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Can You Really Deep Condition Your Hair???

Monday, March 22, 2010

This article is a must read! It was taken from The Natural Haven blog and was posted on March 23, 2009.


Could deep conditioning be a myth? I was watching QVC (uh huh), when a trichologist (hair scientist) was asked about leaving a conditioner in hair for longer for more of an effect and his reply was, ‘It is formulated to get to maximum potential in 5 minutes. You can leave it on for longer but not for added effect. ‘ At that point I really began to wonder why is it that my hairdresser at the time always recommended deep conditioning for 20 minutes at least once a week? Is it pointless?

In my search for an answer I came across a post on which contained a letter from a trichologist Barry J Stevens who described deep conditioning as ‘wishful thinking’ . I don’t really know the authenticity of this letter but it made me even more interested to find out the fact from fiction.

First step, what really happens when you condition your hair? If you use shampoo, then what you first do is remove excess oils and grease from your hair leaving you with a clean shaft. What DOES NOT happen is ‘opening of the cuticle’. I thought I should draw some of this out, just incase people’s eyes start glazing over.

What can open up the cuticle? Commonly, chemical processing of hair such as relaxing or colour rely on alkaline products and these CAN open up the cuticle. Your average shampoo does not have the ability to do this. They are mostly mildly acidic to neutral (around pH 6-7 though 8 is considered ok) because cosmetic scientists need to consider that the shampoo can end up in your eyes, face and mouth, so it is safer to be close to neutral. See this site for some pH ranges of shampoo. Lisa Akbari also advertises a shampoo at pH 5. The pH of hair and skin is a range between 4.5 to 5.5.

Therefore, if your hair is natural, you most likely have a closed cuticle as has been seen scientifically (Khumalo et al, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2000, pp 814-820).

This leads to the question, if the cuticle is closed then what can really get in? Well two things can, water and some oils. What kind of oil can get into the hair cortex? The complex answer is many different oils to varying degrees. The simple answer is coconut oil and olive oil have been shown to penetrate hair quite well (Hornby et al, Int Journal of cosmetic science 2005 pg299-300).

This now leaves the question, what exactly is the purpose of conditioner? Well most conditioners do just work on the outside. They soften the hair, help smooth the cuticle, minimize static, sometimes help the water stay in the cortex. When rinsed off they do leave some conditioning agents behind which keep the hair feeling soft. So why do so many people say that deep conditioning is good? Well maybe they just have a better procedure and can get more out of it.

1. Make sure you have sufficient water, make sure you wet your hair properly and make sure your chosen conditioner has coconut oil or olive oil. If it doesn’t, consider adding a teaspoon or so to it (portion out the part you are going to use and add the oil to that, do not put it into the main container).

2. Concentrate on applying the conditioner very well so as to cover your all your hair. Don’t plop the conditioner onto the middle of your head, back and sides. Take your time, part the hair and apply to small sections.

3. Do you need heat? It takes 15 min for hair to get saturated in pure water while steam takes 18 hours or more (Robbins, Chemical and Physical Behaviour of Human Hair, Springer). Water directly on your hair through wetting is probably more useful than steam or vapour.

4. Should you leave it on for longer? Well you can do so if you want to, but if you leave it just for the stipulated time, then you don’t need to worry too much.


This was really interesting, will discuss this in a later post.

Happy Learning,

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Deniece permalink
    Tuesday, March 30, 2010 9:50 AM

    This was a really good post. I don’t deep condition as much as I have been told I should, mostly because it already takes too long to do my hair and I don’t feel like adding an extra 30 minutes sitting under a hairdryer. I do feel like my hair turns out a little better when I deep condition, but maybe 15 minutes would be long enough.

  2. Friday, March 26, 2010 5:32 PM

    this was very informative, keep it up kenge

  3. Tuesday, March 23, 2010 4:51 PM

    I have also been told by my stylist to do deep conditioning once a week because she notices I have dry ends when she maintains my hair cut. So I started doing this with an Aveda Damage Remedy: Intensive Restructuring Treatment.

    I felt my hair did not look any different from this use of product. It is good informative information which you have provided us. I always felt deep conditioning was very much needed like hot oil treatments. When I was a relaxed head, my stylist put some product on my hair and put me under this steamer. I felt it worked really well.

    It is good also to know what oils are beneficial.

    While I was transitioning from relaxed to natural, I was using Suave Coconut Shampoo and Conditioner for most of the time. Even now I will use some conditioners as my leave-in.

    Thank you for this info. I would like to know what your opinion is.

  4. TMS permalink
    Tuesday, March 23, 2010 1:27 PM

    Thanks for this very informative article. The More You Know…

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