Hair conditioning myths Episode 08

In our last episode we explained how hair conditioners work. This week Perry and I talk about the different types of conditioners and bust some conditioning myths. Plus – more fascinating personal anecdotes about Perry’s family!

Show notes

Rinse off vs Leave on

Many natural oils and other simple ingredients can do a good job of conditioning when left on your hair. But rinse off conditioners need special ingredients that are designed to stick to hair after rinsing.

Beware of marketing spin

Deep conditioners, hair masks, 3 minute miracles, Beauty Balms, are all essentially the same thing. BTW rinse off conditioners were originally called “cream rinse” because they were emulsions.

Types of conditioners

Deep conditioners can be better for your hair if they contain coconut oil, one of the few ingredients that actually penetrates hair to protect it from the inside. But the product needs a LOT of coconut oil to make a difference. Beware of regular conditioners with just a drop of coconut oil (if it’s not the first or second ingredient, forget about it.)

Protein conditioners are nothing really special. They are typically “classic” conditioners with a jacked up level of protein. Proteins are not essential ingredients in conditioners. (They can be chemically modified to stick to hair but they are not as effective as quats and silicones.)

Are 2-in-1 shampoos the same as conditioners? NO! Essentially, it is 2 ingredients added to a regular shampoo, a silicone and a suspending agent. The silicone is usually an ingredient called Dimethicone and it is what makes the formula conditioning. The suspending agent is Glycol Distearate and it is what keeps the silicone from separating out of the formula. The way it works is this when the bottle of shampoo is sitting on the shelf, the suspending agent is able to hold the silicone in the formula. But when you put the shampoo on your head and mix it with water, the suspending agent does not work so well. The silicone separates out, stays behind on your hair where it can provide conditioning. That’s the theory anyway and it actually works. However when creating 2 in 1 products the formulator is always faced with trade-offs: It won’t clean as good as the best shampoo and it won’t smooth hair as well as the best conditioner. But it does do a little bit of both in a single product which maybe worthwhile.

Myth 1: Conditioner works better the longer you leave it on

False because 90% of the benefit from standard conditioners come from coating the surface of the hair. That’s not a bad thing – in fact, the best thing you can do for hair is to smooth and protect the cuticle (that shingle-like layer that covers your hair.) Yes, you have to take the time to work the product through your hair to make sure it’s evenly distributed (especially if you have a lot of hair.) But once the conditioner has had a chance to spread through your hair, leaving it on longer doesn’t make it do anything better. This part is very important – YOU HAVE TO WORK THE CONDITIONER EVENLY THROUGH YOUR HAIR! That process may take you a few minutes. But once you’ve done that part well, you can rinse.

Myth 2: Conditioner “suffocates” hair

False. Even if you didn’t wash all the silicone out, we’ve never seen any data that indicates that a small amount of silicone residue acts as a “barrier” between hair shaft and moisture. On average, your hair contains about 8 to 14% water by weight but it will equilibrate to the ambient humidity. In other words, it will pick up moisture when it’s very humid and it will lose moisture when it’s very dry. Slight silicone residue won’t substantially change that. Now, if you slather on a heavy layer of a silicone hair treatment product, that’s a different story! But either way remember that hair is not alive and doesn’t need to breathe!

Myth 3: Silicone coats hair with “plastic” or wax

False. Typically the Pantene brand is associated with this claim. In reality, Pantene Shampoos and Conditioners do not contain wax. Although Pantene has unique and proprietary ingredients based on recent technological advances, the classes of ingredients (silicones, fatty alcohols, cationic polymers and cationic surfactants) are used consistently across the hair care industry.

Pantene Shampoo and Conditioners do leave behind conditioning ingredients (such as coacervate conditioning complexes, liquid crystals, and terminal amino silicones) for healthy hair benefits such as moisturization, damage protection and shine. Pantene shampoos and conditioners are designed to work together, depositing conditioning ingredients that will wash out of the hair with the next shampoo. When women feel they have build-up from their shampoos and conditioners, it is often a sign that the products they are using are too heavy for their hair, and they may be more satisfied with a lower conditioning version.
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