I'll be the first to admit that I've always lived by the rule "the more conditioner, the better," but this isn’t best practice for everybody—even other people with dry hair like mine. Too much conditioner can lead to limp, weighed-down strands. So to get some guidance on how often you should be conditioning your hair, I tapped expert Ryan Trygstad, celebrity hairstylist and owner of Mark Ryan Salon in New York City.
How often should you condition your hair?
"I’m a believer in conditioning your hair after every shampoo,” says Trygstad. “Conditioners balance your moisture levels that were removed from the shampoo,"
When it comes to the exact science of conditioning your hair, you have to first understand your hair type and weigh in factors like how often you use heat to style, if you color it, and anything else that can make it dry or more prone to breakage like sun damage and exposure to harsh weather. For example, anyone with longer locks should definitely not skip out on conditioner since their hair is more prone to tangles and knots, which you'll want to prevent from forming if you can help it.
Whereas, if you have thin or oily hair, you may have heard that it’s better to skip the conditioning step sometimes to keep it from falling flat. Instead, Trygstad recommends still conditioning it with every wash for the aforementioned reasons, but to just not apply it to your roots. "I tell my clients with thinner hair to only condition the medium and the ends of the hair," he says.
Tips for deep conditioning your hair
When my hair is feeling extra dry, I'm always applying masks and conditioning treatments to bring it back to life. But when my hair isn't particularly stressed, I'm kinda bad about doing regular treatments or masks. This yo-yo approach isn’t ideal, as you can imagine. Consistency is key when it comes to conditioning, according to Trygstad, who says that the more regularly you give your hair an extra-hydrating treatment, the better your results will be. "I like deep conditioners and masks usually once a week," he says.
One caveat he adds is to always listen to your hair. "For example, in the summer when you’re spending time outside in the sun and swimming, I would condition more often to maintain your hair's moisture levels," says Trygstad. Anytime your hair is feeling dry, knotty, or brittle it's a sign that you could up your conditioning game. And if you're seeing flat, weighed-down, or oily looking hair (even when it's clean) you may want to opt for less conditioning treatments or a lighter hair conditioner.
Conditioner mistakes to avoid
Even people with the best intentions can make some common mistakes when it comes to conditioning. Probably the biggest one? Applying conditioner on the roots, as Trygstad warned against, unless you like hair that looks greasy and flat.
Another misstep you'll want to avoid is applying the wrong amount of conditioner. "If your hair feels heavy and weighed down after you dry it, you've used too much; if your hair still feels dry and rough, you haven't used enough," celebrity hairstylist Michelle Cleveland previously told Well+Good. Her recommendation is to start with about two quarter-sized dollops and go from there.
Once you've applied the right amount of conditioner to the correct part of your hair (read: the ends and mid-shaft) you'll also want to make sure you're leaving your conditioner in your hair long enough so it can work its smoothing magic. According to Dominic Burg, PhD, trichologist and chief scientist at Évolis Professional, that's several minutes. "Most people think they are leaving it on that long but in reality, they are rinsing too soon," he previously told Well+Good. So consider shampooing first, then applying conditioner before you start the rest of your show routine so that it has plenty of time to soak in and work its magic.
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