How to SHORTEN Your Deep Conditioning Time


By Geniece of Beautifully Made

When I began my healthy hair journey in the fall of 2009 I was Ms. Diligent.  I washed and deep conditioned my hair weekly, alternated protein and moisturizing treatments, baggied during the week and wore protective styles 24/7. After a few months, I realized that my efforts had paid off. My hair retained length very well and my hair felt thicker and healthier.  As time went on I began to think “Can I achieve these results while reducing steps in my regimen?”.  The work I put into hair care became time intensive.  I eventually stopped baggying, realizing that moisturizing my ends regularly was sufficient. I also started to wear more “out” styles, recognizing that my hair wasn’t going to fall off if I wore a braid out a week a month. Still, my wash routine was rather long and, quite frankly, I didn’t always have time to set aside 4-5 hours every week to wash my hair.

By the time I started to think about how I might remove steps from my wash regimen I had identified hair products and ingredients that helped my hair retain moisture. For example, whole leaf aloe vera gel was the supreme moisturizer and castor oil (used very lightly) was an excellent sealant. Because my weekly products were so helpful to retaining moisture I began to think I could cut back on deep conditioning after washing my hair. So I would pre-shampoo and sit with a shower cap under a dryer for 20 or so minutes. Because the products I used during the week were natural I felt that I could deep condition my hair without having to wash my hair first. After my pre-shampoo I would wash my hair, using a mild cleanser, and my hair remained soft and manageable.

Another short cut that I learned is using conditioners that can function as both a wash out conditioner and a leave in.  My conditioner of choice is Oyin Handmade’s Honey and Hemp conditioner.  I can simple pre-shampoo and detangle my hair, wash it, then apply the conditioner. I will keep my hair under a shower cap for several minutes then I can style my hair. I wouldn’t do this method with conditioners that have silicones, but for conditioners that are natural I find that this is a great short cut deep conditioning method. You can also substitute a conditioner and generously apply aloe vera and a light oil (i.e. jojoba) and deep condition after you finish washing your hair. You won’t have to step back into the shower or go under the sink once done to wash out the product, but rather apply your moisturizer and style your hair.

These short cuts have shaved about 1 hour off my routine because post-wash deep conditioning would require me to go under the dryer for about 30 minutes then go into the shower and wash it out.  I still do a traditional deep conditioning treatment if I plan to apply heat to my hair. I use heat rarely so for the most part the short cut method has been my method of choice.

What tips and tricks do you have to cut down on deep conditioning time?



Island girl raised in the most royal of NYC's boroughs. Proud nerd, social scientist, educator and recovering awkward black girl. When not listening to NPR, trying to grow spiritually, or detangling my fro, I'm searching for the best shrimp and grits in the Queen City.

18 thoughts on “How to SHORTEN Your Deep Conditioning Time

  1. I hate to mention this because I love this site, but this has bothered me for a while now. BGLH contradicts itself. Not too long ago, JC wrote an article about how you shouldn’t deep condition before you wash your hair and you just advocated it in this article. I get it, you guys are different writers and have different hair (although I have yet to see JC’s hair), but for a website that basically functions as an encyclopedia for natural hair care, a little more cohesiveness would be appreciated.

    I guess I would like it if there was a better separation of fact and opinion.

  2. In JC article she said that deep conditioning on clean hair is the best way to go so the benefits of the conditioner can fully penetrate the hair. Also in this article Genenice made a point to say that since the products used are natural then she can get away with doing the deep condition before washing. I agree with both points and have tried both ways with success. Thats why every naturals motto is “Do what works for you.” It stands true for this situation. But i totally understand how it would be confusing especially if your newly natural i say try out both methods till you find what you like :)

  3. Oh an to add to my previous comment an this article i prefer deep condish before shampoo because it serves as my detangler, deep condish and pre wash treatment which saves me alot of time. After rinsing out the conditioner i proceed to using a mild cleanser (mild is key here, u wouldn’t want to deep condish your hair this way if you also plan on clarifying your hair with a sulfate shampoo which cause you too lose all the benefits of the treatment) after that i go straight to applying my moisturizers and sealer before twisting my hair up. I do think this method works best if u use natural products because if u style ur hair with products that contain non penetratin ingredients such silicons ur hair may have too much build up to absorb the benefits

  4. I normally don’t try to take short cuts with the curls…I rather enjoy pampering my hair. As a single parent I don’t get much me time. However, just recently the temperature had dropped to the single digits and my hair was mad at me. I cleansed with a clay wash and then used my leave in and virgin avocado oil then sealed with castor. Super soft hair and hydrated like I did a deep conditioner with heat.

  5. I cut it down by not deep conditioning at all lol. I might just be the laziest natural ever though lol. I have 4c hair and I’ve retained great length with just washing, spritzing (h20) and sealing with castor oil. I guess it really just boils down to what works for you and your preference. Thankfully my simple routine works and is very much preferred.

  6. Regarding comments on who is the correct authority on DCs I suggest you try a method for a month to see if it works for you.
    I have taken the bits of others routines that work for me and can now wash, condition and replait my hair in 2 hours if I stick to my schedule and plan in advance.
    Sometimes I will DC for an hour sometimes for 15 minutes depending on how much time I have, whether I prepooed the night before etc.
    I find that if you look after your hair well during the week you don’t have to DC your hair for a long time.
    Sometimes I won’t wash my hair for two weeks, I’ll keep it in a protective style and I can still get away with a 20 minute DC.
    Newbies you will find that once you have a regime that works for your hair you will need to spend less time devoted to it.
    I spent most of 2011 completely hair obsessed but by the beginning of 2012 I was over it and happy with my routine. Good luck to you out there :)

  7. Like Geniece, I leave my deep conditioner in. Since I cowash 2x a week in addition to my 1x a week wash day, I decided to break things up over the week as opposed to having one very long wash day. While co-washing 1x a week, I detangle and deep condition (leaving it) in and wash & condition on another day. I spend 15-45 mins (when deep conditioning) on my hair at any one time. It works for me.

  8. Yeah, once you get the hang of a routine it becomes easier to see where you can cut steps. I nearly always prepoo because I hate getting in the shower twice. Check out this video for my deep conditioner/prepoo treatment.

  9. Bottom line you find what works for you and your hair… sometimes I co-wash. Once a week I shampoo using an all natural soap from Green Tea Soap Bar which has honey, goats milk, green tea extract and other essential oils. I deep condition once a week using Dr. Miracle, and use my handmade scalp treatment which has raw shea butter, tea tree oil and olive oil for hair growth. For daily maintenance I put a little water on my hair and seal with a small amount of olive oil. My hair feels soft and fluffy and is always moisturized. I also wear a bonnet at night…Boom!

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