Resistant Hair & Conditioner

Hair conditioner
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Q: I hope you can help me with a problem I've had with my hair for my entire adult life. I have short hair, that is naturally straight, fine, yet tends to be very heavy. It is also colored. I have tried every conditioner on the market - no exaggeration. But NOTHING appears to work on my hair!
I follow all the rules and guidelines for shampooing and conditioning, but after conditioning my hair is still dry and stiff. I can't seem to find a conditioner that actually penetrates the hair and applies more moisture than protein. Too much protein seems to build up on my hair making it worse. I try to apply conditioner "to the ends only" as they say, but with short hair its very difficult, because my hair is nothing but "ends".
Oddly enough, when my hair is shampooed and conditioned in a salon, the conditioner works. When I try the same conditioner at home, my hair is still dry, stiff, and flat, and lacks softness and movement. I've tried using just a little conditioner, and I've tried a lot of conditioner, but neither method works. I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong! I'm 50 and desperate, so please help!

A: This sounds as though you may have what is referred to as "resistant" hair, meaning that you have a densely packed cuticle layer which makes conditioners less able to penetrate into the hair shaft. My best recommendations for you are as follows:
At least once a week, apply your conditioner (with or without shampooing first) and comb it through the hair with a wide-tooth comb. Once the conditioner is applied, wrap your hair with a plastic cap, followed by a hot towel (or use your hairdryer) to warm the hair and leave the conditioner on for 20 minutes (replace the towel or use the dryer to keep the heat steady). The heat should help to swell the cuticle and allow the moisturizers in the conditioner to penetrate the hair.
When it's time to rinse the hair, use cool water to reseal the cuticle so that the moisture imparted to the hair isn't removed by the drying process.
In addition, get a leave-in conditioner to use before you style your hair. By using the leave-in before blow-drying, you can get the heat of the dryer to help the leave-in conditioner penetrate the hair. Just be sure to use a low air-flow setting, so that you heat the hair thoroughly before it dries.
Finally, look for a "hair repair" product that can be applied before bed and left on the hair overnight. There are a number of makers who offer this type of product, and while they are designed to help damaged hair, they are also designed to be absorbed fully and should add some of the softness you are looking for.
See also:
Hair conditioners and conditioning treatments
Hair masks to combat hair problems
Is too much protein in your hair bad for it?