Friday, March 25, 2011
Question: How much conditioner to use and how long should we leave it on our hair?
How much conditioner should we be using per wash? I remember seeing a suggestion for "the size of a dime" on the back of a conditioner bottle (when I used to buy products, so things might have changed), but that wasn't enough for my waist length, frizzy, coarse hair. I find about 20 ml to 30 ml (about 2 tablespoons) is more than enough. If you're finding it hard to spread the conditioner on your hair, either consider making your conditioner thinner or leaving some water on your hair to help it spread better. If you're using half a 100 ml bottle every time you wash, you're using way too much.
These are general guidelines and I'm sure I'll see some comments from people who need to use 100 ml per wash, so keep in mind these are a starting point and your mileage may vary. Different hair types will require different amounts of conditioner, but if you have tons of white goop on your hair before rinsing, odds are its going down the drain and you're wasting money and product. We only need a thin coating on our hair for the conditioning agents and moisturizers to do their job. And do you really want a ton of build-up?
There's almost a sense of pride in needing to use more conditioner and more intense conditioners on our hair, as if using more means we have nicer, thicker, longer hair. There's no benefit to using more than we need. You spend all this time making an awesome product only to pour half of it down the drain!
So how long should we leave conditioner on our hair? We don't need to leave conditioner on for more than 2 to 3 minutes for it to do its job. The conditioning agent will adsorb to your hair strand pretty quickly, so anything longer than about 3 minutes is kinda pointless. Those instructions just make us think that an intense conditioner - one with more conditioning agents - is more effective than a regular conditioner. There's no difference in leaving it on for 2 minutes or 10 - you'll get the same conditioning level.
Where leaving it on for longer becomes relevant is with the oils. Oils can take some time to moisturize, and those that might penetrate the hair shaft can take a little longer. But half an hour is more than enough. You can put oil on your hair and go to sleep and find it feels great in the morning (after you've washed it out), but you will get the same effect with 30 minutes or so.
Terry O'Reilly notes in the radio program/podcast Age of Persuasion that the first conditioner that came out for consumer purchase (instead of salon use) told us to use it for 30 minutes. It wasn't necessary, but it's what we knew from the salon. And we see those kinds of instructions on conditioners - especially intense ones - today.
If you're interested in learning more about making your own hair care products, please click here to see the hair care products section of this blog.