Monday, 31 August 2009

Should you really leave conditioner in your hair?

This is a question that I have been asked several times and topped the recent poll with nearly half the votes wanting to know the answer! I must clarify first and say that when you wash your hair, you should rinse out all the conditioner thoroughly (for reasons known as potential itchiness, personal experience here, some science to follow). The question posed here is whether you can then use a little bit of conditioner afterwards as a moisturiser or on a daily basis. The answer to this question is yes you can use conditioner as a moisturiser but with caution.

So there are two main types of conditioner
1. Rinse out conditioners (heavier type that is used after shampooing to add softness - typical ingredients include fatty acids, surfactants and oils)
2. Leave in conditioners (much thinner and lighter, typically contain humectants such as glycerine to help moisturise hair )

Now, leave in conditioners are a no brainer, they are designed to be left in. The heavier rinse out conditioners are a little more tricky. They can be used but be aware

1. Using a silicone heavy conditioner (silicone in one of the first 5 ingredients) is not ideal unless you shampoo your hair. Co-washing your hair will simply not do.
2. Conditioners which contain protein (hydrolysed protein or amino acids) have been shown to cause irritation and itchiness in some people (contact urticaria is the medical term). (Allergy. 53(11):1078-1082, 1998).
3. Hair conditioner can contribute to build up. This was explained in a very intricate study (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, pg 205-214,1989). The science behind this is that the hair conditioner has positive charges and the shampoo has negative charges. Depending on the amount and type of shampoo, the hair conditioner can either be removed or the shampoo can simply attach to the hair conditioner and cause build up. Naturally if you have been applying hair conditioner to your hair on a daily basis, then you will have much more of the positive charge.

So what precautions can you take if you want to use heavier conditioner as a daily moisturiser?

1. Don't put the conditioner on your scalp, try as much as possible to target the ends of your hair (leave the scalp and the first 1-2 inches alone).
2. Read the ingredient list and if you are a no shampoo person, avoid silicones in the top 5 list of your conditioner. If you shampoo, then no worries here.
3. Pick a conditioner without proteins.
4. Rinse your hair thoroughly on your wash day.
5. Use a conditioning shampoo on your wash day if you are not anti-poo.

What is your experience with leaving conditioner in hair? Have you got the itchies or have you had a pleasant experience?

67 comments:

  1. i've used v05 (moisture milk line) as a leave in several times, i dont get the itchies nor dandruff. i havent tried this method with other conditioners.

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  2. i just say no...i always rinse the conditioner from my hair. sometimes i have residue from my deep conditioner (hair is too thick, too long, and water pressure too weak lol), and it makes my hair feel yucky, so i know better than to intentionally leave conditioner in my hair.

    i do, however, use leave-in conditioners. i feel that my hair absorbs those better. but those aren't all the time. i prefer coconut and castor oils as an all natural leave-in, and the effects tend to last much longer than anything i buy in a bottle.

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  3. Thanks for the advice on using conditioner as a daily moisturizer and for noting that conditioner used during washing has to be rinsed out.

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  4. i never felt good about leaving conditioner in my hair. The ingredients are just so foreign! if i have to look up ingredients, that means i don't need to leave it in my hair.

    I do, however, leave the Giovanni 50/50 calming condish and the Deep Moisture condish in my hair even though it says to rinse out because all of the ingredients in there are extracts from herbs, veggies, flowers, fruits etc. None of that is harmful to be left in. no cones, no alcohols, none of that awkward polyquaternium 5 or watever haha

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    Replies
    1. Hay why dont chu try the Organix conditioner...you can defiantly co-wash with that.

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  5. I agree with this but, what are some good (affordable) leave-in conditioners

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    1. I use the Shea moisture organic black soap balancing conditioner its $10 for 12 Fl oz/355ml and they sell it at Target Meijer Walgreens it a bit more expensive at walgreens but I love it its made for dry itchy scalp

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  6. Ive been using Pantene Relaxed and Natural conditioner to twist my natural hair. I seal with Shea butter on the ends afterward. I have had great results and no build up or flakes. I consider it a must have.

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  7. After washing and deep conditioning, I mixed my conditioner (Suave Naturals Lavendar) with water in my hand and put it in my hair for the first time last week and after my hair air-dried it felt the softest it's ever felt after air-drying. so I'm going to keep putting this diluted conditioner in! thanks for the info. I'm glad such a good thing's not bad :)

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  8. I always thoroughly rinse my hair of conditioner because whenever I read about conditioners this has been the 1 common thing in most articles that mention it.

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  9. I leave conditioner in my hair a lot (about 90% of the time) and have noticed that when I overdo it, my scalp itches. I try to concentrate on the lower parts of my hair so that it doesn't touch my scalp, and I've had marvelous results. It seems like my hair is shedding less, stays moisturized, and is finally growing! I use conditioner as a moisturizer and styling product. I love it. By the way, I use Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine, and Herbal Essence Color Me Happy.

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  10. Thanks all for contributing.

    @Dramabraniaccutie - I don't do product reviews but you can

    1. See the comments here for some suggestions
    2. On the main page - motowngirl has plenty of reviews
    3. On the main page - black girl with long hair (BGLH) has some product reviews as well as plenty of naturals who have been featured who have stated products they use
    4. Try the natural forums like naturallycurly, lhcf or nappturality

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  11. I tried leaving conditioner in my hair like the tightly curly method and it just left my hair hard and my scalp to itch. When I had a twa I honestly never practiced using a leave-in I slapped some type of thick hair pomade in 24/7. *naturals *something* by dark and lovely had petroleum in it though* Oh I was an oil slick but my hair was moisturized and soft but I had breakage galore of little curls when I picked through it! Learned about leave-ins, I used certain commercial leave-ins and my hair felt drier?! *what was this poor little black girl to do LOL*

    I personally found that glycerin worked*add water to your hair first, apply then baggy overnight* Curlz ^_^ Also creme of nature's rosemary and lemongrass leave in(has petroluem but worked good*
    Last Shea butter glycerin andan oil like castor, olive or coconut oil. I'm a recovering product and ingredient junkee LOL.

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  12. You know, this is a great post because I'm starting to feel that we naturals can be a little bit 'conditioner crazy.' I understand the importance of moisture, but i got tired of having conditioner on my head for 8 hours at a time!! Now I limit my conditioning sessions to 2 to 4 hours, and only when I deep condition once every few weeks. Otherwise I spray water in my hair every few days and seal it with an oil and a butter. Doing that leaves my hair pretty drenched for two to three days. Whenever I deep condition, I avoid commercial products altogether. I use honey & cassia and experience no irritation.

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  13. I tried leaving conditioner in my hair for a week, just so see how it worked and it lef tmy hair feeling a little weird (Suave Naturals Coconut Conditioner). I still use the Suave in the shower, but I rinse out now and only use coconut and olive oil to seal and some shea butter for moisturizer. I think that it just depends on how the particular conditioner reacts with the individuals hair. To each it's own.

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  14. It just makes my hair hard and crunchy, the only times i've done it, is because i've been too lazy to wash it out! And all conditioners if they touch my scalp itch like crazy

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  15. Thanks all for contributing. I definitely agree that each person should formulate their own method.

    @Sweetstar - If all conditioners make you itch then you should consider seeing a dermatologist to check if you have an allergy. One lady that I know had similar issues with all hair products and it ended up being that she had a coconut allergy. Coconut is in many products from shampoo to conditioner and it doesn't always say coconut. Sometimes they use specific oils or fatty acids and name those instead.

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  16. I've used conditioner only in my hair since the early 90s and never had a scalp itching issue, or buildup (that I am aware of). I still very rarely ever shampoo my hair because I don't feel like I need it. I've only in the last year and a half started using products other than conditioner to style my hair with, so although rinse-out conditioner isn't designed to be left in, it's never caused an issue for me.

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    1. I agree. I use oribe signature moisture masque and it makes my hair very curly. I have natural 3b type hair that is very tight in the back. When I use this conditioning masque it softens my hair and dries shiny and curly. I've tried other methods like paul mitchell mousse that leaves my hair cakey and white flakey. lol! Whatn I wash it out the next morning, I reapply it and my hair is soft and it feels great. The problem is that my scalp doesn't feel moisturized because I leave it on my ends. So now I'm goin to put rose water on scalp at night and when I wake up, wash it out and apply the conditioner daily. I'll let you know how this works

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  17. Please don't be scared! It could be an allergy but it equally be nothing. I think that if something irritates your skin to that extent then it is probably worth checking out.

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  18. What a great blog and site. I just visit across it today. I so excited and wanna share with all, i feel very depressed when i became bald six months ago but now i can walk down the streets with my hairs i am literally transformed, after having my affordable hair loss treatment.

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  19. i just recently used Suave Shea Butter and Almond conditioner as a leave in, then as a moisturizer after my hair had dried. i love it both ways :-)

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  20. I don't understand why if you can use regular conditioner as a leave-in then what is the big deal about washing it all out during a wash/shampoo session? You've already rinsed out the shampoo before applying it anyways, yes? Basically I don't understand the difference whether you are still in the shower or standing outside of it when applying?
    Anyways, I do finger detangle with conditioner and rinse out. Out of the shower I apply a spritz of Aussie Moist Conditioner and water with a ratio of about 1:4-1:5...this has been my new favorite since I started using it. It the best moisturizer I've used to date and air-drying results in the softest curls/hair ever! I'll apply my raw unrefined Shea Butter once my hair is about 70% dry to lock it in.
    The only time I've ever experienced itchiness that about drove me crazy was when I used Herbal Essences Long Term Relationship Leave-in. If I use it anymore at all it has to be on the ends only!

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  21. I do use my condish as a leave-in, b/c i only use all-natural products, so i don't have to worry about silicone or protein build-up. I also never leave condish on my scalp, so I've never come across dandruff or the itchies. I do shampoo with a clarifying shampoo, so that also takes the worry away from build-up. As long as you use the right condish and make sure to shampoo regularly, you should have no problems.

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  22. In the shower I wash all of my conditioner out - I do, however, mix a few squirts of DevaCare One with water and some oils in a spray bottle and use as a leave in before styling and as a daily moisturizer.

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  23. I use my Yes to Carrots Conditioner as a leave-in and even as a styling aid (tw strand twists). It does have a cone but its so far down in the ingredients list I doubt it has any effect...

    Anyways, My hair loves it and I don't feel the need to buy a leave-in with the same ingredients as a regular conditioner. I only moisturize once a week and I keep the conditoner off my scalp. I shampoo weekly so bulid up is not a problem.

    To each her own.

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  24. i kept getting dry/crunchy ends that would easily break off. i couldn't understand what i was doing wrong until i stopped using heavy/deep conditioners as leave-ins. my hair has done a 180! i think it works for some and not for others. thanks for breaking down the science of why!

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  25. carol's daughter black vanilla hair smoothie is meant to be washed out but it contains glycerin, defines my curls, leaves hair soft, and smells good when left in the hair for a couple of days. Goes well with aloe vera gel.
    I leave aubrey organics GPB conditioner in my hair. It is coconut cream based. i use that as a overnight prepoo or dilute with aloe vera juice while in braid extensions.

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  26. I own so many conditioners and maybe one bottle of leave in that I'm not particularly fond of. I use normal conditioner as my leave in, and usually it works fine (when I washed my hair everyday), but now I'm noticing that when I do my weekly braids, the itching is so intense and painful (where I don't braid) that I'm thinking twice about this whole conditioner as a leave in.
    I'll have to start paying more attention to my ingredients, or just invest in a leave in. My hair is shinier, and denser with conditioner in it, but maybe thats a no-no for my hair.

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  27. I am slightly allergic to coconut in my hair I realized after using coconut oil. But I have started leaving conditioner in my hair for the winter months and have noticed great improvement. No additional itching and my hair is more moisturize than ever. But I make sure to use natural conditioners and try to avoid any conditioners with lots of proteins to avoid crunchiness I usually use moisrurizing or every day usage conditioners.

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  28. My hair feels better for rinsing the conditioner out. The conditioner I use is quite heavy anyway and my hair always feels moisturised without having to use a leave in. If I leave the conditioner in, (even the tiniest amount) my hair feels gunky and over-moisturised. I then just apply my styling products as usual, diffuser dry, and it looks great.

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  29. I have straight (Caucasian) hair and use normal conditioner as a leave-in (and styling product) on a daily basis, and I love it! :) Garnier Triple Nutrition (with the oils) has made my hair softer, shinier, easier to manage, heavier, less flyaway, etc... I would be hard pressed to name a single other product (or technique) that makes my hair feel and look so good.
    I shampoo my scalp with diluted shampoo (ratio of about 1:10 shampoo to water) and rinse really well, then add half a palmful of GTN, brush through, and that's it! I don't rinse the conditioner out at all, just dry and style as usual, and it works great! :)

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  30. I've been using my conditioner (various products) sometimes to style my hair, as well as simply a "leave in" after shampoo to give my hair some shine. My hair has always been difficult to manage and depending on the day, the length of my hair, etc... It can help. Give it a try! (try not to leave any of the regular conditioner on your scalp as somebody suggested in a earlier post) Just run it through as much of your hair without touching the scalp. Good luck!

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  31. I've been wanting to try to leave in my regular anti frizz plus sleek shine as leave in conditioner but afraid my hair would get real greasy the next day.but after I read this site.i feel so much better.ill leave in on the ends of my hair first and see how that goes thanks
    :)

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  32. I mix olive oil, conditioner and water in a spray bottle and my hair loves it. I use cone free conditioners like Suave or Tresemme natural and just a bit so that I don't over condition my hair.

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  33. I have recently tried this with an all natural conditioner by mistake! It left my hair shiny, soft and freeze free, better yet? STRAIGHT! I just blow dry it a little and its STRAIGHT! I have hair for like 3 heads and have always found it so difficult to find products for my hair.. what a wonderful accident. I get no itch, since I don't touch my scalp and my hair is soft and touchable now with out any nasty products and it smell great! Now I just wished it was longer, I got it cut super short because I got fed up with it.. Oh well, Can't wait to grow it out again!

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    1. What all natural conditioner do you use?

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  34. i use Dove conditioner and it leaves no flakes like hair spray and makes my hair super soft but holds my curls i luv it :) but i think it depends on the person everyone has different hair types do wat works for you

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  35. Hello Ladies! it's interesting to hear about the different results. The only info I have to share is be mindful of the conditioners you use. Many of the ones listed on this blog have sulfates, cones and/or parabens in them. The sulfates are definitely a huge contributing factor in dryness and itchiness. The cones may ultimately do more damage by preventing moisture from penetrating the hair. And parabens are just bad. I use V05 conditioner to co-wash daily, I use Pure and Basic clarifying weekly to cut the build up, and Giovanni for weekly deep conditioners and diluted as a leave-in. My hair needs all the moisture it can get. Thanks for the tips.

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  36. My hair is so dry and damaged. I am now leaving conditioner in and it works great. I've tried the leave in conditioners and they are too weak for me. I also use silk drops. It's been 2 months now and my hair looks much healthier. I also let my hair dry on its own. I'll wait about 6 months before I get it highlighted again. With advise from a pro.

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  37. My Leave-in-conditioner left my hair crunchy, dry and my ends just broke off like falling leaves in autumn. At first, did not know what caused it. I've decided to stick to coconut oil, castor oil and aleo vera mix as my leave-in. My hair is vey thick and curly.

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  38. I wash, condition, and rinse thoroughly. Then, use a small amount of conditioner on the ends every time I wash my hair when I want to wear it curly! I find it has just the right amount of weight to keep my hair under control. I always had trouble with it feeling too "big and fluffy" before I started doing this, once it dried completely. I don't do it if I plan to straighten it, because then it feels greasy. But for my curly days, it works wonders. I'm using Pantene Color Preserve Shine right now. But this has worked with whatever product I've used before.

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  39. wow i was reading all the wrong links. till i just asked myself is it possible that. ive been leaving too much conditioner in to help with dry hair.. and the stuff that rises out usually stays on the lower part of your head..? so i looked up leaving in conditioner and found this link and it answered all my questions in less time than all those loooooooooong winded stories of peoples opinions.. this is very helpful ty

    * note to self... wash out the conditioner all through to the back thoroughly

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  40. I stopped using gel in my hair due to it drying my hair out and giving me pimples. I use conditioner to style my hair. My hair feels so much better.'I've never had a problem with irritation or anything.
    I just tried it one day and it worked.
    Everyone has unique hair. What may work for me ,might not work for you.
    Good Luck

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  41. I've bought Leave-in Conditioners and It just really didn't work well. I've been using dove conditioner as a leave in for a few years Its amazing your hair feels so silky smooth. It defines your curls and gets rid of the frizz.

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  42. Those for who have build up use an anti-reside shampoo!

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  43. It may sound crazy but I tried to use vo5 moisture milk as a leave in & basically a styler, well I didn't avoid my scalp and I suddenly got a mild headache that lasted allll day. I felt so weird...after bearing with the headache that I tried to ignore, I eventually clarified my hair and will just use conditioner for my Co washed & fully rinse. Sinse I have a twa, I think it will be difficult trying to avoid my scalp when applying conditioner.

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  44. I'm trying putting pantene pro v in my sisters hair. Is this a good choice?

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    Replies
    1. If her hair responds to it, there is no reason why not.

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  45. Pantene for natural hair isn't a good choice because it tends to have a lot of sulfates. I use Shea Moisture's line of hair care, and for a leave in conditioner I use As I Am leave in conditioner. It's smells nice and it leaves your hair moisturized. I condition and leave in condition ever time I wash because the more moisture your hair gets the better off it is. If you are a person who loves Suds (like me) I use Shea Moisture's shampoo (shea butter I believe) and it lathers without all the harsh chemicals that strip your hair of it's natural oils. I hope that helps. I've just been through a lot of products and sometimes you just have to find out what works best for you.
    I'm natural now and have been for almost two years, my pic is sooooo old hahahaha

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    1. I have not seen a pantene conditioner with sulfates. I have actually seen a couple of natural lines with sulfates including Lush and ORS as examples. I think the commenter was talking about a conditioner and not a shampoo. If she was talking shampoo then fair enough, practically all store bought shampoos will have some type of sulfate.

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  46. Hi Jc,
    Love your blog! I have an obsession for conditioner (my husband just shakes his head at me). But I am curious if there is a downside to using a lot of different types of conditioners? So for example, I EASILY have about 4-5 rinse out conditioners and roughly 4 leave-in conditioners that are in my rotation. I will interchange these products from week to week. Am I really getting any benefits since I'm changing so frequently or should I use a product a certain period of time to reap any true benefits?

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  47. I absolutely love leave-ins. I rotate kinky kurly knot today, Italian wahjid protective & bodifier mist, allafia beautiful Shea butter, Shea moisture curl & shine milk,or the curl enhancing smoothie and the anti breakage mask, and the new natural cantu coconut curl cream.I don't need to use ask additional gels or stylers and all are silicone free.
    I get best results when I shampoo with a gentle sulfate shampoo once a week and co wash mid week.

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  48. I am a hairdresser myself. I leave the conditioning treatment in my hair sometimes over night and sometimes even for 2 whole days and never something ever happened to my scalp nor my hair. Build up is caused if you dont wash your hair properly or use too much of the certain product and dont rinse it well. My hair never felt so much healthy.. the only thing you should not do when leaving conditioner in hair is not to apply product at the scalp.

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  49. I usually use a leave in conditioned after I wash. I have curly hair and for the first time today after I combed out my hair I took a dab of my regular conditioner and rubbed it through the ends of my hair and loved the effect. My hair was much less frizzy and curled up a whole lot better than normal:)

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  50. i dont think i will try this as i have scalp issues already. if i do i will might be on the last two inches of my hair

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  51. I use Ausie Moist conditioner and rinse half of it out and leave the other half in. I haven't noticed any issue with it. My hair feels super soft and my curls and more defined. I haven't found any leave in that works as well. I rinse half of it out because if not I usually end up with white flakes fro
    m it drying. I guess it depends on the person.

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  52. yes it is helpful. I use conditioners but i dont get itchiness often.

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  53. When I leave conditioner in my hair, it makes it crunchy./:

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  54. does essentials oils like rosemary,lavender,peppermint aid in hair growth?

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    Replies
    1. Yes... Essential oils can aid in hair growth. Lavender oil is used by many to help regrow hair in balding areas...

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  55. I have come across many articles like this one. I do not mean that the author is incorrect in his/her suggestions, but I think that articles that mention only using leave in on natural hair don't take into consideration the needs of naturally curly hair. Realistically, anyone with tightly curled hair knows that a leave in conditioners doesn't do anything for that hair type. Our hair needs thick conditioners. If you disagree, then you probably don't have African tightly curled hair; so you do not know where I'm coming from. I've been so frustrated going from article to article suggesting what I thought would work for my hair, but doesn't because the advice was not for my hair type. Now I know that everything I read has to be taken with a grain of salt.

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  56. I have long wavy hair, which tends to be dry at the ends and a bit oily at scalp. Try Shielo's Hydrate or Smoothing Conditioners - they smell good without being over-powering, and give a level of moisture that is neither too light or too heavy for me. Anyone interested in more organic hair products should give these a try.

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  57. I've tried using regular conditioner as a leave in styler for 3 days and it laid my sides down really well and helped my hair from getting back thick. On the other hand it began get kinda itchy and left flakes and my ends were becoming crunchy.

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