Detangles and smoothes frizzy hair and adds bounce and shine. Makes hair super soft. Gets good results with just a small amount of product.
Expensive, but the large pump bottle lasts a long time.
Provides lots of shine without any sticky residue. Gentle, and works well on color-treated hair.
Not strong enough for super-dry hair.
Uses maltodextrin, derived from sugar, to coat the hair and visibly make it thicker. Does a good job of adding volume. Makes hair super smooth and silky. Very pleasant scent.
Not good for oily hair. Hair can take on displeasing, "chunky" texture.
Adds softness, shine, and definition to curls. Nourishes without weighing hair down.
Can require a lot of rinsing out if you use too much.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Who doesn’t want healthy, glossy hair that’s easy to style? While your shampoo is the key player when it comes to removing oil, flakes, and pollutants, it’s conditioner that leaves your hair looking its best.
There are many hair conditioners on the market, and chances are you’ve got several different brands in your shower right now, yet you might still be wondering what the best conditioner is for your hair type and scalp health. It gets confusing: do you need a conditioner for damaged hair, fine hair, colored hair, thinning hair, or dandruff? Should you get cream, gel, or foam? Do you prefer leave-in or rinse-out?
All hair conditioners serve the same basic purpose: they restore moisture to your hair after shampooing, smooth the cuticle that covers each hair shaft, and make your hair more manageable and healthy looking. Those qualities help any mane look its best, regardless of your hair’s length or type.
There are three basic types of hair conditioner available, and while all of them provide those basic benefits, each type also goes further with benefits of its own.
These are the most common type. After shampooing, you work a bit of conditioner through your hair, wait a minute or two, and then rinse your hair clean. These conditioners detangle, soften, and moisturize hair. You’ll find formulations for every hair type, as well as conditioners for damaged hair, colored hair, and dandruff treatment. Everyone can benefit from the right rinse-out conditioner.
As the name suggests, these aren’t rinsed out of your hair after application. Instead, these conditioners stay in your locks to provide all-day benefits. These products are generally lightweight and help give your hair extra moisture, as well as combat frizz, protect your hair from heated styling appliances, encourage curl, and add shine. Leave-in conditioners are especially suited for coarse, curly, or frizzy tresses.
These stay on your hair much longer than rinse-out conditioners, usually at least half an hour, although very damaged or dry hair can benefit from an overnight treatment before rinsing the product away. Deep conditioners are thick and very moisturizing to both hair and scalp. They help repair damage from heat styling, restore shine, and soothe the scalp. If your hair is very dry or very damaged, you’ll find a weekly application of deep conditioner to be beneficial in restoring your mane’s good looks.
To choose the right conditioner, you need to consider your hair’s type and any special needs.
Is your hair oily or limp? Don’t weigh your hair down further or add to the greasiness of your locks with an overly rich conditioner. If your hair is oily, look for a lightweight conditioner that’s balancing, volumizing, or “clean.”
Is your hair very dry or damaged from heat styling? Hair that craves moisture benefits the most from a creamy, thick conditioner. Look for one that claims to be moisturizing, restoring, for damaged hair, or smoothing.
Is your hair color treated? A conditioner formulated for dyed or highlighted hair won’t strip away or dull your color. Go a little further with a conditioner specifically formulated to gently deposit a tiny bit of color with each use to really keep your salon color looking good.
Is your hair curly or frizzy? Conditioners formulated for curly or frizzy hair are generally very nourishing, with ingredients that help encourage wave and curl without creating frizz.
Is your hair “normal”? Normal hair – without excessive oiliness or dryness – benefits from a light conditioner to keep hair shiny and soft. Look for conditioner advertised as balanced, strengthening, smoothing, or fortifying.
Is dandruff a problem? While it’s the dandruff shampoo that contains ingredients to treat the flakes, a matching conditioner will help prevent excessive dryness after treatment.
While the ingredient list of many conditioners reads like a science textbook, there are some components that are especially good for your hair.
Panthenol (Vitamin B5): It’s a vitamin, but it acts like a protein to strengthen and restore fine or damaged hair.
Coconut Oil: This fatty plant oil is super-moisturizing and nourishing on just about any type of hair. It’s good for scalp conditions, too.
Cetearyl Alcohol: This fatty alcohol stays on your hair to attract moisture and soften your locks.
Hydrolyzed Keratin: A protein found in hair and nails, keratin strengthens and restores the hair cuticle.
Plant Oils: Almond, olive, avocado – many different plant oils are used in hair conditioners because of their light weight and smoothing abilities.
Botanical Extracts: The pleasant fragrance of many conditioners comes from various plant essential oils.
Silk Proteins: These ingredients help to strengthen hair strands.
Glycerol: This liquid attracts moisture from the air to your hair.
Cetrimonium Chloride: This surfactant helps detangle and defrizz your hair.
Hydrolyzed Collagen: This protein increases your hair’s body and strength.
You might assume you already know all there is to know about using hair conditioner, but these tips will help you get the most out of the product you choose.
Use some type of hair conditioner. Some people skip conditioner, figuring it’s not really important. But if you want your hair to look its best, don’t skip this step. It only takes a minute or two, after all.
Don’t use too much conditioner. If you think a little is good so a lot must be better, you aren’t doing your hair any favors. Using too much conditioner not only wastes money but it’s also likely to leave your hair lank and greasy.
Don’t use conditioner that’s too heavy. If you have fine hair, the last thing you need is a very thick, creamy, heavy conditioner weighing it down further. The same goes for oily hair. You need a light conditioner, not an excessively heavy product. Match your conditioner to your hair’s needs.
Rinse out the conditioner completely. Rinse your hair for at least 30 seconds to remove all of your rinse-out conditioner, or you might end up with dull or limp locks.
You can find hair conditioner for less than $5 to more than $20, depending on the type, ingredients, and brand.
Super-cheap drugstore conditioners aren’t going to be the most nourishing, and they may contain ingredients that do little for your hair, but you can find some for less than $5.
The sweet spot for most people, you’ll find excellent drugstore conditioners for between $5 and $10. Expect quality ingredients, a pleasant fragrance, and good moisturizing properties.
You’ll find most salon-quality conditioners cost between $10 and $20. These products generally have expensive or very high-quality ingredients.
For name-brand conditioners, expect to pay more than $20. Keep in mind that you’re paying for the brand name as well as the product in this price range.
Q. Do I have to buy the same brand of conditioner and shampoo?
A. While you don’t have to match your shampoo and conditioner, it’s generally a good idea to do so. “Sets” of shampoo and conditioner are formulated to work well together for specific types of hair, so you’ll generally get the best results from using the two together.
Q. Can I use my rinse-out conditioner as a leave-in product?
A. Yes, if you use a very small amount of a light rinse-out conditioner. Use more than a pea-size dab and you’re likely to end up with greasy, lank locks.
Q. How often should I use hair conditioner?
A. While deep conditioners are best used once a week, you can use a rinse-out or leave-in conditioner every time you shampoo.
Q. Do I really need to leave conditioner on my hair for several minutes before rinsing it out?
A. Unless your hair is dry and damaged, or you are using a deep-conditioning product, go ahead and rinse right away. Your hair will still reap the benefits of the conditioner.