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Should you leave your conditioner on for 30 minutes, or 3 hours? Protein or moisture based? Does a $8 deep conditioner work just as well as a $38 one? Can I use food to deep condition my hair?

If your deep conditioning sessions consist of a lot of trial and even more error, then you need these no-fuss dos and don'ts of successful deep conditioning:

DO...

Keep it Regular

Hair that is deep conditioned regularly is more manageable, softer, less prone to breakage and frizz, and is able to retain length.

Remember that whatever "regularly" means is determined by you. Some naturals and transitioners deep condition their hair every 3-4 days. Some, every 2 weeks. I personally aim for once a week, twice a week if I'm lucky. My recommendation is to start out weekly - if your hair begins feeling weak and limp, lessen to every two or three weeks. If it still feels dry, pump it up to twice a week.

Heat it Up

If you want your deep conditioner to work double duty and make your hair feel super soft and smooth (or super strong if it is protein based), heat it up. According to this article by JC of The Natural Haven, heating your deep conditioner up to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) increases the amount and effectiveness of adsorption (the good stuff that sticks to the hair) of said conditioner. Long story short, warm conditioner works better.

Try heating your deep conditioner in a hot water bath instead of the microwave for best results.

Alternate

One of the keys to healthier hair is a proper protein to moisture balance. Alternating your deep conditioning sessions between moisture and protein will help keep your hair soft, strong, nourished, and minimize breakage, aiding in growth and length retention. For moisture and softness, stick to conditioners that have fatty alcohols like cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl, plus emollient butters and oils, humectants like glycerin and aloe vera, and ceramides. For strengthening treatments, look for ingredients like hydrolyzed proteins, amino acids, keratin, and henna.

Get Steamy

My pre-poo, detangling, and deep conditioning life forever changed when I got my hands on the Q-Redew. Steam is one of the major ways I keep my hair hydrated and give myself a moisture boost during deep conditioning sessions, and for mid-week refreshing. Steam not only heats up conditioner (bounce back to #2), but it also lifts the cuticle gently to allow for better penetration of conditioning ingredients. Steaming hair while covered in deep conditioner also helps improve elasticity, and moisture retention.

Happy Endings

Have you ever actually read the directions on the back of your jar of deep conditioner? Most of them say to start and concentrate on the ends of your hair first. I know personally, I'm guilty of the exact opposite. However, starting with the ends of your hair is the most beneficial, because your ends are the oldest, driest, and most prone to breakage and splitting. By starting with your ends, you allow them a little more time to soak up and adsorb all of the deep conditioning goodness your product has to offer.

And now, for the don'ts...

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