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View Full Version : What is the difference between a "conditioner" and a "moisturizer"? (curlies, LOC)



AuNaturel
January 8th, 2019, 09:20 PM
Just ran across a thread discussing overconditioning -- don't leave deep conditioners in overnight, that sort of thing. I have some questions:

1. What is the difference between a) a "deep" conditioner (the sort you're not supposed to leave on longer than 30 minutes, since overnight DTs can result in overconditioned, weak, mushy hair, which leads to more breakage); b) regular rinse-out conditioners, which are okay to leave in all day and all night, as with the Curly Girl method or used a la Teri at tightlycurly.com, drenched with conditioner that's not rinsed out at ALL; and c) a dedicated leave-in conditioner? Is there any difference in ingredients between rinse-out and leave-in conditioners? What makes Deep Conditioner products different? Why do they become harmful overnight, but the other two aren't?

2. Conditioner vs. moisturizer: What's the deal? I saw several comments that said things like, "I don't use leave-in conditioners every day to refresh my curls, because they left my hair overconditioned and prone to more breakage. Instead I use a moisturizer."

3. On non-wash days, how do you moisturize and protect your hair? Top it off with more leave-in conditioner? Use this mysterious "moisturizer" instead? Just a bit of oil smoothed into the dry hair? (I know you glorious shining 1 and 2 longhairs probably don't need to use anything except maybe a tiny drop of oil to your hair on non-wash days, so I guess this is more for the 3 and 4 club, where dryness is a daily scourge.)

4. If I'm understanding LOC correctly, the L is to add moisture (and many of us use conditioners, either regular or leave-in conditioners, right?), then the O is something that seals (like oil), and then the C is strictly for styling (to add a cast, for definition, etc.), right? The C doesn't actually add anything beneficial or protective to the hair itself? If you've already sealed, what more could the C be doing?

blackgothicdoll
January 8th, 2019, 09:48 PM
1. That's a good question, and I haven't found the answer. I'm curious about this too. I thought it was the concentration of cetearyl alcohol at first, but looking through some of my own conditioners, I've seen both rinse out and deep conditioners with it as the second ingredient. Might take me a little more digging to find an answer to that, but short answer: I dunno lol.

2. I think this also depends on ingredients, as well as what people are calling things. I personally call a leave-in conditioner anything that has the label 'leave-in conditioner' on it, and anything that has water as the first ingredient (but is not a conditioner or deep conditioner). Some people call Pink Lotion a moisturizer - also first ingredient is water, but more oily than a leave in conditioner because the second ingredient it mineral oil. So what I think is being described is that a leave-in is for wet hair, and a moisturizer is for dry hair. I think. I don't agree with that, but that's my mentality with hair products. I won't put my leave in on dry hair either, or spray my hair with water once it has dried, as that will make my hair soggy and fragile. But I'll use a product that has mineral oil or dimethicone as the second ingredient because it won't make my hair revert. Because it doesn't make my hair revert, I couldn't logically call it a moisturizer because it is not making my hair moist - but that, I think, may be describing what these two terms are being used as. If any of that mad sense.

3. Shea butter or oil, or the 'moisturizer' I referred to above - something that does not make your hair revert. I would never recommend Pink Lotion, but I look for products with oil high in the ingredients list that are of a thicker nature. I think that really comes to personal preference. Other people spritz their hair - I don't, because once I have moisturized and sealed, I'm done until it is time to wash again. Products can pile up on top of each other, become heavy, and then weaken the hair (in my exp.). That's why, 9/10 I'll opt for whipped shea butter over oil instead of a cream/"moisturizer", because I don't want to pile stuff on top of my hair. Once it is too oily, it's time to wash and get some moisture back in there.

4. Yes, L is for moisture. Yes, O is to seal, and perhaps for C. There are no rules here, it's all preference. For example, yes, you could use C as a gel. You could also use something like whipped shea butter. For me, I do LCO. So I either do Leave-in - Cream (which is a thicker leave in, usually my "moisturizer") - and seal with oil. Or Leave-in - Cream (which is whipped shea butter) and seal with oil. Now if you use gel, then sure, you can do it that way. or you can do Leave-in - Oil - Moisturizing cream or whatever. You can do whatever you want lol. I like to use a leave in on my wet hair to moisturize, a cream that will give me hold but also has some beneficial oils in it (I don't like gel) and then an oil to seal, sometimes something with mineral oil or other times just a plain old oily.

There's a lot of experimentation involved. No rules, just trial and error. I hope that helps, but it probably only made things more confusing hehe. :D

blackgothicdoll
January 8th, 2019, 09:59 PM
To elaborate:

In leave-in I look for the following:
Water, BTMS, aloe vera juice, cetearyl alcohol

In a cream, or moisturizer, or something-you-use-to-defrizz-your-hair-without-getting-hydral-fatigue, I look for:
Water, any oil, vegetable glycerin, panthenol.

AuNaturel
January 8th, 2019, 10:01 PM
Awesome and thoughtful response, thank you! Yes, I kind of feel like LOC is like, moisturize in some way, and then seal, and then MORE SEAL.

So with your 4a hair, what is the purpose of the product that you put on your hair in the mornings, on non-wash days? To protect? To moisturize (for you, in a non-soggy way, so you lean more toward oils and less toward gloppy leave-ins)? To not add a ton of moisture but more like re-seal, so that you can keep the moisture from the last condition in and prevent it from getting dried out between washes?

I'm re-thinking the whole reason I am using products. (My hair drinks up everything, so I can glop on conditioner or leave-ins and tell myself I'm moisturizing it; or my morning-dry hair will suck up upwards of 2 Tbs of coconut oil and I tell myself I'm strengthening it -- or if it's purely to style and make everything look smooth and curly again, I can put in tons of aloe vera gel, or custards, flax, etc.) Are my morning products primarily there to style and re-curl the curls every morning? Or can I use something else, that will actually protect against breakage every day? Or should I be focusing on keeping my (low-porosity but crazy dry) hair moisturized instead? I don't know anymore!

I done learned too much. Now I feel like I know nothing again.

blackgothicdoll
January 8th, 2019, 10:10 PM
Awesome and thoughtful response, thank you! Yes, I kind of feel like LOC is like, moisturize in some way, and then seal, and then MORE SEAL.

So with your 4a hair, what is the purpose of the product that you put on your hair in the mornings, on non-wash days? To protect? To moisturize (for you, in a non-soggy way, so you lean more toward oils and less toward gloppy leave-ins)? To not add a ton of moisture but more like re-seal, so that you can keep the moisture from the last condition in and prevent it from getting dried out between washes?

I'm re-thinking the whole reason I am using products. (My hair drinks up everything, so I can glop on conditioner or leave-ins and tell myself I'm moisturizing it; or my morning-dry hair will suck up upwards of 2 Tbs of coconut oil and I tell myself I'm strengthening it -- or if it's purely to style and make everything look smooth and curly again, I can put in tons of aloe vera gel, or custards, flax, etc.) Are my morning products primarily there to style and re-curl the curls every morning? Or can I use something else, that will actually protect against breakage every day? Or should I be focusing on keeping my (low-porosity but crazy dry) hair moisturized instead? I don't know anymore!

I done learned too much. Now I feel like I know nothing again.

When I put product on my hair in the morning, it is a.) only if my hair feels dry so that b.) I can style/restyle/adjust/defrizz it. Essentially, both a and b meet the need for me to be able to touch my hair without it being a dry and frizzy mess. So perhaps to re-seal, smooth, and most importantly to keep hair flexible while I'm manipulating it.

I'm not sure about restyling curls, as I don't wear wash-and-goes and I never have. :/ So I really can't advise on primping curls. I don't *think* you're supposed to restyle your curls every morning. From YouTubers I watch, they do a pineapple to keep the curls fresh. Again, I don't have a lot of experience on that part so I could definitely be wrong.

I default to braiding and bunning, I find it easier than trying to deal with my natural texture in all of its shrinkage. So when I add oil or a cream, it's usually to smooth my hair back into a bun, or to do my dutch-braids. I don't think it would work if I were wearing curly hair, but I don't know, I've never tried.

MusicalSpoons
January 9th, 2019, 07:15 AM
1. That's a good question, and I haven't found the answer. I'm curious about this too. I thought it was the concentration of cetearyl alcohol at first, but looking through some of my own conditioners, I've seen both rinse out and deep conditioners with it as the second ingredient. Might take me a little more digging to find an answer to that, but short answer: I dunno lol.

I do not know the answers to any of this, but - your observation doesn't necessarily make your hypothesis incorrect. For instance (hypothetically speaking), you could have a product that's 80% water, 10% cetearyl alcohol, and 10% all the rest of the ingredients; you could have another product that's 60% water, 30% cetearyl alcohol and 10% everything else. Both ingredients lists would have cetearyl alcohol as the 2nd ingredient but the concentration would be vastly different. So, you may still be correct (I don't know).

[All numbers purely hypothetical because I really have no idea what range of % it could actually be in reality - numbers are for illustrative purposes only!]

lapushka
January 9th, 2019, 08:08 AM
I don't think there's a difference between a conditioner and moisturizer, only that moisturizer is a broader term and can include leave-ins and curl creams and other "moisturizing" styling products.


4. If I'm understanding LOC correctly, the L is to add moisture (and many of us use conditioners, either regular or leave-in conditioners, right?), then the O is something that seals (like oil), and then the C is strictly for styling (to add a cast, for definition, etc.), right? The C doesn't actually add anything beneficial or protective to the hair itself? If you've already sealed, what more could the C be doing?

I actually often use a curl cream, then a gel and then a serum.

But you CAN use a leave-in, then a curl cream (so it is moisturizing) and then a serum. I've seen people then STILL use a gel over top.

JennGalt
January 9th, 2019, 06:33 PM
Awesome and thoughtful response, thank you! Yes, I kind of feel like LOC is like, moisturize in some way, and then seal, and then MORE SEAL.

So with your 4a hair, what is the purpose of the product that you put on your hair in the mornings, on non-wash days? To protect? To moisturize (for you, in a non-soggy way, so you lean more toward oils and less toward gloppy leave-ins)? To not add a ton of moisture but more like re-seal, so that you can keep the moisture from the last condition in and prevent it from getting dried out between washes?

I'm re-thinking the whole reason I am using products. (My hair drinks up everything, so I can glop on conditioner or leave-ins and tell myself I'm moisturizing it; or my morning-dry hair will suck up upwards of 2 Tbs of coconut oil and I tell myself I'm strengthening it -- or if it's purely to style and make everything look smooth and curly again, I can put in tons of aloe vera gel, or custards, flax, etc.) Are my morning products primarily there to style and re-curl the curls every morning? Or can I use something else, that will actually protect against breakage every day? Or should I be focusing on keeping my (low-porosity but crazy dry) hair moisturized instead? I don't know anymore!

I done learned too much. Now I feel like I know nothing again.

I know this was a response to someone else, and I haven’t closely followed your posts regarding hair care much because you say your hair is low porosity and mine is quite high porosity, but the part about your hair sucking up anything and everything sounds a LOT like my hair. FWIW, although my hair is mostly a mixture of threes, it is breakage prone, desert dry, and often responds better to hair care products and practices for type fours.

I put oils or moisturizers in my hair every day to protect against breakage. Sometimes it’s oil (a large amount by LHC standards, like you describe); sometimes it’s a humectant (aloe); sometimes it’s misting with water followed by glycerin free detangler/leave in conditioner (Kinky Curly Knot Today); sometimes it’s a combination of these. I just go by what my hair seems to want on that particular day. Anything for styling must go on top of whatever I’m using to prevent tangles/breakage/dryness. Hope that helps :)

Also possibly relevant: moisturizing is all well and good, but I have to be very careful with humectants. I discovered this year my hair really, really hates glycerin, as it’s likely to transport moisture out of my hair and cause it to feel brittle and snap off. Finding glycerin free shampoo and conditioner is like looking for striped paint, but I have noticed a decrease in breakage and tangles after I quit using any leave ins that contain it. YMMV, but it might be worth considering for you.

AuNaturel
January 9th, 2019, 10:02 PM
No, that's totally helpful! Oil, aloe, and Knot Today are some of my staples, too.

I always thought I had high-porosity hair (because it's so dry and drinks up coconut oil like crazy), but I just scrubbed some shed hairs in shampoo and floated them, and they floated, so... ?

JennGalt
January 10th, 2019, 12:43 AM
The float test is not very reliable. You know your hair best, but Id rely more on hair behavior, and yours sounds like it exhibits high porosity behavior (thirsty and drinks everything up).

I keep trying to link a source but my phone is glitching out, so just gonna copy and paste it:
https://science-yhairblog.blogspot.com/2015/02/hair-porosity-float-test.html?m=1

Dark40
January 13th, 2019, 06:54 PM
I agree with lapushka. There is no difference between "conditioners" and "moisturizers." They are the same to me, and leave-ins are moisturizing as well.

BerrySara
January 30th, 2019, 03:31 PM
Regarding the first question OP posed about deep conditioners vs non-deep conditioners, I am really confused as to why you cant leave it overnight?
I have been using Devacurl Melt Into Moisture Conditioning Mask as my deep conditioner. And its honestly been the only one I have come across that really feels like it is making a difference. Whats odd to me is that it specfies the following instructions:

"For a quick moisture boost, let it sit for 3 minutes and rinse.
Need more intense hydration? Cover hair with a plastic cap for 15-20 minutes, with or without heat.
For maximum moisture, apply to wet or dry hair and leave on overnight."

So I have been leaving it on overnight. But lately I keep reading and hearing about NOT to leave any deep conditioning treatment overnight. Idk if I have ever reached an over conditioned state...but when I think it through, if hair is getting soft and mushy...why would it break off? I thought it would take a dry and brittle state for it to easily break off.

Perhaps the Melt Into Moisture mask isn't considered a deep conditioner but a mask? What is ultimately the difference?
First two ingredients:Water (Aqua, Eau), Cetearyl Alcohol.

Would love some insight.

ArabellaRose
January 30th, 2019, 04:35 PM
In response to the question about leaving conditioning treatments overnight, this can cause something called "hygral fatigue", moisture moving in and out of the hair too much can cause damage the cuticles which then leads to breaking. Soft and mushy hair is a sign of this and this itself is a weakened state which can lead to breakage.

(I think I've got that right, I'm still new to all this so maybe someone can confirm/elaborate/correct)

blackgothicdoll
January 30th, 2019, 05:12 PM
Regarding the first question OP posed about deep conditioners vs non-deep conditioners, I am really confused as to why you cant leave it overnight?
I have been using Devacurl Melt Into Moisture Conditioning Mask as my deep conditioner. And its honestly been the only one I have come across that really feels like it is making a difference. Whats odd to me is that it specfies the following instructions:

"For a quick moisture boost, let it sit for 3 minutes and rinse.
Need more intense hydration? Cover hair with a plastic cap for 15-20 minutes, with or without heat.
For maximum moisture, apply to wet or dry hair and leave on overnight."

So I have been leaving it on overnight. But lately I keep reading and hearing about NOT to leave any deep conditioning treatment overnight. Idk if I have ever reached an over conditioned state...but when I think it through, if hair is getting soft and mushy...why would it break off? I thought it would take a dry and brittle state for it to easily break off.

Perhaps the Melt Into Moisture mask isn't considered a deep conditioner but a mask? What is ultimately the difference?
First two ingredients:Water (Aqua, Eau), Cetearyl Alcohol.

Would love some insight.

It depends on the mask. I had one deep conditioner that I applied as a leave in once, and it got my hair so smooth. So I started applying it every day, and it became mushy. Mushy hair can also break off. It becomes too elastic, so that it stretches too far and will break - the opposite of dry or protein over-loaded hair that will not be able to stretch at all. The happy medium is hair that can stretch, but will become 'taut' after enough stretching and hold its own (not snap or break).

I would definitely keep an eye on your hair. If it becomes mushy it can start breaking. Some people can leave in DC overnight, but just don't do that daily of very frequently, and check your elasticity every now and then (the pull test on a damp strand of hair).

Also, it could cause problems for your scalp if you keep your scalp wet with DC overnight, I believe. That would definitely make my scalp soggy and start a shed, perhaps clog follicles. Everyone is different though, I know a lot of ppl leave masks on overnight. It's not for me.

BerrySara
January 31st, 2019, 10:34 AM
In response to the question about leaving conditioning treatments overnight, this can cause something called "hygral fatigue", moisture moving in and out of the hair too much can cause damage the cuticles which then leads to breaking. Soft and mushy hair is a sign of this and this itself is a weakened state which can lead to breakage.

(I think I've got that right, I'm still new to all this so maybe someone can confirm/elaborate/correct)

I see thank you. I will look more into hygral fatique. Started browsing online yesterday regarding this and found a lot of stuff to go through.


It depends on the mask. I had one deep conditioner that I applied as a leave in once, and it got my hair so smooth. So I started applying it every day, and it became mushy. Mushy hair can also break off. It becomes too elastic, so that it stretches too far and will break - the opposite of dry or protein over-loaded hair that will not be able to stretch at all. The happy medium is hair that can stretch, but will become 'taut' after enough stretching and hold its own (not snap or break).

I would definitely keep an eye on your hair. If it becomes mushy it can start breaking. Some people can leave in DC overnight, but just don't do that daily of very frequently, and check your elasticity every now and then (the pull test on a damp strand of hair).

Also, it could cause problems for your scalp if you keep your scalp wet with DC overnight, I believe. That would definitely make my scalp soggy and start a shed, perhaps clog follicles. Everyone is different though, I know a lot of ppl leave masks on overnight. It's not for me.

That makes a lot of sense regarding the hair becoming too elastic when mushy/over-conditioned. I may not have experienced this yet as I have only done the overnight masks a couple of times recently and a few times months and months ago.

I will try a pull test but honestly, I don't think I even want to risk running into a mushy condition. Especially if its potentially putting my scalp health as risk and could potentially cause shedding(!) and/or clogged follicles. Just doesn't seem worth it. I honestly only wanted to do the overnight deep conditioning just to split up wash day efforts to make it more manageable but I just don't want to end up harming my hair or growth progress. The mask I have been using was working fine when leaving in for 20-30min after washing hair so Ill just go back to that.

Thanks for explaining!