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Why I Stopped Deep Conditioning Overnight

• Mar 5, 2013

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By Shelli of Hairscapades.com

Yesterday, I told you that I was up late at night setting my hair. Well, what I left out was the reason I was doing this. You see, I washed my hair around 6 pm or so and applied my deep conditioner at about 7. After eating dinner, watching Beyonce’s half-time performance during the Super Bowl, and waiting a few minutes for them to get the lights back on in the stadium, I fell asleep on the couch. Wei woke me up around 11 pm and I was like, “Ugghhhh. Gotta wash this deep conditioner out and set this hair.”

Now, in the past, I would deep condition overnight in a minute … shoot, in a millisecond. But, over the course of 2011–2012, I learned about the importance of protein,  protein/moisture balance and that I could, in fact, over-condition my hair. I realized that the very soft feeling that my hair had for most of 2011 was because my hair was over-conditioned and that the crazy shedding that I was experiencing in fall 2011 was likely my hair breaking, because it didn’t have enough tensile strength.

However, though I began to incorporate protein into my regimen and felt a great improvement in the strength of my hair and saw my curl pattern return, I still slept in deep conditioners often. Now, the thing is, I didn’t do this to get any additional benefits, rather, I would sleep in my conditioner out of sheer laziness. Sometimes, I’m tired and I just don’t feel like washing it out.

But then, this fall, I read two very interesting and informative articles:

via The Natural Haven

Deep Conditioning: Effect of Time and Temperature/Heat*

1. Increasing the time you leave conditioner on hair allows more of it to adsorb with a maximum adsorption at 20- 30 minutes.

The key ingredients that can stick to hair (surfactants, hydrolysed protein, silicones, polyquats etc) will do so within seconds of applying the conditioner. If left on hair for longer, the amount will in general double within 10 minutes. If left on for another 10–20 minutes, the amount will increase by another 60–100% of the mark set at 10 minutes.

However after 30 minutes from initial application, there are no more increases in conditioner adsorbing to hair. The reason for this is that the hair conditioner simply has no more places on the hair where it can stick to…….all gaps which it can plug and all surfaces where it can attach are occupied. …

[W]hen conditioner is heated to 35°C, at 10 minutes there is slightly more than 5% on hair and at 30 minutes there is slightly more than 10%. Therefore temperature increases adsorption. The rule however remains the same in terms of no further conditioner sticking to the surface after 30  minutes.

*There are two charts in this post that are very helpful in providing visuals for the effects of time and heat on deep conditioning.

and

Do You Need to Deep Condition Your Hair?

A study done on nails (same keratin protein as hair) was performed to find out why nails get weaker with repeated water exposure. The study found that exposing nails to water for over 15 minutes (remembering that at 15 minutes the protein is saturated) led to the keratin coiling different from normal and this was linked to softening and weakness (BBA,pp 210–216,1999).

There are many naturals who will condition their hair for hours at a time because they like the softness that it develops. If you are in this group, you are someone who likes over-conditioned hair. The softness you are feeling is most likely related to the change in the keratin and you should be careful when handling your hair when it is that soft as it will be weaker until it has time to recover its stronger conformation.

(Man, I just LOVE learning about the science behind hair and products!!)

Well, after reading that 1) Conditioning over 30 minutes does not provide any additional benefits as adsorbtion plateaus and 2) Conditioning for hours at a time causes a a change in the keratin that results in softening and weakening, I started re-thinking my post-wash, deep conditioning habits. Now, though I have pretty much stopped deep conditioning overnight and often only deep condition for 30 minutes to an hour, I still condition for 3–4 hours on occasion. But again, it’s not to get any additional benefits … it’s just because I don’t feel like getting up to rinse my hair and style it!! I KNOW!! LOL!! But, I’m really working on keeping deep conditioning down to 30 minutes or a max of an hour!!

Now, although I don’t do post-wash deep conditioning overnight anymore, I still sleep in my pre-poo (Vatika Oil mixed with Aubrey GPB and/or Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose). The reason I do this is because the study done on the benefits of Coconut Oil for pre-pooing demonstrated the effects with overnight application, so that is what is recommended. I also pre-poo my dry, not wet or dampened, hair. However, the Aubrey conditioners do contain water as the first ingredient … so I’ve been torn about mixing them with Vatika Oil for my overnight pre-poo. However, for now, I’ll continue this practice as my hair seems to do great with the combo and doesn’t feel excessively soft. I think the protein in GPB and the “protein-retaining” properties of coconut oil may have something to do with that! And, you know the saying, if it ain’t broke …

How long do you deep condition? Do you deep condition overnight?

About hairscapades

Just a girl and her curls.

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74 Comments on "Why I Stopped Deep Conditioning Overnight"

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Rachelle
Guest

I’m transitioning and all I read about is conditioning and keeping moisture. But this really made me think about what I do with my hair… I’m an over conditioner lol! But as I keep learning I will be taking notes of these tips. Thanks!

SJ
Guest
I also stopped this practice. When I was relaxed, I was always taught that the longer you deep condition your hair, the better! But I found that my fine strands were TOO soft when I deep conditioned overnight. I never understood why I shed so much broken hair when I was so gentle to my hair, used cone-free natural products, and protectively styled my hair 90% of the time. Then I found the Natural Haven’s article and understood where the breakage came from! Now I have used consistent protein treatments to help rebuild the elasticity, but I wish I knew… Read more »
Lisa
Guest

I deep condition with heat for 15–30 minutes once every week to 10 days. And about once a month I use protein.

Chicago Chica
Guest

I try to deep-condition on a weekly basis, and then only for 30 minutes. I’ve never been an advocate for overnight conditioning for my hair. I tried it once, and it wasn’t for me.

Tia
Guest

yep. a 15 minute TOPS deep conditionning is all I really need.Overconditionning makes my hair feel extremely weak.Plus a short DC makes for a more comfortable night of sleep.
Btw, good article!!

Sassy24
Guest

I deep condition for 45 minutes, I think im gonna knock 15 minutes off of it. I deep condition overnight once thought it was too much.

Tabatha
Guest

There are conditioners that have protein in it. You can try that. I love my coconut oil especially in the winter. It keeps my hair moisturized and mangable. I just started using it on my hair cause I would normally use it on my body and that was it, then my mother reminded me that she used to use it in my hair when I was little, so I was like, “Hmmm. why not”. So glad I use it now.

Jeanetta
Guest
I do not deep condition overnight because I hate sleeping with soaked, goopy, oily hair; the crinkle of the plastic covering my head disrupts my sleep (I toss and turn during the night); even with a tight plastic cap some product STILL manages to leak out and make a bit of a mess; and I simply don’t trust something being left in that long and being unaware of what it is doing to my hair (natural products or not). Plus, it extends my getting ready time in the morning, which is a no-no for my schedule. One hour once a… Read more »
deb
Guest

I do not deep condition overnight because I hate sleeping with soaked, goopy, oily hair; the crinkle of the plastic covering my head disrupts my sleep”

YES! It’s what I hate the most about overnight DC’s and why I stopped them. It’s just not that serious!

binks
Guest

This! I tried to do it twice and I must say…the worst sleep I ever had…lol. I don’t do overnight deep conditioning anymore because of that fact. I try to leave the deep conditioner on my hair for 30 to 45 minutes top anything after that “ain’t nobody got time for that…lol”. I believe if the product didn’t work in enough allowed time then it is not going to work. Plus, I have been reading an interesting article on the issue of what is actual deep conditioning and does it truly work or not.

Jailyn
Guest

Glad I read this. I actually learned some things to keep in mind for my next wash session which is coming up soon. I also learned that adsorption is a word and what it is (the english/grammar nut in me was freaking out: “WHY is there a D where a B should be???” until I googled it)(:

Jc
Guest

lol Jailyn, one of those thumbs up is from me. I have been trying to get people to use the word adsorb for a while now, it really is a different word and process 🙂

To Shelli — I love seeing the practical use of the science info, thank you so much for citing my blog 🙂

hairscapades
Guest

Thanks for all the great information you share Jc!! It helps me better understand why some things work and others don’t and also assists me with “diagnose” the situation when something seems to be going right or wrong!!

Shelli

Caramelcurls
Guest

I deep condition under a hooded dryer twice a month for about 20–30 minutes, and steam with protein once a month for 30 minutes. I try to keep my regiment short and sweet: pre-poo, shampoo, condition, style.

deb
Guest

i just deep condition with rhassoul clay/evoo/honey for a couple of hours.…I think overnight deep conditioning every week is such a bad idea and even though the damage to the hair won’t be immediate or visible, it will be there. Too much of anything is not good. I do think overnight conditioning is a good idea if you are dealing with protein overload, it’s a great quick fix. I’ve been there…

lola bird
Guest

I stopped deep conditioning. i’ve found using a good conditioner and leaving in for 3–5 minutes as well as using a sulfate free shampoo has made my hair alot better

mangomadness
Guest

I don’t do post-wash deep conditioning overnight anymore, I still sleep in my pre-poo (Vatika Oil mixed with Aubrey GPB and/or Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose).”

Hmmm…I would call that an overnight deep condition.

Once a week, I do an overnight deep condition on dry hair prior to washing. I cover my hair in a plastic cap and a beanie hat before bed — it’s not messy or noisy at all. Deep conditioning this way leaves my kinky, coily, Afro-textured hair super moisturized — and saves me from jumping in and out of the shower.

Jo Somebody
Guest
Ditto this! It continues to work, so I continue to do it AND it suits my lazy lifestyle. Unless you’re washing your hair daily, anything you put on your hair stays there all day AND overnight. Granted the plastic cap makes a big difference, but a hat, headscarf or wig would also keep the products in a warm environment, especially if as advised, we line our hats with silk. *shrugs* I will never understand the concept of needing someone else to point out to you that something is not working in *your* hair. Styling advice ok, new ideas fine, the… Read more »
Lola
Guest

Wow! This is really making me rethink my current regimen. I wash my hair once a month and when I do I always deep condition. I slept overnight in my conditioner because I was so tired. After reading this I will not do that again!

Desi
Guest

I’m a huge conditioner/ deep condition fan. One question I have is whether the hair was left wet overnight or allowed to air dry? All I use is conditioner the majority of the time, and I feel my hair is stronger for it. When I allow my hair to do an. “Overnight treatment”, my hair is totally or mostly dry once I’m asleep.

Jacky
Guest

Thanks for the post,i learnt alot!

D.P.
Guest

Great article.
I love deep conditioning overnight though. I think it’s a part of my regimen that I will not get rid of. I know you can over moisturize, but its my main source of moisturizing. I workout often so I am constantly rinsing my hair. Deep conditioning overnight once a week is what saves my hair.

Tiff Dizzle
Guest

I follow the directions on the bottle if it says leave in hair 10–15 min with heat I do that if it says leave in hair 3 min and wash out I do that. My hair is super thick and since I don’t have a twa anymore I really don’t have any time to do doing extreme conditioning to my hair if it wont benefit my hair

kiesh
Guest

I never DC’d overnight or anything like that. I do everything in the shower…I just don’t have the patience/time. I find that the time it takes me to shower and shave is all the time I need to leave the conditioner in my hair. It doesn’t feel any less soft than when I’ve left it in for 30 minutes or longer so I don’t bother.

Asea
Guest
I also love overnight DC’ing but with oils. I pre-poo overnight all the time — with a castor, avocado, coconut oil, and rosemary and tea tree oil for my itchy scalp — and my hair LOVES IT. I do not DC overnight with a creamy DC anymore because I found that it did actually dry my hair out at times. In the morning I wash or cowash and then DC for a few hours. My faves are KBB Lucious Hair Mask and BASK Honey Mask. I also always check the strength of my strands. I take shed hair and pull… Read more »
cacey
Guest

i forsook the practice of deep conditioning when i quit flat ironing my hair. i found that it was no longer necessary.

shay
Guest

40 minutes max with a cap or 20 under a dryee…

AGrlCanMAC
Guest

I remember when JC did that article. After I read it, I promptly stopped and haven’t looked since. I haven’t deep conditioned in years. I leave conditioner on for about 15–20 minutes and keep it pushing. It has saved me time and my hair still looks and feels great.

Tanya
Guest

The Natural Haven has been a hair savior for. I love that site! I stopped doing overnight deep conditions years ago as well. It’s just no bueno for me.

Tanya
Guest
I pre-poo for several hours with a mix of coconut oil, avocado oil, rosemary oil, and vitamin E oil. I do wet my hair first and then apply the oils warm. Then I put on a bag (not a cap, a bag, lol) ank leave it for up to an hour, but sometimes more (often more, accidentally). I’m not worried about this combo as it is all oil based and the coconut oil helps with preventing hydral fatigue once I wash. But I do deep condition with every wash, after the shampooing step. I try to stick to 30 minutes… Read more »
lilkunta
Guest

hwo do you know the science behind deep conditioning, coconut oil, sufectants, etc. Are you a trichologist ?

hairscapades
Guest
Lilkunta, are you asking me? If so, I’m not a scientist, but Jc who wrote the article that I referenced is. So, I’m just a regular liberal arts educated natural hair connoisseur :). Jc has a BSc and PhD in Material Science and researches her articles using published studies, peer reviewed articles, etc. As I commented in response to Jc further above, I find that learning the science behind hair helps me understand my own experiences sometimes and also can help me “diagnose” problems or understand why something is working for me. It’s another piece to the puzzle for me.… Read more »
ChicaRizada
Guest

I’ve seen many articles about DCing & whatnot, & though the studies are valid, I have to say that there are always exceptions. I’ve tried DCing for lesser time, & I just don’t see the same results. My hair has a lower porosity, so it benefits from a longer DCing time in my experience. The info in this post was great, though! 🙂

All Things O'Natural
Guest
Greetings, ChicaRizada I too am a low porosity natural, which is actually quite common amongst naturals. What is truly helpful for me and I strive to inform other naturals who wish to know how to deal with different porosity types of hair is that with low porosity due to our cuticle layer being extremely tight, the use of heat while conditioning helps. Whether by use of a steamer (my fav) or a heat cap. The heat helps to lift the cuticle so that proper moisture is infused into the strands. My hair has truly thrived off of this method and… Read more »
Sophia
Guest

Your hair looks great!– I noticed that the bigger the hair, the bigger the earrings :0)– Awesome!

Kelly
Guest

Wow this might make a few “curly girls” nervous. A lot of curly girls follow Lorraine Massey’s or Teri LaFlesh’s methods of using conditioner not formulated to be a leave-in in their hair to “clump” and define curls. Then they don’t wash the conditioner out for a week. Also, there are people that just apply conditioner to their hair as a moisturizer, as I do, and haven’t experienced any problems — yet. If I do notice shedding, I’ll stop. However, best advice? Do what works for your hair.

hairscapades
Guest
Hi Kelly, Jc actually did a post on that topic too!! Using a regular conditioner as a leave-in and allowing it to dry on hair (hair isn’t left wet, baggied, overnight) is a bit different. Here is her post on that: http://blackgirllonghair.com/2012/01/is-conditioner-meant-to-be-left-in-your-hair/ As you can see, if you shampoo periodically and keep a regular conditioner off of your scalp, it is not necessarily an issue. I used to leave regular conditioner in my hair as a styler all of the time, shampooing once a month and my hair was very healthy and grew long. So, like you said, the best… Read more »
Kelly
Guest

Ok, thanks so much! I’ll check out the link.

ello
Guest

- I will continue to deep condition over night because that has been working for my hair
— Everybody’s hair is different so this article isn’t true for everyone
— its all about balance; if you can balance your protein with your moisture, then over night deep conditioning is no problem

Melissa
Guest

Science is science. Different things will work for different people, of course, but everybody’s hair is made of keratin.

Tulani
Guest

What is the brand/name/manufacturer of the hair conditioning wrap you are wearing in the photo above?

hairscapades
Guest

Tulani, it’s made by Hair Therapy Wrap. I ordered mine from CurlMart.

http://www.curlmart.com/product/thermal-turban-heat-wrap-1/

They change the design from time to time it seems. So, I don’t know if this will fasten exactly like mine above. But, this is the brand. HTH!

Shelli

Makaela Bryant
Guest
Hi, I read this article and there are a lot of things to take into consideration I.e environment I’m from Puerto Rico and I never had problems with my hair until I came to the us full time. My hair is often brittle because if the lack of moisture here and the harsh conditions here. I condition for a max of two hours and then bun my hair but I don’t do it overnight. Also I use organix protein wash and conditioner so it doesn’t hurt my hair when I do it. I also use certain deep conditioning that contains… Read more »
treacle234
Guest

Deep conditioning seems like a waste of money and time. I quit years ago. Some people should simplify their hair routine. I simply wash with shampoo, rinse. Wash with conditioner, rinse and let air dry. Add some coconut oil put my hair in a bun and it’s all done. Ready to get on with my day. Hair is dead protein, I don’t have time to spending ‘0 hours doing my hair. I have been natural all my life and I saw significant growth when I co-washed my hair daily and kept it in a bun.

HersheyKitKat
Guest

I deep condition for only ten minutes with a plastic cap on. I had a stylist who didn’t believe in over conditioning the hair either.

Sandra Snell
Guest

Interesting and thoughtful post. I appreciate the reference to the other articles on the subject. We also agree that 30min is the sweet spot for a deep conditioning treatment, however personal preference of your desired hair texture certainly weighs in on how long and how often you do a treatment. If you are ever interested in trying one of our Hot Head deep conditioning heat caps please let us know. We’d be interested in your thoughts. 🙂
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MEL
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Why don’t you try the pro naturals hair mask? you can apply it any time of day and it will completely moisturize your hair since it is made with real argan oil. I love it

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sareale
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I really enjoyed your article.. reading it as I sit under the dryer for 15 min-20 minutes

sunshine
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What do u recommend for over condition hair…my hair shedding really bad.. it was to my bra strap now it’s too my shoulder

imnoteva
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Use a protein treatment

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