How To Choose A Moisturizing Deep Conditioner

When you’re first starting out on your healthy hair journey, wading through the hundreds of options  that are now on the market might feel a bit overwhelming but learning what to look for and knowing what ingredients work well for your hair will make conditioner shopping a breeze.

HOW TO SPOT A “DEEP CONDITIONER”

Not all conditioners are created equal. Not every conditioner is suitable for use as a “deep conditioner.” As a general rule of thumb, conditioners that indicate they should be left of for 2-5 minutes (or a similar time frame) are not deep conditioners, while conditioners that direct you to leave on for 15 minutes or longer (I’ve seen directions for up to an hour) are deep conditioners. Deep conditioners will penetrate into the hair shaft while a regular conditioner will sit on top of your hair to provide instant slip, may make your feel soft initially but does not provide lasting moisture.

READ INGREDIENTS BEFORE YOU BUY (IT’LL SAVE YOU TIME AND MONEY)


Just as you would read the ingredients when grocery shopping (or at least I hope you do!), your conditioner selection should follow the same process. Online vendors do a good job at providing a full list of ingredients and if they do not, close the browser and move on. Here are key ingredients to look for:

[*] Fatty Alcohols
Fatty alcohols, such as cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol are beneficial for our hair. Fatty alcohols are emollients, they moisturize and condition our hair, and provide slip. Cetyl alcohol is derived from vegetable oils like palm oil and coconut oils. Stearyl alcohol is derived from stearic acid. Stearic acid is obtained from animal fat or vegetable fat, commonly cocoa butter (vegetable fat extracted from cocoa beans) or shea butter (vegetable fat extracted from the nut of the shea tree). Cetearyl alcohol is a mix of fatty alcohols, mostly cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol.

[*] Humectants
Humectants draw moisture into our hair. Humectants that are commonly found in deep conditioners are glycerin, lactic acid, centrimonium chloride, hydantoin, glyceryl stearate, and honey.

[*] Conditioning Agent (like behentrimonium methosulfate)
Conditioning agents help detangle and provide moisture.

NOT ALL CONDITIONERS THAT CONTAIN PROTEIN ARE PROTEIN TREATMENTS

I bet that heading threw you curve ball huh? Just because a conditioner contains a protein, does not make the conditioner a protein treatment. How do you tell the difference? Start by (A) scanning the ingredients for heavy proteins like keratin and collagen. If a weaker protein like wheat or silk (which both gentle proteins that help improve elasticity) is listed (usually in the middle or further down the ingredient list), you’re in the clear. That conditioner is not a protein treatment predominately geared towards strengthen weakened hair, but it is a moisturizing conditioner with a protein. Now are you free to use the this conditioner weekly? You might, but if your hair is protein sensitive or low porosity I’d say err on the side of caution and go for a moisturizing conditioner without any proteins.

(B) Pay attention to where on the ingredient list the protein is located. As a rule of them, the higher up an ingredient is on the list, the more of that ingredient is found in the product in relation to the other ingredients. So for example: if keratin (a strong protein) is the third ingredient in a conditioner that conditioner is a protein treatment that will not adequately moisturize your hair.

For more on proteins, check at my post Ingredients 101: Get To Know Proteins.

INGREDIENTS I LOOK FOR

I’ve tried many a deep conditioner over the last 5 years but I’ve learned to look these ingredients when conditioner shopping:  cetyl alcohol, glycerin, steryl alcohol, stearakloniun chloride,  behentrimonium methosulfate, cetearyl alcohol, aloe, lactic acid, and honey. I love conditioners that are packed with humectants, fatty alochols, and emollients.

SOME FAVES:

[*] HairVeda Sitrinillah Deep Conditioner • $18, 16 oz • my full product review
Ingredients: Water, Coconut oil, Castor Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Steryl Alcohol, Stearakloniun Chloride, Dimethyl Stearamine, Orange oil, Orange Extract, Vanilla Extract, Lactic Acid, Germall Plus, Fragrance

[*] Kurlee Belle Banana Nut & Avocado Deep Treatment • $16, 8 oz • my full product review
Ingredients: Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Stearic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Musa Sapientum (Banana) Fruit Basil Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Honey Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Tocopheryl Acetate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance (Parfum)
P.S. Get 10% off your first order with referral code JUSTGROWALREADY10

[*] Silk Dreams Vanilla Silk Cream Moisture Dream • $10-$16, 8 oz-16 oz • my full product reviewIngredients: Water,Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol,Stearalkonium Chloride,Vanilla Butter(coconut oil,palm oil,vanilla planifolia), Honey, Simmondsia chinensis(Jojoba) Oil,Aloe barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Prunus armeniaca (Apricot Kernel) Oil,Hydroxypropyltrimonium Honey,Dimethyl Stearamine,Hydrolyzed Milk Protein, Hydrolyzed Silk Protein, Panthenol, Lactic Acid, Germail Plus, Fragrance

[*] Kenra Moisturizing Conditioner • $15-$31, 10 oz, 33 oz • my full product review
Ingredients: Water, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearalkonium Chloride, Stearyl Alcohol, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Benzophenone-4, Cetrimonium Bromide, Methylparaben, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Panthenol, Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch, Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Parfum/Fragrance.

[*] SheScentIt Curl Moist Conditioner • $12.50, 9 oz (*you’ll hear more about this one in this week’s wash day post)
Ingredients: (Purified Water infused w/ Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Marshmallow Althaea Officianalis Root Extract, Organic Mango Extract, Slippery Elm, Goji Berry Botanical Extract, Avena Oat Extract), Persea Gratissima (Avocado Oil), Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol, Prunus Dulcis (Sweet Almond Oil), Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil,  Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Honey, Stearalkonium Chloride, Cetrimonium Chloride, Vegetable Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance, Panthenol Vit B5, Lactic Acid

What are some of your favorite deep conditioners?

We are half way through our 30 Days of Moisture Challenge! How’s it going?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Items in this post were purchased with my own funds. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

14 Comments

  1. Looking for a deep conditioner for pre teen natural hair so many products around but notice a lot of them dry out the hair. Would prefer non protein. Want a good regime that my daughter can follow to keep her hair natural as long as she wants it

  2. I’m protein sensitive and have been using a shampoo and leave-in conditioner with aloe vera gel as a main ingredient. My hair has been getting drier and more brittle. Turns out aloe vera contains a protein, lectin.

  3. I love this post! So informative. I recently discovered the Elasta Qp Remoisturizing Conditioner anf I love it but my all time fave is tge Keracare Humecto

  4. You should try SheScentit Banana Brulee Deep Conditioner! It's very moisturizing and softening! It has Cotton Seed Protein in it, but it's way down the list.

  5. silk Dreams VSCMD is my all time fav DC. The Stirinillah and SheScent it are on my list for the BF sales. Awesome post Jen!

  6. Yay!!! My all time Favourite is listed which is Hairveda Sitrinillah & Vanilla Silk Dreams. Thanks Jen for listing these deep conditioners. My hair has greatly improved in terms of thickness and volume since I commenced my hair journey 3 months ago. It's relatively difficult to get these products in Nigeria but luckily, a friend referred me to an online hair store in Lagos http://www.hairsage.com and I've been stocking up on these 2 brands….deep conditioning has made the difference to my hair.

    1. I also live in Nigeria, thanks for the link Ogech.

  7. Thanks for the post! I'm taking notes! I just received the HairVeda sitrinillah deep conditioner in the mail today, can't wait to give it a try this weekend!

  8. Thank you soo much Jen. I really needed this. First time commenting. I absolutely love Ur blog and I have learnt so much from Ur posts.

    1. Author

      Aw thank you for commenting! I'm glad JGA has been helpful!

  9. Your conditioner of choice are so inviting. I absolutely love Neutrogena Triple Moisture Hair Mask and Aunt Jackies Softening & Moisturizing Conditioner for its moisturizing properties. Great Post!

  10. Great post Jen. The SheScentIt Deep Conditioner has awesome ingredients, it'll be interesting to know how it works for you x

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