Which Is Better Wet Deep Conditioning Or Dry Deep Conditioning?

d1af15b5481a49576be2235e84b8692eA reader asked us the other day, which is better? Should she deep condition her hair dry or should she deep condition her hair after a fresh shampoo? In other words while her hair is wet.

It’s a great question and since I am a lazy natural I have had my fair share of dry deep conditioning days, there is something about hopping in and out of the shower within the space of two hours that does not sit well with me. I would rather deep condition with my hair dry, then get into the shower shampoo, condition and be done with it.

To be fair though it is important to understand what you are doing when you are doing it so to answer this question without a bit of science and common sense it pretty difficult.

Deep conditioning helps with the over all maintenance of your hair, it softens the hair, strengthens it and it lasts longer than just a rinse out conditioner. The idea is you want some of your conditioning agents to be absorbed by your hair for the conditioner to work. What this means is that some of the particles within your formula that have low molecular weight should penetrate through the outer layers of the hair strand strengthening from the inside out.

Coconut oil and some forms of protein have that ability but what is tricky is, water does too. Water molecules are a bit bossy, they can penetrate the strand a fill up all the space preventing other penetrating agents from getting in.

Common sense tells me that if I deep condition my hair dry I would much rather have some of the good stuff penetrate my strand before water gets in there and takes up all the space. The problem is, dry hair often means dirty hair. If you hair has a tun of buildup, oil, excess sebum, gels, sweat and whatever else you might add to your hair while caring for it, chances are your deep conditioner will not be as effective.

Conditioning while wet

The idea behind wet deep conditioning is the manipulation of the outer layers of the hair strand, meaning you are doing what it takes to raise the cuticles of the hair strand so that your hair will be ready to receive your deep conditioner. Shampoos containing anionic surfactants does just that. Water alone can do it as well but shampoo raises the cuticles and it gets rid of dirt and gunk so you get a two for one deal.

The truth is, as long as your cuticles are raised water moving in and out of the strand is not that bad. Your conditioner will still be able to get in and attach it self to the areas of your hair that need work.

So which is better

If your hair is super dry breaking or damaged, go for the wet deep conditioning option on freshly shampooed hair that way you can ensure maximum penetration.

The key is knowing what your hair needs and when! If you don’t use alot of product and you do not sweat alot then your hair may not require a heavy deep treatment, you might be able to get away with a dry deep conditioning. However if you are the opposite of that then you probably would fear better with a good shampoo session first.

Another thing I might add is that dry deep conditioning under  a steamer, or with a device that creates steam can also raise the cutlicles of your hair, so all is not lost with dry deep conditioning girls like myself. The choice is yours, as long as you know the facts then you can pick the best method for you at the time. Comment below and let us know which do you prefer, dry deep conitioning or wet?

Originally posted 2014-12-16 20:00:30.

About Petra

Hi I'm Petra Lomax , a staff writer and editor for BlackHairInformation.com . I am Jamaican born and raised and moved to the United States in my early 20's. I have a BA in Political Science and International relations as well as an MBA and a Masters In Project Management. I love travel, culture and anything that has to do with creative media and business.

About Petra

Hi I'm Petra Lomax , a staff writer and editor for BlackHairInformation.com . I am Jamaican born and raised and moved to the United States in my early 20's. I have a BA in Political Science and International relations as well as an MBA and a Masters In Project Management. I love travel, culture and anything that has to do with creative media and business.


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  1. Cheri Jacoby

    OMG, seriously? There’s dry conditioning, can I get the who,what,where and how on that, please,lol…….I never heard of dry conditioning, yay!

    1. Jocquise Robinson

      Yeah. I put the conditioner on before I wash my hair. Sit under the dryer sometimes, let it penetrate the strands. One of the hairstylists I used to go to swore by it. She said if you wash the hair first, the pores are full of shampoo residue and water. So the conditioner would basically have nowhere to go.

  2. Cheri Jacoby

    That’s sounds so much easier,lol. Now maybe I can my tame my mane, cause it is eva whur,lol.I will be trying that tonight, thanks, smile!

  3. Shaketta Shannel Singleton

    As a professional I have to say wet…
    When you wet your hair with warm water it allows the outside layer of your hair ,the cuticle, to open up and the conditioner is able to get inside of the hair strand and actually moisturize the hair.
    If you you do it dry the conditioner is just sitting on the outside layer of your hair and you don’t get the full benefit of the conditioner.

    1. Malakah Angellia Gladston

      NOPE wrong. Conditioner is liquid, will penetrate the hair regardless if massage in and allow to stay on hair for awhile, especially if you sit under a dryer. If the hair is already saturated with water, it might not get the full effect of the conditioner.

      1. nubiennze

        No need for obnoxiousness.

        1) Conditioner is technically a cream (i.e. an emulsion of a liquid – typically water – and oil), NOT a liquid.

        2) The effectiveness of dry vs. wet deep conditioning will vary from head to head. While it’s true that dry fibers have more capacity to absorb moisture than do already wet ones – much like a sponge – the success of each method depends largely on porosity. (Personally I think this is the single most important factor in building a hair care regimen and should be the first thing new DIYers, be they natural, relaxed, or color-treated, determine.)

        Applying conditioner to wiry low porosity hair like mine dry will result in exactly what Shaketta Shannel Singleton described: conditioner sitting atop dry hair. Even before there was a “movement” – before I knew anything about the science of healthy hair care – I realized that my hair acted much better when I applied products to it wet, while it was both prime for absorption and pliable enough to manipulate without breaking. My childhood hair never thrived under the “grease only” regimen many naturals now fondly recount.

        YM, of course, MV; forcing products to compete with preexisting water in the hair strand may not be worthwhile for high porosity hair, and that’s fine too. The great thing about this journey is that we don’t all have to do the same things.

        That said, I do think shampooing conditioner out of the hair right after applying it is a waste of product, money, and time. Even if I had HP hair, I’d probably plop/air dry 80-90% post shampoo, then DC, rinse about 75%, and immediately moisturize & heavy seal. I’d want to lock in as much of the goodness for as long as possible.

  4. Rece

    Dry…. It has worked wonders on me and my daughters hair. I use coconut oil first and then the conditioner.

  5. April

    If I’m cowashing, I’ll dry deep condition my hair. But if I’m shampooing I’ll do a wet deep condition my hair afterward.

  6. toots

    i dont know but it just seems weird that people are fascinated that you can just slap deep conditioner on you hair instead of washing 1st then con 2nd.

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