Deep Conditioning Update: Penetration and Adsorption

Ok I am going to need you (yes I mean you reading this right now) to learn or recall a scientific term before I kick this series into full throttle. The word is adsorption with a D. It means to stick on to a surface as opposed to absorption with a B which we all know means to get soaked into or integrated into a surface/substance.

Let me first remind you of the structure of hair, just in case you need it!
Many naturals strongly believe that hair conditioner penetrates into hair and this is the reason why deep conditioning would be effective. However, this neglects a very important function of hair conditioner- adsorption! Adsorption is probably the reason most people use hair conditioner and this is because adsorption is responsible for
1. Temporary repair of hair
2. Smoothing down of the cuticle 
3. Reduction of frizz/flyaway hair for the curlies among us.
4. Softness of hair post conditioning

This is why I would like you to learn this word - adsorption. Here is one of my nifty diagrams to show you how adsorption works.
How adsorption of conditioner helps to smooth the cuticle and create softness
How adsorption of conditioner helps to repair hair

This is not to say that penetration of hair conditioner does not happen. Over the course of the last three years I have read numerous studies into different penetrating abilities of conditioning substances. This will be the subject of the next post. However to whet your appetite, I would like to present to you the three main ways that penetration is described in scientific literature. These methods generally apply to undamaged hair because damaged hair will pretty much let in almost anything. 
The three main ways that substances can penetrate into hair

The list of substances that CAN penetrate hair (i.e shown in scientific studies) will be here on Wednesday, so don't miss that! After that will be studies on whether heat and extra time make a difference to conditioning hair.


  1. Looking forward to the next article on this subject, especially whether heat or extra time is needed for certain conditioners. Then if it matters, what order to put certain ingredients in.

  2. I'm happy to hear this mystery's finally going to be solved. lol

  3. I might be getting ahead of the articles to come, but is it then a matter of product choice when some insist that deep conditioning for multiple hours (or overnight) is the only way they can achieve soft/moisturized hair?

    1. This reminds me about a graph that I need to find......yes you will have to wait for the article :)

  4. Its great to be a scientist! Hard facts, good job!

    1. It is mostly fun because the learning never stops! Thanks :)

  5. hallo JC. Quik question.. is it right to say that homemade condiotioners( honey,egg,mayo and oils) arent effective? because the protein in the eggs are to big?? thanx

    1. Just eggs may not possibly work as a protein conditioner, but honeey and oils tend to be quite good


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