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5 Things Conditioner CAN’T Do

Avatar • Oct 10, 2013

bottles

Hands up if you ever thought, ‘If only I could just find the right conditioner, my hair troubles will be over?’ I know that when I first went natural, I really did dedicate a lot of time to looking for a hair conditioner that would magically do everything from making my hair retain moisture and yes even quite sadly attempt to create spirals where there were none. It is only with developing a more strategic scientific approach that I finally learned that even hair conditioner does have its limits. Here are some of the things that I know hair conditioner cannot do:

1. Conditioner cannot make your hair clump

If you are in the trial and error phase, you may be struggling to get your hair to clump with hair conditioner (or gel, or mousse, or whatever) but finding that whatever you do it simply does not. Why not? Well hair that clumps tends to be hair that is more curly than kinky and in addition, the individual curl pattern on each strand tends to be quite uniform allowing them to conveniently merge into one larger curl/spiral/clump. If your hair is kinky curly, you will notice that the position of the kink on each strand varies. This means that your hair will not naturally clump as the strands are far from identical. Therefore if you, like I was, expect hair conditioner to create clumped curls, forget it! Your hair either naturally clumps or it doesn’t.

2. Conditioner does not stop breaking or shedding
I have noticed a trend of naturals advising that when you experience above average shedding or breakage, a protein conditioner should be considered. I don’t disagree with this advice but I would also put a huge proviso with it. Hair that is breaking will only be temporarily stopped from breaking by a hair conditioner. The damage that caused it to break is still present, the hair is weak and will continue to break albeit at a slower rate. Fix the real cause of breakage, don’t rely on hair conditioner.

3. Conditioner combing is not necessarily gentler
There are some people who love conditioner combing because the mix of slip and wet hair allows the comb or brush to glide through easily, fast and painlessly. However, as a natural, you have to be very aware that sometimes this type of combing can lead to breakage by stealth. You do not hear the strands snapping because the hair is not dry but you will find a lot of hair coming out in the process. If you find that your hair is not progressing lengthwise, you should stop regarding that conditioner combed hair as shed hair and start thinking of it as breakage. Conditioner combing does not suit all hair, don’t assume it to be gentler.

4. Hair conditioner is not a constant source of moisture
Hair conditioner is excellent for fixing your cuticle, forcing the scales to lie flat and somewhat mending any cracks or holes. These actions do help your hair retain moisture and certainly immediately after a shampoo and conditioner wash, you hair will almost certainly have a higher water content. However, after that wash, most naturals will find that their hair will progressively get drier day after day. The way to retain moisture after that first wash lies in experimenting and finding techniques and additional products (humectants, oils) to maintain moisture. Sometimes though it can be as simple as showering with hair uncovered allowing steam to replenish moisture.

5. Hair conditioner can never really fix scalp problems
One of the worst pieces of advice that I read about co-washing is that it can help fix a dry scalp. Hair conditioner works by depositing itself on the surface of hair and therefore also the scalp. The scalp is an ecosystem of its own with a balance of bacteria and fungus that help it be healthy and itch free. The oils in hair conditioner constantly deposited can actually exacerbate scalp problems and allow build up as well as dandruff to form. Very often the solution to scalp issues is to find a very good shampoo and to avoid conditioner contact on the scalp.

Ladies, have you tried unsuccessfully to use conditioner in any of these capacities? When did you realize it wasn’t effective?

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About The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

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MissJoeyK
MissJoeyK
7 years ago

This is an interesting article. I personally have found that, for detangling my hair, plain old water does the trick best. It’s crazy to think how, over the years, I’ve really jumped on the product bandwagon when simple water does the trick for me more times than not. I think it’s really important to evaluate products for what they really do, or in this case, what they don’t do.

Jada
Jada
7 years ago

Ladies please do what works for you, if you notice conditioner does all the above, keep doing them.

I’ve noticed JC-who’s hair we have never seen btw- can be cynical about some hair practices that work for some people, for example, one article of hers rubbishes the method of finding out your hair porosity by placing a strand in water, I used that method and it was a game changer for my hair journey, I’m lo-po.

listen to her advice but trust yourself, your hair dont stop doing something that could be beneficial because she said so.

lahblooplah
lahblooplah
7 years ago
Reply to  Jada

You cannot deny that she made sound points tho, even if results vary within different hair practices.

neochasez
neochasez
7 years ago
Reply to  Jada

The article you referenced, found here — http://www.thenaturalhavenbloom.com/2013/01/junk-science-hair-porosity-tests-float.html — actually ends with the statement below, which is along the lines of your opinion: “I do absolutely advocate for people to reject or accept products based on how they work. If a product leads your hair to be constantly dry, leave it. If a product makes your hair too mushy, stop using it. Find products that work by trusting yourself and your hair.” As for myself, I do what works for my hair and I think that is what everyone should do, but I’m also very appreciative of the wide array of… Read more »

LBell
LBell
7 years ago
Reply to  neochasez

Thank you. Jc has never tried to misrepresent herself or what she’s tried to do on her own blog. If BGLH chooses to edit her posts, then that’s who people should take up their concerns with. To the subject: While I agree that conditioner won’t create a curl/coil pattern in hair that has no such pattern, I know FOR ME PERSONALLY that conditioners with cones in them help encourage my coils to coil. I’m not sure why that is but I’m betting Jc has covered it (silicones) at some point. 🙂 If I’m planning a style for which I want… Read more »

Nia
Nia
7 years ago
Reply to  Jada

You’re so right. Some bloggers do give good information, that as a natural I’d never tried before. However, I do not embraced the fear these same bloggers want us to have about combs and heat. I didn’t get my first relaxer until I was 13, and my mom use a comb and pressed my hair until age 13. The reason she wanted me to become relaxed is because my hair was long and thick for real, not that medium thick naturals call thick. No, almost that Chaka Kan type of thick, lol. Sadly, in hindsight that should never be a… Read more »

neochasez
neochasez
7 years ago
Reply to  Nia

Agreed. And I am not about that finger detangling life…it’s just not for me.

Briana Hicks
Briana Hicks
7 years ago
Reply to  Nia

I am def feeling what you said about heat. A Natural will flip out at the mention of any sort of heat styling and condemn you for using it… but I transitioned for a year by flat ironing my hair and now, a ways into my third year natural, I tension blow dry every 1 to 2 weeks with no adverse affects and am seeing more length retention than ever.

Suzy
Suzy
7 years ago
Reply to  Jada

Saying that Jc is being cynical is unfair. She uses the point of view of a scientist, which naturally calls for critical thinking, facts, evidence, controlled experiments and the like. That being said, she does not have to show her hair for that. She is not documenting her own hair journey; she is simply presenting what science has to say about hair. A bald man could do the same thing, and we are not entitled to see her hair in the first place. It is true that everyone should take every piece of advice with a grain of salt and do… Read more »

Brianne
Brianne
7 years ago
Reply to  Jada

You don’t need to see her hair. She is a scientist. How she looks is irrelevant to the systematic method for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results, which is what science is. Furthermore, Jc usually backs up what she says with scientific evidence usually from academic journals which contain studies from scientists that have been peer reviewed by other experts in their field. In other words, it’s not just her saying these things but multiple scientists who have been educated and trained on the subject. She’s not cynical. She’s realistic. Much of what you… Read more »

JENNID
JENNID
7 years ago
Reply to  Jada

No more like ladies please listen to advice when given and apply as needed IF needed. While some of you ladies maybe just fine and roll your eyes at a logical approach to hair care some of us enjoy the actual scientific reason behind things. Nothing in this article is radical. No where has JC ever said stop what’s working and listen to me cause I have a ph.d! Be aware that all this “do you” mentality can backfire. There is nothing wrong with listening to some advice and research. What is tried and true for you today may stop… Read more »

Deb
Deb
7 years ago
Reply to  Jada

there are people who have done the strand test and were SURE they had one porosity until they actually had their hair strands evaluated in a lab by professionals (ex: komaza hair analysis) only to find out they were completely WRONG so yeah, I do agree with her that the strand test is NOT a reliable way to determine hair porosity. It’s not been scientifically proven to do so and there are actual proven ways to determine hair porosity. We are just more accepting of more DIY methods so we like to rely on a water strand test as gospel.

yeman
yeman
7 years ago
Reply to  Jada

JC din’t write this. If you are curious about her hair you can see her baby blog.

Jc
Jc
7 years ago
Reply to  yeman

Yeman, I did write this article and I am not a mother (YET!). There is probably more than one Jc on the internet lol.

I do want to say having read the comments on this article that I do truly appreciate those of you who understand and appreciate what I do. I really could not have made a better response if I had tried to craft one myself 🙂

Redseouls
Redseouls
7 years ago

Thanks for the knowledge Jc!

Dabney
Dabney
7 years ago

It’s definitely depends on the type of hair and what you want from your hair styles. The hair conditioner debate will rage on but I like to use it in my hair routine. My hair has turned around completely. Do you!

shanna
7 years ago

Conditioner can cause your hair to clump but not in the way people think. SOME people, not all, do not experience clumping because they have lost their moisture balance. I found that to me true for myself. So conditioning the hair can help with restoring the moisture balance which can result in clumping. I used to think my hair couldn’t clump and that I couldn’t do wash and gos. After a month or so of focusing on moisture, I started to notice very small patches of clumps that got bigger and bigger.No all I do is wash and gos. Each… Read more »

Chic With Kinks
7 years ago

There are a lot of sound points to this. I experienced a lot of problems when I was cowashing, including scalp problems and hair loss. However, I couldn’t use traditional shampoos or cleansing conditioners as they were just ineffective or too harsh. Thankfully by using all natural hair cleansers, my hair health has been restored. You can see the pictures of my hair during cowashing and after I stopped cowashing. My hair improved so much when I stopped cowashing and ps — since stopping cowashing, my curl definition is much better cos my hair and scalp are much healthier. I use… Read more »

Dabney
Dabney
7 years ago

I don’t solely co-wash anymore. I have been diluting my shampoo. I get an empty bottle and take a 1/4 teaspoon of shampoo and two cups of water and shake it up. I wash with the solution. It gets my hair clean and it’s not to harsh. Then I follow with a co-wash. It really works! try it! Also it makes you shampoo last longer because you aren’t using so much every time you wash your hair!

the mane captain
7 years ago

i’m yet to read a site advising women that conidtioners can fix scalp issues. I even wrote a piece on my blog on what women who experience itchiness after using a conditioner can do to minimize this.
The truth of the matter is that most of us HAVE to comb our hair with conditioner in it to reduce breakage or pain.
themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

Mina
Mina
7 years ago

I agree on tips 3–5 but 1 and 2 are wrong. My hair is 4a/4b in the back as it’s kinky. My hair clumps perfectly when I use conditioner and it makes that section I detangled into a coily swirl. My hair all together does not clump until I detangle it and use conditioner. My hair is 3b-4b mix. One could say my hair is naturally curly and kinky yet my hair doesn’t clump until I use conditioner and it clumps when it’s detangled thoroughly. If I use just water, it’s not going to clump when dry and instead will… Read more »

Mina
Mina
7 years ago
Reply to  Mina

*not going to clump when wet

Mina
Mina
7 years ago

I agree on 2 that it doesn’t stop shedding but to say it doesn’t stop breakage to use a protein “reconstructor” conditioner/treatment is false. Otherwise, Aphogee and Ion protein reconstructors as well as hair mayos/regular mayo wouldn’t work either since they’re conditioners.

Mimi
Mimi
7 years ago
Reply to  Mina

Technnically it is correct, we can never totally eliminate/stop breakage, only minimise it.

Saundra
Saundra
6 years ago

I have kinky 4a/4b hair and my hair clumps with conditioner. I think you have to just chose a product carefully because the tresumme naturals I believe doesn’t do it for me. However, the As I Am cowash conditioner clumps my hair.

samia
samia
6 years ago

Years of being natural has taught me that it’s anathema to not use conditioner after shampooing. I normally have my hair in braids. My scalp has been bothering me for years which I believe has had an effect on my hair growth due to inflammation. Try as I might some conditioner always makes its way to my scalp. I’ve eliminated conditioner after shampoo. My scalp is so much better. I blamed the shampoo, I blamed the water. Nope. I sometimes do pre poo but I always shampoo out. I use a mild diluted shampoo then sometimes an oil rinse. A… Read more »

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