dry hair lacks moisture and appears dull and brittle. Damaged hair, on the other hand, may have split ends, breakage, and a rough texture.

What is the difference between dehydrated and dry hair?

Dehydrated hair lacks moisture and is a condition that can be treated, while dry hair is a hair type that requires proper hydration and care on a regular basis.

What causes hair to become dehydrated?

Hair can become dehydrated due to various factors such as excessive heat styling, overwashing, using harsh hair products, exposure to sun or chlorine, and not providing enough hydration to the hair.

Can I use a hair mask to revitalize my dehydrated hair?

Yes, using a hydrating hair mask once a week can help to moisturize and revitalize dehydrated hair. Look for masks that contain ingredients like shea butter, argan oil, or coconut oil.

How often should I wash my hair if it is dehydrated?

If your hair is dehydrated, it is recommended to wash it less frequently, preferably every 2-3 days. Overwashing can strip the hair of its natural oils and further dehydrate it.

How can I protect my hair from becoming dehydrated?

To protect your hair from dehydration, avoid excessive heat styling, use a heat protectant spray, limit or avoid chemical treatments, protect your hair from sun and chlorine, and use hydrating hair products.

What is the best way to hydrate my hair?

Hydrating your hair starts from within. Drink plenty of water to keep your body and hair hydrated. Additionally, use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, apply a leave-in conditioner, and consider using a hydrating hair oil or serum.

How can I incorporate hydration into my hair care routine?

You can incorporate hydration into your hair care routine by using hydrating hair products, deep conditioning your hair regularly, avoiding overly hot water when washing your hair, and using a satin or silk pillowcase to prevent moisture loss while you sleep.

What are some natural remedies to hydrate my hair?

Natural remedies for hydrating hair include using ingredients like avocado, honey, aloe vera, and olive oil as homemade hair masks or treatments. These natural ingredients can provide moisture and nourishment to your hair.

Sign up to our newsletter and enjoy 10% off one order

Which product do I need?
As Seen On: