Conditioner 101: Everything You Need To Know According To Celebrity Hairstylist George Papanikolas

May 28, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

Remember when it seemed like there was only one type of conditioner in the world? You would shampoo, soak your strands in conditioner, and then rinse after waiting three minutes or so. Well times have certainly changed; conditioning products are now like snowflakes–no two seem to be alike. While that’s usually a good thing because, as far as beauty products are concerned, variety is the spice of life, I’d be lying if I said the many types of conditioners–including wash-out, leave-in, and deep conditioning treatments–didn’t leave me scratching my head in wonder at times.

Luckily, I had the pleasure of consulting Matrix Celebrity Stylist George Papanikolas, whose skillful fingers have actually worked on Kim Kardashian gorgeous locks. He gracefully answered all of my conditioner questions and provided tips on which conditioner is right for your hair type. Read on for the scoop.

SHEfinds: What’s the difference between leave-in conditioners, wash-out conditioners and deep conditioning treatments?

George Papanikolas: Leave-in conditioners are diluted down versions of wash-out conditioner; they act as a grooming aid. They give soft definition to hair and light control for frizz and manageability.

Wash-out conditioners have a lower PH than shampoo, so they soften the hair cuticle and make it more manageable. It has the most essential oil, or dimethicones, that aid in giving hair additional moisture and nourishment by filling in the cuticle and giving the hair a soft, slick feel.

Deep conditioning treatments penetrate the hair deeper, usually with proteins to help rebuild the hair and give it extra moisture to help repair dry and damaged ends.

Stylist Note: Matrix’s Biolage Cleansing Conditioner goes on as a conditioner, then after five minutes, it morphs into a cleanser. “This way you get a gentle cleansing and conditioning without weight. There is one that benefits each hair type.”

SF: How can a woman tell which conditioner her hair needs?

GP: Most people should use a wash-out conditioner, especially when they wear their hair on the longer side. If you get any chemical treatments, or do heat styling then deep-conditioning treatments will be necessary. People with coarse, curly and unruly hair will benefit from leave-in treatments.

SF: We often see conditioners that are made for various hair types (fine, coarse, etc). What is it about these conditioners that differentiate them?

GP: It’s usually the weight and residue they leave behind. Coarse and curly hair are drier by nature and require extra moisture. Fine hair just needs a gentle detangling effect without heavy weight on the hair. Otherwise it can look greasy and flat.

SF: There is much debate over whether we should apply conditioner to our roots or only to the ends of hair. What is the proper way to use a conditioner?

GP: Conditioner should be used all over curly and coarse hair. If you have fine hair or get oily roots, then applying to middle and ends of your strands is enough. If you use cleansing conditioners, apply from scalp to ends and allow it to sit for the full five minutes so that it can fully morph into a cleanser.

SF: Is there a such thing as “over conditioning” hair?

GP: Yes! Fine hair can feel limp and flat if you use too much conditioner. Doing too many deep treatments can actually make the hair feel more dry and brittle because of too much protein. Limit these treatments to 2-3 times a month.

For more beauty tips, check out 8 sleep mistakes that are ruining your skin and hair and pimples 101: everything you want to know, but are too grossed out to ask.


Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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