Applying Deep Conditioner to Natural Hair: 101

Last updated on January 10th, 2023 at 10:10 pm

Applying deep conditioner is a very important (if not the most important part) of your natural hair regimen. That’s why I created the deep conditioning guide for natural hair below.

For those of us with natural hair, we have the driest hair on the planet. It’s just the structure of our hair. All those twists and turns that make up the hair shaft do not allow for sebum (our God given natural moisturizer) to move freely down the hair.

deep conditioning guide
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Because our hair is so very dry naturally, deep conditioning is necessary. Everyday conditioners that you rinse out or even leave-in conditioner is just not sufficient to get deep moisture into your hair.

Ensuring your hair is well conditioned is the first step at preventing and cutting back on split ends.

Check out this post: Deep Conditioning is Not a Scam.

Applying Deep Conditioner Your Hair Properly

To use a deep conditioning hair mask on wash day is what allows your hair to receive that “deep” moisture that it needs to hydrate so you don’t have dry hair.

The best way to apply your deep conditioner is in sections on your hair from root to tip. You can use a wide-toothed comb to distribute the product but it’s best to just use your fingers.

When it comes time to rinse the conditioner out of your hair, using cold water will seal the cuticle so you won’t have frizzy hair.

Below I have compiled everything you need to know about deep conditioning your hair strands for best results – from A to Z.

Now, of course, there isn’t a tip or fact for every letter in this deep conditioning guide for natural hair. BUT, there is one almost every letter. All, but two. Let’s get to it!

A-Z Guide to Deep Conditioning

Application

When applying deep conditioner, take into account you want to do so on damp hair, not wet hair. While your hair needs to be freshly washed, you don’t want it to be sopping wet because then you’ll dilute the conditioner.

You also want to make sure you take your time when applying so that you don’t cause any unnecessary breakage. Especially, if you have fine hair.

Balance

Deep conditioning will also balance out hair that has too much protein. For healthy hair, you always want to make sure your hair has a good proportion of moisture to protein so you don’t lose elasticity.

Caps

One of the necessary tools you need to go about the process of conditioning your hair is a plastic cap or shower cap and a deep conditioning cap like the Hot Head or other microwaveable cap. Alternatively, you could also use a plug in conditioning cap. I really like this one that I purchased on Amazon. Regardless of which conditioning cap you use, a plastic cap needs to be put on beneath it. And please, don’t use a plastic bag. Plastic caps are very affordable and work much better.

Lastly, if you don’t have a heating cap, you can use a handheld blow dryer or dome shaped dryer that you sit under.

Detangle

Closely associated to the application process, you want to make sure you apply your deep conditioner to detangled hair. The worst thing you can do is add a bunch of product to hair that’s tangled. The result will be hair that mats and you certainly don’t want that.

Elasticity

While optional, adding essential oils to your deep conditioner is certainly beneficial. For example, peppermint and rosemary essential oils can add a growth stimulating effect to your deep conditioner. Just research what essential oils are beneficial for hair care. Then, try adding one or 2 to your conditioner.

Frizz and Fibers

Your hair is made up of hair fibers so a good deep conditioner will eliminate frizz while coating your hair and smoothing out those hair fibers resulting in shinier frizz free hair.

Another “F” word to consider is frequency. How often should you deep condition your hair? The rule of thumb is after every wash. Depending on how dry your hair is, you may need to wash more often so you can deep condition more often.

Gloss

A really great compliment to your deep conditioner is an herb like henna or cassia which will turn it into a gloss – a henna gloss or cassia gloss.

The benefits of one of these glosses is multifold:

  • adds shine and strength to the hair
  • makes the hair more silky
  • smooths frizz

Heat

Yes, heat 🙂 To deep condition hair, you’ll. need to apply a heat source to your hair that’s been treated under a cap with deep conditioner is what will cause the cuticles of your hair to swell open and receive the moisture and all the goodness that deep conditioner has to offer.

Ingredients

The ingredients in your deep conditioner matter. Not all deep conditioners are created equal either. You want to make sure the first few ingredients in your deep conditioner are water, some sort of oil and a humectant.

Also, if you have fine hair, using a conditioner with amino acids in it will help to strengthen the hair. This is not the same as a full blown protein treatment.

Here are the top three deep conditioners I recommend:

These deep conditioners aren’t found in mass retail stores but they are definitely worth the cost of shipping. However, if you grab other products in the lines (also really good), you can avoid the shipping costs. Just sayin;

Jars

If you are all about making your own deep conditioner, you’ll need jars – the right ones. Purchase jars that are dark colored, like these amber jars. These jars will protect the integrity of your DIY conditioner for longer than clear jars.

Keratin

Forming the outer layer of your hair, keratin is a necessary part of your hair’s make up. It’s a protein. You may find hair products containing keratin in them. However, if you are looking to ONLY deep condition without protein, avoid this ingredient in your conditioner. Conversely, if you do keratin treatments to your hair for strength, be sure to follow with a deep conditioner to balance out all the strength you’ll receive from the keratin treatment.

Lubricate

Remember at the beginning of this post I shared about how sebum has difficulty moving down the hair shaft of naturally curly hair? This is a classic example of a lack of lubrication.

Your deep conditioner will lubricate your hair where your sebum can’t.

Moisture

When you use a good deep conditioner, your hair will be primed to maintain a good amount of moisture for at least a few days beyond wash day. In fact, it’s your deep conditioner’s main purpose to hydrate (another H) your hair internally so that moisture is better maintained.

Nourishing

The ingredients in your deep conditioner need to be nourishing. In other words, they need to promote hair growth, good health and good condition.

Oils

Starting with before your wash, coconut oil is an oil that can be used as a pre-condition treatment.

While optional, adding natural oils like castor oil to your regular conditioner is certainly beneficial for boosting moisture. You could also use carrier oils like sweet almond and macula oil or essential oils like peppermint and rosemary. Carrier oils can add slip to your conditioner but also help with frizz and dryness.

The essential oils can add a growth stimulating effect to your deep conditioner because they help strengthen the hair cuticles. Check out these essential oils that are beneficial for hair care. Try adding one or 2 to your conditioner.

pH

Deep conditioning helps restore your hair’s pH balance hand helps damaged hair to recover. When you wash your hair, the pH is raised. The conditioner has a lower pH than your shampoo and returns your hair to a normal pH by helping to close the cuticles.

Restore

A good deep conditioner will restore your hair’s moisture balance. Dull hair is restored and brittle hair is transformed. This is why you want to use a deep conditioner with water as the first or second ingredient in it.

Slip

One of the biggest deals when it comes to deep conditioning is using a product that has slip. If it doesn’t have slip and you still want to use it, make sure you add some slip to your deep conditioner.

You can add a natural oil like olive oil or almond oil to your deep conditioner. You can also add an herbal powder like marshmallow root.

More “S” words to consider: Shine, Smoothness, Seal

The deep conditioner adds shine and smoothness to your hair. Rinse your deep conditioner with cool water to help seal moisture into the cuticle which has been raised from washed.

How long should you deep condition your hair?

Time

You want to take your time when deep conditioning. Sit with it in your hair under a heating cap for at least 30 minutes but no more than hour. After that, you don’t receive any additional benefit from the conditioner.

Upwards

This is a continuation of the advice applying your deep conditioner. You want to apply the conditioner working upwards. Start at the ends of your hair and move upwards toward the scalp, ensuring full coverage of every strand.

Another “U” word to take note of is the word “Ultimate.” I’ve come across deep conditioners that use the word “Ultimate” in their title and many fall short. Check out my favorite deep conditioner of all time down below.

Vitamins

A really good ingredient to look for in a deep conditioner is vitamins. At the very least, you want to see vitamin B or Panthenol. This B vitamin serves to condition and soften the hair.

Water

Water is the carrier of all the goodness your deep conditioner has to offer. It should be number one on the ingredient list.

You also want to make sure you have a good bit of water in your hair (but not saturated) when applying the deep conditioner.

Zone

OK. This isn’t really deep conditioning specific but I couldn’t end an A-Z guide on deep conditioning with the letter W!

So, when I say zone specifically what’s meant is to get in the zone. Enjoy the deep conditioning process. Your hair will be in such a better state after this process. Don’t rush it. Just get in the zone…the Deep Conditioning Zone 🙂

I’ve tried a variety of deep conditioners (even one made with Shea Butter) in my fine natural hair. Many of them were good but this is my staple for the unforeseen future because it’s just great:

Ominira Naturals Honey and Watermelon Infusion Deep Conditioner

ominira naturals deep conditioner

Most of these tips will also be quite helpful for those of different hair types, even those with straight hair.

deep conditioning guide

There you have it – A complete Guide for Applying Deep Conditioner for Natural Hair.

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Michelle Smith

Michelle is a Christian natural hair enthusiast. She's been natural for 20+ years and shares natural hair care tips and easy hairstyles for those with low density or thin fine natural hair. It's her joy to inspire you to live by faith in God while caring for your "crown."

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Deborah

    Thank you so much for this very resourceful info. As a result of doing my own research and following some of your tips, my hair is coming back to life. I almost gave up on my hair, but you really have to discover what works best for yourself. Appreciate the sharing and honest comments. You are a true blessing and know that I am truly gratefully for your knowledge, caring and just being you! A follower forever.

    1. Fine Hair and Faith

      Hi Deborah,

      thank you so much for your feedback and very thoughtful response. I’m so happy to hear that you are seeing progress with your hair. As women, our hair is such an important part of us and it can be devastating to lose it. <3

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