Despite it being a mainstay in even the most basic hair care routine, there’s a good chance you haven’t questioned why conditioner is so important. Sure, you know that there are different kinds of conditioner formulated for different hair types, but why is it necessary? And beyond that, what does it do, exactly?
At the base level, conditioner is used to restore moisture and nourishment to your hair that may have either been lost in the cleansing process, or from other external factors. Depending on your hair type or texture, there are specific kinds of conditioner you might want to use: some offer color protection, extra nourishment for dryness, or anti-breakage protection. No matter what kind you choose, it’s one of the most important steps in your hair care routine and for your hair health — it helps to ensure you’re locking in moisture and shine, leaving you with protected, healthy hair.
One of the roles of sebum is to nourish the hair follicle and help the cuticle lie flat — this helps to protect your hair, keeping it moisturized and shiny. But everyday wear and tear, excessive shampooing, and styling routines can strip away too many natural oils or raise the cuticle, which makes your hair look frizzy and dull. The science behind conditioner is that the negatively charged hair strand will bind with the positively charged surfactants (the main cleaning agents) in conditioner, helping to coat the hair, smooth the strands and help re-fortify the cuticle.
Always check the packaging of your conditioner to see what the usage recommendation is, since leave-in times can vary depending on whether you’re using a regular or deep conditioner. But here’s a general routine to follow:
The packaging of your conditioner should specify best practices for how long to leave your conditioner in, but in general you should let it sit for at least three minutes to do its job.
This question really depends on your hair type and styling routine: if you have thick, dry hair, you’re going to need much more product than someone with thin or fine hair. Using too little conditioner will be ineffective, and using too much will often weigh your hair down and make it look limp (aside from the fact you’re wasting product). Start by using two quarters worth of conditioner and see how your hair responds — if it still feels dry, add more!
In general, it’s recommended that you use conditioner after every wash, depending on your personal wash and styling routine. Shampoo and conditioner work together, with the conditioner being there to help restore lost moisture and lock in shine after you’ve thoroughly cleansed. If your hair is especially dry and damaged from processing, swap in a rich bond-building hair mask for your conditioner at least once a week.
Haven’t sold you on using hair conditioner yet? Here are some of the most common benefits of including this in your standard hair styling routine.
Different hair types need different kinds of conditioner, and will benefit from a kind of targeted treatment. Look for products with natural ingredients, and use this as a starting point toward finding the one that works best for you.
While we wouldn’t say there’s a reason to not use conditioner, your hair might be negatively impacted if you don’t use it properly (or use the wrong kind for your hair). Avoid applying it to your scalp, as this can lead to build up and clog your follicles, hair loss, or just making your strands look heavy and greasy. Also be sure to take note of the condition of your hair after you start a new conditioner — if it’s looking heavy, or dry and tangled, that’s a good sign you’re not giving your strands the right amount of nourishment. Don’t be afraid to try a few samples to find the right fit!
Conditioner may have been something you didn’t think twice about including in your hair routine before, but we hope that you now feel confident choosing the right kind for your hair type. But if you have a tricky combination hair type, or just aren’t sure where to begin, visit your local salon to see what your stylist recommends. If you have any other recommendations for finding the right conditioner for your hair type, be sure to let us know in the comments below!
by Lauren Hannel, staff contributor
Photos by @goldandglowco
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