Hair: Hygral fatigue and Water Swelling

Since the time I started the blog I noticed how much more I am able to learn and get curious about. This time my curiosity took me in the direction of hair washing etiquette as endorsed by beauty bloggers and professionals. My temptation was to always hair wash my way into better tomorrow and yet bloggers warned me about the potential of hair swelling … hair swelling????  waterlogged hair??? What is going on, Google?!?!

The concept of water swelling of the hair was introduced by the blogger with Asian hair. Bloggers who have natural African hair have furthered the notion of hair swelling to what seems to be a more encompassing concept – hygral fatigue. Hygral fatigue involves the issues of hair porosity, moisture and stress caused by water. As related to the water swelling, hygral fatigue is the result of constant and excessive swelling of the hair cuticle as water is absorbed and the contracting of the hair cuticle as it dries.

What causes water swelling in hair?

Humidity and soaking hair in water cause our hair to swell. In high humidity and water, our hair can swell up to 15% in diameter but only 2% in length. According to the research, hair will absorb maximum water within the first two minutes of being immersed in water. Given that our hair is usually coated with hair products and oils, it is suggested that we might have slightly more than above mentioned two minutes to complete hair – water contact in order to avoid swelling.

That being said, such things as – sodium lauryl sulfate (usually present in shampoos), thioglycolic acid (perms), other detergents when concentrated, high pH solutions – dramatically increase swelling of hair compared to water.

Generally speaking, the more damaged your hair is the more damaging the water is to it.

Effects of water swollen hair:


Weakens the hair


Swelling increases the pressure and the pressure tends to strain tissues. Healthy hair can absorb 31% of its weight in water whereas damaged and porous hair absorbs in excess of 50% of its weight  in water! The water absorption causes hair strands to elongate under the weight of water and lose some of its tensile strength.


People who brush their hair when those are saturated with water further the risk of damage




Erosion of hair epicuticle


Swollen hair’s increased girth means that the cuticles stand out which allows water into areas that should be in fact protected by the cuticle.


Essentially, swollen hair gains weights as well as girth. If your hair usually has strong curl, water swollen hair will express themselves in the curliest version of itself – the curl will lose definition and will look like poufy frizz. If your hair has curl but it is not strong enough relative to the weight of the fiber + water, then water swollen hair will go limp.



Loss of protein




Contributes to mechanical stress and hair breakage / loss



During the washing / wetting process, our hair swells. During the drying / evaporation, our hair shrinks rather unevenly. This dissonance creates mechanical stress on the surface of and inside the cortex of the hair strands which results in gradual fatigue of the fiber and eventually leads to breakage (for example, cuticle breakage, mid-strand breakage, splitting …)




What can you do to reduce water – damage of hair?


Use lukewarm to cool water for washing your hair



To be honest, this one is a tough one for me personally! I really enjoy taking steaming hot showers so I anticipate that the change of this particular habit will be a challenge and will take a while to adjust to



Wash your hair as infrequently as you can



This suggestion is certainly the one that requires good sense of judgement and reason on our part. I also feel like this particular suggestion is mostly applicable to those people who wash their hair every day or every other day. If you are not part of that group, I think it is reasonable to wash your hair no less than once or twice a week



Reconsider bleaching and highlighting



Essentially chemicals make our hair more porous which causes them to take on water sooner



Hair wash as the last step in shower ritual





Use hair pre-wash or conditioner before using the shampoo



Use emollients like coconut oil or other hair-penetrating oils to help make your hair more water repelling to slow the movement of water into the hair

Consider: Hydration + Moisture: Aloe Vera and Coconut Oil Pre-Poo Treatment



Use water filters for the shower





Invest in super absorbent towel



Do not rub hair with a towel but instead blot your hair with a towel super – absorbent towel



No matter the type of hair you have, I think that interesting and universally applicable suggestions are mentioned above.

Thanks for reading,

1 thought on “Hair: Hygral fatigue and Water Swelling”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s