Should you deep condition before shampooing?

The next question for the panel is the claim by some companies that deep conditioning can be done before shampooing.Here are our responses

Noire: Conditioning before shampooing works for me

I've "experimented" with this, and I would say that conditioning (not so deep) before shampooing is a necessity for me (but not every one "eats butter on their bread"). I do not wash as often as others (I love sebum! *smile*) and so though my scalp is getting nutrients, I've found that my hair will lack substance after a more than a couple weeks. Jc mentioned in one awesome blog in 2009 that coconut oil reduces hygral fatigue substantially, and so I'll use coconut oil and olive oil mixed with Nature's Gate Hemp conditioner (and some water) as a pre-conditioner as well as to release tangles before shampooing, every time. I'm not sure about "how deep" the conditioning is, again I would think this is relative to the user

Laquita: Perhaps if oil is used as the conditioner, then it may be useful

I always wondered about this, I would think once you've deep conditioned then you wash that you are actually washing away some of the effects of the conditioner - pretty much defeating the purpose of deep conditioning. But, I also agree that if an oil is used as a deep conditioner (which I would consider a pre-poo oil treatment) and/or food products such as yougurt or coconut milk - these things may be required to be washed out. I experienced an itchy scalp for days when I first attempted to do a deep conditioner with avocado and coconut milk and simply rinsed it out with warm water, but others have done the same with no problems at all.

Monique: I'm not sure

I also don't know about this. I think that the type of shampoo and conditioner used may have an affect on when you decide to DC. Some shampoos are harsh, essentially stripping the hair of all nutrients, where others don't have the product formulation to remove certain types of buildup. I notice a significant difference in my hair before and after my DC. I doubt I would ever wash my hair without a DC. I wash my hair after my DC with a J.R. Liggett's shampoo bar. It contains vegetable oils and one of their marketing platforms states that "it doesn't strip hair of its natural oils".

Ktani: Possibly yes for oils

I have read both sides of that argument. The "nays" say it is a waste of product and time. The "yays" have a point in my opinion, depending on how a product is formulated and if one looks at traditional pre-wash products like oils (some oils are preferable to others for this purpose), which do not all wash away with cleansing and can serve to leave enough conditioning benefits behind to offset overcleansing and possible dryness.

Jc: I don't really know

Commercial conditioners all tend to contain surfactants that are intended to deposit on hair, so it is odd to me to shampoo after a deep conditioning treatment unless as previously menitoned if the deep conditioning treatment consist of penetrating oils mostly (olive or coconut oil pre shampoo wash). Sort of beats the purpose in my opinion to deposit lovely softening cuticle smoothing surfactants only to wash them away and redeposit.


  1. Thanks Jc: I've always wondered about this and did a "when do you DC" post a month ago. It is my opinion that you would benefit most by DC'ing with conditioner on clean hair (that is somewhat dry) but I do pre-poo with oil before shampooing.

  2. I always prepoo with coconut oil the night before shampooing. Sometimes, I'll DC before washing too. This is usually when I'm washing my hair in braids and worry that the conditioner won't penetrate between the braids. I'll section my hair and apply conditioner, then braid the section loosely at the bottom (to allow me to get in there and massage my scalp when I shampoo) but tight at the middle and top (to prevent them from unraveling). When I wash, I concentrate on giving my scalp a thorough massage, then letting the shampoo/soap run off over the braids. This gets my hair/scalp clean but still retains some moisture from the conditioner. To style I unbraid, apply products, and rebraid individually.

  3. deep conditioning after you condition is soo much better well for me it leaves my hair soft and managemable

  4. " I'll use coconut oil and olive oil mixed with Nature's Gate Hemp conditioner (and some water) as a pre-conditioner as well as to release tangles before shampooing, every time. I'm not sure about "how deep" the conditioning is,..."

    I agree with you highly, that using oils for deep conditioning is more helpful than using a conditioner.

    I recently read a good article on making a deep conditioning treatment more "deep" or penetrable. I can't say I know much about deep conditioning, but after much reading (including this article) I'm close to devising how I'd like to do my own deep conditioning.

    It spoke of a scientific term called surface energy.

    Surface energy means repelling energy of an object to keep things from breaking into its surface. Like oil and water, or water bugs that can stand on water.

    Everything has a surface energy and everything has different surface energy levels. And for for item #1 to penetrate item #2, item #1 has to be on an equal or lesser level than item #2 to pass through it.

    For an easier example: A large rock cant fit in the cup because it's too big. But a grain of sand can fit into a cup because it's small enough to fit in the cup.

    The same with deep conditioning water has to be on an equal or lower (or smaller) surface energy level to pass through your hair to be completely hydrated. If it's surface energy is to high (or to big) for the hair strand to absorb then it's only being partially hydrated.

    It also explained that if you change the temperature of water, you can change it's surface energy. The hotter the water, the lesser (or smaller) the surface energy (small enough to penetrate through hair's surface energy). It was hard for me to keep remembering that surface energy means repelling energy to keep things from breaking into its surface.

    And if steam is the highest heat form of water, then its the best way to deep condition. It totally explained to me why people steam! Also I learned, that adding surfactants to the steam (for example a drop of liquid castile soap because it's a strong surfactant), makes water penetrating ablilities complete instead of partial (by lowering the water's surface energy to a level lower than your hair's surface energy)and your hair will be totally hydrated instead of partially.

    I wanted to share that with you guys because it really helped me understand the importance of deep conditioning. So as far as using conditioner or oils. I do feel oil is better, because the oils will help hold the moisture in. And with conditioners, it is kind of pointless if you want to leave it in. I'd use it after washing and just use oils and sealers to seal it in. I really just like conditioner for slip, softness and fragrance, but not much more, sounds kinda silly of me I guess.

    1. Do you have a reference for this article? Surface energy is a true concept but it is affected by topography. Topography means whether a surface is completely flat or if it has bumps or pores. Hair is one of those surfaces that would be challenging to get a measure of surface energy because it is not flat and it has pores. I also know of a separate study that showed hydration of hair is faster by soaking hair in water rather than using steam or humidity. I would like to read this article that you have quoted as it seems to be different than what I know.


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