Hygral Fatigue: Causes and Corrections of Over Conditioned Hair

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Hygral fatigue is actually a real thing! Dry hair is not only the enemy of creating beautiful hairstyles but also makes you liable to hair damage.

But is over-hydrating your hair really the solution?

In our pursuit of the right balance between moisture and protein levels in our ringlets, we can overlook essential things that lead to more harm than we can imagine.

If you have dry hair, it is possible that you are prone to overhydrating your tresses to the point that it causes hair breakage and ruins your hair fiber over time.

This entire thing is called hygral fatigue, which can cause serious physical changes to your hair.

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What is Hygral Fatigue?

Simply put, hygral fatigue is when your hair is over-moisturized.

Picture of black woman with hygral fatigue Natural Hair

When your hair is wet, the cuticles expand as moisture enters it before deswelling as moisture exits. This only happens when your hair retains excessive moisture from too many product usages or overhydration.

Since the hair cuticle isn’t made to swell and contract so much, this repeated changing of form can cause significant damage in the long term.

There are three things you need to understand if you want to know how Hygral fatigue occurs.

  1. The first one is your cuticles. This is the outer layer of your hair strands that consists of several dead cells to retain moisture in your hair. This is also the most protective part of the hair as it wraps around your inner cortex and medulla.
  2. The inner cortex is the thickest part of your hair which provides your hair follicles strength and texture as well as color.
  3. Hidden in the center of the inner cortex is the medulla which is the innermost layer of your hair follicles.

What causes Hygral fatigue in hair?

Hygral fatigue is caused when water enters the hair follicle so deeply that it can break apart the protection of the cuticles to reach the medulla.

hygral fatigue - Normal Hair vs Damaged hair

Typically, people with highly porous hair have wider cuticle cells which means moisture can more easily enter and exit the hair follicle without much resistance. Conversely, people with low porosity hair are unlikely sufferers of Hygral fatigue since their cuticles are more restrictive and don’t let water in easily.

There are many reasons why we might experience Hygral fatigue but most of them revolve around the same idea: overhydration.

The following are some of the most common factors that contribute to an occurrence of Hygral fatigue:

Over-moisturizing Your Hair

Using a ton of products on your hair is an easy way to cause hair damage. If you tend to use a variety of shampoos and conditioners repeatedly, you put yourself at risk of developing Hygral fatigue.

Furthermore, if you routinely use deep conditioners or hair masks, you also make your cuticles vulnerable to Hygral fatigue.

Protein Treatments to Restore Balance

Losing Your Natural Oils

Our hair is naturally hydrophobic, which means that water is repelled from entering our cuticles. This is due to an oil that coats our hair follicles and prevents too much moisture from entering.

However, when you over-shampoo or over-condition, you strip your hair from its natural oils and make it more vulnerable to damage, such as from Hygral fatigue.

Having damaged hair

When your hair is already damaged, your follicles are weak enough to let excessive moisture enter. The most common causes of hair damage include using too much heat exposure, rigorous grooming, and specific environmental conditions.

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Having highly porous hair from birth

Your genetics also play a key role in what happens in your hair and body. People with high porosity curls tend to have more spaced-out cuticles, which offers an easy opening for excessive moisture to enter and cause Hygral fatigue.

Everyone’s hair is built differently and it’s important to identify the signs and reasons behind Hygral fatigue in your hair. Once you have successfully managed to do this, you can begin assessing your own hair and figuring out a treatment plan.

Common Mistakes that Cause Hygral Fatigue

There are various reasons why one experiences Hygral fatigue. While reasons such as genetics are not your own fault, there are some actions that can increase the risk of Hygral fatigue in your hair more.


These are:

  • Soaking your hair continuously despite it having been dried after a shower
  • Repeatedly using conditioners and other moisturizing agents on your hair
  • Using too many hair masks or deep-conditioning treatments
  • Using conditioners that do not contain protein
  • Using conditioner and shampoo on half-dried hair

Is Hygral Fatigue Real?

Before we head on to discuss the common symptoms of Hygral fatigue, let’s first debunk a myth that everyone believes in and which inadvertently causes Hygral fatigue.

We think it’s alright if we skip blow-drying our hair after we leave the shower because it prevents us from getting heat damage. But this is a lie.

When you want to air dry your ringlets, you are directly causing Hygral fatigue. Once you expose your hair to water for a long period of time, you open up your cuticles more. 

Leaving your house without drying your hair will lead to the dreaded contraction of your cuticles, which is a direct cause of Hygral fatigue. If this type of routine is followed daily, you set yourself up to all the repercussions of Hygral fatigue, which includes and is not limited to: hair breakage, frizz, and unhealthy hair strands. 

So, I can definitely assure you that Hygral fatigue is real. But more importantly, you might already be a victim of Hygral fatigue if you believe going outside with wet hair is better than blow-drying your hair.

What does Hygral Fatigue look like?

If you had a microscope to see how your hair was, you’d see a number of different changes to your hair follicles. But obviously, most of us can’t do that.

Even without a microscope, you can’t tell when your hair is suffering from Hygral fatigue. Consider these signs as a cry for help due to a protein imbalance.

The most common signs which indicate Hygral fatigue are:

  • When your hair is soaked with water, there will be a sticky and gummy feeling when pulled
  • Your hair might also have a weird elasticity that stretches out your tresses until it breaks off
  • Your hair will lose its natural curly structure
  • Your hair might feel very light and brittle
  • Your hair might be prone to tangles or frizz

You can easily spot when your hair has a moisture overload because it will look significantly different from how your hair naturally is. Apart from the gummy texture, your hair will lose its healthy sheen and structure, making it seem totally lifeless and dry.

Is Hygral fatigue permanent?

Unfortunately, hair that is damaged by Hygral fatigue is often done so permanently. Since your cuticles cannot be repaired once it has lost its form, you can’t undo the damage that you have already done to your hair.  

Can Hygral fatigue be reversed?

While it is impossible to undo and reverse Hygral fatigue, it is possible to minimize future damage.

The best option you have at reversing your Hygral fatigue is to wait until healthy hair grows out. This does mean, however, that you need to take steps to reduce the possibility of Hygral fatigue for when your hair grows out again.

How to heal Hygral fatigue?

Even if you can’t undo Hygral fatigue, there are several ways you can heal it or minimize the damage. The key to beating Hygral fatigue is to maintain a balance in your hair’s protein levels.

The protein can ensure that your hair fiber will prevent your cuticles from expanding excessively when soaked in water or moisturizing   agents. There are several types of oils and treatments you can use to achieve this.

However, before you begin with your treatment process, you need to learn the difference between moisture-based and protein-based imbalances. Once you have a clear understanding of which one you lack the most, you will know what kind of treatment to depend on for your Hygral fatigue.

Moisture and protein don’t actually battle against one another even if a lack of protein and an overload of moisture is a direct cause of Hygral fatigue.

Instead, moisture and protein work together in synergy to create healthy and firm hair.

Whenever there’s a deficiency or an abundance in protein and moisture respectively, your hair will suffer. Hair breakage happens when the innate chemistry of your hair is messed around with, so it’s critical that you achieve the proper moisture and protein balance for your treatment of Hygral fatigue.

Oils that Help to Heal Hygral fatigue

Levels of Breakage

You need to understand what kind of hair breakage you are suffering from to make the right diagnosis for your treatment.

In the case of protein deficiency, your hair breakage is not significant enough and can be easily corrected by using hair products that contain proteins. These would include a protein-based conditioner or a protein deep conditioning session. Additionally, you can use light conditioners or leave-ins that contain protein.

In the case of moisture overload, your problem is more significant. Your hair will feel mushy in this case and you will have to prepare yourself to face unfortunate circumstances.

Part of this unfortunate circumstance is that too much moisture in the hair will lead to water molecules boiling if you apply heat to your curls. Heat will blast open larger holes in your cuticles as the gas evaporates out, causing further damage than you could have predicted.

In simple terms: Your hair will start to boil itself. This is the worst part of Hygral fatigue and what it signals is that you need to be warier of your haircare routines and know what’s good for your ringlets and what’s not.

Wet Assessment to Estimate the Level of Breakage

There is a Hair Strand Test that is particularly helpful if you want to figure out whether you are suffering from a protein deficiency or a moisture overload.

This test will help you easily determine the cause of your hair breakage. Once you know the cause, the treatment process becomes easier because you are taking educated steps to cure your problem.

The test is done after your shampoo and conditioning session. The key activity here is to take your hair strand after it has been soaked and evaluate the level of breakage.

But, make sure to not evaluate just one strand but several to reach your diagnosis.

Once your hair is wet from its shampoo and conditioning session, you need to carefully stretch your locks to see whether your curls go back to their natural length without breaking off. This would indicate that you have balanced moisture and protein levels. Congratulations, you do not have Hygral fatigue!

But, if you see that your curls stretch more than it normally does, something is wrong. If your hair strands break, you lack enough protein. But if your strands do not stretch too much, you have a moisture overload.

If you’ve figured out that you suffer from Hygral fatigue through this assessment, move on to the next stage to ascertain this diagnosis.

Look to see if your hair displays the following symptoms of Hygral fatigue:

  • Does your hair feel too spongy or stretchy?
  • Does your hair feel brittle and light?
  • Does your hair take time to be fully wet?
  • Does it dry very fast while air-drying?

Note: If you cannot determine the level of breakage in your hair due to it being styled, you can skip the treatment process and head on the preventive measures for Hygral fatigue.

What Can Help to Heal Hygral Fatigue?

As I mentioned before, you cannot cure or reverse Hygral fatigue to get your hair back to its former state. Once your hair cuticles are damaged, there’s no kind of magical charm available to undo the damage.

Most people tend to wait out a few months to let new hair grow in. This is a viable option if you’re patient enough for it and you’ve assumed the responsibility to take better care of your hair in the future.

But for others, there is simply no time and you want a quicker treatment to at least mitigate some of the damage that has been caused.

Well, good news to you – there are certain ways you can improve the conditions of your Hygral fatigue.

The Journal of Cosmetic Science released papers on how to treat and minimize the effect of Hygral fatigue in your hair. According to them, using polar oils such as coconut oil as a form of pre-poo treatment can help reconstruct the fiber that protects your hair against moisture.

Polar oil acts as a glue that patches all of the fissures in your cuticles. This seal up your hair against taking in moisture and offers proteins to cure your hair’s protein deficiency.

Since oil is hydrophobic and offers a good barrier against water, using oil to nourish your hair follicles will help build up your hair’s natural hydrophobic properties.

Benefits of using coconut oil in your pre-poo treatment:

  1. Coconut oil prevents your hair from swelling when you have wet hair, which protects your hair follicles from absorbing and releasing moisture and thus prevents Hygral fatigue.
  2. Coconut oil also contains protein which renourishes your hair and fixes any form of cuticle chipping that occurs when you wash your hair.
  3. If your hair doesn’t like coconut oil, grapeseed and sunflower oil are great alternatives.

The Steps to Correcting Hygral Fatigue

It’s important that you give time to your hair to restore its natural properties. To treat over-conditioned hair, you need to take away all of the excess moisture that is foiling around your hair through either time or by applying a pre-poo oil treatment.

What is a Pre-Poo Oil treatment?

This type of remedy refers to treating your hair before you apply shampoo to your hair. The purpose of this is to create a protective layer that restricts your shampoo to strip away moisture from your hair.

Now, how does restricting excess moisture help you with Hygral fatigue? Since Hygral fatigue occurs by the hair cuticles having to expand frequently and thus losing their inherent form, a pre poo treatment stops the cuticles from absorbing moisture.

When the absorption of moisture is restricted, your cuticles no longer have to contract and change its form. This will reduce the damage done to your cuticles from Hygral fatigue.

Instructions on Using a Pre-Poo Treatment

When using a pre-poo treatment, specifically with coconut oil, these are the following steps you should take:

  1. Seal your ringlets with coconut oil and have this treatment on overnight. Use a shower cap to avoid leaking oil on your bedsheets.
  2. Use a clarifying shampoo to wash the oil off from your hair.
  3. Make sure you shampoo your scalp and hair thoroughly. You can use a massager or the tips of your fingers to apply the shampoo properly.
  4.  Use a protein rich conditioner to restore some of the proteins back into your hair. If you suffer from a protein deficiency, try using a protein rich shampoo as well.
  5. Wash your hair with cool water. Once you are done with your shower, you can use a protein leave-in conditioner as an optional step to your treatment.

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How to prevent hygral fatigue?

If you cannot cure your Hygral fatigue or are unsure whether you suffer from it at all, the best step that you can take is to prevent it from happening in the future.

Damaged hair is already susceptible to Hygral fatigue because your cuticle layer has already been damaged beyond repair. The following are methods you can take to ensure that your hair does not fall vulnerable to damage in the long term:

Shampoo with Care

If you’re someone who isn’t gentle with your hair during its shampoo sessions, you need to start changing your habits.

When you shampoo too aggressively, the cuticles of your hair are slowly destroyed and your hair follicle becomes vulnerable to all sources of damage. Therefore, it’s ideal that you gently massage your scalp when shampooing and rinse it without scraping the shampoo off from your head.

Use a Shampoo with a Low pH

Shampoos with a high pH level tend to strip away the protective nutrients that protect your hair follicles from damage. It is recommended that you use a shampoo that doesn’t interfere with your hair’s inherent nutrients.

You can use a shampoo with a pH level of 5.5 since that is the most similar to your scalp’s pH value.

Brush Your Hair While it is Wet

Brushing your hair while it is still wet from the shower will help minimize the damage that products can have on your hair. It will also ensure that moisture isn’t overloaded into your hair follicles.

Use a wide-toothed comb to brush your hair after your shower.

Use Coconut Oil for Pre-Poo Treatments

Coconut oil is beneficial whether or not you suffer from existing hair damage. It is both a protective and preventive agent for your hair since it offers a great number of nutrients to feed your hair follicles.

Coconut oil constitutes a medium-chain fatty acid called lauric acid which allows it to be absorbed into your hair follicles better than other types of oils. Using coconut oil as a pre-wash treatment will help reduce protein loss in your hair while showering.

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Use a Microfiber Towel

You should use a microfiber towel after your shower to remove excess water and moisture from your hair. If you do this, you will be reducing the weight from your hair due to water intake which also decreases the movements your cuticles make when it takes in moisture.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Olaplex help Hygral fatigue?

When you have Hygral fatigue, your hair lacks proteins. A good way to remedy this is by using protein-rich treatment options.

Olaplex does not fall as a protein treatment. It acts more as a bonder by relinking the bonds responsible for giving your hair strength, shape and elasticity. This works inside the hair.

Since Hygral fatigue occurs on the outside layers of your hair follicles, a protein treatment that also works externally will help repair some of the gaps in the cuticles.

While Olaplex does not help remedy your Hygral fatigue, it can benefit your hair if it is bleached. Otherwise, it isn’t significantly helpful in undoing Hygral fatigue.

Does coconut oil prevent Hygral fatigue?

Coconut oil has proven to seal off your hair follicles and create a barrier against excess moisture from reaching inside the cuticles. This prevents the unnecessary expanding and contracting movements done by the cuticles, and therefore, reduces the chances of Hygral fatigue.

You can use coconut oil as pre-poo or pre-wash treatment whether you suffer from Hygral fatigue or not. Since it has great nourishment properties and returns protein to your hair, coconut oil can work wonders to remedy your hair from all sorts of damage.

Will Washing My Hair Every Day Cause Hygral Fatigue?

There are certain conditions that your hair has to go through to suffer from Hygral fatigue.

If your hair is already damaged through heat or other circumstances, it is likely that washing your hair every day will inevitably cause Hygral fatigue.

Other than that, it also depends on the types of products you use on your hair. As some products are more damaging than others, you can make your hair liable to Hygral fatigue if you make the wrong product choice.

When can I return to my regular haircare regimen after suffering from Hygral fatigue?

You can’t estimate the time it will take for your hair to recover from Hygral fatigue. It is possible that some sections of your hair recovers faster than the rest once you begin your treatments.

The best thing to do is to stay consistent and hear what your hair has to say. The more attention and love you give to your hair, the more it will return that favor.

Are you suffering from Hygral fatigue? If so, what products are you using?

Video Explaining Hygral Fatigue