Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Deep Conditioning: Everything You Need To Know

This is everything you need to know from the last deep conditioning series

1. Adsorption

Most ingredients in hair conditioner attach to the surface of hair - aDsorb - more details here
-surfactants eg behentrimonium chloride/methosulfate
-emollients e.g cetyl alcohol
-some oils e.g mineral oil, sunflower oil, dimethicone, aminosilicones e.g bisaminopropyldimethicone, amodimethicone

2. Penetration into Hair

Some ingredients in hair conditioner can penetrate into natural hair:
-hydrolysed wheat protein
-coconut oil
-cetrimonium bromide

Hair that is damaged or bleached allows more into hair- more details here

3.  Do you need deep conditioning? Is your natural hair considered as damaged?

You should consider your hair as damaged (even if it is not bleached or colour treated) if it has a high potential to be damaged . For example, it breaks easily, requires very gentle handling, has mid shaft splits or split ends regularly.

4. Deep condition on dry hair, wet hair, before or after shampoo?

Some people like to use a water based deep conditioner before shampooing while others prefer using the shampoo first before deep conditioning. Scientifically, a water based conditioner will work better after a shampoo and rinse. More details here

5. Deep conditioning time and temperature

For maximum effect, 20-30 minutes at 35°C is ideal for a water based conditioner. More details here

6. How to heat up your conditioner before using it.

The Natural Haven water bath method - More details here

7. Over conditioned hair: Do you like leaving conditioner on for hours at a time/ overnight?

Some naturals like the feeling of over conditioned hair - More details here

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Do you need to deep condition your hair? Can you over-condition hair?

Over the past weeks we've seen

1. Penetration by some ingredients into hair (noting that bleached/damaged hair is known to be able to take up more than undamaged hair). - see here
2. 20-30 minutes is the maximum aDsorption time for conditioner and at a temperature of around 35°C again on damaged hair - see here 

So do you need 20-30 minutes and 35°C?

No you do not necessarily need to leave conditioner for that long. The length of time you leave conditioner on your hair is proportional to how damaged your hair is. Remember that conditioner works best on damaged hair as it tends to get stuck in cracks and flaws. The less damaged your hair is, the less need you will have for long conditioning time.  If your hair tends to get overly soft, mushy or if your hair has curls that can form spirals/ringlets but tends to not hold a curl with longer conditioning time, then you are in the group where 5-10 minutes is good enough for you.

How can you tell if your hair is damaged if it is not treated in any way (i.e not bleached / not colour treated/ not heat straightened)?

You should regard your hair as damaged or having the potential to become damaged  if you have a problem with breakage or split ends. If your hair needs supreme care not to snap, regard it as having potential to be damaged. If you constantly see split ends or mid shaft splits, your hair is damaged. In either case, you may benefit from longer conditioning time (20 -30 minutes).

Can you overcondition your hair?

I used to regard this as a nonsense term but when I did some research, I do now know that it is possible. A study done on nails (same keratin protein as hair) was performed to find out why nails get weaker with repeated water exposure.  The study found that exposing nails to water for over 15 minutes (remembering that at 15 minutes the protein is saturated) led to the keratin coiling different from normal and this was linked to softening and weakness (BBA,pp 210-216,1999).

There are many naturals who will condition their hair for hours at a time because they like the softness that it develops. If you are in this group, you are someone who likes over-conditioned hair. The softness you are feeling is most likely related to the change in the keratin and you should be careful when handling your hair when it is that soft as it will be weaker until it has time to recover its stronger conformation. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

How to : Heat up your conditioner for deep conditioning

My conditioner being heated up in the sink
To accompany the deep conditioning time and temperature post here is how to heat your conditioner to 35°C without using a hair dryer. The Natural Haven method is to heat up your conditioner with a water bath and using your own body to gauge how warm the conditioner is. It takes about 5-10 minutes to do.

You will need

-Small glass or heat resistant plastic container
-Hot water/hot tap water
-Sink or larger bowl to place the small container in to
-Your conditioner


1. Put the conditioner you are going to use in to the glass or a heat resistant plastic container.
2. Fill up the sink or larger bowl with hot water either from the tap or boiled
3. Place the small container with conditioner into the water and cover the sink or bowl with a towel
4. Wait 5-10 minutes and then stir the conditioner and check to see how warm it is. It should be warm to the touch- not hot. If you cannot comfortably touch it then you should not place it on your scalp, let it cool. If it is not warm enough, give it more time and/or increase the temperature of the water bath by adding in some more/hotter water.
5. Apply the warm conditioner to your hair and then cover with a plastic cap and follow with a towel to keep in the heat. 35°C is approximately skin surface temperature so maintaining the heat from the conditioner is easily done using your own body.

Things not to do
1.  Never heat up the whole conditioner bottle since you will affect the preservatives that prevent bacterial and fungal growth.
2. Don't overfill the sink/larger bowl, leave enough space to be able to use your fingers to remove the conditioner container bowl and don't let water get into the conditioner. 

You can thank blog reader Mrs.T for predicting this post was necessary :)

Deep Conditioning: Effect of Time and Temperature/Heat

Image Credit
For the past couple of weeks we have been talking deep conditioning. Today is the turn of two factors that are really key namely temperature (should you use heat when conditioning?)  and time (should you leave a conditioner on for hours?).

 Now for the purpose of this post, I will again define a conditioner as a water based conditioner (deep, intensive, mask or rinse out). If you are using oil, this is completely different and its own rules apply.

So will heat and time affect conditioning? The quick answer

Increased time and temperature do increase the amount of conditioner adsorbed to the surface of hair. The maximum time is 20-30 minutes and the maximum temperature is around 35°C.  

The long answer

I am being very general in this post because the fact is that every single ingredient that can adsorb and/or penetrate into hair (e.g surfactant or protein) actually has its own unique behaviour when added to a conditioner. This is also affected by other ingredients in the conditioner.  However there are common similarities in behaviour and these are the ones I wish to emphasise.

1.  Increasing the time you leave conditioner on hair allows more of it to adsorb with a maximum adsorption at 20- 30 minutes.

The key ingredients that can stick to hair (surfactants, hydrolysed protein, silicones, polyquats etc) will do so within seconds of applying the conditioner. If left on hair for longer, the amount will in general double within 10 minutes. If left on for another 10-20 minutes, the amount will increase by another 60-100% of the mark set at 10 minutes.

However after 30 minutes from initial application, there are no more increases in conditioner adsorbing to hair. The reason for this is that the hair conditioner simply has no more places on the hair where it can stick to.......all gaps which it can plug and all surfaces where it can attach are occupied.

The general graph that is obtained looks something like this

The relationship between conditioning time and adsorption
If you look at the 10 minute mark, you can see about 5% is on hair and at the 30 minute mark this increases to 10%. However at 40, 50 or 60 minutes there is no further increase, it just stays at 10%. Please do note that the numbers  5% and 10% are NOT real measurements. Adsorption is usually much lower than this (even as low as 0.01%) but for ease of digesting the information I picked simpler numbers like 5 and 10.

2. Increasing the temperature of a conditioner to surface body temperature (around 35°C) increases adsorption of a conditioner

Temperature increases the adsorption of conditioner such that slightly more can stick to the surface.  Generally tests are not performed much higher than 35-40°C in order to not burn the skin.  The graph looks something like this
There are two main lines in the graph one in blue at 20°C and another in orange at 35°C. What you see is that the orange line is shifted just slightly about the blue one. This means when conditioner is heated to 35°C, at 10 minutes there is slightly more than 5% on hair and at 30 minutes there is slightly more than 10%. Therefore temperature increases adsorption. The rule however remains the same in terms of no further conditioner sticking to the surface after 30  minutes.

Other influencing factors

1.  pH : The pH of your conditioner matters. In general pH between 6-7 work well to increase adsorption to hair. Below and above this range, the behaviour of the conditioner can become a little more erratic
2. Ingredient Quantities: Conditioners are different and contain different quantities of ingredients. For example, a conditioner which contains 0.2% hydrolysed protein will be able to leave about 20% more protein on the surface of hair compared to one which has 0.1%.  The result is more dramatic for surfactants with a 0.2% conditioner able to adsorb 80% more to the surface than a conditioner with 0.1% surfactant. The thing is, manufacturers will not tell you how much is on the jar, so you have to try the product and trust that your hair will tell you whether the product has too much or too little of the ingredient you are looking for.


J Soc Cosmet Chem, pp 259-273, 1992
J Soc Cosmet Chem, pp 351-359, 1991
J Soc Cosmet Chem, pp135-152, 1969
I will put up a summary post next week in combination with your key questions from the series. This is probably one of the more complex posts that I have put up so if you do not understand anything here, feel free to shout!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Where is it?

I promise a post tomorrow on time, temperature and deep is half written, I just need to make the diagrams!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Say Something Nice Friday!

It is that time again!

Original Publishing date : 5/10/2012

I am introducing this segment because I think we can all do with a little reminder how a little bit of kindness really costs nothing. I am so tired of going to youtube and seeing unnecessarily mean or unkind comments on videos. I am tired of reading other blogs and seeing the same unkindness (especially those where moderation levels are low).

Therefore, this Friday and every Friday after, I am asking you to say something nice to yourself and to someone else.

I'll start,

1. To myself - Stayed up until 5am to be supportive and make sure a deadline was met. Well done.
2. To someone else -  A huge hug to anyone who is currently frustrated by their hair. With time and learning what works for your hair, you will get there!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Deep Conditioning: Dry Hair, Wet Hair or Shampoo Hair?

Continuing on with the deep conditioning update, I know I was supposed to discuss about time and temperature next but it occurred to me that an important question that is often asked is about the initial step before conditioning.

1. Oil as a conditioner (pre wash treatment)

Oil for the purpose of conditioning is always applied to dry hair. This is because water repels oil and if your intention is to use oil to penetrate hair then your hair needs to be dry. You can wet your hair first or mix the oil in conditioner if:

-you want to limit how much water penetrates hair
- you do not like how your hair feels when oil is applied to it dry
- you want to use the oil to seal in moisture
- you want to use the oil to help reduce damage post washing

2. Water based Conditioner

For this article I am referring to a regular water based conditioner (deep, intensive, mask or rinse out) that is coated onto hair with the purpose of repairing damage, softening, cuticle smoothing and/or moisturising.

Scientifically, the preferred method of getting the maximum amount of conditioner to adsorb and then potentially penetrate (only ingredients that can) is :

  1. Shampoo with a product containing anionic (negative) surfactants
  2. Rinse off shampoo - this is important
  3. Apply conditioner which contains cationic (positive) surfactants 

Possible Questions:

Q: Why use a shampoo first?

Hair carries a slight negative charge which is enhanced when you use a shampoo with a negative charge. Hair will adsorb the conditioner better because the positive charge in the conditioner is attracted to the negative charge on the surface of hair. For the purpose of getting the best result from a shampoo, surfactants with a charge are best for example
- gentle sulfate shampoo - SLES (sodium lauryl ether sulfate) which is negatively charged
- mild sulfate free shampoo - cocamidopropylbetaine/cocobetaine/cocabetaine which is zwitterionic

Q: Why should you rinse off the shampoo?

Some naturals like to 'buffer' their shampoo by directly adding conditioner to it before rinsing it off. Some also like to simply apply the conditioner before rinsing off the shampoo. In both these cases, the negative charge of the shampoo and the fact that it is present in a large amount interferes with the ability of conditioner to stick to the surface. Two outcomes are possible in this case:

1. Conditioner does not stick to the surface and is washed off along with the shampoo
2. The shampoo and conditioner bind together and create build up on the surface of hair.

Q: Can you condition first and then shampoo?

Yes you can but you will be removing conditioner that stuck to the surface of the hair from the initial conditioning process. You will need to condition your hair again in order to smooth the cuticle. Your process would look like

-Deep Condition
-Rinse out conditioner
- Leave ins, oils, styling products etc

Q: Can you deep condition on dry hair?

Yes you can but remember the rules about using shampoo afterwards (see the question above). Applying shampoo first and rinsing before applying a conditioner does however give the best result in terms of conditioner adsorption.

J Soc Cosmet Chem, pp 351-359, 1991

J Soc Cosmet Chem, pp 263-278, 1993

Ok, next post is on temperature and time of application of a conditioner.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Deep Conditioning : What Ingredients in Hair Conditioner Penetrate Hair?

Continuing on with the deep conditioning update, here is the comprehensive list of every conditioning ingredient that I could find that penetrates hair.

I have grouped the hair into two groups. Natural hair with no processing and hair that is processed or damaged.

Often penetration tests are done at  35°C which corresponds to surface body temperature or what you would get if you applied a conditioner and covered your head with a shower cap.   

The Short Story 

Natural Hair - No Processing
-hydrolysed wheat protein
-coconut oil
-cetrimonium bromide

Bleached Hair, Relaxed Hair or Damaged Hair (i.e cuticle damage)
- everything in the unprocessed natural hair list above
-some amino acids enhanced by being in a creamy conditioner (arginine, glycine, glutamic acid, phenylalanine, histidine)
-artificial peptides (similar to hydrolysed protein)
-some silicones or amodimethicones (Trimethylsilylamodimethicone)
-hydrolysed palm oil

The Long Story 

If you would like extra details on times, temperatures and penetration depths, here are the details you are looking for:

Natural Hair - No Processing

1. Hydrolysed Wheat Protein (J Cosmet Sci pp 193-203, 2000)

Time required for penetration: 30 minutes at  35°C for initial detection, 16 hours (overnight simulation) for maximum detection
Penetration depth: in between cuticle layers and also in the cortex for natural hair, mainly in the cortex for bleached and relaxed hair

Process Details
-Tests carried out on natural hair, bleached and relaxed hair.
-Hydrolysed wheat protein was dissolved in water prior to application.
-Penetration seen in all hair.

2. Coconut oil (J Cosmet Sci pp 169-184, 2001)

Time required for penetration: Overnight
Penetration depth: in between cuticle layers and also in the cortex

Process Details
-Tests carried out on natural hair
-Coconut oil penetrates on dry hair

3. Cetrimonium bromide (CTAB or CETAB)  (J Cosmet Sci pp 169-184, 2001)

Time required for penetration: 6 hours at  37°C
Penetration depth: in between cuticle layers and also in the cortex

Process Details
-Tests carried out on natural hair
-Cetrimonium bromide was dissolved in water prior to application on hair

4. Caffeine and Panthenol (British Journal of Dermatology, pp24-30, 2011)

Details not clear. Treatment is described as a leave in treatment.

Bleached Hair, Relaxed Hair or Damaged Hair (i.e cuticle damage)

1. Some Amino Acids ( J Cosmet Sci pp 347-357, 2007)
Time required for penetration - 3-10 minutes at 35°C
Likely penetration depth - cortex

Process Details
-Tests were only done on bleached hair but not untreated natural hair.
-Mixing the amino acid in conditioner enhanced or caused uptake.
-Arginine is taken up by bleached hair in conditioner and in water (pH 6).
-Glycine and Glutamic Acid are taken up by bleached hair provided the amino acid is in conditioner and not dissolved in water (pH 6).
-Phenylalanine and Histidine are taken up by bleached hair when the amino acids are dissolved in water.

2. Some silicones - Amodimethicone or Aminosilicones ( J Cosmet Sci pp 231-245, 1995)

Time required for penetration - 20 minutes
Penetration depth - In between the cuticle layers and also in the cortex

Process Details
-Tests carried out on bleached hair.
-Trimethylsilylamodimethicone is taken up by bleached hair when the silicone is added to a conditioner.

3. Artificial Peptides (similar to hydrolysed protein) - (J Cosmet Sci pp 339-346, 2007)

Time required for penetration - 5 hours at 37°C
Likely penetration depth - cuticle layers

Process Details
-Tests carried out on unprocessed natural hair and bleached hair.
-No penetration seen on natural hair but bleached hair does show cuticle layer penetration.

4. Hydrolyzed Palm Oil - (International Journal of Polymer Anal. Charact pp 21-28, 2012)

Time required for penetration - 30 min at 40°C
Penetration depth - cuticle layers and outer cortex

Process Details
-Tests carried out on bleached hair.
-Penetration seen in the outer layers of hair.

5. 18MEA -a fatty acid/lipid or oil found in hair  - (Surf. Interface Anal pp 298-301, 2011)

Time required for penetration - 1min 30s
Penetration depth - cuticle layers

Process Details
-Tests carried out on bleached hair.
-Penetration seen in the cuticle

Monday, 1 October 2012

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.