Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Deep Conditioning 101: What, Why, When, and How

Hi Doves!

Let's talk about deep conditioning. I know i'm preaching to the choir to those in the bloggosphere, but I've got new readers who are interested in hair care for the first time. Even if it's the same gospel being preached over and over..... and over again, and even if only one person sees this for the first time and learns something, I will be more than happy!

Buckle up folks, it's going to be a long post.

What is deep conditioning?

Deep conditioning is when you use a conditioner with ingredients that penetrate the hair strand, strengthen, nourish, soften, smooth the cuticle and moisturise the hair. The deep conditioner may perform one, some or all of these functions depending on the type you use. Most deep conditioners state that the product should be applied and left on the hair for at least 15-20 mins.

Why deep condition?
Normal everyday conditioners do not always give our hair the boost of nutrients, protein or moisture that it needs. They may add shine or soften it for a day or two, but they do not contain ingredients which will penetrate the hair and infuse all the goodness that is needed to keep hair strong, moisturised, soft, supple and healthy.

Before I started my hair journey, I only used to instant condition and I have experienced a marked difference from before I started and when I do it now.
-Stronger hair
-Softer hair
-Increased shine and luster
-Less breakage
-Moisturised hair
-Less split ends
-Thicker hair
-Healthier hair
 Are all the benefits that come with deep conditioning. Healthier hair will always result in longer hair (unless of course you prefer to keep it at a certain length). I have not looked back  ever since I started.
Just for lols

What ingredients do I need to look out for in a great deep conditioner?
When buying any of my products, I always look at the ingredients list to see if the product will be of any help. The front of the label usually says things like "for dry, damaged hair" "moisturises and replenishes nutrients" "hair grower" " for strong healthy hair" but the promises don't always deliver and are usually meant to attract the customer. When you know what exactly is in the product then you can have a good idea of whether or not that product is really a "hair grower" or is for "dry, damaged hair".

First off all conditioners must have water, the primary moisturiser and base.  
They all also generally contain fatty alcohols or emollients. Fatty alcohols are the good kind of alcohol you want in your hair. Their function is to make the hair softer and bind the water and oil to hair to provide "slip" or lubrication. Slip helps the strands to glide past each other easily without causing breakage. Look out for ingredients such as:
Behenyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, lanolin alcohol, isocetyl alcohol, isostearyl alcohol, lauryl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, and C30-50 alcohols.

The next thing all deep conditioners have in common is conditioning ingredients. These aid in making the hair softer and stay on the hair even after the conditioner is rinsed off. They are cationic in nature as well. Check the ingredients label for : amodimethicone, behentronium chloride, behentronium methosulfate, cetrimonium chloride, stearamidopropyl dimethylamine, and stearalkonium chloride.

Sealing ingredients in a deep conditioner are necessary to ensure that the effects of the dc last long after the product is washed off. A good deep conditioner will contain soybean oil, phenyl trimethicone, lanolin, dimethicone, shea butter, coconut oil or lanolin as sealing ingredients. Some may also contain petrolatum or mineral oil. Normally i'm not for mineral oil or petrolatum in products, but when dc-ing I believe they are effective if they are not too high on the ingredients list( first 1-5 ingredients)  meaning that there is not a lot of it in the dc.

Oils, herbal extracts and vitamins are some things I like to look out for in my dc. Each oil or herb has  specific benefits. This post will be way tooo long if I list the benefits of each oil or herb. But look out for castor oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil, marula oil, amla oil, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, argan oil, almond oil, jojoba oil,  shea oil, rosemary oil, peppermint oil, ylang ylang oil, lavender oil, and tea tree oil just to name a few. Aloe vera (aloe barbadensis), nettle , sage, dandelion, burdock root, banana extract, avocado, bamboo, marshmallow root, saw palmetto, coconut milk or extract are great herbs/ extracts. Vitamins A, E (tocopheryl or tocopheryl acetate), biotin, niacinamide, and panthenol can usually be found in some DCs.

There are two types of deep conditioners, moisturising deep conditioners and protein deep conditioners. How do you tell which is protein and which is moisturising?

Moisturising deep conditioners
These restore moisture, elasticity and water content in the hair. Ingredients such as water, aloe vera, glycerine, honey, propylene glycol, bananas and the fatty alcohols/ emollients will be present in addition to the sealing and conditioning ingredients, herbs and oils. It is not always easy to find strictly moisturising conditioners, so  you can make them yourself by mixing a good instant conditioner and adding ingredients like honey, aloe vera and glycerine..and some oils.

Protein deep conditioners
These strengthen and repair the hair shaft. Protein is not needed for every wash day, therefore protein treatments do not need to be done as often as moisturising deep conditioning treatments. Protein deep conditioners contain; keratin (or hydrolysed keratin), amino acids, silk (or hydrolysed silk protein), hydrolysed wheat protein, hydrolysed oat protein, milk protein, hydrolysed soy protein, eggs, henna, or collagen (or hydrolysed collagen), in addition to the emollient, sealing and conditioning ingredients, oils and /or herbs. Gelatine is also a good substitute for protein for those who like to make their own conditioners.
Always remember to follow up a protein treatment/ deep condition with a moisturising one as protein can leave the hair hard and stiff. Therefore moisture is needed to restore the balance.

Some deep conditioners may contain a balance of both moisturising and protein ingredients. Although balanced they still contain protein and usually constitute a light protein conditioner which will not need to be followed up with a moisturising conditioner. A good example is the ORS Replenishing Pak or ORS Replenishing Conditioner (which is the bottle sized version of the pak).

Now when deep conditioning, it's important to alternate your treatments. Don't just use one type every single wash day. You can do the same type two times in a row (esp if it's moisture or balanced) depending on how your hair feels.  If you don't know whether to do a protein or moisture dc it's best to err on the side of moisture and use a moisturising one first or a balanced one. In a follow up post I will discuss the test you can use to determine whether you need a protein treatment/dc or a moisturising one. Check out that post here.

How often should I deep condition?
The more you deep condition, the better and healthier your hair will be. It is advisable to deep condition every week or every two weeks at least. Some people do deep condition less often like once a month or every three weeks, but that suits them, their lifestyle and hair needs. So assess your hair and schedule to determine how often you can dc. It is advisable that damaged hair that is dry, weak, breaking and dull should be deep conditioned every week until it is healthy and then you can decide if you want to continue weekly treatments or make them fortnightly. 
Personally, I do it every week because i'm used to washing my hair weekly and also I feel like i'm depriving my hair of  all the goodness and deliciousness a dc provides if I do it less often.

How to deep condition
Apply the product to your hair and then put a plastic cap or old grocery bag. Then allow to sit for the amount of time stated on the product or at least 30 mins to 1 hour. You can apply heat to allow the products to penetrate the strand better. You can do this by sitting under a hooded dryer, using a heating cap, microwaving a towel and applying it over the plastic cap or using a blow dryer over the plastic cap. I personally let it sit for an hour with heat, if I am pressed for time I use heat and dc for 30 mins. If you are doing a homemade treatment with eggs please do not use heat, it will cook the eggs. But if the eggs are in a store bought deep conditioner e.g hair mayo then you can use heat if the directions state that heat can be used.

Here are some good deep conditioners to try out

DIY deep conditioner

Deep conditioning 101. I hope i've helped a few of you out there. Thank you for bearing with me and this super long post!
Part two of this post on how to alternate your moisture and protein treatments is now available here


  1. Very informative post, and not just forgot newbies. I learnt some more about my favourite ingredients in deep conditiobers

  2. Thank you Bee, u have really been a great help to me. Deep Conditioning has actually been a big worry to me, but now i have learn alot and am ready to go!

  3. Nice post...



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