Monday Myths: Can you really 'deep condition' your hair?

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.

So is deep conditioning a myth, what do you think?


  1. this is great! i just recognized the power of coconut in my own life. lol.
    now, i don't know if deep conditioning is a myth or not... but i've always thought it kind of weird to keep conditioner on hair for HOURS and HOURS on end. i just did a cassia treatment, where i slept with it overnight. i kept thinking to myself, "is this really necessary??"

  2. I don't think I'll STOP deep conditioning my hair since the weather here can do (and does) a number on my hair, but I don't really think it's NECESSARY unless you chemically process it or use tons and tons of protein.

  3. Hi there JC,
    I'm a little confused about Step 3 of the procedure. Are you suggesting that the hair be saturated with water for 15 minutes with the deep conditioner on it and that that could possibly have the same effect as using a heating cap for hours? Thanks! Love the blog.

  4. So at what pH level does the cuticle begin to open?

    I was on the Relaxed Hair Health website the other day and she said that the cuticle begins to open at a pH above 5.5.

  5. Thank you for the explanation.. very informative.

  6. Hi Anon - I am saying that conditioner works on the outside of hair, it does not need heat to do so. Most times adsorption happens within the a few seconds to one minute. I think you can leave your conditioner on for longer or apply heat (for products designed for this) but not for added effect. If it says rinse out in one minute, you will probably not get much better results by applying heat with it on for 30 minutes.

    Hi Flower child - I prefer to say the cuticle does not open since sometimes people think it opens and close like a door, which it doesn't. I will put up a post on your question though shortly.

  7. I have just discovered you site. And I think it is great. I like that you are researching the "reasons" we do what we do to our hair. With that said, I was once a licensed hairstylist. During beauty school, my instructor would say there was no need in leaving conditioner on for long periods of time, because the hair will only absorb what it needs and the rest will just sit there. The good thing is, conditioner doesn't harm your hair because it sits too long.

  8. Interesting post. Thanks for the information and citing the sources =)

  9. Ha! I'm reading this with a deep treatment mix of olive oil, honey, and conditioner on my head that's been there for an hour. Glad to know I won't have to do this again. (at least not for more then a few minutes) And I won't be buying a heat cap either. Thanks. Now to go rinse.

  10. Hello, I truly hope you read this message. I have a question. Would it be okay for me to condition my hair ( while wet) with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (instead of conditioner)? I'm currently using Dr. Bonner's Castile Soap as a shampoo.

  11. From my personal view, hair conditioner has a function that oil cannot provide. It adsorbs to hair and helps to smooth down the cuticle. It also helps correct the charge on hair due to shampooing.

    Everyone has to find a routine that they like. I think that both oil and conditioner can be used. I don't think one can replace the other. (This is my personal view)

  12. I know I'm maddddd late, but just now discovering your wonderful blog :-)
    question: DOESN'T HEAT OPEN THE CUTICLE? So would conditioning with heat kinda be more of a 'deep condition'??

  13. Introducing water to the hair period begins to disrupt cuticle orientation. Water, especially warm water, swells the hair and causes the scales to lift to accommodate the swelling. Obviously the lifting is not like you would experience with a chemical relaxer which severely swells the shaft- but the cuticle does open when introduced to water.
    (Hair and its disorders: biology, pathology and management By Francisco M. Camacho, Valerie A. Randall, Vera H. Price p. 328)

    Heat also encourages the cuticle to open. It helps much needed protein complexes from our conditioners to get deeper into the cuticle layers to reinforce the cuticle where its needed most. The cuticle is made up of many, many layers. Wear and tear on the hair causes some parts of the shaft to have fewer layers to work with (especially the ends).

    Then we know relaxed hair already has an inherent porosity problem, lol.

    I think a lot of the difference between conditioning and deep conditioning though comes from the conditioner product being used. Instant, rinse off conditioners contain protein molecules that are just going to coat and sit outside shaft no matter how much heat you throw at the hair or how long you leave it on. The molecules are just too big. But formulas with smaller, hydrolized proteins have a better chance of really reinforcing the hair fiber- and heat helps them do that.

  14. While deep conditioning may not have the results we hope for when leaving in our hair for long periods of our time it definitely does have some effect. I know for certain that when I leave conditioner in my natural hair after the shower there is 10X the Curl Definition in my hair immediately after showering and long after my hair starts to dry. It must be working some kind of magic.

  15. are you saying that the cuticle is only open when your hair is wet and/or chemically treated? If so, then for a natural person who's cuticle is always closed, does that mean that applying conditioner on dry hair is useless?

  16. The cuticle layer is lifted when chemically treated. This is a form of damage, it is not ideal.

    When wet the hair cuticle can also lift slightly due to expansion of the cortex but this is usually reversible.

    Conditioner does not require the cuticle to be lifted because it is intended to work on the cuticle scales. It is intended to smooth them down and patch areas where cuticle is broken or missing.

    Applying hair conditioner to dry hair is fine. Conditioner is mostly water therefore the hair will essentially get wet - just indirectly. Wetting the hair prior to adding the conditioner is also fine.

  17. so applying deep conditioner treatments to dry hair does not work any better than applying it to damp/wet hair? I ask because a lot of people claim this method allows the hair to soak up more product allowing the treatment to be more effect.

  18. I doubt that claim Sky and if anything applying conditioner to wet hair would probably be better. Chemistry wise if you wet a surface and then apply a water based product, you sort have an attraction effect. However if the hair is dry and has a good oil layer as it should, applying a water based product to it doesn't give that instant attraction (oil on the hair and water in the conditioner repel each other).

    However this instant attraction effect is only valid for a few seconds to a few minutes (maybe around 2-3 minutes). After this time, the repelling effect is not really dominant.

    With 'deep conditioning' where people keep the product for 15 minutes or more, I really think that conditioner applied to wet or dry hair doesn't matter. The long time that the product sits on the hair negates the initial water-water attraction.

    However best practice in my opinion would say, wet the hair first.

  19. I love your articles! Very interesting and informative. I find the science of hair utterly fascinating. I especially love your diagrams!!!

  20. I just found this blog last night and I am hooked! I love it! Very informative JC. I have learned so much more about hair in a couple of hours than I have in a couple of months.

  21. I'm a little confused. I understand that only heat, alkalines, or chemically altering the hair opens the cuticles. In that case, doesn't more water and oil reach the cortex if left on the hair longer, as long as heat is constantly being applied, or is there a limit to how much water and oil can be absorbed?

  22. I do not really understand your question MerryJane. What do you mean when you say heat being constantly applied?

    Yes hair does have a saturation point when it cannot absorb any more water. 15 minutes in pure water takes hair to its saturation point.

  23. So I think i would add a bit of baking soda to conditioner and oil mix for deep conditioner since the baking soda allows the hair shaft to lift to absorb more water.

  24. Thanks for such an informative article and the pictures. I am visual so that helps a great deal. However, I am still confused. As naturals do we want the cortex closed or open?

    I'm thinking closed right? We should rinse after washing with the coolest water we can to close the cortex, correct?

    I agree with the previous poster, about leaving conditioner on and curl definition. Goes a long way for me. I bag my hair at night and it's dreamy the next day.

    Thanks, I look forward to your answers.

  25. Have you found any information about hot/heat with deep conditioning? What I'm thinking about is coconut oil applied to hair then wrapped with, say a wet warm/ hot towel or sitting under a dryer for 20 minutes. Is there any info that heat (not steam), but temperature of the water/towel would open cuticles and or increase oil penetration into the hair shaft?

  26. I just found your site the other day and I am hooked. I just graduated with a biology degree, but I am not doing anything in my field so it is nice to see some science since I graduated. It starts to come back and it is making me yearn for more. I love getting the facts.

  27. This is extremely helpful! Thank you for writing this!

  28. Now I know why after deep conditioning for 2 hours my hair still feels the same.....Great info

  29. I wonder about this research- most research- and the sampling of all types of hair...

  30. Thanks for the information with the cited passages. However, I am confused about use of a conditioner and heat. Are you saying that steam (which is pushed as a great way to get conditioner deeper into the hair shaft) doesn't help any more than dry heat? Can you expound on that a bit further?

  31. Hi JC,

    I am so excited that I found your site - I've been reading articles on here almost every day!!

    So, I did this little conditioner experiment on my own natural hair this past Monday: I washed as usual then mixed my conditioner with some extra virgin olive oil, and let that sit on my hair for about 5 mins. I spritzed my hair with glycerin and water then braided it into conrows, as usual. On Tuesday I unbraided one cornrow to find that my hair was brittle and actually breaking, like it used to when I was relaxed!!

    At that point, I rewashed my hair and applied conditioner mixed with coconut oil to my hair and let it stay in overnight. I rinsed it out the next morning, spritzed with glycerin and water and braided it into conrows, again. Three days later and my is soft and not breaking - just the way I like it :)

    My question is: if deep conditioning is not necessary, could something be wrong with my hair since deep conditioning is what was done to stop my hair from breaking?
    The difference

  32. I know for a fact that leaving the deep conditioner in my hair for more than 15 mins makes my hair feel "hard" when dry. So in my case, there is an 'extra effect' that come about by leaving conditioner on my hair for longer. I have used queen helene's cholesterol and I have noticed this a few times but not every time.

  33. Sorry for the delay in replying but this is an old post and I have not really been tracking comments on it.

    Rhonda, Amanda &Roland, Mz Teaze - From my reading of scientific papers, the hair cuticle is designed to be 'closed'. Cuticle lifting is not ideal as it can cause the cuticle to chip (remembering that the cuticle is not really open and closed like a hinge. It is a protein, so really moving it up and down actually weakens it - think of it more like a soft piece of bread and then bending it in half repeatedly, it will break eventually).

    So no at no point do I think it is necessary to 'open' the cuticles. They are designed to keep stuff out of the cortex and shield it from damage. Small substances like water and oils can get in and out. Larger substances like permanent colour require the cuticle to be lifted in order to get in.

    Conditioner is designed to smooth (i.e 'close') the cuticle. It works by applying a positive charge which forces the cuticle shut. This would limit the entry of substances to only small molecules such as water and oil, some small protein too (hydrolysed).

    Lofa - I always encourage people to do what works for them. I am pretty surprised that your hair would break so easily after one deviation from your usual routine. Usually this is most common with a chemical treatment. However, as this is your experience then do what is right for your hair :)

    Anyaposh - I actually get a mushy feeling with my hair if I leave conditioner on for long (around 1 hour). I find it interesting that your hair actually becomes hard..........hmm or do you mean strong? I think I just confused myself.

  34. I don't think deep conditioning hair is a myth at all. Well not for the reason I deep condition anyways. I don't do it for the reasons I condition my hair, I do it to bond protein to my hair. I was always under the impression protein can bond to the hair shaft and that deep conditioners with protein should be used for 20 mins or more...preferrably under a hooded dryer (plastic cap of course). Is this a myth too?

  35. This post makes me question my weekly deep conditiong treatments. They work for my hair so I'll keep them up--with the addition of a generous amount of EVOO and EVCO. I'll reduce the time od DCing as well--half an hour to an hour tops. Overnight DCing sounds like a recipe for moldy hair. *shivers*

    IMO, the fact that most naturals look for the thickest DCs possible is because DCs only coat the hair strand and don't penetrate for the most part(with EVOO and EVCO being exceptions). The with oils, butters and humectants that comprise the thickness get left behind in minute amounts after rinising thus giving the softness and moisture. Just a theoryof mine...

    Great post!

  36. I love your blog posts!

  37. What a great thought provoking article! From what I've researched and from my experience, it works. Yes, if you only used shampoo, which is usually quite acidic and closes your cuticle, then I agree, nothing would be able to penetrate. But as you said, your hair has a PH of around 4.5 to 5.5 and water is usually more alkaline at around 7, this will in fact open the cuticle. Also most conditioners are very alkaline, so they also open the cuticle. Conditioners have a high alkaline content to counteract the acidity of the shampoo and open up the cuticle, allowing moisture in... That's what I get from the science and also I can personally tell the difference. But my philosophy is if it works for you then do it, if it doesn’t then don’t feel you should. :)

  38. Thrilled to have permission to ignore all suggestions to make deep conditioning part of my routine. For me, deep conditioning in the past didn't do much. The real differences for me have been:
    1) Eating more veggies & drinking water (always a good idea!)
    2) Using SLS/SLES, petrochemical & -cone free products. Those ingredients did a number on my hair.
    3) No heat styling
    4) Protective styling
    5) ACV rinses
    6) Adding humectants & water to my routine (sprayed on before showering w/o a shower cap, or whenever if weather is humid)
    7) sealing in moisture with a good hair butter that includes coconut oil & shea butter (typically made by me)

    That's it. I'm done searching for the magic product, especially since eliminating bad habits/ingredients has made the most difference.

    Thanks for the great post!

  39. Question:
    Does jojoba oil penetrate in the hair?
    Is it possible to know the impact of the henna on the hair?
    Is it useful to rinse your hair with cider vinegar and cold water cause it was supposed to close the cuticle?
    Is it possible to have a description of the air aggression on the hair to better understand the need of protective style?
    great article! Good job!
    French reader Abigaƫlle

  40. Preach! I stopped deep conditioning and shaved an hour from my weekly haircare routine!

    @Beth: Wow! You listed almost everything I do/use to take care of my hair.

  41. Great post JC.

    I think most products are designed to make us part with more of our hard earned cash. I went shopping last weekend and found a range of natural shampoos and conditioners in John Lewis, all cost about £15 a bottle at minimum. It left me wondering if these products works because they are expensive or because of the active ingredients they contain.

    I'm not against entrepreneurs coming up with innovative products that are very suitable for my type, but when it costs a small fortune, its a bit of a worry.

    I feel its getting more and more important to know which ingredient actually contribute to the growth and maintenance of my hair, this article is very encouraging and it drives the point home that an effective product doesn't have to be expensive one.

  42. This is very interesting, I've always felt like my hair feel a lot better after a deep condtion. So I'm sure I will continue doing that. But what I'd like to know is how do you know if you're using enough conditioner or too much. My hair is thick and has a really coarse crown so I tend to use a ton of conditioner. I know the hair will only use what it needs, but how do we determine that without wasting our product. I can only get three deep conditioning sessions out of one 8 to 12 oz container of conditioner,and myhair is collar to shoulder length, and very thick.

  43. I just mixed EVOO into my container of DC. Why do you suggest that you should add oil in sections? Just wondering

  44. Wow when did the comments get to 45?! This old article seems to have plenty of life.

    MelMelBee - Commercial conditioners have a delicate balance of preservatives, it is best not to add ingredients to them directly as this could make the preservative ineffective. Add the ingredient to the potion you intend to use at the time when you intend to use it is my best advice. Hope this answers your question.

  45. Thanks so much for the quick response! Your site is awesome...A whole new world of info for natural hair care...LOVE IT!

    You have answered my question...too bad I already did it..LOL! I'll remember for next time though :)

  46. I did a "no DC" experiment for a couple weeks and I didn't notice a difference in my hair. Now, I never DC. I save time and money (using less product) and my hair feels just fine.

    For my hair, I've found that the leave in conditioner is what matters in terms of moisture--not the rinse out conditioner. In fact, I don't even use rinse out conditioner anymore (*gasp*). I detangle with an aloe vera gel/oil mix before cleansing (shampooing and ACV rinsing) then I apply my leave in conditioner and style.

    Thanks for this article and making me think twice about haircare techniques. I love this blog!

  47. Coconut oil is really great stuff, its great for your skin, hair and insides! I have started wetting my hair at night and putting coconut oil in it and putting it up and wash it out in the morning when I take a shower and my hair feel and looks bouncy, shiny and so soft! Its cheaper than expensive conditioners and I have tried a million as I am a product addict!

  48. Thanks for sharing
    Reading this put me at ease somewhat because I have never deep condished since my BC in May 2010...maybe I'm not missing out afterall....

  49. Wow, thanks for the great info! I am considering wetting my hair daily and applying coconut oil. I have been mixing it with Kinky Curly Knot Today, as it was the leave-in I happen to have on hand. Any thoughts regarding that? Also, what's the deal with Aloe Vera Juice "closing" the cuticle? Does that actually happen?

  50. Dear JC,
    Amazing article! Question 1: Can easily penetrable oils like coconut & olive oil STILL RETAIN their penetrable quality WHEN mixed in with other items as in many commercial creams (panthenol, glycerine, heavier oils avocado, castor). I like some of my commercial products but wonder if they don't inhibit the good oils they have in them. Question 2: My own raw use of oils even olive oil seems to leave my hair dry whereas commercial products seem to add elasticity to my 4a very curled hair. Why? What is the relationship between moisture and elasticity?

  51. I think this is sooooo true. I had a stylist once who SWORE by placing everyone under the dryer with conditioner on. One day I refused, telling her the only reason she does this is to keep clients busy/occupied and to keep us in the shop longer. Needless to say, she has not been my stylist fir a very long time!!!

  52. Hi JC the email to trichologist Barry J Stevens was from me. I prefer to have facts and then base my opinion on that. Unfortunately in the natural hair community there are many opinions spoken as fact. It seems like the more factual knowledge that we have the more we find out that a lot of what we do is unnecessary. Also it is so true that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, the thought that if a little is good then more must be great, if a few minutes of conditioning is good then a few hrs must be great. We also have to keep in mind the pseudo effect. I think that as we go forward with our individual routines that it would behoove us to learn the scientific method and apply it to our experiments. That would really help in eradicating many myths about natural hair care.

  53. Celeste! I'm having a full circle moment! Thanks for commenting on this post :)

  54. Your welcome JC, I really like your blog, I have been enjoying it greatly

  55. Thanks for this article....i will certainly be saving alot of time....amazing

  56. Firstly, I want to say that I throughly enjoy this website/blog. The articles are well written and have informative information.

    My hair is natural and in good condition - and I haven't seen a real need to DC. On a daily basis I will use a rinse out conditioner and then use a leave in. After that process my hair feels smooth and well hydrated.

    The few times I did think to try a DC I felt no real results. I found it to be a waste of time. I think my hair felt better results when my hair was permed and needed some TLC (even though it was pretty healthy for relaxed hair).

    I think that a DC isn't really all that nessary - and leaving it on for more time than the directions say is really just overkill for no real reason.

  57. A lot of people - permed and virgin hair - who swear by this have beautiful, healthy and often long hair so IDK. I think a leave in conditioner works just as well because that's what I use on my middle daughter who has long, thick, strong hair. *shrug*

    This is a great post. Fabulously written.

  58. JC I love you....persons thought they had all the answers to hair care and only realize that there is so much more to learn a result they find it difficult to understand (accept) the most simpliest thing that you say...i am so happy i found your blog....ur share my sentiments.....will continue to research ...thanks much

  59. Brilliant article it really challenges what we know to be true which is the point of this blog.Shampooing,deep condtioning,the cuticle being able to open and all the hair jargon you hear when it is not factual.

    The placebo affect is what is happening and the main reason is the language we use when refering to hair.What is really "deep" about codntioning? Why do we associate lather with being clean etc....

    Companies stand to lose customers if everyone had an inkling of what REALLY is true in the products they try to make us buy.The ingredients is the ONLY palce where they have to be honest.

    I am no longer ignorant to their devices and false promises but choose my products on the ingredients as that is what the product is and if my hair responds well to it. I love being natural it's like my eyes have been open to so many things. Keep up the good work Jc. :)

    I don't DC(leaving it for more than 15 minutes) anymore not on purpose i just couldn't be bothered and my hair is doing fine.

  60. I think deep conditioning is great for insuring complete penetration and if there is any chemical interaction that may occur, that the hair and the dc have time to complete such. It's like a face mask imo. Plus most dcs can aid in shine, moisturizing, strengthening, etc, but if you just throw on say olive oil and then rinse out right afterwards, you might not get all the benefit and full penetration that you could with a longer leave-in time.

    Being that olive oil and coconut oil can penetrate the hair shaft without heat (raising the cuticle (damaging the cuticle)), why would one raise use heat when trying to protect it when it is unnecessary to application and receiving the benefits either way? I'd think the health of the hair overall would be greater without dc with heat.

    And why wet the hair when using a deep conditioner? If you're deep conditioning to get literally deep (inside the cortex), wouldn't you use penetrating oils such as olive or coconut? And being that oil repels water, why wet it when doing a dc?

    Also, wouldn't a dc be less damaging even without water, which causes the cuticle also to swell and thus damage it more so than, again, without water? Even if you're trying to stick protein between lifted cuticles... (is it really worth it or more beneficial for all the cuticles you're weakening?) Unless you want to live off of externally-added-protein-coated hair.

    Since coconut oil is found to prevent swelling of hair (with water), do you think it is damaging if the cuticle swells with heat (such as when sleeping on it with a warm scalp)? Does coconut oil help with elasticity? Or will the hair shaft "dry stretch" and be more prone to breakage?

    1. I am with you on this.

      I have ALWAYS DC'd my hair because, the end results work best for me especially living in a very hot,dry climate. However, in high humidity climates, I don't have to do ANYTHING to my hair because it is in hair heaven; even applying moisturiser is like overkill.

      I think we need to take cogizance of the fact that even if we have the same hair type our hair responds differently for many reasons e.g. climate, diet, genetics, hormones, stressors etc. Products I used 5yrs ago and thought my hair hated, work well now for different reasons. So we must experiment and find out what works best for our individual heads of hair.

      Great food for thought Firefly River! Well put!

  61. I am sharing another email that I sent to about the question of heat and deep conditioning and got this reply, she put her answers in the body of the email so I will put her replies in brackets:

    4:50 AM (3 hours ago)

    to me
    Dear Celeste

    Please see my answers below. All the methods that you mention are correct. However, without the knowledge of hair science, they do sound confusing.

    Thank you

    M Sherlock

    Mrs M C Sherlock FIT MAE
    Chairman of The Institute of Trichologists
    Chief Executive of Administration
    Member of The Academy of Experts.
    Member of the European Hair Research Society
    Telephone Call Centre 0845 604 4657

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Celeste [mailto:]
    Sent: 27 November 2011 19:34
    Subject: A question about deep conditioning

    I am trying to understand the process of deep conditioning. It seems

    that hair dressers, who are only trained in the application of the

    chemical and technique, say deep conditioning require heat.

    [[[The requirement for heat is helpful in aiding penetration of the hair shaft.]]]]


    Trichologists, who are trained in the science of hair, says that deep

    conditioning require the molecules to be small enough to penetrate the

    hair shaft. [[[This is also true]]]

    There are so many “theory’s” out there. Some let the conditioner stay on

    the hair in a plastic baggy for hours.

    [[[This traps the body heat that is required for hair shaft penetration, this is done where no (professional) heat source is available, as this aids slow penetration of the hair shaft.]]]

    Some use steam. Some use specific

    ingredient, like coconut oil.

    Is there a definitive answer about the benefits of deep conditioning?

    [[[Yes the above methods work to protect you hair from damage by adding moisture.

    When hair is damaged it loses its natural water content, which can cause further breakage.]]]

    Is there a proper way to deep condition? [[[Yes. You have described them above.]]]

    Is deep conditioning just a myth? [[[NO]]]

  62. Thank you Celeste for sharing the email! And I really love this article too - the whole blog actually. Everything is so fabulously written.

  63. I just deep conditioned last night with infusium repair conditioner. The ingredients listed look like crap, but it was the best option I had handy. I put it in a bowl, heated it in the microwave (15 seconds) and applied with a coloring brush, separating sections of hair. I covered with a plastic baggy and left for 15 minutes. Honestly I was not expecting much, but my hair was SOOOOOO dry! I am in transition from brunette to blonde and my hair is screaming at me. However after washing it out (no shampooing), my hair was silk smooth and totally manageable--a 200% difference!
    I am happy to say Deep Conditioning DOES work!!

  64. Deep conditioning could not be a myth. I have left conditioner on my hair for the recommended 5 minutes and ended up with dry hair. I used the same conditioner and left it on for 30 minutes. it was better. Still using the same conditioner, I left it on for 1 hr. Those results were best for me.

  65. 2 years later... but yes, I meant that deep conditioner left my hair feeling strong. And it wasn't a nice plush feeling.

    I hope you're enjoying your new city!

  66. I know this is an old article but is still read - just to note I found this website last year after googling Barry J Stevens, the trichologist quoted in the article, after I had visited him for a consultation.

    I have some long term damage from many years of relaxers hence the visit to his office. What stood out for me was his use of his fingers to use quote marks and a slight eye roll when mentioning "deep conditioning". This was following other comments about our hairstyles that were slightly grating on me, but at that moment I had an epiphany that he didn't actually know what he is talking about.

    A trichlogist needs no medical or scientific background and although listed as an afro specialist it was a red flag for me when he and his staff (who were lovely) were so amazed at how my hair shrunk when it got wet and at that moment I knew he didn't fully understand afro hair. Perhaps his specialty was chemically treated hair but I would doubt how much case studies actually went into his research.

  67. Wow!!! Very interesting. I love this blog!!!

  68. I make a homemade conditioner from the Hair Care Rehab by Audrey Sivasothy, a book which I find extremely valuable. Thankfully the two oils you mention here (coconut and olive oil) are in the conditioner. I have a store bought "deep conditioner" that seems to soften my hair when I use it but doesn't seem like it does much more. It just seems so many people are calling themselves experts this is how we got in trouble with relaxers...just my opinion.

  69. This is like the best blog ever I have come across!

  70. Shinier hair, less breakage, stays moisturized longer - consistency is everything! Deep conditioning is a win win.

  71. This is great info. I have just recently really started learning about how to care for my natural hair. I have been natural since early 2010 and was just washing with Kinky Kurly products. I didn't do any major styling but just did a single French braid in the summer and I would style it and dry it immediately in the winter. I was really lazy. I styled in a bob and would wrap w/a satin scarf at night. I love how my hair looked and since we are talking winter, I had a beret on every day and that worked w/the style I chose. My hair grew so much and it was more or less healthy. Well I never did any deep conditions, I did use the conditioner as a leave in as well as well as rinse out. My ends have suffered and since I have started doing the deep condition thing AND using other products like Coconut oil, my ends aren't so bad. I am going to do a keratin protein treatment this week and see what happens. But the deal w/that is that it does not suggest a LONG incubation period. However I do like the "perceived" extra softness I get when I do the hot cap deep condition. This new regime works for me and I will continue but I will be mindful of any excessive time spent in deep conditioning mode. I co-wash, condition, deep condition 1x p/m, then apply leave in, this is all done in sections and without a comb. Then I break it down to smaller sections to do the 2 strand twist. Each section gets some coconut oil, then the cream I use for twist and lock(varies) and then the ends get the butter cream for sealing. I put the same cream on the twist each night. My hair has been twisted since Sunday night and I took it down today and it is so soft and bouncy. Again the deep conditioner did not happen this week but last week I did and my hair feels the same. I am going to do the keratin treatment this weekend and see what happens.

  72. I think that you didn't consider porosity while making your analysis. The above maybe true for hair with normal porosity but time and just natural tendencies can increase the porosity of one's hair and make deep conditioning imperative. The same can be said for hair with low porosity.


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