De-bunking A Hair Myth – Is Deep Conditioning Necessary?

Thermal Spa Conditioning Heat Cap
I felt obliged to write this post because I honestly feel that sometimes we have to take information with a grain of salt. It has been questioned time and time again if deep conditioning is merely a myth or a placebo used so that hair companies can make a quick buck from non suspecting buyers!

Let me go on record by saying there might be instances where a hair company might be using a little exploitation to get more money out of us but all in all I think we generally have great judgment of what our hair needs are and how a specific product can help with those needs.

Now about the myth…

The question of whether deep conditioning is beneficial to hair care or just a complete waste of time seems to stem from 3 perspectives.

1.)    What you are using, store bought product by itself, store bought product combined with natural ingredients, or just natural ingredients such as oil or water.

2.)    The length of time the conditioner is left on the hair – should it be 5 mins or 1 hour?

3.)    The structure of the hair strand itself in its ability to accept the product for it to have some benefits – can the ingredients actually penetrate the hair shaft?

Item 1

Many products put claims on the label that indicate ‘deep treatment’ ‘penetrates the hair’, ‘provides strength to the core of the hair’, we have all seen it. The truth is only a few things penetrate the hair shaft whether the cuticle is open or not these include water, coconut oil, olive oil and hydrolyzed protein. In my opinion if a product has either of these ingredients then more than likely those ingredients will be able to pass through the cuticle and provide benefit to the inner portions of my strands. With that said I could choose to just use ingredients such as water and coconut oil on my hair for deep conditioning or I have the option of mixing my product with these ingredients to add health to the cuticle and to the inner areas of the strand.

Item 2

The length of time to leave a ‘deep conditioning treatment’ on your hair is often questioned because most products recommend 5-10 mins max. Why then do we leave conditioner in for hours? The short answer for me is because a 5min deep treatment does not feel as effective in comparison to when I use my conditioner (mixed) for 20-30 minutes. I think it is a matter of preference really!

Item 3

This is the most important part of the debunking! The hair shaft is made up of three parts, the cuticle, the medulla and cortex. The cuticle acts like a door; it opens and closes which allows for the movement of particles in and out. The cuticle can be opened by applying heat, or through chemical processing. As mentioned before water, Coconut oil, Olive oil and hydrolyzed protein do not need the cuticle to open for them to penetrate the hair shaft. The cuticle then dictates wether the product you have chosen to deep condition with, just sits on top of your hair leading to more of a placebo effect rather than penetrating the hair and imparting health benefits.

The question for me now becomes, what do I want penetrating my hair shaft and if the cuticle is closed how can I open it to receive the benefits of my chosen ingredient? Since my hair is primarily made up of protein, if I do have damage, logic dictates that one of the primary things that can help is protein in its hydrolyzed form. Another thing I may want is some moisture from the inside out, with that said some oil wouldn’t be bad either! I like Olive oil and Coconut Oil so I will take those. If I have a product that I think has some benefits but from the ingredients I have determined that it will not penetrate the hair shaft without some help from heat, then I will use heat!

So is deep conditioning a myth?

My answer, no, not for me! I think it is beneficial depending on the perspective from which it is argued, if you are plopping a bunch of conditioner that has no ‘penetrating capabilities’ and leaving it on for hours without heat, then that is frankly a waste of time, if anything you might be able to detangle easily due to the slip. When articles surface that question the benefits of deep conditioning generally something is always left out! For example: There might be no mention of heat opening the cuticle which will allow for some of the benefits our products boast about.

The point is read everything with a grain of salt and trust your instincts and what you know, get educated about your own hair and do what is best for you.


Originally posted 2011-12-28 03:00:14.

About Petra

Hi I'm Petra Lomax , a staff writer and editor for . 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 . 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. Shayla Hicks
    Shayla Hicks

    I am a mom of 4, well 5 including the husby. Lol…Deep conditioning is not needed…. I only dc prior to applying heat… I remain natural with my curly strands for most of the year. My daily maintenance of conditioners, moisturizers, coconut oil and water keeps my hair just fine… and on wash day I simply shampoo with my Shea Moisture shampoo and condition with two of my moisturizing/with slip conditioners and my hair is perfectly fine. There’s no need for a deep condition!!! Works for me! #notimeandnoneed

  2. Latasha Cannon
    Latasha Cannon

    Deep conditioning is mandatory for my hair especially in colder months for my length. I finally got it. This is the first winter that I am actually retaining length & not having breakage. Yesssss

  3. Plain Jane
    Plain Jane

    I’m so glad this article was written. To be completely honest it should all be based on the needs of your hair. One thing I hate is when false info is given out. You’ll see articles telling you one thing and you’ve become so accustomed to doing something that you get confused on what’s right or wrong. Do what’s best for your and and pay no mind to articles like those. Great post!

  4. Phoenix McGee
    Phoenix McGee

    I deep condition after bleaching/dyeing and washing. Other than that I just slap some conditioner and some grease in the roots before flat ironing. Its working for me.

  5. MsWhite Hiddenheels Ellis
    MsWhite Hiddenheels Ellis

    DC is not mandatory for me. I’ve been natural almost 7yrs. I’ve spent the first 2yrs “winging” it, the following 3, figuring out porosity and DC’ing with everything from natural products to “blackhair” products to “others”, on a routine basis. Nothing worked consistently or well enough to commit to. So I’ve spent the past 2 yrs DC’ing About every. …..hardly ever. Great post

  6. Lotty Jay
    Lotty Jay

    This is good to know that I don’t have to but every once in awhile I will.

  7. Lee Anna Easter-BerklinGaynor
    Lee Anna Easter-BerklinGaynor

    I deep condition once a month. I use water with conditioner, olive and castor oil every other day after a good wash, leave in conditioner and oiled scalp massage. Otherwise my hair I’d doing fine. I use WEN Fig and Pomegranate cleansers/conditioners. WEN Bamboo as the leave in on the every other day moisturizing. Shea Moisture Curl Enhancer on damp hair before putting my hair in a protective style. I don’t mess with my hair that much anymore since I found the right combination of products and regimen that works.

  8. Krystal White
    Krystal White

    Its mandatory for my hair. I protective style alot so when i take it down,a deep condition is a must.

  9. Tamera Ward Nelson
    Tamera Ward Nelson

    What works for one may not work for someone else. I deep condition once a week and my hair feels better and appears more moisturized. To keep my hair from looking dull and dry, deep conditioning is the solution.

  10. ladee neenah

    Deep conditioning is mandatory for me. I do it weekly on wash day and I can tell the difference if I miss even one session, especially in the winter. I DIY my DC and usually leave it in for an hour.

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