Thursday, January 30, 2014

Deep Conditioning, Part II

Part I dealt with the whys and wherefores of deep conditioning or intense conditioning. Now we're getting into the nuts and bolts.

How deep? It's probably a misnomer to call a rich conditioning treatment or a high-protein treatment "deep conditioning." Most of the things you put on your hair act on the outer surface - the cuticle. Ingredients like oils and emollients and cationic conditioners that soften, add flexibility, seal in moisture, increase lubrication, proteins that form water-hugging films are intense conditioners.
©Sciencey Hair blog 2014
But some ingredients actually do penetrate into the cuticle layers and may go even deeper than that. Those ingredients include Cetrimonium bromide and Cetrimonium chloride, panthenol, hair-penetrating oils, amino acids and peptides. If your hair tends to get too soft with conditioners - these are ingredients you might want to include in deep conditioners in small quantities or not at all. But if you need extra softness that lasts - look for these ingredients in your deep treatments! 

Porosity - The Starting Line: Bleached or quite porous hair takes up more conditioner by adsorption than unbleached hair. Anywhere from 8 to 20 times as much conditioner is adsorbed by bleached hair than by unbleached hair - the larger number is for hair bleached twice.
If your hair is porous (bleached, highlighted, permanent or demi-permanent color) and it feels dry or looks dull often; if it is damaged by swimming or sunlight or high heat hair styling or chemical straightening or curling, then it will adsorb a lot more conditioner than somebody whose hair has not experienced those things. Finer (narrower) hairs tend to be more easily damaged by these exposures than coarser (wider) hairs. 
©Sciencey Hair blog 2014
More porous hair can tolerate a lot more deep conditioning than less porous hair without becoming overly soft. 

Before you apply: Apply a (water-based) deep conditioner to freshly washed hair from which you have squeezed excess moisture. Clean hair lets the conditioner have the best contact with your hair for the best end result. Too much water in your hair might dilute the treatment and certainly could make a mess if you're leaving the treatment on for a while.
©Sciencey Hair blog 2014
Application: Whether you're deep conditioning just the lower portion of long hair or every bit of your hair - you need every hair to have good contact with the conditioner you use. Section your hair - even if it is short you can work in sections. Apply your deep treatment to each section and smooth it in with your fingers. If you've ever made paper mache, you know how to smooth the plaster over the strips. This is how to apply the deep treatment to your hair. Alternatively, you can comb a deep treatment into your hair, but a comb can't feel how saturated your hair is with the treatment, so double-check that no strands are left behind by smoothing your fingers over sections to make sure your treatment saturates every bit of every section. This step is important! Good coverage means a better end result.

Make sure the areas that need the treatment the most, get the most treatment applied to them.

Concentration: Greater concentrations of cationic conditioner (or protein) in your conditioning product equals more conditioner adsorbed to the hair - but you rarely know what actual concentration is present in a product you buy. If you suspect a product has a lower concentration of conditioning ingredients based on your results, you may be right. 

That concentration of "active ingredient" determines how much "conditioning" will adhere to your hair, but it's not as simple as:  "Product A has 5% cationic ingredients and Product B has 10%, therefore your hair gets twice as much conditioning from product B." Depending on the cationic ingredient in question as well as its concentration there can be just a little more or a whole lot more adsorbing (adhering) to your hair when the concentration of cationic ingredient is higher. And even more if there is cetyl alcohol or cetearyl alcohol or oils in your deep treatment. 

Take-away message: Let your hair tell you which product works best for you - even if that product does not work well for other people - or vice versa.

©Sciencey Hair blog 2014
Time: Leaving a cationic conditioning ingredient or protein treatment  on longer can lead to greater adherence (adsorption) of conditioning ingredients on your hair. 30 minutes of deep conditioning can give you twice as much conditioning for your hair ingredients as 5 minutes can. If your have porous hair or are experiencing lots of breakage, you might want to go the full 30 minutes. If your hair does not soak up lots of oils and conditioner, you probably don't need as much time. But you never know until you try it! This applies to protein treatments as well; some people with porous hair or fine hair can do 30 to 60 minute protein treatments with heat with no ill effects. Others with more coarse hair or lower porosity hair can only use a protein treatment with heat for a few minutes before hair becomes too soft or too rough.

Temperature: 95°F (35°C) temperatures for deep treatments can almost double the amount of cationic conditioning ingredients that adhere to your hair compared to the closer-to-room-temperature 73°F (23°C).  95°F (35°C) is close to body temperature - so wrapping your conditioner-soaked hair with a waterproof cover, then a towel or hat to keep the body heat in might get the job done. That is actually preferable for people who have sensitive scalps because adding much more heat to your scalp can send you into a flare-up of itchy scalp unhappiness. Otherwise - wrap with a warm, wet towel, sit under a hooded dryer on low heat or in the sun. If you're doing a quick deep or protein treatment, just keep your plastic-wrapped hair under the water spray while you shower. Don't wrap your ears in with your hair - that's extremely loud.
©Sciencey Hair blog 2014
Pre-shampoo oil treatments, a special situation: Here are several rather different scenarios in which a pre-shampoo oil treatment may be better than a water-based deep conditioner, or at least as a supplement to or a prelude to a water-based deep conditioning treatment. Pre-shampoo oil treatments are left on for a few hours or overnight (2-8 hours) before shampooing or cleansing the hair and are applied to dry hair.

1) Lower porosity hair: Maybe everything seems to build up on your hair or regular conditioners just seem to make your hair limp. Pre-shampoo oil treatments have "removal of excess conditioning" built into the technique. They give your hair the lubrication and weight it needs without leaving build-up. You may still need a rinse-out conditioner to detangle.
2) Hair that contract (shrinks) when wet - tightly coiled hair. A water-free oil pre-shampoo will not cause shrinkage that would encourage tangling. It will give your hair lubrication, softness and flexibility and well as resistance to swelling in water and buffer it from the shampooing that follows.
3) Hard water. Conditioning ingredients that have positive charges and shampoos that have negative charges interact with the minerals in your water and may encourage build-up on your hair. For the most part, oils do not interact with minerals in hard water. Oil before shampooing also is a good pre-treatment if you plan to use a chelating shampoo (containing EDTA or citric acid, for example) for hard water.
4) Long hair with normal to oily scalp and dry ends. Pre-shampoo oil treat the ends of your hair only.
©Sciencey Hair blog 2014

Over-doing it: Over-conditioning is a real possibility. Your hair may become too stretchy, too soft, limp, curls may fall, or you may have a feeling of residue in your hair. Over-proteining can leave hair rough and stiff or overly soft and limp. In either case, you chose products or ingredients that were wrong for your hair, or perhaps were the wrong concentration (too much rich conditioner, too much oil, too much humectant, too much protein), you left it on for longer than necessary for your hair, or you didn't need to use heat if you did.

Under-doing it: On the other hand, if you don't get enough out of your deep treatment, you may need to leave it on the full 30 minutes, or use heat if you did not, increase oils or use more conditioner or more humectant or choose a more balanced conditioner or use some protein.

Summary!
You want the deepest, most intense conditioning:
Use a deep conditioning treatment on freshly cleansed hair with the excess water squeezed out.
Work in sections and smooth the treatment over each section for good coverage.
Add oils or full-fat yogurt or mayonnaise or choose conditioner with oils and humectants like warmed honey. Use protein if it works with your hair.
Leave the treatment on for 30 minutes.
Use heat to keep your conditioner-coated hair near body temperature.
©Sciencey Hair blog 2014
Your hair is lower porosity or conditioners or oils seem to sit on top or make your hair limp, oils just make it greasy, butters leave tacky residue: 
1) Pre-shampoo oil treatments to get around the build-up problem, soften and lubricate your hair, adding a little weight for controlling flyaways.
OR
2) Post-cleansing deep treatments with conditioner: Add hydration-boosting ingredients like warmed honey or protein (protein for fine and medium or porous hair, only sometimes for coarse hair), use oils sparingly or choose a product that is not heavy in oils or butters. Leave the treatment on for 3-5 minutes with heat or without heat if you're afraid your hair will become too soft. Adsorption is also how build-up is born so while your lower porosity hair doesn't grab on to a lot of conditioner, you might want to limit your exposure.
3) Skip the creamy and oily stuff entirely and deep-treat with protein (like gelatin), warmed honey mixed with water, aloe vera gel mixed with warm water and a little glycerin (make sure the pH is 4.5 or 5), get some Hydroxypropyltrimonium honey (Honeyquat) and add 3-5 drops to any of these.
Use a deep conditioning treatment on freshly cleansed hair with the excess water squeezed out.
Work in sections and smooth the treatment over each section for good coverage.
©Sciencey Hair blog 2014
Hair somewhere in between? Impatient?
Heat and longer conditioning time both can double the adsorption of conditioner to your hair. Let's say your blob of deep treatment contains 20 units of conditioning. These numbers are purely hypothetical for illustrative purposes.
Then we'll say If you just put it on and rinse it right out, you get 10 units of conditioning. 
If you want to double that to 20 units of conditioning, you can 1) leave the conditioner on with heat for 5 minutes or 2) leave the conditioner on without heat for closer to 30 minutes.
Maybe you use heat (shower cap, under shower spray) for 3 minutes and get 15 units of conditioning. 

You actually have a lot of control when it comes to deep conditioning and intense protein treatments. 
Sometimes getting these treatments to work for you is just a matter of getting the ingredients, application and timing right.


Journal of Cosmetic Science Vol. 4 No. 3, 259-273 September/October 1992
Assessment of the substantivity of cationic quaternary compounds to hair by potentiometric titration using the surfactant electrode.
NGHI VAN NGUYEN, DAVID W. CANNELL, ROGER A. MATHEWS, and HANS H. Y. OEI, Redken Laboratories. 1992

Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemistry Vol. 4 No. 5, p. 85-94 1994
Adsorption to keratin surfaces A: continuum between a charge-driven and a hydrophobically driven process.
C. R. ROBBINS, C. REICH, and A. PATEL

Journal of Cosmetic Science, 60, 85–95 March/April 2009
The effects of lipid penetration and removal from subsurface microcavities and cracks at the human cuticle sheath
MANUEL GAMEZ-GARCIA

Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair 
Robbins, 1994. 3rd Ed. Springer-Verlag, New York

36 comments:

  1. Hello! I have read your posts regarding moisturizing low porosity hair, and about the pre-poo oil treatment (and of course this post). My hair seems to have the characteristics of low porosity, but the ends are frizzy and seem to be a little dry. My question is, what do you think is the best way to deep condition my hair? I know you have a recipe for the pre-poo oil treatment, but the problem is I hardly have any of the ingredients on hand. However, I always have honey, coconut oil, and olive oil at home. Some people really enjoy coconut oil as a hair mask, but I've also read it not working for others. Would using my regular conditioner with added ingredients work best? Thanks in advance! :)

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  2. Hello Sarah,
    There are a few things you might try and doing one doesn't exclude doing any others. 1) Oil pre-wash with olive oil on the ends. This will provide good lubrication and help prevent the ends of your hair during washing. Coconut oil is really great for this, or a mixture of oils, but as you mentioned, coconut oil sometimes doesn't agree with people's hair. Olive oil can penetrate the hair (and you already have some), so that is a good pick. You don't need to get your hair extremely greasy, but use enough oil so that you can feel your hair is a little extra oily and heavier than usual. Heat is not as helpful with olive oil as with coconut oil or sunflower oil, though you can apply heat if you like.
    2) Deep condition the ends. To make a homemade deep conditioner, add honey to your conditioner (up to 50:50 of honey:conditioner) along with a couple drops of olive oil. Leave it on your hair for 5-10 minutes with some gentle heat (wrap in plastic and cover with a towel or blow with a hair dryer). You can go up to 30 minutes if 5-10 minutes doesn't seem like enough, but you might need to be careful to avoid over-softening your hair. The honey moisturizes and softens, and the olive oil adds lubrication as well as helping more conditioner bond to your hair.
    3) If neither of these works quite as well as you'd like, or they leave your hair overly soft and feeling mushy when wet, you might need to try some protein in addition to oils and conditioners.
    Good luck!

    Often we need to deep condition or apply oil pre-wash not only to the ends, but also the top layer of hair. That top layer tends to be more dry and need extra care. Use a lighter application of oil or deep conditioner if the top layer doesn't seem dry, but don't leave it out. I used to ignore this and wondered why the top layer of my hair was so...strange. I still tend to skimp for the top layer because I'm afraid I'll over-do it.

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  3. Hello WS, great article as always! My hair is fine and really likes protein. I will take your advice and pump up the protein and see what results I get. I've been deep conditioning since going natural and cutting off my relaxed hair. Lately I've been thinking that it doesn't do much for me though, I've just always done it because of the benefits I've read about. Since my hair likes proteins maybe I should try more protein conditioners. When I use moisturizing conditioners my hair doesn't feel especially moisturized and one time I skipped the DC and went straight to my leave in with no ill effects.

    I have a question though, does fine hair and porous hair have some of the same characteristics? For example, fine hair might dry quickly just like porous hair would. I can't tell if my hair is porous or not because some of the same characteristics seen in fine hair might be seen in porous hair. If this is true, do you have any suggestions for accessing whether or not I have high porosity hair?

    Thank you!

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    1. Hello Kala X,
      So you cut off your relaxed hair (that responded well to protein?) and now your natural hair doesn't seem to be giving you the same noticeable difference with protein? I think maybe your relaxed hair might have been more porous than your natural hair. In that case - it would definitely need more protein when relaxed than when un-relaxed and you'd see a more noticeable response to protein. Porous hair tends to dehydrate more easily (and protein reduces dehydration) and it has more places for protein to bond than lower-porosity hair. So if your hair is porous, it needs extra help from protein and holds on to more of it. Assuming your hair is less porous now, it probably needs milder proteins or less-frequent protein and can't hold on to a lot of protein.
      So maybe your hair needs a bit less protein now than when it was relaxed. Or maybe you need to leave it on longer (with some heat) to give your hair more time to bond with the protein and encourage it to do that with the heat. Lower-porosity hair needs help (more time and gentle heat) for both protein and deep conditioners.
      If none of those things work to give you a "wow!" result with protein, it may be that your hair just doesn't need it as much anymore.
      ----------------------- Fine hair that isn't especially thick and low density (thin) hair of any width tend to dry more quickly than thicker hair. Often with porous hair, you can actually have a longer dry-time because the hair takes on more water during washing, so dry-times can be misleading for porosity. But they tend to be spot-on for hair density. Build-up can make hair dry quickly too.

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  4. Best I have ever used is the Karmin ;) :D

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  5. Hi, WS!
    I'm sorry to ask so many questions of you – but I was wondering what you do to remedy the effects of too much protein and dryness at the crown of your hair (i.e. near or nearer the roots) for fine, low porosity hair?

    I still need to counteract the effects of all the protein I once used, and hoped to do a deep treatment. I've never done this before, so I'm rather nervous! I'm discovering that many things only leave my hair limp or heavy, rather than helping with softness and definition.

    Because I used a protein-containing shampoo (2% protein total, with keratin and quinoa) for a long time, I thought the crown of my hair might need help as well. I've got short curls there that won't gather on their own anymore, and this seemed to happen or worsen after using the shampoo with the higher protein content.

    Thank you so much!

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    1. Hello again. I like conditioners with Cetrimonium bromide for deep conditioning because it can penetrate into the hair shaft for extra softness and flexibility. Some protein-free ones are Burt's Bees Hair Repair Shea & Grapefruit Deep Conditioner, Giovanni Root 66 Max Volume Conditioner, and Paul Mitchell The Conditioner (original). Magick Botanicals Oil Free Conditioner also has that ingredient and no protein.
      If you have a conditioner you like already - you might just go the DIY route - add a few smallish drops of oil and leave it on for about 5 minutes with gentle heat (i.e. wrap your hair in plastic and let the shower spray run over it to warm things up). That will give you a mild deep conditioning treatment due to the shorter time. If you think it helped, but it could be better - leave it on longer next time.
      The oil is to help more conditioner bond with your hair for more softness. You don't necessarily need it, but don't be afraid to use it either. Cetyl alcohol in the conditioner formula will help the conditioners bond with your hair too.

      That's my 2 cents-worth. Start out with a mild treatment, make sure you get good coverage and use heat, but don't condition too long on the first try. You can always condition more next time, but if you over-do it on the first try - you're stuck with it for a while!

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  6. I haven't found a conditioner formula that seems to works for me yet, so I looked into your recommended conditioners. The Magick Botanicals Oil-Free and Burt's Bees conditioners look very interesting! I'd never seen cetrimonium bromide listed as “cetrimide BP” before.

    Would you dilute a deep treatment, like you would with normal showering? Like a teaspoon of conditioner in a teaspoon of distilled water, with (or without) a few drops of oil?

    I was concerned about over-doing it...! My hair is very long. If I used my bare hands to apply the treatment, would there be a particular “feeling” to let me know I've used enough but not too much? (i.e. it feels a little more slippery than normal, but I can't see or really feel conditioner in my hair?) Also, if you're applying a light / thin treatment in general, should the application be the same or even lighter on your crown?

    Thank you so much!

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    1. You might dilute a deep conditioner if you feel it's too heavy or is not being distributed well enough. The "deep" comes from using heat and leaving it on longer than usual. As long as you have good coverage with conditioner, you're fine.
      With the Magick Botanicals - there are no humectants. I need humectants in a deep conditioner! VegeMoist or honey or really ripe, well-pureed banana would be a big help.
      Honestly, what you should feel during application is going to be determined by you. You do want to feel that every "side" of every hair is covered. The ends should be quite coated and slippery. Your hair should feel slippery-to-slimy, but not swamped with too much sliminess. If you feel like you have good coverage, but your hair doesn't feel flexible enough and you don't want to add more conditioner - add some water by cupping your hands and scrunching it in before covering your hair to apply heat.
      Most people say to go lighter with conditioner on the crown. But if you have frizz or sun damage and your hair doesn't get greasy easily - you need some conditioner on the crown area too. Less than the ends. Good luck!

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    2. There is one question I forgot to ask... Would the strength of the heat (via shower spray) applied to your hair affect the strength of the deep treatment (unintentionally making it stronger, etc.)? For example, using very warm water vs. mildly warm, or wrapping your hair in a thin, tightly-bound plastic-bag vs. using a rigid, roomy shower-cap?

      My shower-cap is rather rigid and roomy, and doesn't lie in such a close proximity to my hair (for the most part); but when I use plastic-bags, they're very thin and do lie directly against my hair. At first I wondered if heat being directly against my hair – as it would be when using a plastic-bag – would help my hair absorb more, but then I wondered if it might also lead to an accidental over-conditioning, even if only left on for 5 minutes.

      Thank you again!

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    3. In order to get hair to swell slightly with heat, you only need water a bit warmer than body temperature - comfortable shower temperature should be fine. The closer-fitting the wrap, the more heat your hair will gain. We're counting on conductive heating - heat transfer from objects that are touching. So the closer you pack your hair in, and the closer it is to the wrap covering it (for more contact with warm water) - the more your hair will warm up. I'll vouch for that too, I can't get all my hair properly warm in a loose shower cap, so I usually use a plastic baggie and pack my hair in tightly and press out any air bubbles trapped in there.
      I suppose over-conditioning is a possibility, but it's more likely that if hair is heated unevenly during the process, some areas in better contact with the warm surface will get more conditioning than others and that produces an uneven, and undesirable result too.

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    4. Okay! I'll try to do as you do with a plastic-bag.
      Thank you again!

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    5. Hi, WS!
      I tried a 5-minute deep treatment with Burt's Bees Shea & Grapefruit Conditioner, but was puzzled to notice no difference afterwards. When wet, my hair was still stiff / rough and very brittle; and once dried, it was still dehydrated and very brittle, fuzzy and undefined, limp and straggly.

      Before applying the conditioner, I gently squeezed the length of my hair and blotted the roots to ensure I got any excess water out. I did not add extra ingredients to the conditioner, and thought I used enough to thoroughly coat my hair. The conditioner didn't make my hair 'slippery'; instead it made it feel more 'smooth', more like a thick creamy / buttery styling gel than a typical conditioner. In that respect it was a bit more difficult to feel in your hair than a typical conditioner, too. (But I do know I used quite a lot of it.) After I finished applying it, I tightly bound a plastic bag over my scalp and tied it at the nape; then I tucked the lengths of my hair into the remainder of the bag, folded the bag over to tighten it, and bound it again.

      For the most part, I used mildly warm water for heat (my water temperature adjusts slowly, so not long after it's “just right”, it starts to get too warm or cold). As I stood under the shower, some water infiltrated the lower portion of the bag with my length in it. I tried to squeeze it out and hold it shut then. Later I wondered if that diluted the treatment and caused the disappointing result, but I hadn't been aware of water infiltrating the crown of my hair, and it too was unchanged.

      In reviews of this conditioner, people mentioned it “not doing anything”; but since it sounded safe for my autoimmune issues and my hair, I thought I should try it.

      I was wondering if you've any ideas about what happened (or what didn't happen), and what I should do? Do you think it's something I did wrong, or that this conditioner just isn't “right” / going to help?

      Thank you again!

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    6. Two thoughts: 1) Your hair did not like that particular conditioner. 2) Your hair may not need deep conditioning. 3) Deep condition before washing. To deal with (#1) "Your hair may not like this conditioner" - you might try other conditioners, you might try diluting the one you already have (this one), or you might try leaving it on longer. To deal with (#2), time will tell! But to deal with #3 - you might try diluting the conditioner a bit with water and applying it to dry or wet hair, leaving it on for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes with some heat - then go about washing your hair as usual. Sometimes you'll get a better result this way. Burt's Bees used to make a conditioner that they recommended using like this, and it's kind of like their new formulas.
      It sounds a little counter-intuitive to condition first, but it's not necessarily a bad idea. You remove the excess during washing, and the conditioner itself will help dislodge some of the stuff you'd usually want to wash out of your hair anyway. Keep trying! There are so many different ways to use a product and if one doesn't work, another might.

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    7. Hi, WS!
      The product got some odd, mixed reviews. It ranged from working wonders to “not doing anything” to making hair even drier and rougher. I didn't **think** I noticed my hair being worse-off after using it....just that it was completely unchanged. It didn't leave my hair as overly-soft or as limp as that amount of my regular conditioner would, though, which was a benefit! My first (actually, my only) guess is that the Burt's Bees formula doesn't have enough that my hair can absorb or really "likes", etc.

      I'm certain my hair needs deep conditioning of some form – for something to soak in, soften, and hydrate it – just that it might take a little more experimenting to find the “right thing”. (My father calls it, “Zee ghrate ehxperimuntation!”) I've tried so many other things – oil pre-wash treatments with different oils and durations, different styling gel and conditioner formulas, different hydrating sprays – and nothing has made a dent in my “hair woes”.

      I think perhaps my biggest discovery was my hair's issue with protein – I never would've suspected it! I noticed a slight improvement after completely omitting protein from my products; especially from my shampoo (no more plastic-y, squeaky hair!). I also had an experience that seemed to confirm the adverse reaction to protein. I'd over-conditioned the lengths of my hair, so it went from matted and poky (from all the protein I once used) to overly-soft (but still dry and brittle). Then I used a small amount TJ's Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner (during an experiment with cationic-free conditioners) – which contains a smaller amount of proteins – and it instantly reverted to more matted and poky. Interestingly, even as the lengths of my hair were overly-soft, the crown of my hair – which I'd used protein on, but not conditioner – remained more matted. I took this all as “evidence” that my hair isn't doing well with protein, and needs balance...deep conditioning is the only place I know to turn now, especially as my hair doesn't “soak things up” readily.

      Because I battle with severe chronic fatigue and many other debilitating health issues, the less time and fuss I need to spend, the better. I hoped that I could find a solution with a 5 to 10 minute deep treatment. I considered using Burt's Bees Conditioner as a “base” and adding softening and hydrating ingredients to it (specifically, overly-ripe banana, honey, and avocado oil); then I wondered if I were wasting time with the Burt's Bees Conditioner, and ought to move on. (I think lately I've been wearing out, and more desperate for a positive result...but, desperation and hurrying are never good... for one, “You rush a miracle, you get a rotten miracle”!) Then I considered making a treatment with just overly-ripe banana, honey, a little sunflower or avocado oil, and maybe adding just a little homemade conditioner, to prevent over-softness. Unfortunately, that's where my ideas ended...

      I did think of a couple questions, though (I've always got those...):

      1.) Have you heard of the unresolved adverse effects of protein preventing a person's hair from becoming hydrated, or affecting their experience of hydration?

      2.) Have you ever heard of people having trouble with panthenol, especially people who have trouble with protein? I read that it's considered a strengthening ingredient, and since I frequently use it, I wondered...

      I can't thank you enough for being so patient and helpful! I've learned a great deal more ever than before about my hair and scalp since consulting your information and corresponding with you. It's helped me to interpret my hair's and scalp's behavior (something I couldn't really do before), and to understand the broadness of options and possibilities – that even one ingredient has many different application and use-method applications: if it doesn't work one way, it might another! That relieved a lot of stress.

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    8. Questions: 1) Yes, unresolved accumulation of protein (or protein + build-up-provoking ingredients) can make it difficult to get hair to feel hydrated or moisturized. That typically requires a clarifying shampoo or chelating treatment for those with hard water.
      2) Yes - panthenol can overwhelm easily-weighed-down hair and low-porosity hair, making it limp and maybe have that "waterproof" feeling. You can also get that from things like aloe, henna, cassia, and various herbal extracts or herbal teas, depending on how picky (or downright contrary) your hair is.

      Definitely don't rush a miracle. :) Good movie, good advice.
      I reckon your hair might be low-porosity based on what you're telling me. Which means you won't necessarily get a "big WOW" from most treatments. Your hair probably whispers what it likes rather than shouting. Low porosity hair (if it's not baby-fine) doesn't need protein too often. Maybe once per week for medium-slightly coarse hair, especially if you're out in the sun or using any heat. Less often for coarse hair.

      If Absolutely Nothing Works - then there may be the hard water issue to deal with, a build-up provoking ingredient to deal with. And after all that - low porosity hair (or hair that acts like low porosity) needs a lot of sneaky tricks to get it feeling hydrated. For example, I get the most bang for my hydration buck from using protein as needed, from using oil pre-wash treatments and using flaxseed gel in my hair for hydration. I use flaxseed gel to style my hair - but sometimes I apply it to dripping wet hair and add some more water and it's more like a leave-in conditioner. Maybe massage in a dab of conditioner (or oil) once dry to keep the "finish" soft. Do what works for your hair and your lifestyle. Each little thing that "clicks" for you will build itself into a successful hair-care routine that works. Maybe in a few weeks, or a few months, or a year or two. Complex problems - complex solutions! You're going to be a more complex person for it, because you have to dig deep to work this out and that creates a solid foundation for problem-solving in other areas of life. Things bigger than hair.

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    9. If you used penetrating proteins (which I did!), could that only be resolved through using penetrating softening ingredients? I used a homemade clarifying shampoo (w/ 15% C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate) after using the Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner, but the protein-like effects remained.

      My hair does exhibit signs of some kind of build-up, regardless of anything I've tried as of yet. It's very darkened. It sometimes lightens up and is less limp after a day or two of sleeping on it, as if something has been rubbed off. Then sometimes it doesn't light up at all. It has baffled me for a long time!
      I noticed my Dehydroxanthan Gum Styling Gel caused a thick waxy build-up when I used more than 0.50% Dehydroxanthan Gum. At that small amount, it doesn't cause the same noticeable residue, but I'm unsure if it isn't still causing issues. Recently I tried a Styling Gel with just Irish Moss powder to watch for improvements, but it only seemed to to make my hair fuzzier, messier, and stragglier. It even did that when I combined it with Dehydroxanthan Gum at just 0.25%.

      According to our water-hardness-testing kit, my water-softener rendered our extremely hard water quite soft (even after a few uses since recharging), so I don't think hard water is the issue right now. I also still use EDTA in my regular shampoo, so hopefully that will chelate anything remaining in the water. (Although, especially because of my how dry and easily-irritated my scalp is, I've been steadily using less and less shampoo... I try to apply more to the length than the crown, because of the build-up issue.)

      I think I've also noticed my hair being less limp when I use cationic-free conditioners, and that cationic ingredients don't impact my dry-hair matted tangles. I've done very little experimenting with cationic-free, and haven't been able to make a cationic-free conditioner myself, so I'm unsure of numerous things – such as if cetac and cetab are problematic. So far, the pattern seems to be that if I can detangle well with it in the shower, the end result is about the same – but more or less limp, depending on the ingredients.
      But even the store-bought low-cationic and cationic-free conditioners I've tried have caused problems. The Burt's Bees Conditioner left my hair very darkened, and this didn't rub off. It contains some shea butter, acacia gum, and a couple extracts...perhaps those are other things to avoid.

      It sounds like this darkness / limpness issue is something to put at the top of my “To Figure Out!” list! It also sounds like I should experiment with a preserved Flaxseed Gel instead of the gels I've been using, and to acquire a non-cationic emulsifier to experiment with cationic-free conditioners. Currently, the only non-cationic ingredient I have specifically for conditioners is cetyl alcohol; but I got the impression that it can't emulsify alone. Perhaps until I get another emulsifier, I can lower the BTMS-50 to 0.50%, increase the cetyl alcohol to 4%, and still have it emulsify 1% essential oils and a few drops of carrier oil, without causing as much hair issues.

      Yes...I've never got a “WOW” result from anything I've ever used before – except a bad one!
      If you don't notice positive effects from using conditioners for deep conditioning, nor just oils, could low porosity hair benefit from using “pantry item concoctions”? Banana, avocado, coconut milk, etc (esp. a combination of them)? Or would the nutrients be too difficult to absorb and benefit from?

      Your “getting” my Princess Bride reference brought an enormous smile to my face! :-) It's one of our most favorite films.

      Thank you so much for your kind, thoughtful response...it helped me immensely, and gave me more courage and “stamina” for the future experiments!

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    10. This sounds like you are getting build-up and do have low-porosity hair. Cetyl alcohol is a thickener, it doesn't emulsify. You'd need an actual emulsifier to go with it - Emulsifying wax (Cetyl alcohol + Polysorbate 60) or something else. The "darkening" can happen with aloe or glycerin or shea butter or herbal extracts - lots of things. Xanthan gum can cause that too (and Dehydroxanthan gum). I don't usually weight that out - if I thicken flax gel with xanthan gum, I'm using just under 0.5%.
      For hair that gets build-up easily, you may need a thinner conditioner - with or without cationic ingredients. If you have a conditioner with a lot of cetyl alcohol, it might make your hair feel heavy no matter what. The easiest "cream rinse" to make is one with a little bit of cationic conditioner for its emulsifying effect. It will stay stable longer. You need a humectant - probably not glycerin or panthenol, based on your comments. When I made a cationic-free conditioner, I think for your conditioner, if you want to use 0.5% BTMS, you might be able to use 3-4% cetyl alcohol, some humectant (preservative) and try that out. You Do have to dial down the other creamy ingredients when you add BTMS because cationics and cetyl alcohol magnify the effects of each other.

      I was recently away from home and for a week I had real soft water with a good pH (my water at home is pH 10.5 - very high). My hair was so shiny! My skin looked so happy! Bummer.
      So - is your water high-pH? Contact the treatment facility (unless you have well water) and ask them. If that's the case - your hair might really love a distilled water final rinse.
      --------
      Low porosity hair can benefit from banana as a humectant (and honey) - but sometimes those will over-soften, so watch out for that. Coconut milk softens too and may darken. Avocado might be good as a pre-wash treatment. Some people love yogurt - it makes my hair very tangly. Most "food items" have a superficial effect - which is fine.

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    11. Yesterday I tried making a conditioner with 0.5% BTMS-50, but once I started heating it, I was concerned it wouldn't emulsify – even with the 4% cetyl alcohol I added. I ended up increasing the BTMS-50 to 1%, and using 1% cetac instead of 2%.
      I also lowered the amount of VegeMoist I used from 3% to 0.5%. When I first tried using VegeMoist in a conditioner (a recent formula with 1% BTMS-50, no cetyl alcohol, and no cetac), I noticed my hair seemed fuzzier and messier than normal, and it matted together as it dried. I wondered if lowering the percentage to 0.50% would help (as I did in the recipe at the top of this response), but unfortunately it looks as if it doesn't! I showered today using the new conditioner, and even after using a clarifying shampoo and diluting ½ a tsp of the conditioner, it was still very fuzzy, instantly matted up, and very darkened... It probably didn't help that I accidentally used a little regular shampoo (which contains glycerin and vegemoist), mistaking it for clarifying shampoo (which has no humectants at all).
      I also needed to go back to using Crothix to thicken my shampoos, because I had an autoimmune reaction to the HP-starch we bought. I don't know if crothix causes hair issues or not, though... it's non-ionic, and has “re-fattening” properties for the skin.

      In general, the humectants I've tried so far seem to cause problems (aloe, glycerin, panthenol, honeyquat, vegemoist...I think that's all I've really tried so far). But on a brighter note, I used a basic Flax Gel with a little honey, and it worked much better than the other gels I've used! My hair seemed less straggly and limp in some ways, and the curls (or individuals hairs) were a bit tighter and bouncier, despite being very fuzzy, dry, brittle, matted together, etc.

      I was hoping to purchase some e-Wax NF (INCI: Cetearyl Alcohol and Polysorbate 60, from LotionCrafter) so I can experiment with making cationic-free conditioners. I'm concerned that even low levels of BTMS-50 might be causing problems, and without cetyl alcohol, it's watery and very difficult to use. I end up losing a lot of conditioner or being unable to measure how much I use, which creates its own set of problems.
      If I made a cationic-free conditioner with e-Wax, would I need to use a lot of cetyl alcohol?

      It looks like I'll need to clarify again, and make a new batch of shampoo and conditioner...! I'll omit glycerin and VegeMoist from the regular shampoo. I'll also omit cetyl alcohol and cetac from the conditioner and use 1% BTMS-50; but I'm lost about what humectant to try. Do you think honey might be safe, or would something else be better? (If you have any recommendations, perhaps I can purchase it along with the e-Wax.)

      We don't have our own well, but our water is derived from wells and is treated.
      We recently used our pH meter to test the pH of both our softened and un-softened water. The pH of my softened water was around 7.75. Interestingly, the softening of the water increased the pH! Our extremely hard, un-softened water had a pH around 7.59.

      Okay! Thank you! I guess if I do try food items in my hair, I'll stay away from coconut milk...
      Banana is a humectant?! How interesting!

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    12. I don't normally do this in comments, but if you see at the top-right of the page, there is a link to GoosefootPrints. That's my shop on Etsy for hair analysis. The mini analysis ($16) is adequate for getting all your ducks in a row (width, porosity, elasticity) - does your hair need protein, etc. It might answer a number of questions for you, between the client's notes and the measurements I take and all the other details that are "sewn together" in the process, you can make better-informed plans for hair care. And discuss problems/formulations via e-mail, which is more convenient.

      Can you use xanthan gum for a thickener in your shampoo?
      Or how about completely blowing off thickener and putting your shampoo in a "foaming pump" bottle instead? Thickening is such a pain in the - whatever - with shampoos.

      I'm not sure how well a 1% BTMS conditioner will stay stable, but I've made it with 2% (and diluted it when I used it) and it stayed stable.

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    13. Hi, WS!

      I talked to my father, and it sounds like we're going to go ahead and do the $16 Mini Hair Analysis.

      With the answered questions I send along with the hair collection, should I include info on recent changes, discoveries, things I notice during processes such as shampooing – or should this be saved to discuss via email after you've analyzed the hair collection?

      Unfortunately, my scalp is so sensitive, easily dried out and irritated, I need to use something to reduce the irritating effects of the surfactants. Crothix seems to do this a bit, and doesn't appear to cause scalp / skin issues itself. When I used HP-starch, irritation from surfactants increased. I'm guessing xanthan gum would behave similarly.
      Since the Crothix seems to be the most scalp-friendly thing I have now, perhaps I shouldn't worry it too much.

      Okay! I'll try a conditioner with 2% BTMS-50, no cetyl alcohol, no cetac (so it doesn't thin the conditioner), and a little bit of fresh honey (a few drops?) as the humectant. Or I could “Be brave, little Piglet!” and try Irish Moss...I'm unsure if it's a problem yet. The problem I attributed to the Irish Moss seemed to turn out to be from the VegeMoist.

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    14. Hi, again!
      My father and I are a bit confused about the extracting of hairs for the hair analysis. If we understand correctly, the hairs should endure the whole normal wash-day routine (washing, conditioning, styling, drying), should be taken from different parts of the scalp, and should have the root (bulb at the tip) still attached; but the hairs should not be pulled out. Do you then extract them by placing a pair of tweezers as close to the scalp as possible and gently plucking? It sounded as if snipping the hairs off wasn't the most ideal way of collecting them.
      Thank you so much, and I'm sorry about the confusion!

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    15. Hi again...!
      After more extensive talking, my father would really like to do the $30 analysis, to ensure I know as much about my hair as possible.
      However, we're still confused about some instructions. For the hair collection, I was tempted to use all hairs that were loose during showering / detangling, because there are typically a lot of loose accessible hairs then. But I was concerned that this might cause problems with your analysis. 1.) Those hairs might have received more damage than still-attached-ones, 1.) I won't know if the hairs came from all different parts of my head, and 3.) I won't know which end is the root.
      Could those factors significantly (negatively) impact your analysis? If so, perhaps I should collect both loose hairs and hairs I extract via tweezers or scissors from different parts of the scalp instead.
      Also...if using loose hairs from detangling, is alright to condition to ensure safer detangling, then shampoo the hairs again to clean them before packaging them?
      Thank you again, and I'm very sorry for all the questions!

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    16. For hair collection, you can either collect hairs as you detangle (after rinsing out conditioner). If you're not using styling products - you can collect hairs from dry-hair detangling too (like right before washing). Those are hairs that are already falling out on their own. If you're impatient like me, you can cut hairs near the scalp and tie them together at the root-end with a piece of string or thread.
      The main difference between the Mini and the Full analysis is the Mini has fewer hairs to collect and there are no photos. If you are okay without the photos, you can go the less-expensive route. I know how expensive shipping is for all these ingredients you're working with and how frustrating this is and I don't like to be saying, "try this and that" because so many things seem to be causing your hair problems - it would help to have a better idea of what those basic hair "properties" are and then make a plan based on those facts. Hopefully we can save you some money (and frustration) in the long run.
      I have three absolutes for mailing hair: 1) Hair must be dry before packing. 2) Don't use slider-top bags. Zipper and fold-over bags are fine. The bulky sliders are ripping envelopes open in the mail. 3) Giving me more detail in your notes is far better than less. I've had some short novels, so don't worry about that - I read it all. It helps me do my job well. WS

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    17. Hi, WS!
      My father and I talked about it again, and agreed we probably didn't need the photos; so, we'll do the $16 analysis. Thank you for clarifying, and thank you so much for your graciousness and thoughtfulness. I can't tell you how much all your help and efforts means to us!

      I do use a styling gel after conditioning (I'm using a preserved Flax Gel now), so I'll collect hairs just after rinsing out conditioner, and rinse the loose hairs a second time (to ensure the excess conditioner is off). I'll also attach a note explaining how I gathered the hairs, the products / ingredients / routine I used, and what the results were, to the answered questions and notes I send you.

      For the hair collection, should I discard / not send hairs that appear broken or are obviously deformed from damage? My bathroom floor and counter is always littered with broken hairs, and I notice broken and deformed ones among the loose hairs from detangling.
      I'll also try to collect some shorter hairs from around the hairline that I didn't apply styling gel to, so you'll have some samples where you know which end is the which. I'll make sure to tie the root-end of these ones.

      Also, is it alright to use a clarifying shampoo before gathering hairs? I clarified last time I showered, but then used a conditioner that seemed to contain a problematic ingredient...I wanted to try to remove as much build-up as possible from the hairs I send to you, especially as, with most of the hairs, I probably won't know which end is the root.

      Hopefully I'll be sending you some hairs between now and sometime next week!

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    18. Send the damaged/broken/deformed ones too. That may tell us a whole lot. It's okay to use a clarifying shampoo, use whatever you need to. Otherwise collecting hairs gets a bit cumbersome.

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  7. I'm sorry – I just realized I forgot to add something important to my last question! Do you think there are ingredients that can be added to the Burt's Bees Deep Conditioner (to the amount to be used; not to the bottle) to make it work? Make it softening, hydrating? I don't think I noticed extra trouble from using the “undoctored” conditioner, and it detangled nicely, so I thought it would make a good “base”! I considered adding just a little oil, but was concerned that that would be too small a difference to really help soften and hydrate. I also was concerned that anything else I might add unsupervised, I might overdo. (I considered adding overly-ripe banana, honey, and a little avocado oil.)

    Thank you again!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I think you can add some oil to improve softening and lubrication - any oil you like. Avocado oil is a good choice! It doesn't take a lot of oil to make a big difference in a conditioner. I might add some water to make spreading easier. You might also add a little of whatever your usually rinse-out conditioner is to include another cationic conditioner for better wet-hair detangling.

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  8. Hey great blog!
    I'm having trouble understanding whats going wrong in my routine. I have very low porosity hair and once a week i do a hot oil treatment with sweet almond oil, tea tree, and peppermint. I then shampoo and condition. My problem is my hair feels really rough and dry when I wash out the conditioner unless I only leave it in for a couple minutes. It even doesn't leave me enough time to detangle. Is there anything I can do to avoid this?
    Thanks!
    Nikki

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    Replies
    1. Hello Nikki,

      I wonder several things. 1) Are you using too much oil for your oil treatment? Sometimes less oil is better. 2) Have you tried a long oil treatment with oils that might "soak" into the hair like coconut, sunflower, red palm…)? 3) Do you deep condition your hair? Does that work better than the oil treatment? 4) Does this happen with other oils, or just sweet almond?

      I have heard from others that too much oil does leave hair feeling dry or stiff. With low porosity hair, you don't want to drench your hair with oil, just use enough to add a little weight, a little shine.

      What you're describing is the same reaction low porosity hair can sometimes have to an ingredient that overly-coats the hair shaft, be it aloe (for some people) coconut oil (for some people), too much protein (especially for coarse, low porosity hair). That's why I'm wondering if you either used too much oil, or it your hair just doesn't get along with sweet almond oil.

      It isn't necessarily unreasonable for hair to need conditioner in it for a few minutes to really help detangle. But in that case, you might look for a different conditioner that has better wet-hair detangling qualities. Behentrimonium chloride and Behentrimonium methosulfate are good ingredients for wet-hair detangling. On my page "Product List by Category" the top list has conditioners with good slip for detangling. But if the oil is causing this difficulty, then changes need to happen with your oil, the amount you use, the timing, etc. Lots to experiment with!

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  9. 1) At first I was, but after reading your blog :) I reduced it and it really made it difference. 2) I've tried coconut but it didn't work for my hair, the sweet almond oil is the best thats worked so far but i haven't tried the others. 3) This is where my confusion lies, my hair feels soft after washing out the hot oil treatment, but not after conditioning. I've tried different kinds of deep conditioners and regular conditioners, and played around with time. But it seems that the only way i get the slippery soft feeling is if I wash the conditioner out immediately.

    Also I get the same rough dry feeling if I leave my acv rinse in for more than a couple minutes if that helps.

    I've read a lot about it on your blog but I'm still confused about protein and if this could have anything to do with this? From my understanding hot oil treatments and conditioners don't really have protein, but could this also be a case of over-conditioning? I'm an economics major and this makes my brain hurt haha.

    I can't thank you enough for your feedback this really means a lot thank you so much!
    Nikki

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    Replies
    1. Hot oil treatments don't contain protein. But it sounds like there is some interaction between the oil and the conditioner, even though there's a shampooing in between. I think I misunderstood part of what you wrote the first time. So if you 1) hot oil treatment 2) shampoo 3) condition and rinse out conditioner without leaving it on very long -- then your hair feels slippery-soft. But if you were to leave the conditioner on for a longer time, your hair would feel dry?
      Well, that might kind of make sense... If your hair is low porosity and you put the oil on, it's spreading all over and doing its lubricating thing. And when you shampoo, you may not be removing ALL that oil. So when you quick-condition, you're getting a nice detangling effect, the oil and conditioner might help each other "condition" and all is well.
      I wonder if leaving the conditioner on longer is actually removing any leftover oil from your hair.
      Or I wonder if leaving the conditioner on longer is depositing too much conditioner? That's over-conditioning of a sort.

      But anyway - you already know what to do about this and that's honestly the most important thing - just do a quick-condition when you use an oil treatment. You get out of the shower fast, you get slippery-soft hair. Why not - you've already done a lot of lubricating and some softening with the hot oil treatment. The oil treatment plus conditioner may = a unique version of deep conditioning for your hair.

      If your hair likes it, that's the most accurate information you're going to get. Hair will always tell you when you've done something wrong. Eventually.

      The ACV - I'm not sure if that's a red herring or not. ACV tends to feel really slick when rinsing after a few minutes on. But longer and it can start to make some people's hair swell and start leaching out good things from the interior of our hair. That's not always a porosity issue, some people's hair is extra-sensitive to vinegar.

      Enjoy your herbal/sweet almond oil treatments!

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  10. Hello WS. I was wondering, is a pre-shampoo oil treatment or a deep conditioner still necessary when co washing or using a gentler cleanser or only when shampooing or clarifying?

    Also, in regards to pre-oil treatments and deep conditioners, do you need to do both or just one or the other? Thank you.

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