Conditioners are one of the most popular hair care products. Conditioning is an integral component of any good hair care routine. Regardless of hair type or hair texture, maintaining moisture is the key to healthy hair.
In addition to hydration, deep conditioning treatment helps refortify the hair shaft and cuticles, helping you avoid the effects of dry hair — e.g., hair strand breakage.
However, many people are unaware that there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to conditioning. In this article, we'll explore some of the most common signs of over-conditioned hair.
Table of contents:
- What Is Hair Conditioning?
- Is It Possible To Over-Condition?
- 7 Signs That You Could Be Over-Conditioning
- How Can You Avoid Over-Conditioning Your Hair?
- Using a Clarifying Shampoo To Stop Product Build-up
- Applying the Right Amount of Conditioner
What Is Hair Conditioning?
Clarifying shampoos are made to help sweep away dirt, dead skin cells, and styling product build-up. But conditioners have a different role.
Similar to lotions for skin care, conditioners are made to help hydrate and replenish your hair, making it appear softer and fuller.
Some conditioners are coupled with protein treatments. These can also offer protection, reducing friction between your hair strands and binding split ends.
There are different types of conditioners that play slightly different roles. Let's take a quick look at a few of the most common types of conditioners.
- Rinse-out conditioners: This is the most common type of conditioner. It is simply applied to damp hair, left in a few minutes, and rinsed out.
- Deep conditioners: These are used to treat dry and damaged hair. Deep conditioners, packed with hydrating properties, are left in much longer — up to 30 minutes.
- Leave-in conditioners: Applied to the hair after showering, leave-in conditioners help provide a protective layer on the hair. They typically have detangling effects.
- Hair masks: Similar to face masks, hair masks are used to help nourish and hydrate the hair. They're often packed with hydrating ingredients and hair oils.
Is It Possible To Over-Condition?
So, as we've seen, conditioning is a good thing, especially if you're working to restore health and hydration to damaged and dried-out hair. However, over-conditioning is a real issue. First, let's take a quick look at hair structure.
Regardless of hair type or hairstyle, healthy hair starts at the root. These hair roots are housed within the follicle. Hair is formed within the follicle by a hardening protein called keratin. Three layers of keratin form the hair shaft.
- The innermost layer of keratin is known as the medulla. It is composed of a soft core of air spaces and transparent cells.
- The cortex is the next layer. The cortex represents most of the hair shaft. It also houses pigment cells, which are responsible for your hair color.
- Lastly is the cuticle. It is the outermost layer of the hair shaft. Its primary role is protective. People use conditioners to help fortify that protective role.
Healthy hair growth is also influenced by natural oils (or sebum) that are produced by sebaceous glands. These are the natural mechanisms that help hydrate the hair.
However, certain hair types produce less of these oils, making them more susceptible to dry hair. But, overproduction of sebum can cause oily hair, making the hair look greasy.
Over-conditioning of the hair occurs when too much moisture is applied to the hair and the cuticles. This can inhibit natural hair oils from being able to penetrate the hair cuticle. This state of over-hydration is known as hygral fatigue.
Due to excess water retention, this condition can cause degeneration of the hair shaft and leave the hair looking lifeless. Damage from over-conditioning and hygral fatigue can lead to tangles, frizz, dullness, and even hair breakage.
7 Signs That You Could Be Over-Conditioning
As we've seen, conditioning is a huge help when it comes to dry hair. While natural hair oils do provide some moisture, this can be zapped or absent due to a variety of reasons — e.g., curly hair types, weather, over-conditioning, etc.
But how do you know if you're over-conditioning your hair? Here, we look at seven signs that could be telling you to go easy on the conditioner. Let's dive in.
1. You've Noticed a Loss in Volume
One of the first tell-tale signs of over-conditioning is a loss in volume. Volume simply refers to the amount of body the hair has. As stated, over-conditioning your hair adds too much moisture to the hair.
Over time, excess moisture gets trapped and can literally cause your hair to go limp. The result is a loss in natural volume. This is especially true for those with curly hair types. Too much moisture and conditioning can cause curls to hang down.
This limp hair can have an almost thin, sticky appearance, not to mention the feeling of extra weight.
2. Your Hair Looks Greasy All the Time
While there are people who struggle with greasy hair due to excess natural oils, this is typically handled during washing. Other types of greasy-looking hair can be caused by styling products or infrequent washing.
But, if your hair always appears greasy, even after washing, it could mean you're over-conditioning your hair. Keep in mind there is a fine line between a healthy shine and a greasy, oily look to hair.
At the end of the day, you know your own hair. If you notice your hair looking greasier after increasing your conditioning routine, it could be a sign to throttle it back a bit.
3. Your Hair Has Too Much Shine
Having a nice luster and shine to the hair is a goal for most style-conscious people. Natural hair shine tends to be more noticeable among those with straight and fine hair types. Once again, this goes back to natural hair oils.
This is much harder to achieve for those with curly hair types and frizzy hair. So, the use of serums and conditioners is usually a go-to for those looking to take the shine up a notch. However, it is possible to go overboard.
Too much conditioning can cause a super glossy appearance to the hair. Coupled with that is a feeling of sticky hair, neither of which look or feel very flattering.
4. The Hair Has Become Soft and Stiff
Having soft hair isn't a bad thing. But there is a difference between a smooth texture and a lifeless luster. In some cases, over-conditioning can make the hair extremely soft — too soft.
This can cause issues with styling. In addition to an increased softness to the hair, over-conditioning can also stiffen the hair, making styling and management even tougher.
It may sound strange to have hair that is soft yet stiff at the same time, but we assure you it is possible. Again, over-conditioning the hair can lead to all sorts of imbalances, one of which is its natural lay.
5. The Hair Has a Flat Look
Related to the above issues is the flatness of the hair. This issue starts at the roots. As stated, over-conditioning softens the roots. This extra moisture can cause a flat top.
Of course, we aren't talking about a flat-top hairstyle; we're talking about a flat appearance on the top of your head at the roots. What it really means is that your roots are unable to maintain volume.
Backing off on the conditioning may help restore volume at the roots and help bring back some of the bounce and luster.
6. Your Hair Has Lost Some Bounce
Along with all the signs mentioned above, you may notice that your hair has lost a significant amount of bounce. This is yet another sign of over-conditioning. Bounce and volume go hand and hand.
So, a loss in hair volume can cause an issue when it comes to your natural bounce. You may first notice this loss of bounce at the ends of your tresses and curls. Over time over-conditioning tends to flatten these out more and more.
Of course, bounciness is one of the most important factors when it comes to hair styling. A loss in bounce will limit your styling options.
7. You're Having Trouble with Styling
All the issues mentioned above compound with one another to cause issues with styling. Think about it — flat, greasy hair that lacks volume and bounce is difficult to work with or style.
Your hairstylist may be the first to notice the changes to your hair caused by over-conditioning. Aside from styling issues, you may notice your hair becoming more difficult to manage all the way around.
How Can You Avoid Over-Conditioning Your Hair?
Stopping using conditioners completely isn't necessary, though it may be necessary to re-examine your hair care routine. May you're simply conditioning too many times within the week.
In this case, setting up a healthy conditioning schedule may be able to help keep you from over-conditioning. Or, perhaps you're leaving the product in for too long. Regardless of the cause, there are some ways to help avoid over-conditioning your hair.
Using a Clarifying Shampoo To Stop Product Build-up
As mentioned, sometimes the issue of over-conditioning is made worse when there is product build-up on the scalp. But this is a simple fix. Before conditioning, use a clarifying shampoo every now and then to help mitigate product build-up.
This shampoo is also free from harsh chemicals and silicones. This gentle formula can help remove excess oil and product build-up, paving the way for better conditioning.
Applying the Right Amount of Conditioner
A really simple step when it comes to avoiding over-conditioning is backing off the amount of conditioner you're using. Also, choosing the right conditioner for your hair needs is key. For example, this could include choosing the right conditioner for your hair texture or conditioner made for color-treated hair.
Making sure you choose the right ingredients is also important. Those looking to strengthen their hair may well choose antioxidant-rich conditioners with nourishing oils to help restore strength and shine.
There are also ingredients to avoid — these include harsh chemicals such as silicone, polyethylene glycol (PEG), and parabens.
Proper conditioning of the hair should be a part of every healthy hair care routine. However, over-conditioning can have some damaging effects.
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