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Beginner Wednesday – Choosing a deep conditioner

19 Oct

This second article in the Beginner Wednesday series looks at choosing a conditioner.  Conditioner has really contributed to the health of my hair.  I deep condition my hair twice a week.  Though I switch up the products I use, the technique that I use stays the same.  After shampooing my hair, I cover it from root to tip with conditioner then wear a plastic cap.  I sit under a dryer for 30 minutes to an hour, rinse out the conditioner and proceed to moisturise. 

There are basically 3 types of conditioners – instant conditioners, deep conditioners and leave in conditioners. 

1.        Instant conditioners are applied to the hair and rinsed out after a minute or so.  They smooth the hair cuticle and coat the hair to make it appear healthy and shiny.  They are also great for detangling the hair.

2.       Deep conditioners are used to impart moisture into the hair.  Heat has to be used in order to open the hair shaft so that the deep conditioner can penetrate.  I use a dome dryer but when I travel or cannot use a dryer I just wear a plastic cap for a few hours or overnight.  This way my body provides the heat required.  Many people use this method to deep condition.  Other heat sources include electric heating caps and steamers.  A deep conditioner will be labelled as such.  It will have instructions to leave the product on the hair for more than 5 minutes as well as to use

3.       Leave in conditioners are left in the hair i.e. they are not rinsed out.  They have a thinner consistency than the other conditioners.  They are often used interchangeably with moisturisers.

For the purposes of this article I will concentrate on deep conditioners.  There are two types of deep conditioner – protein and moisturising. 

1.        Protein based deep conditioners are designed to strengthen the hair by penetrating the hair and replacing lost keratin.  They increase the hairs elasticity and improve the hairs appearance giving the hair more body.  Protein conditioners make the hair feel hard and so should always be followed by a moisturising hair conditioner to soften and lubricate the hair shaft.   Protein deep conditioners are used to repair damaged hair.  Use protein conditioners sparingly and with care as overuse can leave the hair hard and lead to breakage.  I use a protein conditioner (Organic Root Stimulator Hair Mayonnaise) about once a month.

2.       Moisturising deep conditioners contain humectants that attract moisture and are absorbed into the hair cortex. 

When choosing a deep conditioner look out for:

1.       Humectants  and hydrating ingredients

Humectants draw moisture to the hair.  These include honey, propylene glycol and glycerine.  Common humectants, emollients, and conditioning agents to look for in a deep conditioner are sodium lactate, sodium PCA, hydantoin, polyquarternium, glyceryl stearate, centrimonium chloride, and other natural ingredients and oils like aloe vera, wheat germ, palm oil and olive oil.

2.       Moisturising / fatty alcohols

Moisturising alcohols are fatty alcohols and do not dry out the hair.  Examples are cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, lauryl alcohol or myristyl alcohol. 

3.       Fatty acid base

Look for a fatty acid base from oils and butters. Examples are avocado, olive oil, castor oil and coconut oil.  Examples of butters include shea butter and mango butter. Also look for some essential oils.  Each essential oil has different benefits.   Examples of essential oils include peppermint oil, tea tree oil, rosemary and lavender.

4.       Light protein

Light proteins, such as wheat protein, soy protein or silk amino acids are beneficial in small measures because they enable the hair to absorb moisture better.  Many moisturising deep conditioners contain these gentle proteins.  They enhance the hair’s elasticity by helping moisture bind within the cuticle.

What to avoid:

1.       Silicone

Avoid silicones high up on the product list.  Silicones can coat the hair shaft and deter the moisture absorption.  Silicones lower down in the list though can be beneficial especially when detangling hair.

2.       Petroleum and Mineral Oil

These ingredients also tend to coat the hair.  If they are on the list of ingredients ensure they are lower down the list and not among the top 3 or 4 ingredients.

3.       Drying alcohols

Avoid drying alcohols like the type used in hair sprays e.g. alcohol denat, methanol, propyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol. 

Read this post for a list of deep conditioners

Read this post for more on protein and moisture

Read this post dedicated to deep conditioners

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4 Responses to “Beginner Wednesday – Choosing a deep conditioner”

  1. sunshynec 20 October, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    I’m going to buy shampoo and conditioner today. These articles are really helping me with a fresh start to loving my hair 🙂 will let you know how the shopping goes 🙂

    • Tendayi 20 October, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

      yoiu’re welcome Sunshyne 🙂

  2. Paula 07 December, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    Hey there!
    How do I balance a protein based conditioner with a moisture based one? Can I mix the two and condition or alternate weekly when I wash? Or can I include the protein conditioner in my pre poo then deep condition after shampooing with a moisturising shampoo. #confused#

    • Tendayi 07 December, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

      There is no fixed formula really!! What I do is use a proteing conditioner about once a month and the rest of the time I use moisture. It depedns on your hair and how much protein it requires. You get to learn this over time by ovserving your hair and if breakage is increasing etc. Each time I use a protein conditioner though I follow it up with a moisturising one immediately after ie I dee condition twice. Protein leaves the hair feeling hard and a moisturising conditioner softens it up again. Because of this I do protein conditioners on days when I have plenty of time and Im not in a rush.

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