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How to Deep Condition Hair | Step-by-Step Guide & Things to Consider

Learning how to deep condition your hair helps keep your hair easier to manage and make it healthier. You can bet we’ve rounded up six easy steps to keep your hair looking and feeling its best. Read on to learn more!

How to Deep Condition Hair: A Summary

Image titled How to Deep Condition Your Hair featuring a photo of a woman doing such an act against a blue background

Deep conditioners use heat, time, and special ingredients to nourish, moisturize, and penetrate each strand of hair. These conditioners provide more intense results than everyday products you’ll see at the store. 

Deep conditioning hair requires six steps:

  1. Wet your hair
  2. Apply a deep conditioner
  3. Comb or brush conditioner through hair
  4. Cover your hair and apply heat
  5. Wait
  6. Rinse your hair

How to Deep Condition Hair in 6 Easy Steps

Just like the rest of your body, your hair needs care to stay healthy. Over time, your hair can suffer damage from styling, chemicals, and sun exposure. Even if you don’t feel like you have damaged hair, deep conditioning can help maintain your healthy hair.

Deep conditioning repairs damage from brushing and replaces moisture our hair loses from everyday wear and tear.  This can be especially helpful for people who have dry, damaged, and easily breakable hair. 

But this treatment does more than improve the appearance of your hair. Deep conditioning benefits include:

  • Moisturizing
  • Hydrating
  • Decreasing hair friction
  • Detangling hair
  • Defrizzing hair
  • Making hair easier to comb or brush
  • Keeping hair feeling and looking more healthy
  • Strengthening hair
  • Reducing damage
  • Preventing split ends and breakage
  • Reducing static
  • Lubricating hair cuticles
  • Improving hair elasticity
  • IMproving shine

To benefit most from a deep conditioner, follow these six steps. 

Step 1: Wet Your Hair 

The first step to conditioning is to wet your hair. You will want to look at the product label to determine if you should deep condition before or after shampooing your hair.

Starting with wet hair allows the conditioner to penetrate hair strands more deeply to provide the maximum level of moisture and nutrients. You will get the most benefit from your conditioner if the ingredients effectively penetrate your hair.

Water assists with the conditioning process by raising the outer cuticle layer of your hair. If your hair is not very porous and doesn’t absorb moisture as well, raising the outer cuticle can help it absorb more moisture.

Additionally, shampoo is negatively charged and raises the pH of the hair. Raising hair pH also raises the outer cuticle layer for increased moisturizing. Shampooing hair is also helpful to remove dirt and buildup that can inhibit the moisturization process.

For most deep conditioners, you will follow these steps, which will result in having wet hair before conditioning:

  1. Wet hair
  2. Shampoo 
  3. Rinse
  4. Shampoo
  5. Rinse
  6. Deep condition

Or, if you’ve decided to skip the shampoo, you can go straight from step one to step six: wet and then condition. Many people add a deep conditioner while still in the shower. The steam will help the product absorb even better into your hair. 

Step 2: Apply a Deep Conditioner

After you wet your hair, you will be skipping your regular conditioner and going straight to your deep conditioner. You can either buy one from the store or make your own at home. 

Deep conditioners are usually much thicker than everyday conditioners. If you decide to use a store-bought product, look for emollient ingredients and silicone-based ingredients.

Emollients moisturize and hydrate, while silicones cling to your hair to make it silky smooth. These ingredients will work wonders on your hair:

  • Coconut oil: moisturizes, seals, prevents dry scalp, prevents dandruff, prevents split ends and broken hair, reduces protein loss
  • Avocado oil: reduces dandruff, prevents breakage, detangles hair, protects against damage
  • Shea butter: increases shine, reduces frizz, moisturizes, may protect from heated styling tools
  • Honey: moisturizes, locks in shine, restores hair’s natural luster, adds protein to hair, treats psoriasis and dandruff
  • Dimethiconeprotects against abrasion, increases density of hair strands
  • Amodimethicone: provides shine and luster, improves damaged cuticles, provides improved manageability, makes hair easier to style without blow-drying
  • Cyclomethiconeimproves luster and shine

Scientists have found that using some types of vegetable oils coats hair follicles to prevent breakage as it grows out. Here are a few DIY deep conditioners with natural ingredients that you can blend together and try on your hair:

  • Avocado Olive Oil: 1/2 avocado + 1 egg + 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Avocado Honey: 1 cup plain Greek yogurt + 1/2 avocado + 2 tablespoons olive oil + 1 tablespoon honey
  • Avocado Mayo: 1/2 avocado + 1/4 cup mayo
  • Banana Honey: 1 ripe banana + 1 tablespoon honey
  • Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey: 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar + 1 tablespoon honey + essential oils (to cover up the vinegar smell)

Step 3: Comb or Brush Conditioner Through Your Hair

If you have straight hair, you can either use your fingers or a wide-toothed comb to move the conditioner through your hair. If you have curly hair, you may benefit from using a wet brush or other detangling brush to get the conditioner through your locks more easily.

Pay special attention to the ends of your hair. The farther your hair is from your scalp, the less your scalp’s natural oils can easily reach the tips of your hair. In fact, you don’t need very much conditioner near your scalp. 

If you have coarse hair, you might find it easier to section your hair so that it’s easier to make sure that you apply the deep conditioner everywhere.

Step 4: Cover Your Hair and Apply Heat

Deep conditioners work best with heat and time, so do not skip this step. To give your hair a chance to absorb as much moisture as possible from the conditioner, cover your hair with a shower cap, plastic bag, or plastic wrap.

Then, wrap a warm, damp towel around your head to keep the conditioner warm. If you have a heated lamp, hairdryer, or hair steamer to sit under, they can do the job of the warm, damp towel.

The warmth from the towel, heated lamp, hair steamer, or hairdryer will help open up your cuticles and allow the conditioner to penetrate your hair more deeply.

Step 5: Wait

After you have wrapped your hair, you will want to leave the deep conditioner in for 20-40 minutes. The label of store-bought conditioner may have specific information about how long is best to leave it in. 

If you don’t have 20 minutes to wait, five minutes will still provide some results. Rather than covering your hair and applying heat, you can let the heat and steam from your shower work with your deep conditioner while you finish everything else in your shower. 

Keep in mind that it is possible to leave a conditioner in too long and over-hydrate your hair. If you leave it in for several hours or overnight, you could over-condition your hair. Over-conditioning can lead to hygral fatigue, which results in hair that is weak and limp.

Step 6: Rinse Your Hair

Now, it’s time to rinse your hair. While it’s tempting to use warm water, rinsing with cold water will give you the best results. Rinsing with cold water closes your cuticles and helps your hair retain moisture.  

If your hair feels too oily after deep conditioning (especially with oily DIY options), it’s perfectly fine to shampoo it out.

Read Next: How to Get Rid of Greasy Hair

Things to Consider

For a piece on how to deep condition hair, a woman runs a wooden comb through her wet hair

puhhha/Shutterstock

Now that you know how to deep condition your hair, here are a few things to consider as you work your way through the process.

  • Can I apply too much deep conditioner? Don’t apply too much deep conditioner. Slathering it on your hair will result in making your hair look or feel greasy rather than providing more moisture.
  • Can I use an everyday conditioner as a deep conditioner? It’s not possible to use your everyday conditioner as a deep conditioner. The reason is that hair product companies don’t formulate everyday conditioners to penetrate your hair in the same way as deep conditioners.
  • How often should I deep condition? If your hair is damaged, you may want to deep condition it once a week. However, most people only deep condition two to three times per month. 
  • What happens if I deep condition too often? Deep-conditioning too often can lead to product buildup.
  • What if I have sensitive skin or a skin condition? If you have sensitive skin, eczema, or psoriasis, extra fragrances can cause a flare-up. Be sure to read the ingredients closely before buying. If you get acne easily, you will want to keep freshly-conditioned, wet hair away from your face when you sleep.
  • Can I sleep in deep conditioner? If you want to sleep in your conditioner, choose a leave-in conditioner rather than a deep conditioner to avoid over-conditioning.
  • Can deep conditioning help with chemical damage? Deep conditioning can help your hair stay healthier if you chemically treat your hair with dye, perms, or straighteners, or if you swim in chlorine often.
  • What type of deep conditioner do I need? You should look for a deep conditioner for your hair type so that the ingredients address your hair’s specific needs. 
  • Is a higher-priced deep conditioner better? A high price doesn’t mean that the conditioner is better. Instead, look at the ingredients. 

So, How Do You Deep Condition Hair?

When you learn how to deep condition your hair and start doing it regularly, your hair will look and feel its best. Deep conditioning hair involves combing the conditioner through wet hair, keeping it warm and covered for several minutes, and washing out the conditioner. Give deep conditioning a try to see how much better it makes your hair look and feel.

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