Conditioners: what, why, how

plastic bottles on shelf
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

If you have been in curly girl world long enough, you know that we love conditioner. Really love it. In fact, love is probably not a strong enough word for how we feel about conditioner. I believe “worship” is a better word for it.

Why is this? Well, curly hair tends to be dryer than our straight-haired friends because it takes longer for the oil produced on our scalps to move down the hair shaft. It’s like driving over lots and lots of hills. Some curly haired folks can get away with only washing their hair once a week because of this.

Also, depending on how quickly and easily your hair absorbs moisture (porosity), it can be harder to keep curls moisturized. High porosity hair likes to chug all the moisture at once and can’t seem to get enough. Low porosity hair has a harder time absorbing the moisture initially, but tends to hold onto it longer. I have high porosity hair myself and sometimes joke that it has a drinking problem, which is ironic because I myself do not drink.

More than one kind?

Did you know there are different types of conditioner? It’s true. Rinse out conditioners, leave-in conditioners, pre-poos, co-washes, deep conditioners….wait, there’s a difference? Yup!

Like I said, curly girls LOVE their conditioners.

What’s the difference between rinse out, leave-in, pre-poo conditioners, and deep conditioners?

Get yourself comfortable, this may take a bit. I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible.

Rinse out conditioners

This is self explanatory. You apply conditioner, detangle, leave it in for a few minutes, and rinse it out. Basically, conditioner.

Rinse out conditioners help restore any moisture lost while shampooing and can help in the detangling process. Some curly girls don’t rinse out their conditioners, but I only do this if the product says it can be left in. I’m kind of weird like that, I guess.

Leave-in conditioners

Conditioner you leave in. I like to think of it like facial moisturizer or makeup primer–it gets your hair ready for styling products. Curly girls tend to use more than one styling product, and I’ve found for myself that if I don’t apply leave-in conditioner before my stylers, the stylers will dry my hair out. Some folks (especially those with fine and/or low porosity hair) can skip leave-in conditioners. I am not someone who can skip leave-in conditioner. My hair is dry and thirsty.

Conditioner Washing

Also known as “co-washing”.

Back in the dark ages when curly hair products were not really available, Lorraine Massey came along with her Curly Girl Handbook and suggested using silicone free conditioner instead of traditional shampoo to cleanse the scalp and hair. For best results, you massage your scalp for several minutes to get the dirt and oil off.

Now that it’s 2020, curly girl products are much more accessible and it’s pretty normal to see products with “co-wash” and “cleansing conditioner” on the label. We also have access to sulfate free shampoos (also called “low poos”)

I tend to use sulfate free shampoos because while my hair is dry, my scalp is fussy. I have scalp psoriasis and dandruff, so I need something a little more cleansing than a co-wash. However, I make an exception for this hair cleanser.

Deep Conditioner

Deep conditioners are designed to penetrate deeper into your hair to moisturize and hydrate. These are not meant to be used every day or else your hair will get moisture overload (yes, that is a thing). The general recommendation is once a week, but everyone’s hair is different.

Are you still confused?

I hope my explanation didn’t confuse you too much! Learning how to manage your curly/wavy hair is super intimidating at first. But if you learn nothing else, learn to love conditioner. Here are some of my personal favorites and what I use them for:

Not Your Mother’s Curl Talk 3-in-1 Conditioner–I use this after I shampoo and just leave it in. You can find this at Walmart, Target, and Ulta.

Tresemme Botanique Nourish and Replenish Conditioner–I rinse this out. It’s also cheap and you can find it just about everywhere. Tresemme has recently come out with a sulfate and silicone free line called Pro Pure that may be worth checking out.

Kinky Curly Knot Today–Leave In Conditioner that can be rinsed out

Jessicurl Deep Conditioner Treatment–deep conditioner, but you can leave it in (I haven’t)

Pacifica Pineapple Curls Conditioner–I rinse this out, but some leave it in (not marketed as a leave-in) There is also a Deep Conditioner from the Pineapple Curls line as well that I like.

Mop Top Leave-in Conditioner–it smells absolutely divine and I love using it in the summer. It’s available on Amazon (it’s an authorized Mop Top distributor)

SheaMoisture Manuka Honey and Yogurt Hydrate and Repair Treatment: this is technically a protein treatment with moisturizing properties. I like using it when my curls are losing a bit of their spring.

My Soigne Hair Cleanser–possibly the only co-wash I have ever liked. Most co-washes aggravate my scalp, but not this one!

 

Do you have a favorite conditioner that you don’t see listed? What conditioner(s) do you use?

My Itchy Scalp Secret Weapons

 

Boy look up and scratches his head
Photo by Igor Stepovic

I have struggled with itchy, flaky scalp for a significant portion of my life. Heck, my parents have even said that I had the worst cradle cap as an infant. Then to add insult to injury, I was diagnosed with scalp psoriasis (on top of the dandruff I already have) when I was 30. Needless to say, I’ve gone through a lot of products marketed for itchy, flaky scalps. And I do mean A LOT.

Another part of the challenge of having itchy scalp issues is finding products that won’t completely dry me out. It wasn’t until recently that companies have come out with sulfate and silicone free dandruff products. I really had to look high and low.

So, here are some products and techniques that have worked for me to keep my scalp healthy and keep the itching/flaking at bay.

Jason Dandruff Treatment Shampoo

jasondandruff
Image from jason-personalcare.com

When I was first diagnosed with scalp psoriasis, my dermatologist recommended a clinical strength shampoo from a popular dandruff shampoo brand. Because I prefer not to have sulfates and silicones in my shampoos, I looked into alternatives. I looked up the active ingredients in the clinical strength shampoo and did a search for sulfate free shampoos that had it. Lo and behold, this Jason Dandruff Shampoo was on top of the list and at the time I could find it at my local Kroger. I used it religiously for a few months, and now I use it as a periodic clarifying shampoo, since it is a little drying.

Shampoo Brush

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Image from MySoigne.com

Don’t have a shampoo brush? Get one! My favorite is this one from My Soigne. I love it because it’s all one piece and the bristles are the perfect balance between firm and soft. Also, it’s lavender.

Witch I Love Your Hair Magic Hair Mist

I tried a lot of scalp oils and all they really did was make my hair look greasy, cause breakouts on my forehead, and just didn’t make much difference. I know scalp oils can work great for many other curly haired folks, but unfortunately I am not one of them. I had seen Witch I Love Your Hair all over Instagram, but hadn’t tried it for whatever reason. I finally took the plunge and ordered a bottle and I was immediately impressed. It has peppermint, lavender, and rosemary essential oils (all great for scalp health) in addition to Jamaican Black Castor Oil and Argan Oil. I like to spray it directly on to my scalp and massage it in for the best results.

My Soigne Hair Cleanser

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Image by MySoigne.com

The My Soigne Hair Cleanser is probably the ONLY co-wash I have ever liked on my scalp. It has aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, jojoba oil, jojoba esters, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil. The little jojoba esters help clean the scalp without drying it out. Also, the esters rinse out pretty easily. I’ve tried some scalp exfoliating scrubs that took me FOREVER to get completely rinsed out.

I even gave this cleanser AND the scalp brush to my mom for Christmas, and she loves them.

Also, the owner of My Soigne is amazing and super sweet. She also has a baby girl who is so cute that my ovaries explode every time she shares pictures of her.

Coal Tar Shampoo Hack

Coal Tar Shampoo is one of those necessary evils for those of us with scalp psoriasis. It smells nasty and can be extremely drying, but it can help. I don’t have to use it very often now, but when I do, I do this to keep it from drying my hair out:

Use it with my deep conditioning treatment.

You see, the instructions on the coal tar shampoo bottle say to leave it on for “several” minutes for it to be effective. What else do we curly girls do for several minutes every so often? Deep condition!

So…how do I do this?

Apply the coal tar shampoo to the affected parts of my scalp. Then I work the deep conditioner into the rest of my hair, and leave it in for however long I decide to leave it in.

Then I rinse the deep conditioner AND coal tar shampoo out. My scalp gets what it needs AND my hair doesn’t get dried out.

T-Sal Shampoo

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Image from neutrogenamd.com

In my research for sulfate free shampoos, I found out that the Neutrogena T-Sal Shampoo is sulfate free. It does have sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonateĀ in it, which is one of the more cleansing surfactants in sulfate free shampoos. This shampoo is meant to be a clarifying shampoo, so not meant to be used everyday, but we curly girls don’t usually wash our hair everyday.

How about you?

These are a few of the things that have been working for me. If you’ve had luck with these products, or you have other products that have worked well for your own itchy scalp issues, let me know! I’m always looking for something that itchy curly girls can love.