How to Deep Condition Your Hair Like a Pro

How to Deep Condition Your Hair Like a Pro

Singer Tyla taking a selfie, her hair natural and wet

@tyla / Instagram

In This Article

What It Is Benefits Who Should Do It How to Deep Condition Selecting a Deep Conditioner The Final Takeaway

We've all heard that deep conditioning is good for our hair, and many of us do it. But plenty of people out there aren't sure why they should deep condition, or even if they are doing it correctly. If you're grabbing any old deep conditioner and slathering it on your hair arbitrarily every few weeks, you could likely benefit from some in-depth knowledge.

To learn why we should deep condition our hair and how best to do it, we spoke with pro hairstylists Rex Jimieson and Raven Hurtado. Read on for a full guide to deep conditioning.

Meet the Expert

  • Rex Jimieson is a colorist and color education director at Maxine Salon in Chicago.
  • Raven Hurtado is a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.

What Is Deep Conditioning?

Unlike regular hair conditioners, which are meant to be used every time you wash your hair, deep conditioners are for more occasional use. They tend to be heavier than regular conditioners and are designed to sit on your hair longer to penetrate the shaft more deeply (hence the name).

Deep conditioners can be for general usage or target a specific issue, such as dryness or breakage. As with any beauty product, it’s important to choose a deep conditioner based on your hair type and concerns. Fortunately, there are deep conditioners for nearly every combination, from curly hair in need of added moisture to fine hair that breaks easily.


Deep conditioning “helps restore shine, helps reduce frizz, improves moisture, and nourishes, especially for color-treated hair that is overly processed or damaged,” says Hurtado. In addition to these benefits, deep conditioning can keep your hair in better shape for longer than post-shampoo conditioning can. “They last longer and some can benefit for up to 12 washes” if you have a solid daily haircare routine, says Jimieson. While there is always the potential for too much of a good thing, in general, deep conditioning is great for your hair.

Who Should Do It?

Our stylists agree that deep conditioning is for everyone. That said, how often you do it and what type of deep conditioner you choose are more individual. "Everyone can benefit from a deep conditioner as long as it addresses your hair type and primary concerns," says Jimieson. That means reading the label closely and carefully on any package you're looking at. "Everyone should deep condition their hair, especially if you feel [as though] you need some extra help to make it soft, nourished, and hydrated," adds Hurtado.

Of course, not all hair should be deep conditioned equally. “Finer and thinner hair types should also deep condition, but not as much as thick hair,” says Hurtado; she recommends every two weeks. Overdoing it can cause problems for any hair type. “Don’t do it daily, especially if you have fine hair,” she says. “Overconditioning can weigh the hair down and even leave it feeling greasy and oily at the roots.”

“I like to use washing habits (i.e., every other day) as a good baseline for how often to use a deep conditioner,” adds Jimieson. “Typically, twice a month or every other week would be sufficient. if you wash more frequently, once a week could be beneficial.” Additionally, “always do a deep condition after exposure to sun, chlorine, or saltwater,” he advises.

How to Deep Condition

Fortunately, properly deep conditioning your hair is straightforward. Follow these steps our stylists provided.

Wash Hair

Before deep conditioning, you’ll need to wash your hair. “You will get the most out of your deep conditioner if you wash twice using the supporting [or] matching shampoo first to prepare the hair,” advises Jimieson.

Towel Dry

Once your hair is thoroughly cleansed, towel dry it. “It’s best to apply [deep conditioner] on towel-dried hair,” explains Hurtado. You don’t want to apply deep conditioner to soaking wet hair, since too much water inside your shaft won’t leave enough room for the product. “If the hair is slightly damp, it’s fine,” she says.

Apply Product

Next, it's time to put the deep conditioner on your hair. Hurtado advises starting on the ends and working your way up. "Use a comb to distribute the conditioner evenly throughout your hair," she instructs. "You can tie it up, clip your hair, or use a cap."

Let Sit

Now it's time to kick back and relax for a few as the deep conditioner does its work. "Follow the instructions on how long to leave it on," says Jimieson. "Longer is better in some cases but in most cases [it's] unnecessary."

Hurtado says that while most deep conditioners will advise waiting 10-30 minutes before removal, the duration ultimately depends on the thickness of your hair, with thicker hair potentially needing longer than thinner.

Avoid Heat

Surprisingly, our stylists suggest keeping away from heated treatments. "Most deep conditioners are optimized to seek out the areas of hair that need it most and heat can cause the product to be more attracted to the heat source than the hair strands," explains Jimieson. "If heat is recommended on the label, use a wet hot towel… when it is cool that is plenty of heat for a single application."

Rinse Out

Once it's done its work, it's time to rinse the deep conditioner out of your hair. Use warm water first, unless your container instructs otherwise. Once all the product is out, rinse in cool or cold water to close the cuticle and add shine to your hair.

Byrdie Tip

Depending on the deep conditioner, your process might need to start before wash day. "There are some deep conditioning products with a corresponding night serum you can do the evening [before to] enhance the results," Jimieson tells us.

Selecting a Deep Conditioner

The deep conditioning product you choose “depends on the hair type and the shortcomings present from either chemical treatments or manual aggressions (heat, wind, sun, friction, etc.),” says Jimieson. “Proteins, bonders, and ceramides are good for breakage and shedding, while moisture and essential oils are good for dryness.” Additionally, “if you don’t have time to do deep conditioners at home, in-salon treatments are a great option—very effective [and] often stronger than the at-home solutions,” he says.

To address breakage, Jimieson suggests avoiding proteins that haven’t been hydrolyzed. “[Overusing] protein or bonders alone can lead to stiff or brittle hair,” he explains.

The Final Takeaway

Deep conditioners are appropriate for everyone—it's just a matter of finding the right one for your needs and using it with the correct frequency. The process is simple: Wash your hair, towel dry, apply the product, let it sit for a bit, then rinse. Deep conditioners can improve the texture and strength of your hair, making it stronger and more moisturized. If they aren't already a part of your routine, you now have all the resources to find the perfect one to get you started.


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