Saturday, January 23, 2010

Choosing the Right Conditioner

The most important thing I've learned from experimenting with products and regimens for my daughters' hair is to read labels. Conditioners are formulated to do specific things for specific hair. A host of conditioners are made of expensive ingredients, and promise to deliver miracles. Many people hope conditioners will reverse hair damage. I try to keep my daughters' hair healthy by avoiding heat, and chemicals relaxers. I treat their strands gently. I encourage them to drink lots of water, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. We grow strong strands from the inside out.

I don't believe a conditioner will force my daughters' hair to grow.

I don't believe a conditioner will repair split ends.

I don't believe a conditioner will make my daughters' nappy hair shine like the straight haired image on the packaging.

I don't believe the weekly application of a conditioner will restore the moisture balance of hair I routinely stress and dry out.

I don't believe conditioners repair heat damage.

Some conditioners do strengthen nappy hair over time by putting protein back into the shaft BUT it's a sensitive process. Too much protein may render the strands hard and brittle. I haven't needed to artificially restore strength of my daughters' hair, because my goal is to prevent the damage from happening in the first place.

I use conditioners to detangle my daughters' hair, and to introduce another layer of moisture after washing.
Slip is a term used to describe a conditioner's ability to cause the shingles on the hair shaft to lay down. This creates a smooth surface which allows individual strands to slide against each other without snagging. I prize slip, because it greatly reduces my detangling time and makes the entire process more pleasant for my daughters. In my house, different conditioners work better for different daughters.

When testing conditioners for effectiveness, try one product at a time for at least a month, unless a clear negative outcome is experienced with the first use. Be careful to notice if your daughter's hair becomes dull, feels tacky, sheds excessively, or performs poorly over time. I've read that some people don't respond well to frizz fighting agents called "cones". You'll find them in the conditioner's list of ingredients with long words ending in "cone". The higher up on the list they appear, the greater their concentration in the conditioner.

Cones work by coating the hair shaft. Over time, they may weigh it down and promote dryness by blocking the penetration of water. A good shampoo is necessary for removing the build up of cones. If your daughter's hair responds poorly to cones, you will find many cone free natural conditioners.

If a conditioner is laden with ingredients I generally avoid it. Allergic reactions are more easily ferreted when we can easily identify what was offered. Simple conditioners, with a main purpose of moisturizing tend to be cheap and effective for us. A valuable tip I learned on the internet is to increase their "slip" value by mixing them with castor oil.

I use the following conditioners for my girls:

Suave Naturals (any flavor)

VO5 (any flavor)

Trader Joe's Nourish Spa

Trader Joe's Refresh

Like my shampoos, I water down my conditioners and apply it to my daughters' hair using a spray bottle. All my girls except Mocha Girl One (age 11) experience chalky build up unless I rinse conditioners from their hair completely.


  1. I love reading your blog. I went through bottles upon bottles of products for my kids hair. My daughter is easier, just some off the shelf conditioning cream with castor oil finally seemed to work best. Pantene conditioner - original - works good to get knots out. I comb out the knots under the shower.
    My son, with his fro - is a lot more work. In addition, he was having allergic reactions to every product, even 'made for baby' products. The products I now use by Mixed Chicks, conditioner and leave-in curling conditioner work great - nice curls without frizz, and his hair does not dry out. Its a bit pricy - but cheaper than buying product after product I can't use. www.mixedchicks.NET (please note .NET)
    I even use the conditioner myself - hey - straight long hair gets a lot of knots too - especially after rolling on the ground with two kids!

  2. Welcome Imke!
    I've been thinking about Pantene original for the longest! I will pick up a bottle. Thanks for the info on Mixed Chicks. They get great reviews, but I've never personally tried anything from them. I've also heard Beyond the Zone Noodlehead is good too--Sally's Beauty Supply. The thing to accept is that a person has to have curls that will clump for them to work.

    I hope more Moms chime in with their experiences. Your kids' hair looks fantastic!

  3. Hi there I've been reading your blog and am learning a lot from it. I have a daughter who is 2 1/2 with mixed hair just like mine. This past weekend I actually roller set her hair to see what it would do. I have always rollerset my hair. It turned out ok, but since I wasn't able to get everything set tight like they do mine in the salon, it didn't quite come out like how I was used to. Then I remembered that I usually get a relaxer about 3 times a year and that this is probably what helps my hair lay or roll straighter then hers. I don't want to relax her hair. So I am looking for ways to style her hair without it getting tangled. She has fine curly hair, rubber band tend to break her hair over time. I've tried the two strand twists and can't quite figure out how to do them so they look like your daughters. Do you have a video up that shows how you do it? When i've tried it, the hair keeps getting twisted up as I actually twist the strands... seems to me that's not right...HELP! thanks! prnani32

  4. prnani32--thx for you inquiry. How long is your daughter's hair? Sometimes when the hair is very long it can be difficult to do small twists and braids without tangling up the length below the strands we're working with. If this is the case for you, you'll have to work slowly making sure you keep the strands above taunt as you twist while keeping the two loose strands below separate --if that makes sense. One thing that may help is doing large twists. It may also help to coat the hair with a leave in conditioner--or twist while wet so the strands will stick together while you're working with them. I much prefer to twist my daughters' hair wet--despite the extremely shrunken twists I get because the coils are super tight.

    I am working on some videos to add to the site. Meanwhile, there are many good tutorials on youtube. Check this one out: She's twisting her long hair wet as I'm suggesting you may want to try for your daughter.

    I hope that helps.

  5. Here's a great tutorial by HoneyChild 36 on YouTube

  6. I love reading your blog. It helped me so much with the care taking of my daughters' hair. Thank you and bless you and your wonderful family.