We’ve been told since forever to condition our hair.
Some of us treat it like a magic chant or something it’s so ingrained.
Condition. Condition. Condition.
Still if you want vibrant locks you’ll do whatever it takes to keep that mane of yours hydrated, right?
Now if you’re like me, you probably think it’s impossible to get too much of a good thing?
But is it really?
Especially if your hair suddenly is alarmingly soft, won’t hold a style, or seems otherwise limp and lifeless – then maybe all that conditioning is doing more harm than good. You think?
But before we get into all that let’s fill in some of the blanks about conditioner first. You know what it is, how it works, and how best to use it, okay?
Then we’ll take a closer look at over conditioning.
After that we’ll close with a surprising hair hack that has the power to give you perfectly conditioned hair. Admittedly it may sound crazy when you first hear it. But some who have tried it swear by it. Curious?
What Does Conditioner Do Exactly?
Damage control. Plain and simple. Accomplished by strand smoothing and detangling.
How Does Conditioner Work?
Beyond smoothing and detangling conditioner adds nourishment and moisture to protect your strands. You might think of it like a protective shield surrounding each hair shaft that enhances the shine too.
Also for those whose hair is damaged, think like the frayed end of a rope, conditioner can make it look healthier.
Appearance aside, it also matters because frayed hair is more prone to breakage and tangling.
Not to mention frayed strands look and feel different too. Dull and less light reflective which is not what you want for your hair.
Yeah but how exactly does conditioner transform hair like that to silky smoothness?
Penn State reports that “conditioner has oils in it that also help detangle your hair. After shampooing and scrubbing, your hair is clean, but can also become extremely knotted. This is what the oils are for. The oils in conditioner are like a lubricant that smooth out the coated conditioned pieces” making your strands appear healthier.
Now if that isn’t scientific enough for your inner nerd, these two videos, here and here, will surely remind you of chemistry class. But they’ll explain the science behind conditioner in more depth if you insist.
How to Properly Condition Hair?
Now it might be best to explain how to best condition by exploring six all too common conditioning mistakes. The third one is a known killer.
Mistake #1: Being in too big of a hurry to squeeze out the excess water in your strands before applying the conditioner. Failing to do so only dilutes the product reducing its effectiveness and does that make sense? Right. I didn’t think so.
Mistake #2: Being in too big of a hurry to distribute the product evenly throughout your hair. I know. Mornings can be hectic. So it’s easy to take a slap and dash approach to conditioning. Especially if you hit the snooze button once too often.
But a drive by approach to hair conditioning is really a waste of time and money. Instead, dig out your wide tooth comb and work the conditioner in well. All the more important if you have a curly or thick mane.
Mistake #3: Being in too big of a hurry to give the product a chance to work it’s magic. This isn’t an apply and rinse away right away type of thing. The idea is to give the conditioner at least a minute or two to penetrate your strands and calm those cuticles. (If you have longer hair, use an alligator clip to get it up and out of the way while you finish showering before rinsing – you know to give it even more time to hydrate your strands.)
Mistake #4: Being in too big of a hurry to keep rinsing until the water coming off your hair contains no sudsy bubbles or conditioner residues.
Mistake #5: Letting conditioner get anywhere near your scalp. This may happen due to haste too. Or it may be simply because you don’t know any better. But in most cases you want to keep conditioner far away from your scalp – where the natural oils your scalp produces is more than sufficient.
Having fine hair is all the more reason to avoid this as that’s a surefire recipe for flat hair. Fine hair leaves no room for a sloppy hair care.
A better approach is to start from the bottom up to maybe mid strand. The ends are the most damaged anyway. So it just makes sense to start there, doesn’t it?
Mistake #6: Thinking if a little is good a lot more is better. Honestly that kind of thinking can only get your hair in trouble.
Use the recommended amount and no more unless you have unusually thick hair. If there is no recommended amount to be found on the label use no more than is needed to do the job based on how long your hair is.
And notice I didn’t even get anywhere near the hotly debated issue of silicone based vs silicone free products. Let’s leave that for another time shall we?
Okay But Can You Really Over Condition?
I get it. At this point you may be thinking “C’mon, Tori, is there really such a thing as ‘over conditioning’ your hair?”
Believe it or not there absolutely is.
Here are several more common ways to find yourself with just such a problem that requires hair rehab. Generally you
- Use too much conditioner.
- Fail to thoroughly rinse it out
- Use the wrong kind for your hair type
And I know. Some will tell you it’s better to leave a thin coating of conditioner behind to help with hydration and to fight frizz. I’m not so sure about that.
Besides, isn’t that what leave in conditioner is for?
How Will You Know If Your Hair Has Been Over Conditioned?
Pretty much you’ll suspect something is amiss by how your hair feels and what it doesn’t do.
For one you may notice it doesn’t seem to hold a style. In other words it won’t stay where you put it for long.
Or uncommonly “limp” and “lifeless” would be two words to describe what you’re seeing in the mirror.
Third it may lack any trace of the body you remember it once having.
Some over conditioning victims report their hair feels extremely soft yet is strangely stiff. Ugh.
Another sign might be it takes just short of forever to dry.
If any of that sounds even vaguely familiar it’s likely you’ve entered a hair care twilight zone or something.
How to Avoid Over Conditioning Your Hair
The best way is to pay attention when conditioning. Don’t overdose with product. And for sure rinse it out completely.
How to Fix Over Conditioned Hair
But what if you’ve gone and done it?
What if you’ve already over dosed and over conditioned your tresses?
There are fixes.
Some quite easy too.
First do nothing. And by that I mean give your hair a break from conditioner. That might do the trick and liberate your tresses from over conditioning hell.
Second if you suspect you’re a victim of your own good intentions and doing nothing does nothing grab your trusty bottle of clarifying shampoo and see if that won’t hack through any product build up.
Then the third fix would be to seek out the advice of your trusted stylist to see if a protein treatment is called for or at the least if it would be wise to use a protein heavy conditioner for a bit.
I’m not saying protein treatments are your first move. But some may find that’s the only way out of the wilderness. As protein can inject some badly needed starch, stiffness and strength to your troubled strands.
Which brings us to the previously mentioned
Unexpected Conditioning Trick
Yeah, the unexpected secret to perfect hair may be applying conditioner BEFORE you shampoo.
You may know this as the “reverse hair washing” hack. It’s a great way to breathe new life into your mane and honestly nothing could be easier.
Even better, per Real Simple magazine “scientists at Unilever saw that by reversing the order in which you wash your hair—condition first, then shampoo—you’re left with soft, manageable, clean hair with more body than usual”.
Proponents of this approach explain the advantages it offers this way.
You see, no matter how hard to you try you’ll never quite rinse the conditioner out completely.
Even a tiny amount of conditioner residue left behind each time will eventually weigh down your locks leaving you with a lusterless and uninspired mane.
However going about it in the reverse order, conditioning then shampooing, is an effortless quick fix that gives you the best of both worlds.
You get tangle free hair with an extra dose of shininess that has more body, bounce and volume than usual ALL without any unpleasant side effects.
In other words you’ll be left with hair that has a totally clean, almost bare feeling to it, that’s not weighed down in the least by conditioner residue.
What’s not to like?
Yes, you may have to get over how weird it feels to condition first shampoo second. But you’ll get over it. Especially once you see how your hair responds to your new conditioning routine.