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Best Hair Conditioners

Updated September 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 45 Models Considered
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  • 1 Experts Interviewed
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  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best hair conditioners

    Last Updated September 2018

    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 conditioner for damaged hair, fine hair, colored hair, thinning hair, or dandruff? Cream, gel, or foam? Leave-in or rinse-out?

    If you just want to grab some conditioner and hit the shower, check out our five recommendations above, but if you’d like to learn more about choosing the right hair conditioner in general, read on. We’ve got your answers.

    The right conditioner keeps your hair looking glossy, smooth, and healthy. Even oily hair benefits from a daily dose of conditioner, as long as you use the right formulation.

    Types of hair conditioners

    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.

    Rinse-out conditioners

    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.

    Leave-in conditioners

    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.

    Deep conditioners

    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.

    EXPERT TIP

    Boost the bounce of fine hair with a volumizing conditioner. These lightweight formulations don’t weigh hair down.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    The best conditioner for your hair type

    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.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    To avoid rinsing away the conditioning ingredients, your final rinse should be with cool water.

    Nourishing ingredients in hair conditioners

    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.

    EXPERT TIP

    When applying conditioner, focus on the middle to the tips of the hair, not the roots. This keeps your hair bouncy and full, not weighed down.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Tips

    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.

    EXPERT TIP

    Use your fingers to comb conditioner through your wet hair, gently untangling any snarls without pulling or yanking.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Hair conditioner prices

    You can find hair conditioner for less than $5 to more than $20, depending on the type, ingredients, and brand.

    • Inexpensive

    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.

    • Mid-range

    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.

    • Expensive

    You’ll find most salon-quality conditioners cost between $10 and $20. These products generally have expensive or very high-quality ingredients.

    • Premium

    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.

    Coarse or frizzy hair benefits from a very moisturizing conditioner. If your hair is dry or damaged, treat it right with a weekly deep-conditioning treatment – you’ll be rewarded with extra shine and bounce. If you color your hair, choose a conditioner specifically formulated for treated hair.

    FAQ

    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.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Enid
      Enid
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Michelle
      Michelle
      Writer

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