No More Scare-Hair: How to Deep Condition Your Hair

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Do you know how to deep condition hair? Sure, you might’ve heard of deep conditioning, but do you really know what the heck it is? Or how to go about it?

It’s nothing to do with your regular conditioner. Not even slightly. We’re going to explain exactly what deep conditioning is, why it’s awesome for your curls or dry hair, and how to go about doing it! It might change your whole hair routine.

What are deep conditioners?

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Deep conditioners are not your regular conditioners. Standing in the shower waiting for a normal conditioner to do something magical just isn’t going to work.

Instead, deep conditioners are more intense, providing some real boosts when you leave them on your hair for a longer time, and allow them to soak in. You leave regular conditioners on your hair for about 2 or 3 minutes.

But deep conditioners stay on for around 30 minutes and even continue working in the days after application.

How come they’re so awesome? The magic of deep conditioners comes courtesy of snazzy ingredients called emollients and humectants, which have their own individual superpowers.

Emollients
For strong and hydrated hair

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These reduce moisture loss from your hair by forming a little waterproof protective barrier around your strands. They’re like a glass bottle, keeping all that quenching moisture in and that nasty dryness out.

Humectants

These bind to water, adding it into your hair strands. Think of them as being tiny sponges attached to your curls, sucking all that moisture in and selflessly giving it to you!

How to deep condition your hair

So, we’ve established that deep conditioning your hair is pretty darn awesome. But how exactly do you go about it?

You’ll be relieved to hear that it’s neither complicated nor expensive (depending on which products you use). You just need a few basics and a little time on your hands.

What you need
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Good news — you probably already have most of the things you’ll need to deep condition your hair around your home!

Ideally, you’ll want:

  • deep conditioner (store-bought or homemade — your call)
  • hair clips/bands
  • a shower cap or grocery bag
  • towel
  • comb
  • pure unadulterated sass
Is deep conditioning curly hair any different?

If you’ve got curlier locks, follow all the steps above for conditioning curly hair — it’ll all work perfectly for you!

If you want to give your curls some extra love, you can consider using a moisturizer a couple of times a week (but be sure not to overdo it). The more moisture your curls contain, the curlier and bouncier they’ll be. It’s just an additional helping hand on top of what the deep conditioner is already giving you.

Deep conditioning overnight
Volume and structure for your hair

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Are you sitting there, thinking “well, if deep conditioning is so good, then leaving it on for a long time can only be a good thing, right? I can totally sleep in my shower cap!”

If so — no. Please don’t do it. Don’t cause yourself the heartache.

Remember we talked about deep conditioners being intense? That’s right — if you leave them on too long, your new BFF will become your greatest enemy, causing damage to your beloved hair. Check the instructions for your deep conditioner, and wash it off after the advised time, and no longer!

Benefits of deep conditioning

Now we know what’s in deep conditioners, it’s easy to see why they’re so darn good. They attract moisture and bind it into your hair. Many deep conditioners are also specially fortified with proteins that gratefully sink into your curls, which is perfect for hair that’s brittle and weak.

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So, that means:

  • more strength
  • more moisture
  • less dryness
  • bouncier curls
  • more shine
  • fewer tangles

What’s not to love?

Why is it better than everyday conditioning?

Think about how long you leave your regular conditioner on your hair. Or go hop in the shower right now, and see for yourself. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

OK, done pondering/showering? It was only a couple of minutes, right? That’s what we all do, and it’s all everyday conditioners are designed for: popping them on for 1 or 2 minutes, washing ’em off, and getting softer and less tangly hair. Done.

Activates the microcirculation of scalp and strengthens the hair follicles to stimulate hair growth

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Deep conditioners are more powerful, and they’ll keep working for days. That’s why they’re better than everyday conditioning: You’re getting way more bang for your buck than you do with the regular stuff. Deep conditioning strengthens hair and moisturizes it much more without you even having to lift a finger.

But how often should you deep condition your hair? Most DC aficionados recommend doing it once a week, but even once a month will give your locks a boost.

Why does your hair get dry?

There are a few reasons you may have dry hair — and one of the biggest culprits is our own hair habits.

Yup, all that artificial heat we inflict on our hair, from dryers to curling irons, can really do a number on it. If you held a curling iron against your skin, would it cause damage? Heck yeah! So, there’s no reason to think your hair would be any different.

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And others factors like age, hormones, stress, and your environment can get things drier than your high school teacher’s sense of humor.

So, it’s no surprise that deep conditioning is getting so popular, as it boosts your hair and scalp’s moisture levels!

Recipes for DIY deep conditioners

Sure, you can go to the store and buy a whole range of deep conditioners… but that’s boring, right?

If you fancy getting creative and saving some pennies, how about making your own using the below?

  • Honey and banana. You’ll need 1 ripe banana, and 1 tablespoon honey. Bananas are full of vitamins and good stuff. Honey is a natural humectant. Add ’em together, and they’ll whip your hair into shape!
  • Avocado awesomeness! Grab 1/2 avocado, 1 egg, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Smash it all together. Leave on for 30 mins. Eat an avocado and egg sandwich while you wait.
  • Go Greek. Get yourself 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 avocado, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 tablespoon honey. All the good oils and moisturizers you can possibly get, combined for extra effectiveness!

Store-bought deep conditioner recommendations

Free your hair follicles

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Making your own deep conditioner too much effort? We feel ya.

If an easy path to beautiful hair is your preferred route, store-bought products are the way to go. But do your research — Google the main ingredients, see what they’re meant to do for you, and check if that’s something you need.

So, if you’ve got generally strong hair, you’re not going to need one with extra protein (especially as your hair can get hella dry if it has too much protein).

Here are some products to consider. We’ve picked two more expensive options and two budget options:

  • Briogeo — Don’t Despair, Repair! ($4.75/fl oz) The undisputed king of deep conditioners. Certainly not cheap, but recommended by just about everyone who knows their shizz.
  • Kerastase — Resistance Mask for Damaged Hair ($9.17/fl oz) This French brand does more deep conditioners than you can shake a stick at, meaning you’ll definitely find one that does what you need. This particular product does a great job on dry and overprocessed hair. (That price though — zut alors!)
  • L’Oreal Paris — Extraordinary Oil Rapid Reviver Deep Conditioner ($0.83/ fl oz) France’s other most-beloved hair brand gets in on the act, with this deep conditioner, which only needs to stay on your bonce for a single minute in order to be effective. Brilliant for those in a rush!
  • Bella Curls — Coconut Oil Deep Conditioning Masque. ($1.04/fl oz) This is a great budget option if the other choices are looking too pricey. Fantastic for natural curls, and leaves your hair super soft!

Takeaway

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If you haven’t hopped on the deep conditioning train yet, take a deep breath, and get on board!

After all, it couldn’t be simpler. Deep conditioning is easy to do, it gives your hair and scalp a bunch of benefits, and you can do it at home with some standard equipment. It’s not even expensive — and if you’re feeling the pinch, you can make your own using stuff that is probably already sitting in your fridge.

If that sounds like too much effort, there are some great store-bought options for all budgets that will make the process even simpler. Just remember not to overdo it — once a week is quite enough, and no deep conditioning overnight, OK?

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