Find Your Perfect Deep Conditioner - The Ultimate Guide


by Nicole Harmon of Hair Liberty

Do you remember when you were a kid and you had your favorite shirt? I do. It was pink with purple flowers and it could actually glow in the dark-pretty much the coolest thing EVER to a kindergartner. I wore the darn thing every chance I got and I remember being heartbroken when I found it had a hole. I was sure my mother was going to make me throw it away but to my surprise, she patched it right up, good as new and I wore it until the seams were stretched and I just couldn't fit it anymore.

So let’s pretend you love your hair just as much I loved my tee (okay you probably love it a bit more.) Well there are so many factors that damage our fragile tresses that it’s important that you patch up the holes regularly so you can keep it looking beautiful instead of cutting it off. Deep conditioning does exactly that. You will retain the most length by using a high-quality deep conditioning treatment at least once a month.
The most effective deep conditioning treatments contain:

• Hydrolyzed protein to make your hair less breakage prone
• Conditioners to make your hair easier to comb
• Sealing ingredients that help moisture stay inside your hair between washes

Hydrolyzed Protein

Look at a strand of your hair. 90% of what you’re looking at is keratin protein. Your body uses the protein you eat to create keratin protein for your hair and skin. Once a hair emerges from its follicle, your health and what you eat doesn’t affect its appearance anymore. Your hair’s at your mercy and daily combing and styling chip away tiny pieces of keratin from each strand. It’s up to you to replace those lost pieces with protein from hair products; otherwise your hair will break just as fast as it grows. Using hair products that contain hydrolyzed protein are one of the best ways to improve your length retention.

In cosmetic labs, scientists “hydrolyze” proteins from plants and animals to make them more compatible with your hair’s keratin. The term “hydrolyzed” means the protein has been made small enough to fit in the spaces between your hair’s cuticles and absorb into the cortex. When you read a product’s ingredient list, the ingredients that are used in the highest amounts are listed at the top and the ingredients used in the lowest amounts are at the bottom. Usually, you get the most benefit from an ingredient if it’s at the top of the list, but hydrolyzed protein is a little bit different. Cosmetic chemists often add “helper” ingredients to make low amounts of protein more effective, so don’t rule out a product just because hydrolyzed protein isn’t one of the first 5 ingredients.

Examples of hydrolyzed protein:

• Hydrolyzed Keratin (from wool)
• Hydrolyzed Oat Protein
• Hydrolyzed Silk Protein
• Hydrolyzed Soy Protein
• Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein

Conditioners

Deep conditioning treatments need to perform double duty. You can make your hair stronger, but it will still be vulnerable. Well-formulated treatments also condition your hair leaving it easier to comb so you don’t lose precious strands from trying to break through tangles. In the world of cosmetic chemistry, opposites attract. Our hair has a negative charge and responds well to conditioning ingredients that have a positive charge. The ingredients listed here are called “cationics” and they stay on your hair even after you do your final rinse.
Common conditioning ingredients in deep treatments:

• Amodimethicone
• Behentrimonium Chloride
• Behentrimonium Methosulfate
• Cetrimonium Chloride
• Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine
• Stearalkonium Chloride

Sealing ingredients

You don’t want to spend the extra time and money to deep condition your hair if the results aren’t going to last. Even the best conditioning treatments are only semi-permanent, not permanent. A deep conditioner that contains good sealants will help your hair stay strong and moisturized for days at a time. Cosmetic scientists perform tests to see which ingredients do the best job at sealing porous hair like ours. You will get the most value out of your deep conditioning treatment if it contains at least 1 of these very effective sealants:

Ingredients for sealing:

• Petrolatum
• Mineral Oil
• Lanolin
• Dimethicone
• Phenyl Trimethicone
• Shea Butter
• Soybean Oil

Key Tips for Deep Conditioning

• Shampoo your hair before applying a deep conditioner. If you only co-wash or rinse before you apply the product, your hair won’t be able to absorb as much protein.

• Follow the instructions on your product. The best deep conditioning treatments contain a careful blend of ingredients that will give you maximum benefits in 3 to 15 minutes. Don’t put off deep conditioning because you feel like you don’t have time to sit under the dryer. That’s usually unnecessary and you’ll end up deep conditioning your hair less often.

• Only condition the hair you want to keep! Choose a deep conditioning treatment that you can afford to use generously. It won’t matter if your product is filled with great ingredients if you don’t apply it to every inch of your hair.

Have you found a deep conditioner match?

Reading the ingredients list will help you choose which product to buy, but only you can decide if a product is a home run. If you can answer yes to all 3 of these questions, you’ve found a staple.

1) Was the product easy to apply? There’s no reason that a deep conditioning treatment has to be very thick. It’s easier to control the amount you use if the product spreads easily.

2) Could you at least finger comb your hair after rinsing the treatment out? The most efficient products don’t require you to follow-up with a separate conditioner. If you can do your full detangling routine, you’ve really got a winner.

3) After your shower, detangle your most breakage prone (shortest) section with your fingers. Do you see significantly less broken hair than usual? If you’ve found the right product for your hair, breakage should drastically decrease after one use and continue to improve. You’ll have to keep using the product regularly to keep breakage at bay.

Recommended Deep Conditioning Treatments

Your deep conditioning treatment should be the most expensive product in your arsenal. You can keep your beauty budget in check by choosing less expensive shampoos and leave-ins.

BEST BU Y – ApHogee Two-Step Protein Treatment, $9 for 4 oz. (Step 1) and ApHogee Balancing Moisturizer, $6 for 8 oz. (Step 2)
Available at Sally Beauty

ApHogee Two-Step Protein Treatment has been around for years. This is an effective and affordable treatment but it has an unpleasant smell and the protein step can get messy. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s the definitely the best way to go. This product requires 5-10 minutes under a hooded dryer. Make sure to follow the instructions exactly as written or you could end up with unnecessary breakage.

Joico K-PAK RevitaLuxe Bio-Advanced Restorative Treatment, $23 for 5.1 oz.
Available at drugstores and beauty supply stores

This is Joico’s newest product for breakage prone hair. The “bio-advanced” part of the name refers to peptides (similar to proteins) that are used to help decrease inflammation on the scalp and promote hair growth. There is good scientific evidence for the effect of peptides on the skin, so this product is worth a try if you’ve had a history of scalp problems. The other ingredients in the product are similar to Joico K-Pak Deep Penetrating Reconstructor. Both are great choices for a staple deep conditioner.

Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Hair Mask, $29 for 7 oz.
Available at Sephora and CarolsDaughter.com

This product contains all the requisite ingredients for a good deep conditioning treatment. If you enjoy sitting under the dryer as a time to sit back and relax, you’ll enjoy this product because maximum results require 10 to 15 minutes of heat.

Age Beautiful Strengthening Treatment, $10 for 5.1 oz.
Available at Sally Beauty

This treatment won the Good Housekeeping Research Institute’s highest award for deep conditioners. It’s best for color-treated and relaxed hair because it contains a special ingredient that helps repair cuticle damage from chemical treatments. Even if you don’t make it your staple, it’s a good product to keep around for immediately after touch-ups.

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