A crucial and often overlooked step in the foundation of healthy shiny hair is deep conditioning. Knowing why and how to deep condition your curly or straight gray hair can alleviate frustration with styling, tangles, frizz, and shine. In this ultimate guide, you’ll learn what, when and how to deep condition, what products to use, and which ones to avoid.
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What is Deep Conditioning?
Deep conditioning is conditioning with a product that is heavier or more nourishing than regular conditioner. Deep conditioners contain ingredients like butters, oils, proteins, and nutrients to repair, nourish, and soften your hair. These deep conditioning ingredients are meant for occasional use. Usually they work the best with heat to help drive in the nourishment.
Adding deep conditioning to your hair maintenance routine will improve the overall health of your gray hair. If you are transitioning to gray, deep conditioning is a game changer for the hair that is dyed and damaged from being processed. If you have curly hair, deep conditioning is a must do, in my opinion.
Make it a spa day, clarify first, then deep condition.
How often do you deep condition?
You can deep condition anywhere from once every week to once a month. I wouldn’t go more than a month without deep conditioning.
Now let’s discuss reasons to deep condition:
If you just clarified your hair… deep condition.
If your hair just feels dry or frizzy…deep condition.
If you have dull and dry color treated hair…deep condition.
If you have highlights or bleached hair…deep condition.
If your hair feels straw-like and very dry…deep condition.
If you have hard water…deep condition.
If you live in a dry climate…deep condition.
If you live in a cold climate…deep condition.
If you swim regularly…deep condition.
If you have wavy or curly hair…deep condition.
Do you shampoo before or after you deep condition?
Always clarify or shampoo before you deep condition to help remove buildup or anything (like proteins and silicones) which could be blocking the cuticle from receiving the nourishment from the deep conditioner. You want to shampoo first to equalize the pH.
How do you apply deep conditioner?
Apply your deep conditioner starting with the tips then work your way up the strand nearly to the roots. Make sure you coat each section thoroughly. Using extra is better than not enough. You do not need it on your roots or your scalp, you can use a small amount to hydrate the skin of your scalp by squishing the hair onto the scalp. Squish to condish, it will coat your hair more thoroughly allowing the ingredients to fully cover every strand. Then cover with a shower cap.
How long do you deep condition?
You can deep condition anywhere from 10 minutes to no more than 40 minutes. Depending on desired results and the weight of the product. Heavier products need heat and a little more time to drive all the nourishment into the hair.
Should you use heat when you deep condition?
Always, deep condition under a shower cap for at least ten minutes. If you can go for 30 minutes add a little heat from your blow dryer (just a few minutes, then let it marinate). Warming up the ingredients helps them soften and spread out, think warm butter on warm toast.
Hair Hack: Pump up the results with a Flaxseed Deep Conditioning Heat Cap to keep the deep conditioner warm for your entire treatment. This cap is cordless and microwaveable (if you don’t have a microwave toss it in the dryer on high for a few minutes to heat up the flax).
Picking your deep conditioner can be overwhelming so this should help.
The suggestions below are my most highly recommended favorite products.
Lightweight weekly deep condition:
- Dry climates
- Hard water
- Cold climates
- In the winter
- Regular swimming
- After a weekly gentle clarifying
My Personal favorite Weekly Deep Conditioner:
You can leave it on just for the length of your shower to feel the benefits. You do not need heat for this one, however I like it with a shower cap to lock in the heat from the warm shower.
Key Ingredients: Shea Butter, Aloe Vera, and Jojoba Oil are all very nourishing and hydrating to the hair.
Lightweight but deeper conditioning:
- Color treated, highlighted, or bleached hair maintenance
- Daily Swimming
- After a deep clarifying treatment
- Great for low porosity, fine hair
If you are fully silver with low porosity hair this is a very effective yet lightweight deep conditioner. You can use this once a week or twice a month, it will make a noticeable difference in frizz and shine.
Key Ingredients: Babassu oil is great for fine low porosity hair, because it is actually able to penetrate that tighter cuticle. While low porosity hair doesn’t need much protein, amino acids are amazing because they are very small and will offer a little more strength to the hair shaft.
Heavy-duty deep conditioner for damaged hair:
- Dyed, bleached, or highlighted damaged hair
- High porosity hair
- Coarse hair
- Dry frizzy hair
Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair Deep Conditioning Mask This is protein and moisture balanced; I do not recommend it on low porosity fine hair.
Key Ingredient: Proteins provide strength by filling in the gaps on coarse, damaged, or color treated hair.
Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment You can use this as often as you feel the need, it is loaded with nourishing butters and oils to help revive dehydrated curls and defrizz the gray hair. All of Jessicurl products are also great because she offers unscented in every product.
- All hair types
- If your hair feels straw-like and very dry.
- Weekly to monthly deep conditioning
- Fragrance allergies
Hair Hack: if your hair is straw-like and feels very dry, this may be a sign of protein buildup. Clarify, then deep condition with a protein free deep conditioner like Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment or LUS Brands, Love Ur Curls Deep Condition & Repair
All of these masks can be mixed with QuickSilverHair Clay Mask and Oil for your brightening treatment, except the Briogeo mask. Because of the high protein content, Briogeo does not mix well with the clay.
Can You Use Regular Conditioner to Deep Condition Your Hair?
You can. However, deep conditioner is specifically formulated to penetrate the hair shaft. Some will suggest adding whole foods like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, yogurt, mayonnaise, eggs, beer, etc. to regular conditioner to make a deep conditioning home mask; the problem is, these whole foods are large molecules that have not been broken down or hydrolyzed to be small enough to actually penetrate the hair cuticle. The pH balance can factor in here as well, as some homemade masks may alter the pH of your hair.
If it works for you, go for it. Just know it can actually be more cost effective and beneficial to your hair to buy a deep conditioner.
Fair Warnings about Deep Conditioning:
🚫 If you do make your own homemade deep conditioning mask; prevent bacterial overgrowth and scalp infections, by using clean utensils and only make enough for a single use.
🚫 By law, ingredients are supposed to be listed from largest amount to smallest amount, in most cases the first ten ingredients make up the bulk of the product, after that they drop to below 10% of the product contents. Beware of label claims for things like exotic oils and extracts, read the label if they are listed in the last portion of the ingredients they are not “actively” increasing the benefits of the deep conditioning.
🚫 Do not deep condition for more than an hour or overnight you run the risk of fungal, bacterial, and microbial infections on your scalp. And greasy or limp hair.
🚫 Do not deep condition with silicone containing products. The silicone will actually block the moisture from getting in.
🚫 Skip the products with hemp, olive oil, and black castor oil, they can potentially stain your hair especially if you did a clarifying treatment before your deep conditioning.
🚫 Avoid deep conditioning with oil alone. Oil is not moisturizing… learn more in my post Why You Might Reconsider Using Coconut Oil on Your Hair.
Dry silver hair is more prone to yellowing, because it will grab anything you put on it. Keep your hair hydrated with clean ingredients so your hair will be less prone to yellowing from environmental damage, oxidative damage, and product discolorations. Clean ingredients (sans sulfates, silicones, heavy oils, butters, and waxes) will also mean you won’t need to clarify as often.
I hope you found this helpful.
Just for fun:
Now listen to this song, when I was trying to come up with a title for this blog, I kept hearing “See What Condition My Condition Was In”
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share.
As always it is about so much more than the hair.
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