Imagine spreading a thick, greasy, gummy substance all over your hair to condition it to make it more managable.

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As we look through history, humans have been trying many things to condition their hair and some of the solutions haven’t been very appealing.

The ancient Egyptians would make concoctions out of fats and oils to create conditioners.  One ancient Egyptian solution was the mixture of six different kinds of fat-the fat of a hippopotamus, a lion, a cat, a crocodile, a snake, and an ibex.  Polynesians concocted a scented oil called "mouoi" with a gummy substance from the coconut tree called "pia" to create conditioners. The main problem with these early conditioners was they left the hair greasy, sticky and with the residues, made it easy for tresses to get dirty.

In the early 1950's chemical suppliers realized that the technology used in fabric softeners to soften natural wool fibers could also be used in creating conditioners for the hair.  These early conditioners were emulsions that contained oils, such as mineral oils.  They looked similar to cream hairdressings, but they could be rinsed out without removing the good properties of the conditioners. 

Today there are thousands of conditioners on the market, all claiming to solve specific problems, if not all of them!

We expect a lot from conditoners.  They must add moisture, strengthen hair, make it shinier, detangle it, smooth split ends, add fullness and body, and even more.

Conditioners work in a variety of ways, some only working on the cuticle and others actually penetrating into the cortex for longer lasting results.  These latter conditioners are called "deep-penetrating" treatments because they are used occasionally for therapeutic reasons.

Conditioning and shampooing go together like peanut butter and jelly!  However, shampoos don't take the place of conditioning.  Shampoos clean.  Conditioners nourish.

A humectant is an ingredient in hair products that draws moisture into the hair from the air. For dry hair, you want to be able to hold the moisture.  For fine, limp tresses, you want to repel the moisture.  Humectants are also found in skin care products.

Is there really a difference between using a cream rinse and conditioner?  A cream rinse detangles and doesn't penetrate like a conditioner will. It works instantly, but must be rinsed out well or it leaves a residue, making hair look dull.  A conditioner imparts moisture or protein to strengthen hair.  Deep-penetrating conditioners actually penetrate the cortex.

It is the formulation of a variety of moisturizers, proteins, botanicals and silicones that make make conditioners different from each other.

The kind of alcohol found in some shampoos and conditioners is cetyl or stearyl alcohol.  This type actually helps condition hair to make it softer.  Isopropyl alcohol is in hair spray and some other styling aids, and it is usually called "SD-40" alcohol on the label.  It is the ingredient that makes hairspray dry quickly.  Generally, there is not enough SD-40 alcohol in any product to be harmful.  But remember, over time, styling aids can build up and sap hair's moisture.  Shampoo well and rinse thoroughly. 

Conditioners take a certain amount of time to penetrate.  After that time, there is no added benefit.  Leaving a conditioner like a protein treatment in longer can actually do more harm than good by drying out even more!  Follow directions on the package or your stylist's advice. 

The weight of the conditioner and its capacity to rinse out without any residue, rather than the amount used, contribute to that greasy feeling.  Choose a lightweight conditioner, like a leave-in one, if the "greasies" are a concern.

It is important to use the same brand of shampoo and conditioner because they are designed as a system to work in harmony.  However, it is not absolutely necessary.

On fine hair,  a lemon or vinegar rinse leaves hair with less tanlges but it could be too acidic for some fragile hair.  Professional finishing rinses offer the proper acid balance without the softening effect of a conditioner.  Conditioners work best on tresses that needs softening and manageability. 

Mud packs provide only temporary topical help.  Try a commercial mud pack that is formulated with vitamins, minerals, and botanical extracts to help restore moisture content and improve elasticity.

Minerals in hard water, like calcium and iron, bond to hair's protein making to dry and dull.  Use a clarifying shampoo or a shampoo designed specifically to remove hard water build up. 

What is the difference between a conditioner and a reconstuctor?  A conditioner is often designed to add shine and managebility.  The term "reconstructor" is used when the product has a high protein content to help strengthen hair.  Examples of reconstructors are Aphogee Condition Treatment, Acclaim Plus KBF Reconstrctor, L'Oreal Ineral Hair Fixer and Jheri Redding Keratin RTeconstructor.

If you are fighting flat hair, shampoo and condition in the morning. You can pick up scalp and body oils from your pillow if you've conditioned the night before.

Pack a conditioner in your beach bag, and after hair is wet, comb conditioner through and let the warmth of the sun soak it in.  It'll help you beat those sun 'n surf split ends.

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If your hair is thin and fine consider using a texturizer styling lotion to add body and fullness.  Most will work well with most hair types.  A thickener adds diameter to the hair by swelling the hair shaft while adding fullness and body while conditioning.

If you have thin, flyaway hair using a hot oil treatment will deliver minimal results because hot oil treatments are topical and can weigh the hair down.  Fine hair needs a protein treatment to build strength. 

Swimming?  Chlorine causes oxidation and oxidation by-products which cause dryness and lightening of the hair.  To prevent this, use an anti-chlorine product after exposure to chlorine.

The salt used in water softeners can cause build-up over time.  Remove with a clarifying shampoo periodically.

What are the benefits of using oils like olive oil or mayonnaise to condition hair?  These oils moisturize and increase shine, making brittle hair more manageable, but are too heavy for most hair types, difficult to rinse out, and leave a heavy residue.  For best results, however, use professional formula conditioners.

Most medications will affect the condition of the hair.  Medications are excreted through the hair, leaving a fine, thin film on hair.  Consider trying a clarifying shampoo to remove chemical traces from hair, especially before a perm or chemical services to improve results.

Conditioners are designed to do a variety of things for your hair.  Some work only on the cuticle and can be used every day. Other deep-penetrating teatments actualy penetrate the cortex for longer lasting results and should be used occasionally for extremely damaged hair.  Deep penetating treatments are often packaged as single-application packets or vials, because a little goes a long way.  All actually open the cuticle to let moisture or protein into the cortex, the middle part of the hair that gives it strength and retains moisture.  Some treatments require heat, i.e., sitting under a dryer, wearing a heat cap or wrapping the head.  These are the most powerful conditioners.

There are two basic types of deep-penetrating treatments: moisturizing and protein.  Moisturizing treatments put moisture, softness and "bounce" back into hair that is dried out from overprocessing, heat styling, or exposure to sun and wind.  Hot Oil and Cholesterol products are two types of moisturizing treatments, though there are others.

Protein treatments may also be called "protein packs."  They rebuild strength in hair that has lost is elasticity by adding protein to the cortex.  Often this treatment is given before a perm or hair color service to get hair in the best shape.  Protein treatments overuse without the proper moisture balance can severely dry hair.

Moisturizing and protecting are also attainable with daily conditioners, but they are not as strong as the deep-penetrating treatments.  They are commonly called rinse-out or leave-in conditioners.