Here’s Exactly How to Deep Condition Hair (Plus 5 Masks You Can DIY at Home)

how to deep condition hair

News flash: The cold weather isn’t the only thing leaving your hair dry and dull. Heat styling tools, dyes and even the sun can strip away natural moisture and do more damage, especially to your ends. Thankfully, a deep conditioner can rescue your strands, giving any hair type extra moisture, shine and softness. We’re going to tell you exactly how to deep condition your hair with five easy DIY masks, but first, let’s start with the basics.

What are the benefits of deep conditioning?

Yes, regular conditioners work to soften hair, minimize frizz and smooth cuticles. But deep conditioning takes it a step further by helping to restore your strands’ natural oils. It also works to prevent split ends and breakage, improve texture and promote elasticity. If you use a deep conditioner consistently, it can lead to shinier, softer and stronger hair. All hair types can be deep conditioned but damaged, brittle and color-treated hair will benefit the most.

OK, and how exactly do I deep condition? 

Step 1: Identify your needs. Is your hair super dry? Is it lacking definition? If you’re looking to hydrate your hair, make sure the products you choose have ingredients like coconut oil, amino acids and certain silicones. If you want to bring your strands back to life, find products packed with protein. And if you’re looking for a bit of both, try alternating between hydrating and protein-filled deep conditioners.

Step 2: When choosing a product, be cognizant of your hair type. If you have fine hair, select a light formula that won’t weigh down your locks. For thicker hair, look for something that fights frizz. Make sure the ingredients target the concerns you identified.

Step 3: Once you find the right product, decide if you want to use it pre-poo (before shampooing) or clean your hair before applying the deep conditioner. Not sure? The pre-poo method helps jump-start the detangling process and works the treatment into dry hair; washing your hair first opens up the cuticles for better absorption. 

Step 4: After you’ve figured out which method to use, apply the deep conditioner from roots to tips. It’s important to focus on the ends, which are usually the driest. A wide-tooth comb is a great tool that can help you distribute the product evenly throughout your hair and get those pesky knots out quicker.

Step 5: Cover your hair with a shower cap or plastic wrap and wait 20 to 40 minutes (time will vary depending on the thickness and length of your hair). To enhance the benefits of the deep conditioner, warm your hair with a blow-dryer on the lowest heat setting to open up the cuticles.

Step 6: Finally, rinse with cold water to retain moisture and close the cuticles. Then wash your hair as usual. It’s suggested to deep condition hair regularly at least once or twice a week.

Shop deep conditioners: Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask ($36); DevaCurl Melt into Moisture Matcha Butter Conditioning Mask ($36); It’s A 10 Miracle Hair Mask ($30); Olapex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner ($28); SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Hair Masque ($6) 

While we fully support the products listed above, we also know the value of a good ole natural-ingredient DIY. Here are five deep-conditioning hair mask recipes to make at home, because what’s more fun than playing scientist in your own kitchen?

1. Honey and Olive Oil

We already love using olive oil to bring moisture back to dry, brittle hair, and adding honey is a hydrating bonus. Combine ¼ cup honey with ¼ cup olive oil and whisk until smooth. (You can add more olive oil if you prefer a less sticky substance.)

After washing your hair with shampoo, apply the mixture to damp hair. Cover with a shower cap or plastic bag. Leave it for 20 to 40 minutes. 

When time’s up, rinse and finish your hair washing routine. Use this deep conditioner once or twice a week, depending on your level of dryness.

2. Egg Yolk and Coconut Oil

If your hair needs some strength training, look no further than this combo. Dry, damaged and curly hair can use this mask to reduce protein loss, increase moisture and prevent breakage. 

Combine 1 egg yolk with 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil and whisk until smooth. (Add more of each ingredient depending on the length and thickness of your hair.) After shampooing, applying to damp hair, leave on for 15 to 20 minutes and then rinse with cool water.

3. Avocado and Mayo 

The antioxidant vitamins C and E in this mixture work to keep hair shiny, soft and hydrated. Combine half an avocado with ¼ cup mayo and stir until smooth. You can also add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil to mask the smell of the mayo.

Massage the treatment onto dry hair and cover with a shower cap. Let it sit for 20 minutes before rinsing off and starting your wash routine. Use this deep conditioner once a week for softer hair.

4. Banana and Honey 

Banana’s potassium, vitamin C and biotin elements combined with honey (which promotes hair growth, volume and shine) make for a useful deep conditioner. Whether you want to prevent dandruff, moisturize your scalp, improve shine or all of the above, this mixture can help make hair soft, strong and thick.

Mash a ripe banana in a bowl, then stir in 1 tablespoon honey. (You may want to add more honey depending on your hair’s length, dryness or thickness.) Apply the mixture to damp or dry hair, then cover for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse out and wash hair as usual.

5. Greek Yogurt, Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey

No one likes frizz, and this combo puts flyaways to rest. While the apple cider vinegar works to stimulate hair growth, detangle hair and make it shiny, the Greek yogurt provides the protein your hair is craving.

Combine ½ cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon honey. (You can also add an essential oil to make the mask smell nice.) Apply to damp hair, wait 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse.

Anything else I should know?

You can store a DIY mixture in the fridge for two or three days. Longer than that, you risk bacteria growth. And if you have a store-bought deep conditioner you love, why not enhance it with some of the ingredients mentioned above?

Whatever you decide, deep conditioning can lead to much healthier locks (and way more effective self-care days).

The Best Conditioner for Curly Hair, from $6 to $29, According to Reviewers

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...