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How to Deep Condition Your Hair & Key Ingredients

Dry hair is a common problem for women. In fact, according to the North American Hair Research Society, over 30 million women in the United States alone have dry hair.

If you are one of these women, then you know how frustrating it can be to deal with this every day. One way to help combat dry hair is by using a deep conditioner.

But what is a deep conditioner? And how do you use it? Keep reading to find out.

Why is your hair so dry?

Dry hair is the result of a lack of moisture in the hair shaft. This can be caused by a number of factors, including age, hormone changes after menopause, environmental factors, over-styling, and certain medical conditions.

What is a Deep Conditioner?

Deep conditioning is a process of infusing moisture, nutrients, and/or protein into the hair shaft to repair damage and improve overall health. It can be done at home or in the salon, and there are a variety of products available to suit different needs.

Unlike a regular conditioner, which is typically used just to smooth the hair and make it easier to style, a deep conditioner penetrates the hair shaft to provide long-lasting hydration.

There are two main types of deep conditioners:

  • Protein-based deep conditioners
  • Moisturizing deep conditioners

Protein-based conditioners are best for people with damaged or brittle hair, while moisture-based conditioners are better for people with dry or curly hair.

  • damaged hair needs more proteins,
  • dry hair needs more humectants,
  • frizzy hair needs more emollients.

How Choose the Right Deep Conditioner

There are many different products available for deep conditioning the hair. You should select a product based on your hair type and porosity.

There are 3 key ingredients in a deep conditioner (1):

  1. proteins
  2. humectants and
  3. emollients

Let’s take a look at each of these ingredients in more detail.

1. Proteins

Proteins help to control porosity by filling in gaps in the cuticle. As a result, they strengthen the hair while protecting it from breakage and further damage.

When choosing a protein-rich deep conditioner, it is important to consider the size of the protein it contains.

If you have fine or low porosity hair, look for products that contain small proteins like amino acids and peptides. If you have medium or high porosity hair, look for products that contain larger proteins.

  • Small proteins → Low porosity hair
  • Large proteins → High porosity hair

Amino acids and peptides are the smallest of all proteins. they have high ability to diffuse into the hair. This makes them suitable for a wide variety of hair types, including fine, medium, and coarse. They are also suitable for low to high porosity hair.

The most popular small proteins used in hair care are:

Silk amino acids: alanine, glycine, and serine

Wheat amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid

Oat Protein and derivatives: glutamic acid, aspartic acid, proline, alanine

Soy protein and derivatives: phenylalanine, tyrosine, leucine

Keratin amino acids: cysteine, serine, glutamic acid

Peptides: soy protein, wheat protein, Oligopeptide-2, Acetyl Tetrapeptide-3

Hydrolyzed proteins are smaller molecules that have been broken down from larger proteins through a process of hydrolysis.

Hydrolyzed silk, keratin, elastin, and collagen are smaller proteins that are popularly used in hair care products. They are suitable for all hair types including fine, medium, and coarse as well as low to high porosity hair.

Gelatin is a protein derived from animal collagen. It is between medium and large in molecular size. Gelatin is suitable for fine to medium texture hair, porous, and damaged hair.

Vegetable proteins such as hydrolyzed oat, quinoa, wheat, corn, and soy protein have medium to large molecules. They are best suited for fine to medium texture, porous, and chemically treated hair.

2. Humectants

Humectants are hygroscopic (2), meaning they attract and retain moisture in the hair. This helps to keep the hair hydrated, soft, and manageable.

The most popular humectants are:

Glycerin, urea, honey, sorbitol, panthenol, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid flaxseed gel, lecithin, aloe vera juice, agave nectar, vitamin E, fructose, and propylene glycol.

3. Emollients

Emollients/oily compounds provide a protective barrier around the hair shaft to keep moisture in and prevent water loss. This helps to keep the hair shaft hydrated, which in turn helps to prevent dryness, frizz, and breakage.

Common emollients used in deep conditioners include:

natural oils (olive, coconut, jojoba, avocado, argan, almond, grapeseed, sunflower seed, cottonseed, etc), butters (shea, mango, coconut, cocoa), fatty acids, waxes, esters, and lipids, synthetic emollients (cyclomethicone, amodimethicone, dimethicone, dimethiconol) (3)

You can view information on safety of ingredients used in cosmetics at https://www.cir-safety.org/ingredients

How to Deep Condition Your Hair

Whether your hair is dry, damaged, or just in need of some extra love, deep conditioning is a great way to give it the nourishment it needs.

Not sure how to get started? Here’s a step-by-step guide to deep conditioning your hair at home:

There are a few different ways to deep condition your hair, but the most important thing is to make sure that your hair is clean before you start. This will help to ensure that the deep conditioner can penetrate the hair shaft and do its job properly.

1. Start by shampooing your hair with a clarifying shampoo to remove any build-up from styling products or environmental pollutants (2).

2. Once your hair is clean, apply the deep conditioner to damp hair, using more or less depending on the length of your hair.

3. If you have time, cover your hair with a shower cap or plastic bag and allow the conditioner to penetrate for 30 minutes to an hour.

4. If you’re short on time, you can also apply heat to help the conditioner penetrate deeper. You can do this by sitting under a hooded dryer, using a warm towel, or even just turning up the heat in your shower. The steam will help to open up the cuticle and allow the conditioner to penetrate deeper.

5. Once the conditioner has had a chance to work its magic, rinse it out thoroughly with cool water (1).

6. Finish by applying a leave-in conditioner or styling product to help lock in moisture.

And that’s it! By following these simple steps, you can deep condition your hair at home and give it the nourishment it needs to look and feel its best.

DIY Deep Conditioner Recipes

DIY deep conditioners are a great way to nourish your hair without having to spend a lot of money. Here are some recipes to get you started:

1. Protein-based deep conditioner


1 egg

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup yogurt


1. Whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl.

2. Apply the mixture to damp, clean hair and let it sit for 15-20 minutes.

3. Rinse out with cool water and shampoo and condition as usual.

2. moistuizing deep conditioner


1 ripe avocado

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup honey


1. Start by mashing the avocado in a bowl.

2. Stir in the olive oil and honey until the mixture is smooth.

3. Apply the conditioner to damp, clean hair, and let it sit for 20-30 minutes.

4. Rinse out with cool water and shampoo and condition as usual.

How often should you deep condition your hair?

This depends on your individual hair type and needs. If your hair is dry, damaged, or brittle, you may want to deep condition once or twice a week. If your hair is healthy and just in need of some extra moisture, once a month should suffice.

Experiment and see what works best for you!

Benefits of Deep Conditioning

There are many benefits to deep conditioning the hair, including:

  1. Restoring moisture and hydration
  2. Adding shine and softness
  3. Improving manageability
  4. Reducing frizz
  5. Preventing damage
  6. Nourishing the scalp

Tips for getting the most out of your deep conditioning treatment

  • A product with a high protein content will have proteins listed in the first 5 ingredients.
  • Delivering too much protein to hair can result in protein overload, which can lead to brittle hair that breaks easily.
  • Large proteins found in food are not very beneficial for hair, as they cannot reach deeper inside the shaft.
  • If you have fine or low porosity hair, look for products that contain small proteins like amino acids and peptides.
  • If you have medium porosity hair, hydrolyzed proteins will work best.
  • If you have high porosity hair, choose products with larger proteins.
  • For best results, deep condition your hair once a week. If you have very dry, damaged, fried hair, you may need to deep condition more often.

The Bottom Line

Deep conditioning is a great way to add moisture, shine, and softness to your hair. It can also help to reduce frizz, prevent damage, and nourish the scalp. How often you deep condition will depend on your individual hair type and needs. For best results, try to deep condition your hair at least once a week.


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