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?

How I treated my scalp psoriasis without drying out my curls

I discovered a red flaky rash on the back of my neck at the hairline in 2017. Here is what it looked like back then:

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Needless to say, I was very self conscious about wearing my hair back in any fashion. I tried treating it with hydrocortisone cream, antifungal cream, various oils, all to no avail. I finally saw a dermatologist in October 2017 and he promptly diagnosed me with scalp psoriasis and prescribed medication and shampoos to help.

Not all of these recommendations were Curly Girl friendly, and I knew that even sulfate-free dandruff shampoos could be drying. How was I supposed to heal my scalp while maintaining my curls? Well, I did some reading and experimenting, and this is the result:

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No more rash, and I did it while still following the Curly Girl Method.

These are some tips that worked for me along the way:

(1) Condition your ends before applying dandruff shampoo to your scalp. Like I said, even sulfate free dandruff shampoos are drying, so keeping your ends moisturized is critical. Applying conditioner to your ends (also known as pre-pooing) will make it so when you rinse the dandruff shampoo out of your scalp, the shampoo won’t dry your ends out.

(2) Co-washing is a no-no. Unfortunately, scalp issues and co-washing do not go well together. For those of us with itchy scalp issues, co-washing can only make things worse. There are plenty of sulfate free shampoos on the market that won’t dry your hair out. Now, if you do insist on co-washing, you will need to use a clarifying shampoo more frequently if you have scalp issues.

(3) Tea tree and peppermint are you friends. When you get to the point where you don’t need to use the dandruff shampoo so frequently, shampoos with tea tree and peppermint oils are great for soothing itchy scalps.

(4) Deep condition regularly. This is a rule for every curly girl to follow, but especially if you have to use dandruff shampoos on a regular basis. Even if it’s just for a few minutes in the shower, use a nice thick deep conditioner on your ends to keep them moisturizing.

(5) Use any medications your dermatologist prescribes, as prescribed. My dermatologist prescribed Clobetasol to apply on the rash itself, and I usually applied it to my clean scalp before I used any styling products.

While my rash has healed for now, I know that I am still prone to getting a flareup, so I have to be mindful. I don’t have to use the medication or the dandruff shampoo as regularly, but when I feel that itch coming on, I’ll be reaching for them.

So, if you are struggling with an itchy, flaky scalp and nothing seems to be working, don’t be afraid to see a board-certified dermatologist. There are ways to treat your scalp issues and not dry your curls out.

Also remember: healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp.

When I saw my dermatologist for a followup two months after starting the treatment plan, he couldn’t find any traces of the scalp psoriasis. Woo-hoo!

If you have problems with itchy, flaky scalp or even scalp psoriasis, what have you done? Let me know!

The products I used/still use:

Clobetasol (available by prescription only)

Jason Organics Dandruff Treatment Shampoo (you can find this in health food sections and even on Amazon)

Neutrogena T-Gel (only on affected areas)

Shea Moisture African Black Soap Shampoo

Articles that helped:

How to Use Dandruff Shampoo-without drying your hair out

How to Treat Scalp Psoriasis, According to The Hair Doctor

 

New blog name, new year, new start

Yes, I have changed my site name AGAIN. While “Curly Junkie on a Budget” had a ring to it, it didn’t feel right to me. Plus, it was a little too close to the product brand “Curl Junkie” and I wanted to prevent confusion.

There is also the fact that I am a mom. Being a mom is a pretty big part of my identity right now. I have two beautiful little girls who bring joy and chaos to my life. I want to be an example to them of self-acceptance and self-restraint (especially when it comes to spending money). They are a big part of my budgeting.

Also, if my girls end up with curly hair like their mama, I hope that I can help them manage it so they don’t have the hair trauma I had when I was a teenager.

So, my final blog name is….Curly Mama on a Budget. I think it suits the purpose of this blog well.

One of my top resolutions this year is to be more careful with money, and rather than just saying “I’ll stick to a budget” and not going further than that, I am actually doing more. I have been doing calculations based on my husband’s salary and reading up on what percentage of income should go towards things like groceries, bills, gas, etc. and formulating budgets based on that. I also have an account with mint.com that will help me keep track of my spending and budget.

I am also going to be more mindful of what I purchase, and keep better track of what I already have so I don’t go out and buy something that I already have. In short, I want to reduce my tendencies towards being a product junkie (oh yeah, I think that’s another reason for me changing this page’s title).

So…stay tuned for more…as often as I can get around to posting.