Deep Conditioning Natural Hair: What You Need To Know

Deep conditioning natural hair

You’ve probably heard the rave about deep conditioning natural hair from many bloggers/YouTubers. I have also mentioned it as one key way to soften your natural hair no matter how hard it is in one of my articles. Well, I couldn’t go into detail about all you need to know when it comes to deep conditioning your hair. However, this article covers EVERYTHING you should know about deep conditioning your natural hair (but can be applied to all hair types as well).

What is deep conditioning?

Deep conditioning is the process of treating your hair with a deep conditioner whether it is store-bought or DIY, by rubbing it into your hair and leaving it in your hair for a long time (about 15-30 minutes or more) before rinsing off. Deep conditioners differ from your regular rinse out conditioners because it is designed in such a way that it can sit in your hair for a long time while imparting moisture or protein into your hair strands.

Moreover, the regular rinse-out conditioner isn’t designed to sit in your hair for long periods. As the name implies, it should be rinsed off quickly and not allowed to sit in your hair for more than 5 minutes.

Deep conditioning has become a mainstay in the natural hair community. You honestly cannot get that great hair without deep conditioning in your regimen. Period. It is literally the go-to solution for many problems such as breakage, dryness, and hair damages. However, many do not understand how valuable this practice is to maintain and grow healthy natural hair.

 Benefits of deep conditioning

There are so many great benefits of deep conditioning. They include;

1. Adds moisture into your hair

Our hair thrives on moisture and protein. And because our scalp can’t produce enough natural oils to help moisturize our hair strands, we need to find a way to give our hair the right amount of moisture it needs. Hence, the need for a regular deep conditioning treatment. Deep conditioning helps impart moisture into out hair strands making our hair more manageable.

3. Prevents and repairs damaged hair

Whether the hair damage is caused by a moisture-protein imbalance or bad hair practices, incorporating deep conditioning in your regimen would help repair or even prevent hair damages.

4. Reduces breakage

Deep conditioning not only imparts moisture but also strengthens the hair and prevents split ends and breakage. If your hair is breaking too much or feels weak, then you should deep condition your hair regularly, at least once a week.

5. Improves hair elasticity

Dry and brittle hair lacks strength and is prone to break off easily. Deep conditioning helps improves the elasticity of your hair making it able to withstand any tension applied to it. Just like a rubber band is able to stretch and not break easily, so it is when you deep condition your hair regularly.

6. Softens your hair

Deep conditioning regularly leaves your hair feeling softer and more manageable for days. You can go a few days after deep conditioning without necessarily having to reapply your leave-in conditioner for those days.

7. Adds luster and shine to the hair

Frequently manipulation, product build-up, and heat usually leave your hair looking dull and lifeless. Deep conditioning helps smoothen your hair strands leaving them softer, silkier, and shining.

Types of deep conditioners

There are two main types of deep conditioner. We have the moisturizing deep conditioners and the protein deep conditioners. Let’s look at these two in detail;

Moisturizing deep conditioners

Moisturizing Deep Conditioners are designed in such a way that they infuse moisture into our hair strands. These deep conditioners contain water as their first ingredient. They may also contain aloe vera juice, glycerine, or even honey.
To identify these deep conditioners, they usually have words like ‘moisturizing’ or ‘hydrating’ inscribed on the product label.

Protein deep conditioners

Protein deep conditioners are designed in such a way that they infuse protein into our hair strands. We know that our hair is made up largely of protein which gives the hair strength and structure preventing it from losing its elasticity.

Protein deep conditioners fortify our hair strands with structure and strength. They contain ingredients such as hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed wheat protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, etc.
To identify these deep conditioners, you should look out for words like ‘Anti-breakage’, ‘repair’ or ‘strengthening’ inscribed on the product label.

DIY deep conditioners

Let’s talk about the good old do-it-yourself deep conditioner type. Now, this is not the type that you buy in the stores but this is the type where you use some kitchen ingredients to whip up a deep conditioner for your hair. This type could be a moisturizing or protein deep conditioner depending on the ingredients used.

Check out this 7 Easy DIY Deep Conditioners for Natural Hair.

Should you have both a protein and moisturizing deep conditioner?

Yes, you should have both a protein and moisturizing deep conditioner in your product stash. In other to maintain the protein-moisture balance in your hair, you need both types of deep conditioners. You can use a moisturizing deep conditioner every week and the protein conditioner only once a month.

Additionally, some deep conditioners are moisturizing but contain lots of protein. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You have to watch how well your hair does with the product. If your hair does great with the product, then you know you’ve found something your hair likes (more like killing a bird with two stones).

Can you use only a DIY deep conditioner?

As much as DIY is great and many naturals substitute it for the store-bought ones. I suggest you have all the different deep conditioner types because your hair needs different things at different points in time.

DIY deep conditioners are great but there is a particular magic ingredient that makes a store-bought deep conditioner act as one and no DIY deep conditioner contains this. That magic ingredient is a cationic ingredient. This is a positively charged ingredient that leaves the hair softer.

Here are some cationic ingredients that can be found in your store-bought deep conditioners that are great for the hair:

  • Distearlydimonium chloride
  • Behentrimonium chloride
  • Polyquartenium-10| Cetrimonium chloride
  • Dicetyldimonium chloride
  • Behentrimonium methosulfate

How to deep condition natural hair

The first step to deep conditioning your natural hair is to wash your natural hair thoroughly with a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. Then, you blot dry with a microfiber towel. At this point, your hair should be damp before applying your deep conditioner.

  • Section your hair into four or six sections.
  • Apply the deep conditioner thoroughly to each section paying extra attention to the ends.
  • Cover the hair with a shower cap or plastic bag and allow it to sit or apply heat for 30 minutes.
  • Rinse with cool water to close the hair follicles and allow your hair to air dry.

How to deep condition natural hair with herbs

Many naturals use ayurvedic herbs to deep condition natural hair. Some of these herbs possess great moisturizing, softening, and luster properties and hence can be used as a deep conditioner. Some of the herbs used include; Chebe powder, Henna powder, Hibiscus powder, Fenugreek powder, and Alma powder.

To deep condition natural hair using herbs, you would need to make a mask of the herbs. You can do this by adding some amount of oil or water to the powder and forming a thick mixture or by adding some of your store-bought deep conditioner to the powder.

Once you have this mix, begin applying it to your hair in sections till you coat all your hair strands with the mix, then, you cover your hair with a plastic cap for 45 minutes to an hour before rinsing off.

I should mention that deep conditioning your hair with a herb mix can really get messy and at times very difficult to remove (you may have to use all the water at home. lol!).

Should you deep condition your hair overnight?

This can be a very tricky question. I’ve heard some naturals say its a good practice but I have to disagree with that. Every deep conditioner whether store-bought or DIY typically has a stated duration for which it should sit in your hair. On average, most deep conditioners act within 15 minutes to one hour. Once, their acting duration is over, they do nothing to your hair again, sometimes they cause a reverse effect.

Therefore, leaving a deep conditioner in your hair overnight hoping it would work better is so false. You would rather be weakening your hair and causing more product build-up on your hair. As much as you want your hair to get enough moisture, protein, and other nutrients, you should also note that there is a limit to how much your hair can take. Avoid going overboard as much as possible.

How often should you deep condition your natural hair?

The state of your hair would determine how often you should deep condition. If your hair is damaged, you should apply a deep conditioner at least twice a week. On the other hand, if your hair is healthy, you should deep condition your hair at least once a week or once in two weeks. For those who like where protective styles, deep conditioners are an excellent way to reintroduce moisture to hair that has been tucked away for several weeks.

Read more: How to stop your natural hair from breaking.

What to consider before buying a deep conditioner

What your hair needs

It is important to know what your hair needs at different points in time. Does your hair need more moisture or protein? If your hair feels dry, hard, and breaks off easily, then it needs more moisture. If your hair feels lifeless, light, and without strength or elasticity, it needs more protein. Knowing what your hair needs is the first step to consider before buying a deep conditioner.

Your hair porosity

Knowing your hair porosity can mean the difference between using a deep conditioner or choosing a protein treatment. Hair porosity in simple terms is the level to which your hair strands absorb and retain moisture. Those with low porosity may benefit from using moisturizing deep conditioners while those with high porosity have hair that has too much moisture would benefit more from protein deep conditioners.

The product ingredients

Forget about what the product promises to do on its label, check the ingredients list. Typically, the first five ingredients are the most important. An ingredients lists for a really great deep conditioner may include Water, Aloe Vera Juice, Cetrimonium Bromide, Behentrimonium Chloride, Coconut Oil… This set of ingredients have been scientifically proven to penetrate the hair strand.

Your budget

Don’t go spending all your money on expensive deep conditioners if you can’t afford it. Look out for affordable options or better still buy local. There are local brands around you that produce very good deep conditioners at affordable prices.


Do your research. Check out what people are saying about the product. You can do this by checking the product website, reviews from hair bloggers, or from friends and family that have used the product before. This would help you make a better decision.

What the inscriptions on deep conditioners actually means;

  • Hydrating/Moisturizing: Great for adding moisture, shine, and smoothness to hair. Good for thick, curly, or coarse hair.
  • Strengthening/Fortifying: Good for damaged, over-processed, highlighted, weak, or brittle hair.
  • Balancing: Balancing conditioners are typically an in-between option. Not too moisturizing, but won’t dry your hair out.
  • Curly Hair: conditioners that are formulated for curly hair are typically very moisturizing and make an extra effort to reduce frizz.

The Takeaway

Deep conditioners are a great investment for your hair. Long, healthy hair is not the sum of a single, magical product but rather the outcome of great hair practices, one of which is deep conditioning.