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.
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.
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 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)
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?