Conditioners, like shampoos, have been pivotal in our hair care routines since we were old enough to use something beyond baby wash. But, have you ever stopped and asked yourself why you use it and whether or not it helps your hair? Let’s dive in together.
I didn’t know what a conditioner was beyond it being the liquid solution I used after a shampoo. Growing up, my haircare was never my job, and as I got older, it got passed on from my parents to my hairdresser. Therefore, when I decided to take responsibility for my own hair, I started out by doing exactly what I saw them do, shampoo, condition, put in some oily concoction and style. My hair wasn’t very happy. It was a huge learning curve when I tried to find products that would help condition and moisturize my hair, so the moisture stayed in for longer. This is when I started learning about conditioners and the role they play in helping with my moisture balance.
Do You Need Hair Conditioner
So we broach the question, does our hair need a conditioner? Short answer, yes, but…
A traditional conditioner is an emulsion based on oils/lipids and a conditioning agent – usually a cationic quaternary agent such as Behentrimonium Chloride and silicones such as amodimethicone – in water. This type of emulsion was created to rebalance the lipids on the hair after being washed by harsh detergents – which were mainly sulphate based. The conditioning agent and silicones in the emulsion would leave deposits on the hair which does a few jobs – coat the hair shaft and fill in gaps that were a result of hair damage, add slip for easier combing and close the hair cuticles to reduce flyaways.
Sounds good right?
Of course it does, who doesn’t want manageably soft hair? There is one tiny problem, you see, even though the conditioner is washed out, those deposits are still left on the hair shaft and wouldn’t be washed off until the next time you shampoo your hair.
How Can Hair Conditioner Cause Hair Damage
Have you ever wondered why shampoo and conditioners are sold as a set? Here’s a thought, as the conditioners leave deposits on the hair, the shampoo will be formulated with the ability to break down those deposits to be washed away easily. They are formulated as a system and should be used as a system.
An example, say you don’t like the shampoo of one brand but the conditioner works great for you, so you use the shampoo of another brand with the conditioner you love. In this instance, you run the risk of that shampoo not sufficiently breaking down the deposits of the conditioner so it’s easily washed away. When you add conditioner after this new wash, it is added to previous deposits which then causes product build up on the hair shaft. This product buildup causes the hair strand to be hard and brittle. If you’ve read some of my other posts, you will note that product buildup is one of the major factors that cause hair damage.
For those of you who wash your hair daily and use a rinse out conditioner, it has its own issues, but not so stressful on the hair. However, can you see the problem with these conditioners on Afro hair, which requires other products such as leave-in conditioners, butters and other sealants and are washed more infrequently?
Now, do you see why there is a ‘but’ in the answer? It’s not an easy question to answer, because whilst conditioners can and do benefit the hair, what starts out as a blessing can become a curse.
In addition to the product build up, there have been concerns around how the conditioning agents affect the biodiversity of the planet once they’re washed down the drain, hence the move away from traditional quaternary conditioners and towards natural cationic varieties such as Brassicyl Isoleucinate Esylate and Brassicyl Valinate Esylate. In addition to being great for your hair, these natural cationic conditioning agents are biodegradable and non toxic to animal life.
The right conditioner is pivotal to successfully growing strong, healthy hair as it is the starting point to obtaining moisture balance. Check out my other post that goes into the various types of conditioners and which are better suited for your hair type, hair regime and lifestyle.
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Until next time,
Be great x