The Dos & Don'ts Of Deep Conditioning Natural Hair

There comes a time in every kinky girl's life where you have to sit down and acknowledge that your hair is bigger than you. As it starts to increase in size and density, your strands need more nourishment and deep conditioning becomes a step in your hair routine you can't afford to skip.

For me, the time for a rude awakening came right after a hot oil treatment. After a day in a protective style, I was anticipating some seriously moisturized locks and when I took my twists out, I was granted with such. Unfortunately, my evening out had me craving a big, fluffy 'fro and not a subtle twist-out. During my brushing efforts, I realized my ends were suffering in a major way. I spend the entire evening pulling at my ends nervously, convinced my hair was falling out.

I didn't need to peruse the natural hair blogs or do extensive research to figure out what my 'fro's problem was this time. I knew I was guilty of abandoning weekly deep conditioners and when I did get around to giving my hair this necessary treatment, it was a rushed job with whatever conditioner I was currently using. Needless to say, my ends were suffering and the left, back side of my hair I always sleep on was dry and unimpressed by my rookie mistake. Of course, the dryer my hair became, the more hats I had to incorporate into my attire.

One common hair myth for us naturals is that deep conditioning is a ploy by big hair companies to get us to spend even MORE money to achieve healthy locks. Ever wonder why a deep conditioner can run over $20 when it's going to take at least half of that small tub to get all that hair moisturized from the root to the end? Typically, the natural deep conditioners are loaded with expensive essential oils and other hair food that are often pricy, but more likely your money is just carelessly being flushed down the drain.

Another reason why we tend to skip over this crucial stride towards strong locks is because we are making mistakes during deep conditioning that makes it essentially a waste of money and time. Deep conditioners are thicker and penetrate deep into the hair shaft. Following these Dos and Dont's of deep conditioning will allow you to get the most out of your treatment, leading to strong hair shafts, smooth cuticles, and healthy ends!

1. Do Make Your Own DIY Deep Conditioner

Personally, I haven't had much luck with OTC deep conditioners. Using a DIY deep conditioner is the best and cheapest way to give your hair important nutrients based on your own hair needs. Of course, that does involve a level of understanding your hair needs and being familiar with your ingredients. My latest deep conditioner contains black castor oil, avocado, rosemary essential oil, clove essential oil, and coconut oil.

2. Don't Keep Purchasing A Deep Conditioner That Isn't Giving You Results

Jane Carter Nutrient Replenishing Conditioner, $11, Amazon

For whatever reason, our hair gets used to a deep conditioner and then we find ourselves needing to go on a quest to replace what we thought was the best deep conditioner for natural hair. For me, it took several months for me to admit that my beloved Jane Carter Solution Deep Conditioner was just not doing it for my 'fro anymore. Typically, this isn't a result of your hair changing, it's a result of your hair needing a new emollient.

3. Do Start from the Bottom for True Hair Success

The truth is, like many of us, I don't hate my ends at all, I just completely forget about them all the time. That, of course, is why they split, get tangled, and break off. Condition the ends of your hair first, working your way up to the root. This gives your ends extra time with the conditioner.

4. Don't Follow Someone Else's Hair Regimen

Listen to your hair, y'all. I have a pal whose hair could not be more coarse and eventually her lack of deep conditioning (and detangling) had her cutting off her 'fro and now rockin' quite an adorable short haircut. The thing is, it was never the length that was the problem: It was the fact that she only deep conditioned once a month because one of her hair crushes did that. Her hair crush had a completely different hair texture and curl pattern than hers, so the routine worked for her — but not my friend.

5. Do Listen to Your Hair's Cries For Help

Personally, my hair speaks to me in my dreams: "You've moved off your satin pillow and now you are on straight up cotton" or "I'd like to be in a hat tomorrow; it feels windy" or "Wake up, I'm dry." If my hair is dry then I either need to deep condition MORE often than once a week or that means I need to switch up my deep conditioning recipes.

6. Don't Be Scared of the Heat

Not all of us have the luxury of owning a snazzy hair dryer, but you can achieve similar results by using a heating cap while you deep condition and using a moderate heat setting on your blow dryer. Another trick to utilizing heat while you deep condition is to warm up your bottle in a hot water bath. Resist the urge to nuke your mixture — you want to keep all those nutrients for your hair, not zap them away.

7. Do Pay Attention To Ingredients

According to sources like Curly Nikki, the best ingredients for deep conditioners are cationic surfactants, cationic polymers, emollients, oils, and silicones. Many essential oils and products in our kitchen have all the things we need to make a great deep conditioner. Pay special attention to ingredients on the back of a store-bought deep conditioner or the science behind any homemade deep conditioner.

8. Don't Leave Your Deep Conditioner In Too Long

If you are considering sleeping in your deep conditioner to save on time, your hair is going to be very sad. Since these conditioners are heavier, you shouldn't leave them in for hours and certainly not overnight. So, how long should you keep a deep conditioner in? The maximum time is about 30 minutes with the minimum being 20 minutes.

Image: Giphy; Kristin Collins Jackson