Find out why this process is the key to the health and length of your hair
All hair is made up of the same material. Keratin. What makes hair different is the shape of the hair shaft coupled with the shape of the follicle below the scalp. Sebaceous glands below the scalp secrete an oily substance which travels down the shaft of straight hair making it shiny and locking the moisture in. With curly hair the sebaceous oil does not make it very far, this is why curly and kinky hair tends to be dry, frizzy and prone to breakage.
Curly and kinky hair requires extra care and attention. Because of its dry state, it will be brittle and quite fragile. Deep conditioning is easily one of the most important aspects of the curly and kinky hair care regimen.
So what is a deep conditioner and why does your hair need it? Strictly speaking, a deep conditioner is any type of conditioner left on the hair for 20-30 minutes (sometimes overnight). For the deep conditioner to be truly effective, it is important that heat is used along with it. Heat allows the hair shaft to swell and the cuticles to open and allow the conditioner inside. By promoting elasticity, deep conditioning improves the strength of the hair making it more resilient which helps in length retention in the long term.
All hair types can benefit from deep conditioning but for black hair, this is an absolute must! As the hair is dry by nature, deep conditioning restores the moisture balance in the hair which stops breakage. Deep conditioning should be done straight after a shampoo especially if a shampoo with a sulphate is used as they strip the hair leaving it dry.
The type of deep conditioner used should depend on the condition of the hair. If the hair feels mushy when wet and stretches a lot before breaking then a protein conditioner is required to restore the hair’s strength. If however, the hair feels brittle and just snaps when any tension is applied; the hair is in need of a moisturizing conditioner. The aim is to get the hair to a stage where the hair is both strong but has a certain degree of elasticity. Too much protein will make the hair go hard and too much moisture will make the hair mushy.
Moisturizing deep conditioners should be used in conjunction with protein deep conditioners in the hair care regimen to maintain a healthy balance. You may find that to begin with you may just want to alternate between light protein and moisturizing conditioners with every wash (assuming you are washing your hair twice a week) then adjusting your regimen according to how your hair feels.
It is better to err on the side of moisture with natural black hair. It is already pretty strong as none of the bonds have been broken by chemical service but it is likely to be dry. Some naturals also report being protein sensitive which is to say that protein tends to make their hair go hard. In this instance, a light protein should only be required once per month.
With relaxed black hair some bonds have been broken during the chemical service so is quite likely to require protein to strengthen the hair but moisture will also be required as chemicals only aggravate the dry condition of the hair. See the article on how to deep condition hair.