Conditioning Your Hair 101: How to & Different Types

Well conditioned hair is arguably the #1 thing that all healthy heads of hair have in common; Well conditioned indicates hair that has the appropriate levels of moisture and protein, is well hydrated, and strong.  It doesn’t matter if you are relaxed, texlaxed, texturized, transitioning, loc’d, natural –  conditioning your hair is a key component to obtaining and maintaining HEALTHY hair.  There are several types of conditioners for different purposes and they are not all created equally, so it can be a bit confusing.  I believe the most important to be the deep conditioner, which has the ability to penetrate the cuticle of your hair strand to provide hydration, moisture and/or protein to your hair.  Traditionally, people tend to classify deep conditioners into one of two categories:   protein or moisture based, but more recently I’ve found a few products (Kerapro) that seem to provide my hair with the perfect balance of both, therefore the need for me to alternate my deep conditioners weekly has been eliminated.  They both penetrate the hair, qualifying them as deep conditioners, but often play two different roles:  Protein deep conditioners strengthen the hair, stop or prevent breakage, and add resiliency.  Moisturizing deep conditioners hydrate, add slip, and obviously moisturize the hair.  Personally, I believe all deep conditioners should be combined with heat to be most effective – electric heating caps, hooded dryers, steamers (my new love), or cordless heat wraps.  Some people like to apply the product, cover with a plastic cap and just leave it on for a long period of time and believe that increased time along with their own body heat is sufficient.  I disagree – heat  helps open the hair cuticle and allows the product to penetrate more deeply, so leaving the product on longer will never give you the same effectiveness as applying indirect heat (again, this is my personal opinion).

How do you recognize if a conditioner is moisture or protein based?  The name of the product and the description can help, but you absolutely must examine the ingredient list.  Moisturizing conditioners include things like water, glycerin, and panthenol (also known as B5, a powerful humectant) high on the list.  Protein conditioners are comprised of things like hydrolyzed silk protein, wheat protein, hydrolyzed keratin, etc.  Both often have lightweight oils either synthetic (cetaryl alcohol) or natural (safflower, jojoba, olive) to help lubricate the hair.

In addition to deep conditioners, there are also instant conditioners, leave-in conditioners, detanglers, and serums that all fall under the umbrella of conditioner.  To understand each and their proper use, I’ve created a handy dandy table for you!

Common Names
Best Use
Deep Conditioners
Masques, Treatment, Hydrators (often times these products actually say deep conditioning)
Restore hair’s suppleness, strengthen, soften, moisturize and improve (or maintain) hair’s health
Weekly with heat (Electric heating cap, hooded dryer, steamer, etc)
Olive Oil Replensishing Pak, Ojon Restorative Hair Treatment, Aubrey Organics White Camellia Conditioner
Instant Conditioners
Daily conditioner, rinse out conditioner
Restore hair to its natural pH, lightly moisturize and lubricate.
Mid week between deep conditioning sessions, In place of shampoo when hair needs gentle cleansing (co-washing)
Vo5 Moisture Milk, Aussie Moist, Bee Mine Bee Lovely Moisturizing Daily Conditioner
Revitalizer, Spritz, Detangler
Smooths cuticles, moisturizes hair, helps protect against styling
Whenever hair has been wet (washed), as a daily moisturizer
Bee Mine Deja’s Hair Milk, Mizani D’Tangle Moisturizing Leave-In, ApHogee Keratin & Green Tea
Elixer, Oil treatment
Smooth cuticles, seal in moisture, heat protection
After deep conditioning, before heat styling, great for rollersetting and airdrying.
Morocan Oil Treatment, Kerapro Anti-Frizz Elixer, Giovanni Frizz Be Gone

Ebony C. Princess About Ebony C. Princess

A self proclaimed hair enthusiast and healthy hair advocate, Ebony C, Princess is the chief editor of Longing 4 Length. She shares her personal journey towards growing long, healthy hair while providing hair care tips and information.