A while back I had suggested to someone seeking advice in a wavy or curly hair forum that their hair might be weighed down. They responded by asking me how they could tell if their waves were weighed down or not. I immediately realized I should use this as a blog post topic. It was a great question, and one that I would have needed help with early on, too. I knew the odds were high that this would be something others would want to know, too.
Signs That Your Wavy Hair Is Weighed Down
- Your roots are flatter than usual
- Your roots look wet or oily
- Your roots feel “producty” or sticky.
- Your waves are limp instead of bouncy.
- Your hair literally feels heavy.
- You have less volume than usual.
- Your waves start lower on your head than usual.
- Your curl pattern is looser/straighter than it used to be.
How Can I Tell If My Hair Is Weighed Down?
To know if your wavy hair is weighed down, you need to know how your hair “normally” looks, feels and acts. Is it flatter, straighter, less voluminous, less bouncy, or heavier feeling than normal? If so, it’s likely weighed down.
You may have noticed that many of these signs require you to compare to your ‘normal’. That’s part of what is tricky when you are new to embracing naturally wavy hair. If you haven’t paid close attention to your hair in the past, you may not really know what your normal is. In my case, I thought my hair was straight until I was 26.
When I started wearing my hair wavy, I had nothing to compare it to. If you scroll back up to the graphic I included above in this post, it’s obvious when comparing that the hair on the right is weighed down, right? But what if you just saw that photo on the right by itself. It wouldn’t be obvious at all, due to having no comparison. That’s sort of how it is when you’re brand new to embracing your wavy hair, or to paying closer attention to your hair. There isn’t any easy solution to that, unfortunately. However, what you can do is start to be really mindful of how your hair looks, acts and feels. This way, you’ll start to learn what your normal is, and then will be able to do comparisons later on.
I find it very helpful to take pictures of my hair regularly. I didn’t do this when I was new to embracing my wavy hair, but I wish I did. I started it about a year ago, and was surprised at how much more I could learn about my hair by keeping this visual hair diary. Being able to compare pictures of my hair today to pictures from last week, the month before, and 3 months ago, helps me pick up on subtle changes in my hair. For example, I can easily see how high on my head my waves started at different times by comparing photos.
Taking note of how your hair physically feels is helpful, too. When I was new, if my hair was sticky or something, I would know that, of course. Things like whether my hair felt bouncy or limp, was less obvious to me until I started paying really close attention. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t know your norm right now, just start taking pictures and notes of your observations now. In no time, you’ll become more “in tune” with your hair and it will help you greatly with your wavy hair journey.
What Causes Weighed Down Wavy Hair?
There can be many potential causes of weighed down waves. Here are some of the common causes:
- Heavy products.
- Using too many products.
- Product build-up.
- Being over-moisturized and needing protein.
- Water. Yes, water!
How To Fix Weighed Down Wavy Hair
To correct weighed down wavy hair, first pinpoint the cause. If it’s buildup, use a clarifying shampoo. If you’ve used too much product or heavy products, wash your hair and use lighter products or fewer products next time. If your hair is over-moisturized, a protein treatment can correct it.
If water is what weighs you down, changing your techniques will be needed if you want to resist the weigh-down. My hair is easily weighed down by water, so I use a variety of techniques to dry my hair faster while preserving their texture. Diffusing gives me a lot more volume than air-drying, and I have a diffusing tutorial blog post if you need to learn how to diffuse. I use techniques like plopping, microplopping and dry styling to assist, as well. Several of the techniques discussed in my post 13 ways to get more volume with wavy hair are ways to avoid water weigh down.
Products that are commonly too heavy for wavy hair:
A common problem for people with wavy hair is to assume they can use almost any product designed for textured hair or curly hair. Your hair properties and your curl pattern aren’t directly correlated. However, there are certain hair properties that are more among in those with wavy hair vs curly. Check out my posts What’s The Difference Between Wavy And Curly Hair and How To Modify The Curly Girl Method For Wavy Hair for more info on this.
Anyway, for most people with wavy hair, they can’t use products that are very heavy. Some curly hair products are made for really dry hair, which is more commonly found in type 3 and type 4 hair than in type 2 hair.
Many people with wavy hair will buy a lot of Shea Moisture or Cantu products because they are for curly hair and readily available in most stores. There are exceptions, but many products from these two brands will be too heavy for most people with wavy hair.
Similarly, cowashing can be too heavy for many people with wavy hair, so many find that using a sulfate free shampoo works best.
I personally don’t use a leave-in conditioner or cream most of the time, as my hair doesn’t need the added moisture and I am easily weighed down by leave-ins. However, even wavies with dry hair that needs moisture, may have to be careful about which leave-ins they use, to avoid being weighed down.
Curious about how to determine if the products you own are ‘heavy’ or ‘light’? Check out my blog post “Why wavy hair sometimes feels heavy” and scroll to the section
Does weighed-down hair matter?
Depending on what is weighing your hair down, it may not be “bad” at all. In my opinion, whether weigh-down is ‘bad’ or not depends on what is causing it.
On this blog I often talk about how I use various techniques to fight back against water weighing my hair down. This is totally a stylistic preference in my view. I like my curl pattern to start higher on my head, and I like more volume, which is why I try to fight being weighed down by water. If I didn’t have those style preferences, then I could let my hair air dry. To some degree, leaving your hair wet for a long time can impact your moisture-protein balance by making your hair very moisturized. Though I personally would argue that all kinds of people let their hair airdry all the time and it’s not a big deal. I personally wouldn’t worry about water weighing my hair down if it weren’t a stylistic preference.
If you are being weighed down by things other than water, that’s a bit different. I think there are many benefits to finding products that are the right ‘heaviness’ for you, so I would recommend trying to solve the problem if your products are too heavy. Plus, using products that are too heavy will likely make your hair feel greasy faster and just won’t feel very good to you physically. Weigh down from build-up can be problematic longterm. If you have bad enough build-up, water can be blocked from getting into your strands, and your hair can become dehydrated from the inside out and eventually break off. Of course, this would be in rather severe situations, but it can happen. So, it’s definitely best to try to avoid much build-up.