So many of us use a hair conditioner after shampooing to detangle, to restore moisture and shine, and to gain greater manageability of our hair. It’s a good idea. However, I wonder how many are actually using the right product, which should be based on our individual hair quality.
“Hair conditioner” is a very vague term, for a very broad market. Many users don’t realize how many different types of conditioners there are, and tend to choose one based on scent or price, instead of need. Choosing a conditioner because you like the smell of kiwi won’t necessarily get you the results you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at the different types of conditioners and the jobs they do, so you can make an educated decision about which product to use.
There are six different categories of conditioners
Moisturizers – Loaded with humectants, which are compounds that attract and hold moisture; moisturizers are the most commonly used conditioner. There are several varieties:
- Instant conditioner, which is applied to the hair after shampooing, is left on for several minutes and then rinsed off. This variety offers the least amount of conditioning because it’s on the hair for a very short time.
- Deep conditioner, usually in the form of a thick, concentrated cream, provides more conditioning than the instant because it’s left on the hair longer; typically 20 to 30 minutes. These, too, are rinsed off with water.
- Leave-in conditioners are applied after shampooed hair is dry. They are especially beneficial for any hair type that is very dry or frizzy, and needs extra moisture. There are various types, some heavier than others, so be sure to use one that’s suitable for your hair type.
- Sunscreen conditioners are conditioners with added sunscreen ingredients to protect the hair from sun damage. They are recommended for anyone whose hair is exposed to long durations of sunrays. They are most effective as leave-in conditioners, and are now SPF rated, as well. Blow drying and flat ironing, along with brushing and combing the hair, degrades the efficacy of the sunscreen.
Reconstructors – The job of a reconstructor is to strengthen the hair. Formulated with protein, it penetrates the hair shaft, fortifying the hair and reduces breakage. Hydrolyzed human hair keratin protein is the preferred source, so look for reconstructors with this ingredient.
Detanglers – These products help to control tangling by smoothing the surface of the hair with either an oil or polymer coating, or with an acidifier that smoothes the scales on the hair’s outer surface by closing the cuticle, which is responsible for causing tangles. Most brands take a few minutes to be effective after spritzing on hair.
Acidifiers – These products have a low ph, from 2.5 to 3.5, which is acidic. The acidity causes the cuticle (outer) layer to close, which flattens the scales on the hair shaft, giving hair a high sheen and flexibility. Acidifiers are not heavy, so they don’t weigh the hair down. Great to use on fine hair, or any hair that lacks luster and elasticity.
Thermal Protectors – These are products that protect the hair from any heat producing appliance: blow dryer, flat iron, or curling iron. Polymers coat the hair and absorb the heat; protecting the hair from excessive heat damage. Since heat is a major cause of dryness, static electricity and frizziness - this product is beneficial.
Glossers – Looking for shine? Glossers are another option for giving your hair light reflecting capabilities. Usually a light oil derived from silicone, it coats the hair and binds to the hair’s surface. This type product is used for cosmetic purposes, so it doesn’t offer any corrective or protective benefits. It can, however, help control frizzies because it coats the hair.
For very dry hair, including hair that’s been chemically processed, use oil… good old fashion oil that most of us use for cooking. Any oil will do; although some our recommended, like coconut oil and safflower oil. Oil resembles sebum, the oil our body naturally produces and secretes onto our skin. Applying a small amount of oil to hair, and allowing it to soak in and be absorbed for 30 minutes or longer before shampooing, or leaving it in, will give your hair additional nutrition and moisture that’s hard to beat.
Not all products are created equal, so, in addition to using the correct type of product, find a brand that truly works for you. There are countless brands with various price tags to choose from… something for everyone! Check out Pete and Pedro Condition
by Aaron Marino