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?

Sample Saturday: Jessicurl

Bag of Jessicurl Samples

Jessicurl is a popular curly hair brand started by a woman named Jess. She couldn’t find any products that worked for her curly hair and found a recipe for flaxseed gel online. She tried it out (and made her own tweaks in the process) and loved the results so much that she shared the recipe in the Curl Talk community, and her inbox got flooded with offers to buy bottles of her concoction. The product Rockin’ Ringlets was born, and subsequently this brought about the creation of many more products. Never did Jess dream that her discovery would turn into a business!

I hesitated about trying out the Jessicurl products because well, at around $16.95 a bottle, they are not cheap. Then I remembered that Jessicurl offers samples to order from the website–all you have to pay is shipping and handling (only $3.10 for me).

What did I get?

Gentle Lather Shampoo

Sulfate free cleansing that won’t weigh hair down

Too Shea Conditioner

Daily conditioning for dry thirsty curls

Deep Conditioner

Intense pampering for dry hair

Aloeba Conditioner

Weightless moisture for dry hair (I used this as a leave-in in my LCEG routine)

Confident Coils

Defines touchably soft curls in all climates 

Rockin’ Ringlets

Encourage and enhance curls

Spiralicious

Provides all day hold and frizz control for all hair types

All products are sulfate free, silicone free, drying alcohol free, mineral oil free, etc. If you have gluten sensitivities, Jessicurl products are also gluten free. While the samples are unscented by default, full size products have three fragrance options: Unscented, Citrus Lavender, and Tropical Fantasy.

First Impression

Overall, I was pleased with the products. The shampoo lathered and cleaned nicely. The conditioners were all moisturizing and there wasn’t nearly enough of them, but alas, that is the problem many curly girls face: not enough conditioner. I think I could have done without the Confident Coils. I thought Confident Coils was just a cream, but it’s a cream gel just like the Spiralicious, just less hold than Spiralicious. I think both of them together were just a bit too heavy for me.

If I were to do the styling routine over again, I would go with one of the conditioners as a leave-in (they all can be used as leave-in conditioners, even the deep conditioner), Rockin’ Ringlets, and then Spiralicious. But, despite feeling a bit weighed down, I had some nice clumping and definition until my next wash day.

 

First Day Hair with Jessicurl products

Third Day Hair with Jessicurl products
Third Day Hair

Would I buy the full size products?

I definitely want to try the Rockin’ Ringlets and Spiralicious Gel again. I wouldn’t get Confident Coils again simply because combining it with the Spiraicious was just too much for me. The Jessicurl products don’t have a lot of protein in them, so I think I would need to use a product with a little protein to give my curls that extra bounce. I also wouldn’t mind trying Too Shea as a leave-in. The Aloeba was nice, but it is meant for fine hair (my hair is pretty coarse).

Purchasing information

You can get free samples from the main Jessicurl website for only the cost of shipping and handling. Full sized Jessicurl products cost around $16.95 and you can pick from three fragrance options: no fragrance, Citrus Lavender, and Tropical Fantasy. You can also purchase Jessicurl through Curl Mart.

Curls, frizz, and back again: my curl story

Ask anyone who remembers me as a toddler, and you know what they would say first?

“Oh, she was the little girl with beautiful curls!”

According to my mom, I was famous for my ringlets and how they bounced when I ran and hopped. I allegedly caused many mothers to put rollers in their girls’ hair.

19763_725183629209_4442503_nI started losing those ringlets when I was 3-4 years old, and instead I had THICK, wavy-ish hair from about 4-10.

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Even then hairdressers were stumped about my hair.They weren’t used to little kids having so much hair, apparently.

The year I entered fourth grade, my hair started curling again. I was thrilled to have curly hair again, but that joy was short-lived.

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Near the end of my fifth grade year, a hairdresser promised that a certain haircut would help enhance my curls.

Unfortunately, the final results were big, poofy hair that was even too short to pull back in a ponytail. Back in the late 1990s, big hair was a big no-no. And unfortunately, fifth graders can be mean:

“Hey Laura! Would you consider your hair a bush or a tree?”

“Oh, your hair isn’t a bush or a tree. It’s more like a tropical rain forest!

Those insults were just the beginning of the hair trauma. People usually referred to me as “the girl with the big hair” or “the bushy haired girl” and the like. It was awful.

As soon as my hair was long enough, I pulled it back in some fashion almost daily. Every time I tried to wear it down, it just looked like a big, frizzy mess.

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It was around this time when hair straighteners and straightening treatments became ubiquitous. Every hairdresser I went to see would almost inevitably give me a blowout.

Being inspired by all the popular makeover shows in the 2000s, well-intentioned friends with hair straighteners were determined to give me their own makeovers. My frizzy hair and general lack of fashion sense made me a popular target.

Whenever I had straight hair, I got so many compliments. Those compliments made me hate my natural texture even more.

The summer before my senior year of high school, an unscrupulous hairdresser convinced my mom (who also has thick, wavy hair) and me to have our hair chemically relaxed. He said that it was the only way our frizzy hair could be managed.

teenage girl with straightened hair

It would be one of the biggest hair mistakes I ever made.

I had breakage. My hair became weak and brittle. Yet, I continued getting these expensive relaxers because I thought it was the only way I could manage my hair. Did I mention it was expensive too?

If you are considering having your hair chemically relaxed, let me offer this advice: DON’T DO IT!

Chemically relaxing can be damaging and expensive to maintain in the long run. It’s better and healthier to learn how to take care of the hair you already have.

After I left for college, my mom stopped going to that hairdresser because she wasn’t happy with the relaxers and because of some inappropriate remarks he made. She found a new hairdresser–one who had curly hair himself and who knew how to cut it.

My mom took me to him when I was home on break, singing his praises. Of course, I was skeptical after all the bad hair experiences I already had.

It was after neat a year of regular trims when one haircut finished with CURLS!

I was in complete shock. CURLS! I had CURLS!

Not only did that hairdresser bring out my curls, he taught me to love them and care for them. Even after I got married, I still came back to visit him and have him work his magic on my hair.

Sadly, he became a victim of domestic violence a month before I had my first child. We had not only lost a wonderful hairdresser, we had lost a good friend.

After I had my daughter, hair care kind of fell by the wayside with the craziness of new motherhood. My hair pretty much stayed in a ponytail.

I finally found a new hairdresser I liked, but then she moved out of state, was only back every few months, and our schedules just never lined up.

Then I started seeing a Deva stylist, which was when I jumped head first into the Curly Girl Method. However, she was far away and expensive.

Short curly hair

My sister-in-law (who also has curly hair) told me about her stylist who did dry cuts. This stylist was also pretty close by and had very reasonable prices. I decided, what the heck?

Her name was Lauren and while she doesn’t have curly hair, she loves learning about it. She cuts curls with a technique called “bonsai” cutting. It’s a type of dry cutting, that’s all I can really say about it in writing.

I feel like my hair has been growing so nicely with her magic haircutting ways, and what’s more, I feel like I’m visiting a good friend when I get a haircut from her. Win. Win.

medium length curly hair
One of my most recent pictures

My curls are a big part of who I am. Heck, I would even say that they’re my trademark (ha!). I haven’t had my hair straightened in so long that I’ve forgotten how long it has been. I won’t ever straighten it again.

While I have learned much on my journey, I know there is much more to learn, and I love sharing new things I’ve learned with my friends (you!).

What is your curl story? Let me know in the comments below 🙂