Winter can be a great time for curlies, as frizz-causing humidity plummets along with the temperatures.

But the cold weather, along with indoor heating, also can wreak havoc on those curls and kinks in other ways, leaving them parched and brittle. That’s why deep conditioners should be a staple for curlies in cold climates.

“Winterizing your curl regimen is key as we move into the cold months, and deep conditioners are essential to moisturizing tender fragile strands,” says Titi Branch of Miss Jessie’s Salon in Brooklyn, which will introduce Miss Jessie’s Rapid Recovery Treatment later this year. “Cold winds, overheated homes and a lack of humidity rob curls of their moisture, which in turn creates a curl’s worst enemy— frizz!”

Deep conditioners are valuable, however, because they penetrate, hydrate and revitalize curls, making them smoother, softer and more manageable.

“It is like oxygen for the hair,” says Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue in New York. “For example, when you plant a flower in your apartment, you must continue to give it water to keep it hydrated and growing. We must do the same for our hair. Deep conditioning treatments are a necessity, not a luxury.”

Kelly Foreman, creator of the Mop Top line for curly hair, says she’s had people ask her if she’s cut her hair after a deep conditioning treatment.

“It’s all because my curls are happy,” says Foreman, who is introducing a deep conditioner to her line in March. “My spring factor and curl definition is best when my hair has more moisture.”

Creme rinses (the type you put on after you shampoo and rinse out in 5 minutes or less”>, or detanglers, as they are also known, just coat the hair. They do not penetrate into the hair to help minimize damage. They do a good job of smoothing hair, making it shiny and helping to remove tangles, but that is all they do.

Deep conditioners tend to be thicker and more moisturizing then daily conditioners, although a good daily conditioner can be left on the hair a little longer to deep condition it. Botanical extracts, such as jojoba, or coconut and avocado oils, also can be used to deep condition the hair.

All deep conditioners are not created equal, stresses Jonathan Torch of the Curly Hair Institute in Canada. There are truly therapeutic deep conditioners, and then there are cosmetic conditioners that leave a silky feel but do nothing to repair or hydrate the hair shaft.

“Simply coating the cuticle will not cure the dehydration properly,” Torch says.

Shai of Capella Salon in Studio City, Calif. recommends testing the elasticity of the hair to see if it needs strength or moisture. If the hair snaps easily with the stretch test, he suggests a conditioner that rebuilds the hair with protein, such as Kerastase Vita Ciment Pro Treatment. If the hair has some elasticity, he recommends a more moisturizing deep conditioner.

Many deep conditioners contain large amounts of protein, which can be drying for some curlies, says Jessica McGuinty, creator of the Jessicurl line of products. If that is the case, opt for a deep conditioner with little or no protein, or alternate between a protein deep treatment and a moisturizing deep treatment.

It is best to use a deep conditioner once a week, especially for hair that is chemically treated, colored or relaxed, says Lucie Doughty, editorial director for John Paul Mitchell Systems. For “virgin” hair that is not subjected to heat styling tools regularly, every two weeks may be adequate in the winter.

The most effective application is to apply a generous amount of the deep conditioner to wet or damp hair that has just been cleansed. Concentrate on the ends, which tend to be more fragile and dry, Branch says. In some cases, the conditioner can be left on 5 to 10 minutes while you’re in the shower, so the steam helps the conditioner penetrate into the hair.

For more damaged hair, leave it on longer — 15 minutes or longer.

Most deep treatments are more beneficial when used with heat, McGuinty says. The heat temporarily swells the cuticle and allows the conditioner to better penetrate the hair shaft. For optimal results, pile the hair into a cap and sit under a heated dryer. Or use a micro heat cap.

Skip the heat if your hair has been colored within the last two weeks because it can cause the color to leech out, McGuinty cautions.

If you’re strapped for time, Shai recommends putting in the deep conditioner, covering it with a hat and going out for a jog or walk, gardening, cleaning, etc.

“Your body heat will give the conditioner the extra boost it needs to make the hair feel softer and bouncier,” he says.

After you rinse the conditioner out, do not use a towel to dry it. The rough texture of the towel will undo some of the benefits of the deep conditioner, roughing up the cuticle and inviting unfriendly frizzies, Shai says.

Christo stresses that deep conditioning treatments must be used on a regular basis.

“Treatments are temporary, just like everything else in life!” he says. “They are an ongoing process.”

Products to try

Deep Conditioners


Homemade Deep Conditioners


1 small jar of real mayonnaise

1/2 of an avocado

  • Mix in a medium bowl and squish together with your hands until it’s a minty green color. Smooth into hair all the way to the tips. Put on a shower cap or wrap your head with saran wrap.
  • Leave on for 20 minutes. For deeper conditioning put a hot, damp towel around your head -over the saran wrap. if you have really long hair and only need deep conditioning at the ends, cut the ingredients in half and apply only to the ends and just wrap them.


1/2 cup real mayonnaise

  • Comb the mayonnaise through your damp hair, then wrap your head in a towel, let it penetrate for 20 minutes. Shampoo.
  • Special Note: Make sure the mayonnaise is real mayo and NOT salad dressing. It will dry your hair out.

Ravishing Rosemary Conditioner

Rosemary essential oil

  • Add a few drops of rosemary essential oil to the palms of your hands; work through out your entire hair.

Tropical Conditioner

1 avocado (peeled and mashed”>

coconut milk

  • Combine mashed avocado with some coconut milk. Mash together until it’s smooth and about as thick as shampoo. Comb it through the hair and let sit for 10 -15 minutes, wash out.

Egg Conditioner

1 teaspoon baby oil

1 egg yolk

1 cup water

  • Beat the egg yolk until it’s frothy, add the oil then beat again. Add to the water. Massage into the scalp and throughout your hair. Rinse well.

Banana Deep Conditioner

1 mashed banana

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

  • Mix ingredients together, apply to dry hair and leave on for 30 minutes.

Apple Cider Softness

1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 cups distilled water

  • Pour over your hair as the final rinse. Will leave your hair soft and is a great hair care conditioner for all hair types.

Super Duper Deep Conditioning Hair Treatment for Damaged Hair

1 cup mayonnaise (room temperature if possible”>

1/2 cup olive oil

3 egg yolks

  • Blend all ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Apply thoroughly through your hair extra at the ends.
  • Pile hair on top of your head and cover with a plastic shower cap and then cover with a towel to keep the heat from your head.
  • Leave on for at least 10 to 20 minutes and then rinse out. DO NOT shampoo afterwards. Any oil that clings to your hair after you rinse it out will continue to condition your hair until the next time you shampoo it out.
  • It should make one to two treatments, depending on the length of your hair. For best results, use it immediately after making it without refrigerating first. The fats and oil will penetrate your hair follicles better if it is not cold.


How to Professionally Deep Condition Your Hair at Home

So, is your hair dry, unmanageable, brittle? Sounds like you may need a conditioning treatment to get your hair back into shape! This easy, step-by-step plan will teach you what products to use, and how to apply conditioner like a pro.

  1. Gather the supplies you will need. (Deep conditioner, wide-toothed comb, three towels, plastic cap or plastic wrap, shampoo, 4 hair clips”>
  2. Comb hair to remove tangles
  3. Shampoo with your favorite shampoo, rinse and towel dry.
  4. Part your hair from the front to the back of the neck in a center part. Next, part your hair from tip of ear to tip of ear. This will give you 4 sections. Clip each section up. Using these sections will make it easier for you to know that you haven’t missed any areas when applying conditioner.
  5. You can start in any section you like. Part through the section, starting at the top of the head by using your little finger. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it still gives you an idea of where you are applying. Make part about 1/2 inch wide, moving from one side of section to the other horizontally.
  6. Hold slice up and away from the other hair and apply a thin coat of conditioner, starting at the scalp and working it to the ends. You don’t want big globs of conditioner visible on hair, just a thin film that you can see and feel. When you have applied to the first slice, bring it over and lay it on top of your head. If hair is shorter, just let it stand up and away from the other hair.
  7. Continue down the section making your parts and applying conditioner. When a section is completed, bring hair down from top of head so its not in the way of the other sections. Move on to next section, applying in the same manner,and complete the entire head.
  8. IMPORTANT: When applying, be sure to apply to scalp and hair, not just hair. Your scalp gets dry too, and needs moisture as much as hair.
  9. Place plastic cap or plastic wrap on head, making sure all hair is tucked in. Do not clip hair up if longer, just pile on top of head.
  10. Now you have a few options to choose from. If you have a hood dryer (like the ones you sit under in salons”>, you can sit under it for 15-20 minutes with heat set on medium. Or you can use a Micro Heat Cap. You can also toss a towel in the dryer to heat, and wrap it around your head, leaving for same amount of time. If the weather is warm, go outside and sit for the amount of time needed. You can even do a little housecleaning, to raise your body temperature, and generate heat to your scalp. Heat opens up the hair shaft, and along with the ingredients in a deep conditioner that work to open it also, you’ll get very good penetration and results with the extra heat.
  11. When time is up, remove towels and plastic from head. Rinse, rinse, and rinse some more. Use as cool of a water temperature as you are comfortable with. Anything cool or cold will not only rinse away excess conditioner, but it will help to close the hair shaft, trapping the moisture from the conditioner inside. It does take a lot of rinsing, but it is worth the time.


This article was originally published in February 2007 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.

Michelle Breyer

As co-founder of, a website for curly hair she began with her business partner and friend, Gretchen Heber, Michelle Breyer helped create the leading community and resource for people with curly hair. Frustrated by the lack of information on curly hair and the limited products available in the marketplace, the duo launched the site in 1998 with the help of a 14-year-old web designer. When Procter & Gamble called three years later to advertise to the® audience, Breyer knew they had indeed created a force in the industry, providing helpful information and unparalleled expertise for what was then considered a niche market.

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