How should you use conditioner on your curls? The answer is not as simple as you may think. There are a lot of conditioning products on the market, and each type has different functions and usage instructions. If you’re confused about the different types of conditioners and how you should use them, here’s a detailed guide to navigate the world of curl moisture.
What is a Conditioner?
Conditioner is an essential step in your wash day routine. There are several methods of conditioning the hair, and three types of conditioning products including regular rinse-out conditioners, deep conditioning masks, and leave-in conditioners. All three types of conditioners have a unique purpose in your wash day.
Conditioner is a creamy product that enhances the feel, appearance, shine, and manageability of the hair. Conditioners restore moisture to the hair and help detangle after washing it.
How do Conditioners Work?
Conditioners are products designed to rebalance the hair shaft after you wash it. Shampoos contain surfactant ingredients that cleanse the hair, removing any product residue, dirt, and sebum which is our scalp’s natural oil that lubricates the hair and prevents it from drying out. They are designed to be more alkaline so they can bind to oils and remove them from the hair which is naturally acidic.
During the shampoo process, our hair shaft swells and the protective layer, the cuticle, raises resulting in a more rough feeling. That’s where conditioners come in. Conditioners contain cationic surfactants that bind to the hair, restoring moisture and softness. Conditioners are more acidic like our hair, so they help lower the cuticle to seal in moisture, restore shine, and reduce friction. This is why most people find it easiest to detangle with conditioner in the hair because it lowers the cuticle and provides slip.
Do You Need to use Conditioner?
All curl types can benefit from using a conditioner. If your curls are dry or damaged, conditioner is an essential step that you do not want to skip. Using a conditioner that has protein ingredients can also be beneficial for damaged hair. If your hair is very fine and tends to get weighed down easily, opt for a more lightweight formula that does not have heavy butters and oils. Also, focus the conditioner on your ends and avoid your roots if you find that conditioner weighs down your hair.
Different Types of Conditioner
There are three different types of conditioners: rinse-out conditioners, deep conditioners and leave-in conditioners.
The difference between the three types is the usage: rinse-out conditioners are applied in the shower to aid detangling and subsequently washed off; deep conditioners are still applied in the shower and washed out, but they are left on for longer and therefore are more powerful; leave-in conditioners are applied after the shower and not rinsed out, to keep the hair moisturized until the following wash day.
Regular conditioners are lightweight formulas that help moisturize the hair every time you wash it. If you have curly hair, you should always use some type of conditioner during your wash day, as shampoo alone will strip out too much moisture from your hair and leave the cuticle dry and rough. Using a rinse-out conditioner is also key when detangling, as it helps the brush glide through the hair more easily and minimizes breakage and damage.
How to Use a Rinse-Out Conditioner
- If you have very tangly hair or hair that is prone to breakage, apply your conditioner before shampooing. Saturate hair with water, apply conditioner, and gently detangle with your fingers or a brush. Work in sections if you have very thick hair or major tangles.
- Shampoo your hair thoroughly and rinse out.
- Apply conditioner again and let sit for 1-5 minutes. Gently detangle again and remove any loose hairs.
- Rinse thoroughly, massaging the scalp to ensure there is no conditioner left behind on the scalp.
Curlsmith Rinse-out Conditioners
Curlsmith has three rinse-out conditioner products. Each has unique benefits but can be used on any hair type.
- The Glow Perfecting Conditioner is a lightweight, everyday conditioner that boosts hair’s vibrancy and protects the color.
- The Shine Conditioner is a fragrance-free conditioner, light enough for fine hair but nourishing enough for coarse hair.
- The Post-Biotic Calming Conditioner is part of the Scalp Recipe, and is specially formulated to rebalance the scalp's pH and moisture levels after clarifying. Its unique formula can be applied at the root and won’t weigh down the hair.
- The Multi-tasking Conditioner is a 3-in-1 conditioner that can be used as a rinse-out, deep conditioner, or leave-in conditioner. It contains protein ingredients so it’s especially beneficial for damaged and high porosity hair.
A deep conditioner, sometimes also referred to as a hair mask, is a more concentrated conditioner with extra moisturizing ingredients. It is designed to be left on the hair for a longer period of time, such as 20-30 minutes before rinsing. Oftentimes deep conditioners contain moisturizing ingredients that penetrate through the hair shaft to restore moisture within. Penetrating oils include coconut oil, sunflower oil, and olive oil to name a few. These oils are small enough to penetrate through the hair’s cuticle layer.
Protein & Moisture Balance
Deep conditioners can also contain protein ingredients, such as Hydrolyzed proteins, Keratin, and Amino acids. Since deep conditioners are applied longer on the hair, they have a stronger effect in helping achieve the right protein moisture balance. These deep conditioners are hair strengthening products which can help strengthen curly hair. They do this by filling in weakened areas of the hair’s cuticle, helping the hair retain moisture.
Deep conditioners with strong protein ingredients such as hydrolyzed plant proteins are most beneficial for those with high porosity hair and/or damaged hair. If you have very coarse hair, low porosity hair, or generally healthy hair then you should opt for deep conditions with smaller proteins such as Amino acids and Keratin. Deep conditioners with strong plant proteins should be used sparingly for these hair types as they may lead to protein overload.
All hair types should alternate between protein-free, moisturizing deep conditioners and protein deep conditioners for optimal balance.
How Often Should you Deep Condition?
Depending on how healthy your hair is and how dry it is, the frequency in which you need to deep condition will vary. If your hair is very damaged and is recovering from heat or chemical damage, or if you have bleached hair, you should deep condition weekly. If you have healthy hair, you may not find you need to deep condition as often, so 1-2 times a month is sufficient.
It’s crucial to read the directions on the label of your deep conditioner so you know how long to leave it on for before rinsing. Leaving your deep conditioner on too long or overnight can lead to stress on the hair’s cuticle, hygral fatigue, or moisture overload.
How to Use a Deep Conditioner
- Shampoo your hair thoroughly.
- Apply the deep conditioner to clean, damp hair. Avoid the roots if your hair gets weighed down easily.
- Comb through to evenly distribute.
- Secure hair up in a clip or loose hair tie.
- If desired, put on a plastic hair cap to avoid any drips and prevent the hair from drying while it sits. If you have low porosity hair, wear a heated cap to increase absorption.
- Leave on for 5-30 minutes, depending on the product’s instructions.
- Rinse thoroughly, and massage the roots to ensure all product is rinsed out.
- Continue with the best styling products for curly hair.
Curlsmith Deep Conditioners
Curlsmith has two deep conditioners, plus the previously mentioned Multi-tasking Conditioner.
- The most intense option is the Double Cream Deep Quencher, which is ideal for those with very dry hair, medium to coarse hair, and damaged hair.
- The Hydro Creme Soothing Mask is a lightweight deep conditioner that delivers intense hydration and soothes the scalp. It’s suitable for all hair types, but great for fine and low porosity hair types because it won’t weigh it down.
- The Multi-tasking conditioner is enriched with a unique complex of Hemp and Rice Protein which helps strengthen and fortify the hair, so it’s perfect for damaged or high porosity hair types.
Leave-in conditioners are similar to regular conditioners in that they restore moisture and help lock in moisture, but they are formulated to be left on the hair instead of rinsed out. Leave-ins can help soften hair after washing, help detangle, and reduce wet frizz. Leave-ins give a boost of moisture for extra dry or highly porous hair. They may not be necessary for everyone if you find that you get enough moisture from your conditioner and styling cream.
Leave-in conditioners tend to be more lightweight compared to styling creams, so they’re a great option for those with fine hair. Styling creams differ from leave-ins in that they contain styling agents that help improve the appearance of the hair, such as encouraging ringlets and clumps, providing soft hold and helping to prevent frizzy hair. Leave-ins solely provide moisture to the hair and can help with moisture retention.
How to Use a Leave-In Conditioner
- Start with clean, damp hair.
- Apply a leave-in to your palms and rub them together to emulsify the texture
- Rake through the hair, ensuring every strand is evenly coated and there are no uneven patches.
- Comb through if needed for even distribution.
- Apply your preferred styler for hold, definition, and frizz control.
Curlsmith Leave-In Conditioners
Curlsmith offers several leave-in conditioners depending on your hair’s needs and hair type.
- The Moisture Memory Reactivator is the most lightweight option and is designed to use when refreshing the curls to reshape ringlets and restore moisture. It has a light milky spray formula and won’t weigh down the hair, so it can also be used on wash day by people with very fine hair who are looking for a super lightweight leave-in option.
- The Weightless Air Dry Cream is another lightweight option that is great for fine hair or all hair types and helps minimize build-up. It contains Hyaluronic acid which makes it highly hydrating but not heavy.
- The Shine Cream is as light as the Air Dry Cream, but it is fragrance free, so it's suitable for most people with scalp or fragrance sensitivities.
- The Multi-tasking Conditioner again is a great protein-rich option, perfect for those who have high porosity, weak or damaged hair.
- The Curl Conditioning Oil-in-Cream is a rich leave-in conditioner with concentrated moisture, a thick buttery texture ideal for coarse and very dry hair.
Finding the right conditioner
Having a variety of conditioner products is beneficial in your curly hair routine. They all have a unique purpose and can be useful for all hair types. If you’re stuck on which conditioner product to choose, check out the Curl Quiz to discover a personalized recommendation for your unique hair type.