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Hair Conditioners Explained: The What, Why, and How

Shampoos and conditioners are truly a match made in heaven. Ask anyone - hairstylist, hair specialist, or even a regular person - and you will find that everyone recommends using a conditioner. But what is the big deal with conditioners? Are they really that important? Let us find out.

The What

First things first. What even is a conditioner? A conditioner consists of moisturising ingredients such as oils, humectants, silicones, butters, and emollients that nourish the hair and replenish it with moisture. Some conditioners also contain special proteins that help bind split-ends. Conditioners work by forming a protective coating around the cuticles. This coating helps cut the frizz, makes the hair soft, and also helps prevent damage from environmental aggressors.  

Think of your conditioner as a moisturiser. It does not matter what your skin type is, we all need a moisturiser. Similarly, it does not matter what your hair type is, we all need a conditioner! 

Our scalp produces natural oils called sebum. This sebum nourishes and protects the scalp and hair. Over time, sebum can build-up and that is why we should shampoo - to keep our scalp clean. Shampooing can dry out the hair and a conditioner restores this moisture and makes the hair softer and smoother.

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The Why

Think of your hair and scalp as you do of your skin. Just like you have to moisturise after cleansing your face, you condition your hair after a shampoo. While this is not a perfect analogy, the concept is similar. Shampooing makes the hair dry. Conditioners help restore the lost moisture.

Here is what conditioners can do for your hair:

1. Moisturise and nourish your hair: Hair conditioners contain hydrating and moisturising ingredients such as humectants, emollients and occlusives that replenish and nourish the hair.

2. Protect from towel damage: Wet hair is very prone to breakage and if you are rough with your tresses while drying them with a towel, you could cause some massive breakage. Conditioners assist in protecting against this damage.

3. Repairs split ends: Several aggressors like pollution, chemical treatments and hair colouring can lead to split ends being formed. These make the ends of your hair look unkempt and messy. Hair conditioners gently work to repair these nasty ends.

4. Repair and/or prevent damage: While all conditioners offer some protection against damage, certain formulations are designed especially for repairing this damage. 

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There are different types of conditioners available today. Let us take a look!

Regular Conditioner

This is your standard conditioner that will give your hair a burst of nourishment. It is not overly hydrating and works well for general maintenance. Sova’s Sweet Almond & Patchouli hair conditioner is a great option for those looking for a nourishing and moisturising conditioner that will not weigh down the hair and can be used every time you shampoo. 

Deep Conditioner

As the name suggests, a deep conditioner is a more nourishing and hydrating version of your normal conditioner. Depending on your hair type and hair concerns, you may find that deep conditioning works for you on a daily basis (we would not recommend this though) while for some it could be a weekly thing. The idea with deep conditioning is to leave the deep conditioner for a longer period of time(as opposed to a regular conditioner). 

The Switch Fix’s Acai of Relief Deep Conditioner is a great option for people with dry and damaged hair. Do not apply this on your scalp, just keep it at the ends and don’t deep condition more than twice a week. 

Deep Conditioner vs Hair Mask

But wait, does this mean that a deep conditioner is a hair mask? Well, there is a slight difference between the two. A conditioner conditions your hair; it makes your hair soft and smooth. A mask, on the other hand, does a lot more than just that; it strengthens the hair. While you will come across smoothening masks, hair masks do a lot more than just provide nourishment and moisturisation. They are a treatment of sorts for your hair. 

Flawsome’s Kinky Berries hair mask is a great option if you are on the lookout for a nourishing and repairing treatment for your hair. 

The Right Order

After shampoo, follow up with a deep conditioner or a hair mask (you do not need to use both together). Let it sit for 5 minutes or so and rinse it off. Follow it up with a regular conditioner. This you can leave on for 3 to 5 minutes as well. While this order may seem odd to you, just hear us out. Shampooing opens up the cuticles so when you apply a mask it penetrates better. Then when you apply the conditioner, it seals in the goodness imparted by that mask. Also, keep in mind to not apply any mask or conditioner to your roots and scalp!


A cowash is a cleansing conditioner; it cleanses the scalp and conditions the hair. Cowashes are a great option for people with curly or coily hair. Such hair types tend to become very dry and brittle due to the shape of the follicle. A cowash is a great way to cleanse the scalp and hair without stripping away essential moisture and adding an extra dose of nourishment. But be wary of product build-up in your scalp. Alternate between a cowash and a cleansing shampoo. You can read more about curly hair on our blog.

Leave-in Conditioner

A leave-in conditioner is a post-wash or post-shampoo treatment for your tresses. If you are struggling with dry hair, a leave-in conditioner is a great option for you. Leave-In Conditioners tend to be more hydrating than Leave-In Serums. Depending on your hair type and hair concerns you can opt for either. 

If you have slightly frizzy hair and are looking for a lightweight conditioning treatment for your hair then Sova’s Kashmiri Walnut and Violet Flower hair serum is a good option.  For thicker and drier hair, Fix My Curls Leave-In Cream is an intensely hydrating option that will smoothen the hair and make it more manageable.

The How

Here is the right way to applying your conditioner properly:

1. Make sure you have washed all of the shampoo from your hair.

2. Gently squeeze the lengths of your hair to remove water.

3. Take a small amount of the conditioner and work it into your hair.

4. Leave it on for 3-5 minutes. If you are using a deep conditioner or a hair mask, you can leave it on for longer.

5. Rinse your hair thoroughly thereafter.

6. If your hair tends to be dry or frizzy or both, follow up with a leave-in conditioner or serum.

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Do's and Don'ts

1. Do: Choose the right shampoo. Getting your cleanse right is extremely important - as much as getting your conditioner right. Head to our blog to find the shampoo of your dreams.

2. Do: Squeeze water out of your strands. Excess water dilutes the conditioner and prevents the hair from soaking it up properly.

3. Do: Regularly condition your hair. As a rule of thumb, you should condition your hair every time you shampoo.

4. Don't: Apply to your scalp. Unless it is a cowash, conditioners are meant to be used along the lengths of your hair.

5. Don't: Overdo the deep conditioning and masking. Is your hair starting to feel limp and heavy? Is it difficult to manage and to style? Chances are you have overdone it with all the conditioning. Deep condition your hair not more than once to twice a week. Same goes for masking.

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Just like the skin, the hair needs some TLC too and conditioners are a big part of this. Conditioning is an important and essential part of any hair care routine and adds moisture, makes your hair more manageable and cuts down frizz. Be sure to deep condition your hair and use a hair mask occasionally too. 

- Gauri Sindhu

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