This 4-step hair-care system addressed a problem I never knew I had - now I have defined curls instead of frizzy waves
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- I love my hair's naturally wavy texture, but have always been frustrated by the fact that it's frizzy, dry, and prone to breakage.
- I recently discovered that the root cause of my hair problems is something called "hygral fatigue," which is what happens when the hair cuticle absorbs too much water.
- The four-step Aquis Prime Starter Kit ($49 on Sephora) is the only thing I've found that consistently gives me defined, frizz-free curls since it addresses my hair's underlying issue. The entire brand is built around eliminating symptoms of hygral fatigue and boosting hair health.
I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. I love its naturally wavy texture, but hate that my "good hair days" are so few and far between. Even though I've tested a lot of products in an effort to transform my frizzy, breakage-prone strands into the thick, defined mermaid waves I know they can be, most of them have been underwhelming.
There's a good reason for that though - I was searching for a solution without first understanding the underlying problem. Which, as it turns out, is something called "hygral fatigue."
"Hygral fatigue refers to the unpleasant symptoms that occur when hair is repeatedly exposed to water," says Britta Cox, founder of Aquis, a hair-care line focused on strengthening strands against hygral fatigue. At first, the concept may seem a little strange - after all, doesn't all hair need to be "repeatedly exposed to water" in order to stay clean? Well, yes. But that doesn't mean that exposure is healthy.
Think of it this way - "Hair is made of keratin, just like your fingernails," Cox explains. "If you soak your fingernails in water for even a few minutes, they get very soft, pliable, and weak. The same thing happens with your hair when it gets wet." The longer hair is damp, the more likely it is to exhibit markers of hygral fatigue like frizz, breakage, split ends, dullness, and tangles, according to the hair care expert.
Sure, hygral fatigue isn't always to blame frizz and damage, but in my case it was. "Hair that is more porous is even more susceptible to [this issue]," Cox shares, noting that the category of "porous" hair usually includes those that have undergone chemical treatments or regularly use heat tools like straighteners and blow dryers. As Cox says, "Unfortunately, that means most of us."
If you're experiencing any of the above hair problems (like I was), the four-step Aquis Prime Starter Kit ($49 at Sephora) might be the solution you've been searching for, since it goes beyond treating the symptoms and actually addresses the underlying cause of said problems.
The system starts working before you even get your hair wet with the Water Defense PreWash ($29), designed to be spritzed onto dry hair. "It helps hair defend itself from getting waterlogged and weak," Cox explains. The PreWash spray does this by infusing hair with hydrating coconut oil, "which penetrates the hair and helps it repel water, so there is less water to cause damage by stretching and swelling the hair." According to the brand, it's also been clinically proven to reduce cuticle swelling by 25%, and that translates to hair that's less likely to break, split, or frizz.
Next comes the Rebalancing Hair Wash ($26) - a very fancy way of saying "shampoo." The cleanser is sulfate-free, so it doesn't strip strands of much-needed moisture and it's pH-balanced so as not to disrupt the delicate hair cuticle. According to Cox, this means you "can cleanse your hair without causing tangles and frizz."
I've found that to be true in my personal experience as well. My curls tend to get knotty as soon as I lather up, but the Rebalancing Hair Wash has a super-smooth texture that makes my hair soft and manageable. Basically, I can run a comb through it afterwards without running into any snags - and as anyone with thick hair knows, that's a major plus.
But perhaps my favorite step of the Aquis Prime system is step three - the Lisse Luxe Hair Turban ($30). It's straight-up magical, and that's not an exaggeration. (OK, fine, it's an exaggeration, but not by much.)
Aquis' Hair Turban takes the place of your usual towel and instead of using cotton or terry cloth to absorb moisture, it relies on a synthetic material called Aquitex. "It wicks water away from the hair faster and with less friction than regular towels," Cox explains of the hair-care innovation. "By removing excess water quickly and gently, it helps hair regain its strength."
While the hair-strengthening part is obviously a big benefit, I've found the turban to be most useful in my routine for a more practical reason - it cuts my drying time in half. Aquitex was inspired by the moisture-wicking technology in athletic wear meaning it "has multi-layer channels built in that transport water quickly from your hair into the fabric," says Cox. It's been shown in brand trials to reduce drying time by 50%.
In addition, the Aquitex turban dries hair without roughing up the hair cuticle, which is what sometimes happens with towel drying. Because it cuts down on drying time, it can even help eliminate the need for a blow dryer, so long as you're okay with a little air-dry time.
You may have noticed the above equation doesn't involve an in-shower conditioner, which Aquis has strategically left that out of the four-step system. Instead, the brand offers a Restorative Leave-In Mist ($26), a leave-in conditioner that locks in moisture, smooths frizz, and creates "bounce" without weighing hair down.
Admittedly, this part of the process is the most confusing. Haven't we always been taught that conditioner is the key to healthy, shiny hair? Well, Cox has a different take on how to properly smooth and soften strands.
"Typical rinse-out conditioners fill in the gaps of raised cuticles so hair feels smooth, but it's a temporary benefit that only masks hair damage and also weighs down hair," she says, noting that heavy conditioners may also slow the drying process and, in her view, leave strands more susceptible to damage.
As an alternative, Aquis created the lightweight moisturizing mist to be used after washing and drying. "This means less water damage with the added benefit of less weight on the hair, which brings back the natural movement and bounce that makes hair look and feel healthier," Cox says.
As someone with a thick, curly head of hair, ditching the heavy conditioner in favor of a few spritzes of a leave-in felt almost sacrilegious at first. I mean, it goes against everything I thought I knew about hair care. So imagine my surprise when, after testing Aquis' four key products, my hair air-dried into the defined, frizz-free, mermaid waves of my dreams. And not just once either.
I can't say that hygral fatigue is definitely at the root of your personal hair problems or promise that Aquis is the solution for you. What I can tell you is that this system has transformed my relationship with my own hair from "love-hate" to "love-love" because now, every day is a good hair day for me.
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