We all want perfectly moisturized curls, and of course, that all starts in the hair product aisle. But if scanning the shelves makes you bite your lip and think, “I’m in over my head here!” you’re not alone.
Back in the day it was simple, right? Get your shampoo, conditioner and grease, and you’re out of there. But these days? There are so many products on the market – from serum to masks, from placenta to protein, from treatments to hair butter – it can be difficult to know where to start.
So your hair’s been feeling a little dry lately. Welcome to the club. You’re in the hair product aisle with a hat covering all that dry, looking at about 200 different products that all scream ‘for soft, smooth manageable curls’. Deep conditioner… hair mask… deep conditioner… hair mask… You’re puzzling between the two before you even realize you don’t know what the difference is between them.
Don’t worry. We’ve come up with a few ways you can tell the difference and choose the right product for you.
Softening Or Strengthening?
In general, deep conditioners are made to soften, while hair masks are made to strengthen. The thing is, though, that deep conditioners and hair masks vary between brands. This is especially the case with masks – from one brand, you might just get a deep conditioner in a sachet rebranded as a ‘mask’, while with other brands you’ll get specially formulated products for strengthening the hair.
Take a look at your hair to decide which product you’re going to need. If your hair’s a bit dry but otherwise fine, then a deep conditioner will help you get your moisture back. If your hair’s relaxed, chemically treated, colored, or otherwise damaged, a mask might be the way to go. Heck, a mask and a deep conditioner might be the way to go.
How Often Should You Use Masks And Deep Conditioners?
Whoa, you’ve just opened up a can of worms, girl. Now, since we’re talking about washing hair – because both of these have to be washed out – we all know that everyone’s washing routine varies. Whether you’re co-washing, have a protective style in, or are trying to protect your hair from the changing seasons, you’ll have to experiment with how often to do it. Washing too often can dry out your hair, big time, and washing too infrequently is… well, just kind of nasty.
In terms of how often you should use masks and deep conditioners, we honestly want to say ‘just do you’. Because the guidelines are so different across products it makes it a nightmare trying to work out what you should be doing. Not only that, but with some products it’s hard to tell if the guidelines they provide are for afro hair, or other hair textures. So you could do your hair some damage by following the wrong advice.
We would advise you to use your own hair as a guide. If it’s damaged, give it a hair mask. If it’s dry, give it a deep conditioner. If it starts to get limp, you’re probably putting too much treatment on it. The one thing we’ll say is that deep conditioners can generally be used more frequently than hair masks.
How Long Do I Leave This Thing In For?!
Ugh, this is another question we’re so hesitant to answer. Some people say a deep conditioner should be used like any other conditioner – massaged in and washed straight out. Others say you should keep it on, wrap up that plastic and get under a dryer for a half hour. Others say leave it on for 10 minutes, then wash out. And, if we’re honest, the same is true of masks.
Everyone and her mother and her grandmother seem to have different ideas of what the ‘best’ way is. Plus, there’s so much variation when it comes to ingredients, what might work for one product might not work for another.