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How to "REALLY" Condition Natural Hair

Updated on November 13, 2017

© Nicole Paschal, All Rights Reserved

Although purchasing the right conditioner can be a daunting task for any woman, it is especially important for those with fragile kinks and curls. Detrimental ingredients can induce severe dryness, breakage, tangles, knots, and sometimes long-term damage. If you’re like me, you may have spent hours in stores reading conditioner labels and purchasing a myriad of products in hope that that a mere 15 minute application will do wonders. However, few women put as much thought into how to optimize their conditioners for best performance. We fail to remember that how we utilize the product is just as important as the product itself. Although I’ve been natural for 10 years, it’s only been in the last 4 years that I’ve learned to use my best conditioners in a way most beneficial to my hair needs. Below are several tricks that can bring out the best in your conditioner and do the most for your naturally curly or kinky hair!

Tip #1: Begin at the end.

After exiting the shower, use a towel to soak up just a bit of your hair’s water. Immediately afterward, begin applying a leave-in conditioner only on the ends of your hair. Don’t worry about the shaft or roots just yet, but focus on the ends and get through it all. Since natural hair typically dries from ends to roots, thicker haired women should work fast to make sure they cover their ends sufficiently while wet. Once finished with the ends, go back and begin applying conditioner to the rest of the hair, starting at the root (not scalp) down to where the first application begins. Especially for those with dyed or damaged ends, feel free to smooth it on down to the tip, adding a second layer at the bottom. You will be surprised at how much of a difference this change in application will make. Applying the conditioner to the ends first detangles and allows the product to penetrate your ends and make them soft and supple while you are working on the rest of the hair. When you revisit to apply product to the rest of the strand, this leads to a comb out with less snags, knots and breakage. I’ve found Giovanni’s Leave-in conditioner to be the best leave in I’ve ever used for detangling my ends.

Tip #2: Segregate with a Leave in Conditioner and Butter.

If you possess various hair textures (ex... 3c/4a) or have a considerable amount of new growth on dyed or permed hair, segregating may be ideal for you. Although segregation is negative in social aspects, it can be the most positive thing you can do while conditioning. For example, if you are woman with 3c/4a hair like me, you might find that the textures have two very different needs. There was a time where I used two separate leave in conditioners, piling one on top of the other to achieve equal smoothness and manageability. However, I started noticing a major problem with product build up. White flakes, breakage and itchy scalp were consistent. I then began to pay attention to just what specific sections of my hair needed the most. Being 4a around the front, I applied two products, using the countdown method. However, my 3c in the top of my head didn’t need as much and I just used the one. Even now, as I have new growth on dyed hair, I just use the one very light Giovanni leave-in conditioner on the new growth, but apply a second layer of a butter (to lock in moisture) on the dyed shaft and ends only. It prevents overload and product buildup while affecting only the areas where it’s needed most. So far, the best butters for me have been Carol’s Daughter Healthy Hair Butter and Karen’s Body Beautiful Butter Love.

Tip #3: Oil it up.

This one is simple and many women already do this. Merely apply one of your favorite oils to your best wash-out conditioner. I’ve found olive and almond oil to be excellent at helping a conditioner to detangle and smooth the hair cuticles. How much oil you add depends on the length of your hair, hair texture, and your hair’s damage. So, I suggest you add gradually until you arrive at the mixture appropriate for you. However, with heavy oils such as olive oil, you may want to use it sparingly, since a simple rinse may leave a portion of the oil in the hair. For some women this is great whereas others abhor that oily feeling.

Tip #4: Steam and Condition.

Steaming your hair opens up your hair shaft and follicles allowing moisture and your conditioner’s nutritious elements to penetrate deeply. Using a commercial steamer, apply your conditioner and steam for 15 minutes. Sit longer if your hair is damaged or especially dry. If you choose not to make the expensive investment in purchasing a steamer, steam in the shower. Simply, close the curtain and make the water so warm that it produces a steaming mist, similar to a sauna in your small shower space. Although the bathroom steaming may not produce the same results as a commercial steamer, the difference will be noticeable. Still, to save water and decrease your water bill, a one-time steamer investment may be best.

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