Whether you struggle with dry hair or limp locks, the right hair conditioner can make a huge difference. From hydrating and repairing formulas to conditioners that volumize hair or reduce frizz, you have all kinds of options.
Pick the right conditioner for you, and every day can be a good hair day. Pureology Hydrate Conditioner is a top choice, leaving your hair moisturized and nourished.
What to know before you buy a hair conditioner
What does hair conditioner do?
Hair conditioner is formulated to make hair softer and smoother. It’s considered an essential hair care step following shampoo, which often lacks the hydrating and protective properties of conditioner.
Hair conditioner coats the cuticle with nourishing ingredients, many of which protect hair from everyday damage, including UV exposure and environmental stressors. For those who regularly use flat irons or hot air brushes, a deep conditioner is necessary to protect against heat damage that can result in breakage and frizz. Conditioner is also a helpful detangler that makes it easier for combs and brushes to glide through hair when it's damp or dry.
How to get the most out of hair conditioner
While hair conditioner does the heavy lifting of making hair buttery-smooth, to get the best results, you’ll need to use it the correct way.
- Leave in before rinsing: Hair conditioner should be left on hair for no less than 3 minutes, and when it's time to rinse it out, use cooler water if possible.
- Pay attention to application: Apply conditioner from the middle of your hair down to the roots, as conditioner generally shouldn't be applied to the scalp to avoid excess oil production and clogged follicles.
- Know when you need an extra boost: Because clarifying and purple shampoos are prone to drying hair, leave conditioner in for 5 minutes to restore hydration and softness.
- Keep it closed: Close the hair conditioner bottle after every use to prevent moisture from diluting the formula.
Hair conditioner features
There are thousands of conditioners on the market, and no two formulas are the same. However, many hair conditioners share similar ingredients.
- Fatty acids: Several contain fatty acids, which promote shine and hair growth.
- Oils: Oils, including argan and jojoba oils, are seen in conditioners because they form protective coatings over strands and give hair a glossy shine.
- Vitamins: Many conditioners are infused with vitamins, such as vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties.
- Silicones: Other conditioners have silicones to lubricate and protect, but because they're heavier ingredients, they may weigh down hair.
The average conditioner will hydrate and soften hair, but if you’re looking to manage specific concerns, you’ll need a targeted or specialty formula.
Some of the most popular varieties are advertised as restorative, strengthening, nourishing or deep conditioning. They typically contain a high concentration of ingredients that target specific conditions, such as brittle or very damaged hair. Although they may promise better results than regular conditioners, it’s not always the case for everyone. As a result, finding the right specialty formula may involve trying a handful of formulas.
Regular hair conditioner bottles are usually sold in 8- or 9-ounce bottles, whereas jumbo varieties come in 33-ounce bottles. Generally speaking, most jumbo bottles end up being the better value in terms of cost per ounce. Many conditioners are available in 2-ounce travel varieties as well.
Hair conditioner cost
Most drugstore hair conditioners fall in the $5-$12 range. Depending on their size, most premium formulas run $16-$80. There are a few luxury hair conditioners priced at $100 and above.
Hair conditioner FAQ
What does it mean if a hair conditioner is a “clean” formula?
A. "Clean" isn't an official or legal term in the beauty industry, though many products advertised as clean are free of heavy chemicals, such as parabens and triclosan. Other products, including some conditioners, are considered "clean" because they use more plant-derived ingredients than synthetic ones.
How much hair conditioner should I use?
A. It depends on a few variables, including hair length and thickness. For most people with short to medium-length hair, a couple of healthy dollops is enough. Those with longer or thicker hair, however, may need twice as much. It's largely trial and error, and if you feel your hair is greasy or weighed down after it's dry, use less conditioner to see if it makes a difference.
Which hair conditioner should I get?
Best of the best hair conditioner
Pureology Hydrate Conditioner: available at Amazon, Ulta Beauty and Sephora
Our take: This professional-grade conditioner is fantastic for dry, color-treated hair that needs a major moisture boost.
What we like: The conditioner is infused with jojoba, a deep moisturizer, and green tea, which promotes a healthy scalp. It's a clean formula free of harsh ingredients, like mineral oil, and it has less than 1% artificial fragrance. It's particularly effective at frizz control.
What we dislike: The fragrance has a mixed reception, and some people felt the new formula wasn't as hydrating.
Best bang for your buck hair conditioner
L'Oreal Paris EverCreme Sulfate-Free Deep Nourish Conditioner: available at Amazon
Our take: A favorite drugstore formula, this restorative conditioner leaves hair with a silky-smooth texture and shine.
What we like: It's suitable for sensitive scalps and most hair types, including color-treated. Although it has a thick, heavy consistency, it doesn't leave residue. Because it's sulfate-free, it's non-stripping and gentle on damaged hair.
What we dislike: The apricot fragrance stays on hair much longer than expected.
Honorable mention hair conditioner
Olaplex No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner: available at Amazon, Ulta Beauty and Sephora
Our take: A viral sensation, this Olaplex conditioner repairs dry, damaged hair by coating strands with a protective complex.
What we like: The pH-balanced conditioner strengthens bonds on all hair types, which eventually results in less frizz and breakage. It has a smoothing effect that can result in more shine and fewer tangles. It rinses easily from hair.
What we dislike: Some people didn't notice significant improvement in smoothness after weeks of use.
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Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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