Why Is My Hair Crunchy When It Dries (and at the Ends)?

Cute young African American female with fine hair follicles wearing a curly hairdo styled with coconut oil and hot tools.

Why is my hair crunchy? It’s unfortunately a common question that we receive. Does your hair feel more like straw than silk?

Stiff, dry crunchy hair can ruin your look and make styling a struggle.

If you’re looking for ways to fight the crunch, we have all the answers you’ve been searching for!

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common reasons why your hair is crunchy and give you all the tools you need to get your soft, shiny mane back.

Why Is My Hair Crunchy?

There may be multiple culprits behind the crunch, and we’ll get into all of them below. Once you figure out why your hair is crunchy, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to do to remedy it. Let’s get into it!  

You’re Washing Your Hair With Hard Water

Live in America? There’s a good chance you have hard water in your home. Hard water, or water that has a high dissolved mineral content, creates a stubborn film on your hair. The buildup prevents water from penetrating your strands and results in dry, crispy hair that tangles easily.

You’re Using the Wrong Products

Products that have a lot of hold, like hair spray and gel, can leave your strands feeling crunchy when they dry. Additionally, many of them contain harsh ingredients that dry out your strands. Overusing these products will leave your hair feeling parched, even after you’ve washed all of the product off. 

A light-skinned black girl with medium and coarse hair strands has a brittle hair type after using a clarifying shampoo.

You’re Using Too Much Protein

If you’re using a lot of protein-rich hair products, it could be causing protein overload. When your hair’s protein levels get too high, it’ll leave your strands feeling crunchy and brittle.

Healthy hair is all about balance, so if you aren’t pairing your protein-rich products with plenty of hydrating ones, it might be behind your crunchy hair. 

You Have Product Buildup

Some hair products contain ingredients that coat your strands in a protective layer. Although this can be helpful, it can also prevent water from penetrating your hair.

Further complicating things is the fact that many of these film-creating ingredients don’t wash off with a regular shampoo. Since water is unable to reach your strands, you’ll see them become progressively drier as time goes on.

Your Hair Is Damaged

Damaged hair has a lifted cuticle with lots of gaps and holes along the surface. Although the holes make it easy for your hair to absorb water, your strands won’t be able to hold onto it.

Since water can freely pass in and out of your porous strands, it will evaporate within a matter of hours and leave your hair feeling crispy. 

A charming lady with damp hair after washing her curls and styling them with a wide-tooth comb.

How to Prevent Crunchy Hair

Now that you know that crunchy hair is almost always caused by a lack of water, the next step is learning what you can do to fight it. The following tips and tricks will help you prevent crunchy hair and keep your hair touchably soft. 

Shampoo Your Hair Less Often

Overwashing your hair or using harsh cleansers will strip your hair of crucial moisture and leave it looking dry and crunchy. Make sure your wash day isn’t doing more harm than good, and switch to a gentle, moisturizing shampoo that won’t strip away your hair’s natural oils.

Try to stretch out the time between wash days and only shampoo your hair when necessary. You might also benefit from occasionally switching out your regular shampoo for a co-wash or clarifying conditioner. 

Avoid Heat Styling

Heated styling tools like flat irons, curling irons or wands, and blow dryers damage your strands and cause breakage. If you have dry hair, try not to heat style your hair more than once or twice weekly.

Instead, let your hair air dry and opt for heatless styling methods. If you have to use heat, keep the temperature as low as possible and always use a heat protectant beforehand.

Protect Your Hair Before You Swim

Does your hair feel crunchy after you take a swim? If so, it could be a sign that the water is to blame. Both salt and chlorinated water dry out your strands, so take protective measures before your dip.

Looking for some suggestions? Here are a few ways to protect your hair against salt and chlorinated water: 

  • Soak your hair with fresh water. 
  • Wear a swim cap. 
  • Apply conditioner to your hair.

Head to a Salon for Chemical Treatments

Chemical treatments, like bleaching, relaxers, and hair dye, are incredibly damaging when misused. Although getting your hair done by a professional won’t eliminate damage completely, it will cut down the amount you face.

Stylists have access to higher-quality treatments and receive extensive training on the best ways to use them. They also have access to bond repairers and other additives that help minimize the damage of chemical processing. 

A lovely young lady with stiff hair after using a pre-shampoo treatment and leave-in conditioner.

3 Ways to Fix Crunchy Hair

Being that you’re here, chances are you’re probably looking for solutions you can use to fix crunchy hair. Here are three of our top tips that you can use to get softer hair today! 

Use a Clarifying Treatment

Product buildup is one of the most frequent causes of crunchy hair. Stubborn ingredients, like non-soluble silicones, cling to your hair so tightly that regular shampoo can’t remove it.

If your hair is crunchy because of product buildup, a monthly clarifying treatment will help cut through the residue and give your strands a fresh start. Clarifying shampoos are drying, so follow each treatment with a nourishing deep conditioner. 

Moisturize Your Hair

Crunchy strands are usually a sign of a moisture imbalance. Want to know if your hair is dry? Grab a dry strand and try to stretch it.

If it snaps right away, you need to incorporate more water into your hair care routine.

Try to use more hydrating creams, oils, or lotions, and start doing weekly deep conditioning treatments. You should also keep a water-filled spray bottle handy.

Emollients, like heavy creams and oils, don’t actually hydrate your hair.

Instead, they seal moisture inside of your strands. They can’t lock in what isn’t there, so spritzing your hair with water before applying your product will help counteract your dry hair. 

Get a Trim 

While some products can temporarily mend damaged hair, a trim is the only way to remove it permanently. That is particularly true if your crunchy hair is more noticeable at your ends.

To keep your hair healthy and flowing, head to the salon for a trim.

You want to address breakage and split ends early, or it can travel up your strands and ruin the rest of your hair. Once you get the damaged portions cut off, follow our tips on preventing crunchy hair to stop it from returning. 

An attractive young African American female with color-treated hair wearing a wash-and-go style.

When to See a Professional Stylist

While most people can successfully treat their crunchy hair at home, there are a few signs that your hair will require professional help.

You should visit a stylist if your hair is breaking off at an extreme rate, changes texture overnight, or is not responding to any of your correction efforts. An experienced stylist can help you stop crunchy hair in its tracks so you can enjoy a softer, better-nourished crown. 

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The most critical step in fixing crunchy hair is to pay attention to your current hair care regimen. Look for ways to improve it, and avoid anything that leaves your hair feeling dry, crispy, or brittle.

We hope this article has helped you identify the cause of your crunchy hair and armed you with all the tools you need to fix it!

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