Whether you’re nurturing your curls back to health or refreshing your already luscious curls (jealous), deep conditioners should be a well-known essential to your curly hair regimen. Although it may seem as simple as slathering some conditioner on your hair and waiting a few minutes, there are actually a few rules that can ensure a more effect deep conditioning experience for your locks. Yes, I just used the phrase “deep conditioning experience” to describe putting conditioner on your head. It’s that serious.
1. Here’s a little science lesson: hair is dead protein. It does not have pores; therefore it cannot soak up anything you put on it. All you can do is coat your hair with something that will lock in moisture or seal split ends. Please scoff and shake your head full of curls at any product that claims it will soak into your hair or penetrate your hair follicles because that is simply scientifically impossible. Don’t pay all that money for a product that can’t do what it claims.
2. When purchasing a deep conditioner, read the ingredients of the product! Make sure the product is made with a lot of natural ingredients and oils. Artificial ingredients should be kept at a minimum. Also pay a lot of attention to the type of alcohol products in the leave-in conditioner. Fatty alcohols, including lauryl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol, can make the hair look greasy if used excessively, but, for the most part, are beneficial and hydrating to your curls. Short-chain alcohols like ethanol, SD, SD Alcohol 40, etc., will dry out your hair.
3. Don’t slather on your conditioner; try to give your hair even coverage. In order to give all of your hair the nourishment it needs, make sure the conditioner is covering all parts of your hair. You can clip up your hair and put the conditioner on layer by layer in order to ensure an even coverage.
4. Use a shower cap! After you’ve put in the deep conditioner, trap the heat and moisture by putting on a shower cap. Yeah, you might look a little silly, but your curls will thank you. For an even better deep conditioning experience (yup, I said it again), use a heat cap or a hair dryer on low heat setting. Conditioners work better as detanglers and moisturizers with heat.
5. Leave your deep conditioner on for at least 15 minutes. Some deep conditioners might suggest you leave them in for as little as five minutes, but leave it in for as much time as you have. Unless you’re using a protein treatment (which, if left on too long, can harden your hair and cause it to break off), don’t be afraid to paint your nails, read, catch up on your favorite show, etc. with your deep conditioner sitting in your hair. Some people even leave their deep conditioners overnight.
6. There is such a thing as over-conditioning. Deep conditioners should be used once a week at most; too much deep conditioning can weaken your strands and not allow your natural oils to do their work. As tempting as it may be to attempt to deep condition the damage away, it doesn’t work like that (trust me, I’ve tried). Patience will save your strands.
7. Try some homemade deep conditioners. Not only can they be fun to make, but they’re often cheaper than store-bought deep conditioners. Most homemade deep conditioners require common household products such as olive oil, avocados, bananas, honey, etc. The complete lack of artificial ingredients is also a big selling point for mixing up your own deep conditioner.