Can You Really Deep Condition Hair Or Is That Only Wishful Thinking?

oil cleansing method

We are often told that one of the most important things to do to keep our hair in perfect condition is to use a deep conditioning treatment twice a week and leave it on for at least 20 minutes. But as we’ve seen in a previous post, most conditioning ingredients can’t penetrate into the hair shaft, and so all they do is coat the strands, making hair appear nice and healthy, but don’t actually repair it.

So I started wondering, is it the same with deep conditioners? Is it wishful thinking to believe that deep conditioning hair is more beneficial than using a plain old conditioner or is this treatment really effective? To answer that question, we need to know how conditioners work.

How conditioners work

Washing hair, heat from blow dryer and other styling tools, sun exposure and harsh weather are all factors that can strip hair of the natural oils that keep it moisturized, causing it to become dry, brittle and prone to breakage. So we apply conditioners and deep conditioning treatments to restore lost moisture to hair.

But how is this possible considering that you can’t open and close cuticles at will? Hair cuticles, in fact, don’t open (well some chemical process such as hair relaxing can open them but these are harsh treatments not done at home) and you really wouldn’t want them to anyway because their function is to protect the inner hair cortex by keeping things out of it.

The cuticles perform their functions so well that only very few natural oils, such as Coconut Oil and Olive Oil, and water can actually penetrate inside the hair shaft. All other ingredients remain on the surface and smooth cuticles by filling in gaps, make them lie flat so that they reflect light and look shiny, and just generally improve the feeling and appearance of hair. But they can’t repair hair or make it stronger.

So, is deep conditioning just wishful thinking?

In my opinion, yes and no. I believe that deep conditioning hair by applying olive oil or coconut oil on your locks and leave it there for 20-30 minutes can actually benefit hair, making it soft, stronger and more flexible. But if you’re using a deep conditioner that doesn’t contain these natural oils, then they’re not gonna perform any better than any regular conditioner regardless of how long you keep it on your locks.

But don’t throw them away. You can turn them into effective deep conditioners by pouring the amount of product you need to cover your entire hair into a small bowl or cup and add a teaspoon of either olive oil or coconut oil to it. Mix well and then apply it evenly throughout your hair.

Do you deep condition your hair?

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  1. Jessica Allison says

    I do occasionally deep condition my hair, using coconut oil straight from the bottle. I’ve even been known to sleep with it in! Great article, btw! There is so much misleading marketing out there & I hate to see my beauty-adoring peers get taken in by it.

    I did recently learn that palm oil is also of the type that can penetrate the hair shaft, for anyone out there using the Ojon line (Ojon is a type of palm oil). But I recently reviewed a $25 Ojon conditioner & I have to say: I’ll stick w/ my $6.00 (for about twice the quantity) coconut oil :)
    Jessica Allison´s last blog post ..Parabens: A Commentary on Safety, Science and MarketingMy Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Jessica, thanks. Companies make so many exaggerate and misleading claims that it is hard sometimes to tell what the truth is and what a product really can do. It’s appalling what they can get away with, but I hope this post will help set the record straight on deep conditioning at least.

      Thanks for sharing about palm oil. it’s wonderful that we have another option but ouch at the price of the Ojon conditioner. I think I will stick with coconut oil too. :)

  2. says

    haha you sit on so much information!
    and no i never deep condiotion my hair, the only thoroughly thing i do is try to salt scrub my scalp from time to time to keep the hair from greasing too much. and afterwards the usual conditioner is like a glass of water to the hair haha!//Azure
    EyeGraffiti´s last blog post ..Sky BlueMy Profile

  3. says

    Thank you for teaching me so much!
    And as for the makeup, -nudges shoulder- maybe there’s a specific shade you can’t get. ;] Do let me know your favorite shades of anything or what you have ‘too much of’ (in quotes because no one can have too much of makeup, right?). Brands… you get the picture.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, you’re welcome. And thanks again for your offer hun, I’ve just replied to your email. :)

  4. says

    I use olive oil from time to time on my hair when it gets dry and too frizzy, like right now! The last time I used olive oil allover my hair, left it on for half hour, then needed 5 rounds of shampooing to get rid of all the oily residue, was like 2-3 weeks ago. But it was soft, smooth hair with some volume too.
    Vonvon´s last blog post ..My Birthday LookMy Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Vonvon, olive oil works so well for hair, doesn’t it? I agree it’s a pain to rinse out, which is why I use very little for each application, but I feel it is worth it cos it makes hair so soft and stronger. :)

  5. Fane Davis says

    Thank you very much for posting this.really useful and real eye-opener for me.i never really know the exact purpose of deep conditioning and how that thing really works.i just love my hair after it conditioned.I just thought that deep conditioning is a hair care must-do.
    is almond oil will do as a deep conditioning? i usually heat it up before putting on my hair. will it cause damage on my hair?

    Much love from me.XO

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Fane, you’re welcome. I’m glad you found it useful. :)

      Unfortunately almond oil doesn’t penetrate hair that well. It won’t ruin your hair if you use it but only coat the strands, making hair appear nice. But it doesn’t provide great conditioning to it. For that, you should switch to either coconut or olive oil.

  6. askvivi says

    Thanks for the information! So far the best conditioner I have ever used is Pro Naturals Moroccan Argan Oil Conditioner, the argan oil hydrates and strengthens my hair making it nice and healthy. Plus the extra shine is appreciated!

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Askvivi, you’re welcome. I’m glad that conditioner is working so well for you. Argan Oil is another oil that can penetrate hair, but it’s a shame that it tends to be quite expensive.

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