Most of the benefit of regular conditioners comes from the stuff that coats your hair. These ingredients are designed to coat hair so that it looks more shiny and strengthens hair from the outside.
That said, many products that are designed specifically for natural black hair recognise the fact that our hair is weaker so they include more ingredients that adsorb (penetrate) into hair and strengthen the hair fiber from the inside.
This is especially true of deep conditioners. That said, this penetration process will happen within 20 to 30 minutes. Keeping the conditioner on for more than 30 minutes will have no added benefit whatsover.
Let me explain it another way: you know when you have wilted salad leaves in the fridge? When you immerse the leaves in cold water they water goes into the leaf and it starts to look more solid again. They look fresher and can be served.
After that point (when the leaves are "turgid") keeping the leaves in the water for longer has no benefit whatsoever. In fact, if it's a hot day those leaves will start rotting right there in the water!
The key with using a conditioner is to make sure that it is evenly spread over all your hair.
- If you are doing a quick wash you can rinse the conditioner off immediately. What I do is deal with my hair first, leave the conditioner on, then wash my body before rinsing the conditioner out. That way, even with a quick condition it sits for about five minutes.
- For a deep condition, I leave the product on for 20 to 30 minutes then wash it off. I'll do my hair, come out the shower to clean or use the computer then go back in to wash my body and rinse the conditioner.
In summary, if you leave your conditioner on your head for hours and hours there is no added benefit whatsoever. If you're like "but it feels softer" that has nothing to do with the conditioner, it's just the moisture. If you rinsed all the conditioner off and put a shower cap back on you would get the same result!
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