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You did the big chop, now what? (part three)

Conditioning your natural hair is vital to the condition of your natural hair.
Conditioning your natural hair is vital to the condition of your natural hair.
photo taken by Fern Illidge

If the condition of your hair depends on how much you condition it, then incorporating different types of conditioning in your natural hair routine will become the norm.

Getting down to the root of conditioning

Deep conditioning: a process by which conditioner is left in the hair for more than 5-10 minutes. In fact, most hair conditioners sold in the stores are the creamy conditioners that rinse out. These only coat the shaft of your hair and don’t get down to the part of the hair shaft that really needs that conditioning. Deep conditioners restore the moisture balance in our hair which stops breakage. Keep in mind, though, that deep conditioners cannot heal hair that has already been damaged. It can stop or prevent any more damage from occurring, thus requiring less to have to be cut; and of course, if you have no damage, deep conditioning can only strengthen and prevent damage from occurring.

The type of deep conditioner that you use will depend on the actual condition of your hair – all deep conditioners are not created equally, and all hair is not the same. You will need to do a little bit of reading to determine which deep conditioner to use for your specific hair-needs. You should alternate between moisturizing deep conditioners and protein-based deep conditioners (the differences will be explained in a later article). Protein improves the hair’s elasticity and strength. It is equally important that your hair is strong, as well as moisturized; especially if you use chemicals in your hair. It is best to assume that your hair is always thirsty and to give it moisture; this is due to the fact that you do not use any type of chemical on your hair.

To be truly effective, you should use a little heat with your deep conditioners. This allows the hair shaft to swell and the cuticles to open up, allowing the deep conditioner to penetrate deep into the strands. You can use a plastic cap, sit under a hair dryer, or even use a hair bonnet. The opposite applies to rinsing out conditioner – you should use cool water to close the cuticle and keep that moisture locked in. The average deep conditioner should sit on the hair for at least 30 minutes – some less, some more. Some will apply a deep conditioner to their hair by sections, detangle, put on a plastic cap and knit cap, and go about their day cleaning or running errands while the deep conditioner penetrates their strands.

Another great way to make sure that your hair is getting what it needs is to combine and mix beneficial ingredients that together will give your hair what it needs. For example, honey (but be careful, honey has been known to lighten hair), mayonnaise, banana, avocado, coconut milk, olive oil, and even egg yolk. If it’s good for you to eat, you should be able to put it in your hair!

Leaving conditioner in your hair

You will now move on to the stage after regular and deep conditioning occurs. It only makes sense that even though the wonderful properties of the deep conditioner have benefited your hair while penetrating your strands, you eventually have to wash it off. So to continue the benefits of conditioning even after you've rinsed, you should use a leave-in conditioner.

Leave-in conditioners seal the hair after cleansing and conditioning, and prepare your hair for the next stage of styling. It helps protect your strands from direct usage of gels and other styling products by putting that extra bit of moisture on your strands. This is why it is important to find a leave-in with moisturizing properties if you notice that your hair is more on the dry side after styling. Leave-in conditioners also come in many shapes and forms - liquid, oil, cream, and sprays - and some will have oils and/or humectants, which draw moisture from the air. You have to experiment with different conditioners to find the right ones for your hair.

Try purchasing sample sizes of different types of conditioners to try. This will be easier on your pocketbook until you find your staple products.

Now that you understand the different types of conditioners, this article will continue with styling your natural hair.

*This is part of a five-part series on caring for your hair after the big chop.

Fern writes more about the care of natural hair on her blog. Find more information in her bio.

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