Thursday, 6 December 2012

Conditioner: Miracle or Waste Of Time?

How To Ride The Fine Line Between Frizz Management And Flyaways

Conditioner: "Is This Really Necessary?"
In my last post we talked about two very common complaints women have about their hair.

It either goes frizzy or limp.

In either case it makes us feel like our hair is not healthy.

We looked at shampoo and how its job is pretty limited and that it really is not the magic bullet that will give us healthy hair. In fact, used inappropriately, shampoo may be at best, a waste of money, and at worst, actually contributing to the damage.

 Have you experimented yet with using less (or even no) shampoo? It’s a scary step to take. It goes against generations of advertising efforts telling us how glorious our hair will look.

For a first step, try your experiment on a day you don’t plan to go out, so if you aren’t impressed with the results you won’t feel like a scarecrow.

For a longer experiment, try it during, say, a camping trip or some time when how your hair looks won’t completely stress you out.

It will take time for both you and your hair to get used to the new routine, so I do encourage you to persist with the experiment.

Be brave! It’s worth it!

The next product that makes lots of promises (though less than shampoo, interestingly) is conditioner.

In this article I will explain to you what conditioner really does for your hair, and what it really does not do.

Conditioner is a crucial part of your hair care routine.


For our two hair type problems, frizziness and limpness, conditioner is a critical part of your hair care routine – more important than shampoo, in my opinion.

If you have hair that frizzes you probably need MORE conditioner, more often.

You might even want to try using a leave in conditioner, depending on how frizzy or damaged your hair is. For limp hair, you need LESS conditioner, LESS often.

Look for the lightest conditioner you can find. After shampooing your hair, first run your fingers very gently through your hair. If you can run your hands through easily, you don’t need any conditioner that day. If you encounter some snarls, only apply a tiny amount of conditioner to the very ends of your hair (or the location where your hair tends to tangle, usually the nape of the neck).

You only need conditioner to help the tangles slip out of your hair and prevent damage. Do not apply conditioner to the whole of your head.

You don’t need it and it is contributing to the limpness and slippery texture of your hair, which makes it very hard to style or clip up.

Again, my favourite main brands are TreSemme and Pantene, which I recommend because the price is great, you can find them in pretty much any shop, and the formulas are just the basic minimum that your hair requires. No messing about with funny added extras that are a waste of money.

There are other perfectly good brands, but these two are, in my opinion, the best for the price.

What is conditioner and what is it supposed to be doing?


Conditioners are fundamentally made from protein molecules that cling to and coat the hair cuticle.

This makes your hair feel smoother and softer. It also builds a temporary protective film over the cuticle of your hair, which is great and it helps bolster the natural sebum from your scalp.

If you are prone to damaged, dry hair, you need conditioner to maintain the health of your hair. 

However, generally speaking conditioner will not ‘feed’, fix, mend, repair or restructure your hair.

A very recent exception to this rule of thumb are the new "split end" formulas. These are chemically pretty amazing, and they do work. But there are some very real drawbacks.

Read my review of TRESemme's Split Remedy Conditioner (where we went from ecstatic to impressed to not-so-much over a 12 month period).

"Colour Protect" type formulas can, in a limited way, help slow fading if you use a permanent hair colour, as it will slow the pigment molecules from falling out of your hair.

But conditioner is not a miracle.

It does its simple but valuable job of coating the hair for about a day or two.

For hair that tends to frizz, to get the maximum benefit from conditioner apply a generous amount to your hair and leave it in as long as possible before rinsing.

It is worth experimenting with leave-in conditioners as well, to see if this makes a difference for you.

 If you suffer from split ends, your conditioner may ‘glue’ the ends back together again for a few hours, but it is not a long-term solution and it won’t stop the damage from migrating up the length of your hair.

I will tell you more about split ends in a later article.

Does conditioner "penetrate the hair?"


Can conditioner penetrate the hair? Some ingredients can, but as your hair is porous, the molecules tend to fall out as easily as they went into the core of your hair. So your hair is not being ‘fed’.

To maintain the strength of your hair, you need to do what you can to preserve the cuticle.

Once the cuticle has been damaged, there is nothing you can do to help the core, except to get a hair cut.

Most conditioners are pretty much the same, so I really recommend you go for one of the cheapest main brand products, but don't be lured down to the very bottom shelf which is the land of the super value products. They are pretty crummy and are only suitable for you if you have short hair and shampoo infrequently.

Like shampoo, some formulas add exciting sounding ingredients, but the benefits are limited and many are unproven.

So in my view, it isn’t worth paying for (unless it smells really good – I can’t argue with that) and it isn’t really going to improve the health of your hair.

In the next article I’m posting Monday next week, I’ll cover a few of the amazing and thrilling added ingredients that shampoo companies promote that sound like they might actually do something for your hair... but don’t.

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Enjoying yourself? Don't stop now.

Here are some more posts you'll enjoy:

French Pleat Combs and Forks for Fine Hair
Pantene Pro-V's new Aqua Light Shampoo Review
Why There's Sodium Chloride (Yes, Salt) In Your Shampoo

Visit Stone Bridge Hair Accessories UK

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