You asked, we delivered. Introducing one of our most requested shopping guides yet: our beloved hair conditioners review.
After testing more than 30 shampoos for dandruff, curly hair and more, we set out to do the same with 28 hair conditioners — including hair masks and leave-in conditioners.
Whether you’re looking for a soft, milky formula that’ll leave your hair soft and bouncy when using a blow-out brush (cough cough, the Revlon one we reviewed with a massive following) or have hair growth in mind, this full-bodied review is for you.
Plus, we turned to two hairstylists who provided their expertise on all things hair conditioners and how to use them.
“Using a conditioner is an important step in a beauty routine for nourishing hair that adds moisture and softness for manageability,” Amy Abramite, hairstylist, salon educator and creative director at Maxine Ltd. in Chicago, told the New York Post. She, along with Andrew Fitzsimons, celebrity hairstylist for Kim Kardashian, Megan Fox, Jennifer Lopez and more answered more questions in our FAQ section.
An overview of my hair type
You’re in luck, because my hair type is a little all over the place (in short, you’ll likely relate to at least one characteristic my hair falls into). It’s of medium thickness and naturally wavy and frizzy, so I tend to look for high-quality hair products I can use before styling with a state-of-the-art curling iron.
Derived from genetics, I have somewhat of a dry scalp, too, though my hair tends to become oily if I go more than two days without a wash (thank goodness for dry shampoo!)
So, my hair is a melting pot and isn’t at all a one-size-fits-all model. So, I reviewed 28 hair conditioners to see which formulas are worth your coin.
How to choose the right hair conditioner for your hair type
Per experts, there are a few different steps to take into account when looking for your next regularly used hair conditioner.
“After cleansing with shampoo, place conditioner in your palms and massage on the ends where hair is most dehydrated,” Abramite explains. “Once the ends are saturated, work conditioner upward towards the roots with fingers. Leave the conditioner on for two minutes and rinse thoroughly with warm to cool water.”
When finished, the hair should have a slip to it and be easy to detangle. Expert tip: For volume at the roots, skip conditioner at the scalp to avoid weighing hair down.
Click on one of the following links to jump to a specific hair conditioner:
Best Hair Conditioners for Oily Hair
1. Dae Signature Conditioner, $24
Dae’s Signature Conditioner has a formula like no other. It’s infused with essential oils, is 100% vegan and its sudsy formula will have the ends of your hair looking smooth and well-styled. I love reaching for this when I want my hair to have that fresh feeling, especially since it contains coconut oil — serving as an anti-frizz product and giving a long-lasting shine.
2. Biosilk Silk Therapy Conditioner, $9 to $17
For less than $20, Biosilk’s Silk Therapy Conditioner is one to pick up if you want your locks to have a soft feel without adding extra oiliness. Don’t be fooled by the relatively low price, either. I was impressed with the quality of this baby-smooth consistency and how it made my hair feel light and airy.
Best Hair Conditioners for Hair Growth
1. Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Multiplying Volume Conditioner, $36
If there’s a conditioner I turn to most often, it’s Alterna’s Caviar Anti-Aging Multiplying Volume Conditioner. It’s a premium beauty snag, for sure, but if I’m in a hurry, I know this one never disappoints. Plus, I love using it with the brand’s Styling Mist ($30) and Professional Styling Working Hairspray ($25) after blow-drying.
2. Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Clinical Densifying Foam Conditioner, $38
Much like its Multiplying Volume line, Alterna has a wonderful Clinical Densifying catalog to help transform fairly oily to really oily hair into soft, bouncy fullness. Because it’s self-foaming with a whipped texture, it’s equally as great for fine and thinning hair, too.
3. Briogeo Blossom & Bloom Ginseng + Biotin Hair Volumizing Conditioner, $26
Briogeo had me at ginseng and biotin, and its conditioner surely didn’t disappoint. Once your hair starts to have that greasy feel (which nobody wants to have for more than 10 minutes, if we’re being honest), hop in the shower with this product and its corresponding shampoo. It’s fresh to the touch and your hair will feel noticeably reinvigorated.
Best Drugstore Hair Conditioners
1. Kristin Ess The One Signature Conditioner, $11 to $24
Kristin Ess’ The One Signature Conditioner takes me back to the good old days of starting to actually care about my hair. I wanted to try a sulfate-free, quality shampoo without breaking the bank, so I tossed this product into my Target cart. Not only does its larger-than-life bottle have a grand shelf life, but it’s scent and versatile formulation is impeccable for times when my hair feels dry and flaky and when it’s starting to become oily alike.
2. Herbal Essences Sulfate-Free Potent Aloe + Hemp Shampoo & Conditioner, $20
As one of the leading brands in drugstore haircare, Herbal Essences is a tough one to beat. Though some may lean more toward luxury beauty, I love switching out my high-end conditioners with the Aloe + Hemp line. It’s ideal for dry hair (and color-treated hair), helps tame frizz and has that coveted salon scent.
3. Not Your Mother’s Naturals Honey & Kalahari Desert Melon Repair & Protect Conditioner, $7 to $13
If you’re looking for a hair conditioner that’ll instantly transport you to the tropics, pick up Not Your Mother’s Naturals Honey & Kalahari Desert Melon Repair & Protect. It’s less than $15, is one-of-a-kind for a reset (especially for damaged hair) and doesn’t have that heavy feeling some other conditioners feature.
Best Hair Conditioners for Curly Hair
1. Adwoa Beauty Baomint Deep Conditioning Treatment, $36
At first, I didn’t think Adwoa Beauty’s Baomint Deep Conditioner was for me (after all, my hair is more wavy than curly or coily). But, when a Sephora beauty expert said I had to experience this treatment at least once, I was instantly hooked.
Spoiler alert: I’m obsessed with any hair product with a mint scent (I mean, you can’t get fresher than that), and I’m still besotted with the high-level results this treatment gives. Much like a hair mask, leave it on for 10 minutes before rinsing and voila.
2. AG Hair Curl Fresh Conditioner, $32
I’m going to come out and say it — AG Hair’s Curl Fresh Conditioner is the best one I tried for enhancing my natural curls. The front pieces of my hair tend to be curlier than the rest of my regularly wavy hair, but this product defines and de-frizzes my locks in the best way possible. Plus, it feels fresh, much ado to it including vegan keratin.
3. Briogeo Farewell Frizz Smoothing Conditioner, $26
Say goodbye to frizz with Briogeo’s Farewell Frizz Smoothing Conditioner. It’s great on its own — especially for containing a healthful mix of rosehip, argan and coconut oils — though I love using it with the line’s Blow-Dry Perfection & Heat Protectant Crème ($24).
4. Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner, $28
If I had a penny for every time I read about Olaplex on the web, well, I’d be rich. This product is definitely worth the claim but I only use it on occasion; for my hair type, too frequent of use can make my hair oilier than it started with. But, it’s definitely worth the buy if you like a clean scent and a rich feel.
Best Hair Conditioners for Dry Hair
1. Acure Ultra-Hydrating Conditioner, $10
Adoringly, Acure’s Ultra-Hydrating Conditioner has a scent akin to Italian rainbow cookies (and I can’t get enough of it). For only $10, I’m pretty sure 99% of the population is sleeping on this product, so let me turn you on to it: Acure is 100% vegan, contains argan and pumpin and has a moisturizing texture that works on many hair types.
2. Aveda Nutriplenish Light-Moisture Conditioner, $32
Aveda’s Nutriplenish Light-Moisture Conditioner is one of the finest ones I’ve tried — and one I turned all my friends to IRL. It provides that Goldilocks perfect middle-ground level of moisture, along with smelling just like your favorite raspberry lemonade.
3. Gisou Honey-Infused Conditioner, $34
From the brand that launched its still-best-selling Honey-Infused Hair Oil ($46), Gisou has a corresponding hair conditioner that’s just as lovely. It’s enriched with sustainably sourced Mirsalehi honey, which is intended (and, I’ve seen it firsthand) to deeply moisturize your split ends and hair from the scalp down. It’s worth your money, tested and approved.
4. Moroccanoil Weightless Hydrating Mask, $42
It took me way longer than it should have to realize hair masks replace your hair conditioners for a once-in-a-while detox. Why I love Moroccanoil’s Weightless Hydrating Mask is plain and simple: it’s so lightweight that it feels like a hair conditioner but it’s actually giving your locks a lightweight, volumizing and hydrating makeover. Don’t walk, run.
5. OUAI Medium Hair Conditioner, $30
If a better-than-the-rest scent is what you’re after, there’s no better option that OUAI’s Medium Hair Conditioner. The brand also makes one for fine hair and thick hair, respectively, so the incredible salon scent will carry on to your hair type.
Plus, its dry shampoo is out of this world; it’s one of the best one to spray in your hair once it starts to become flatter.
Best Sulfate-Free Hair Conditioners
1. AG Hair Natural Boost Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioner, $32
Per our stylist experts, apple cider vinegar is a wonderful ingredient to look for in your hair products for naturally balancing the pH levels of the hair and increasing shine by smoothing down the cuticle and eliminating frizz. Not to my surprise, AG Hair’s Natural Boost line is just as good as its Curl Fresh line — and one you have to try ASAP.
2. Amika Normcore Sulfate-Free Conditioner, $21
Truth be told, whenever I wash my hair with Amika’s Normcore Sulfate-Free Conditioner (and matching shampoo preceding that, of course), I’ve never received so many compliments on my hair. I turned my boyfriend’s mom onto it, my friends and basically everyone else I know because it has a heavenly scent, isn’t too expensive and is a near-miracle on frizzy or oily hair days.
Plus, when paired with the brand’s extremely effective Brooklyn Bombshell Blowout Volume Spray ($28) and the Hair Blow Dryer Brush 2.0 ($100), you’ll never look back.
3. Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Kale + Apple Replenishing Superfood Conditioner, $29
Just like matcha provides those superfood ingredients in the fan-favorite beverage, so is the case with Briogeo’s Be Gentle, Be Kind Kale & Apple Replenishing Superfood Conditioner (doesn’t it just sound healthy for your hair?) Specifically, it was one of the best for moisture I tested, aside from helping to remove brittle texture caused by dead ends.
Best Leave-In Hair Conditioners
1. Drunk Elephant Silkamino Conditioning Leave-In Milk, $32
When I learned Drunk Elephant has a brand-new Silkamino Conditioning Leave-In Milk, I nearly shrieked of excitement (big fan of the brand’s Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer and B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum over here). After blowing my hair out with this leave-in product, my hair had literally zero frizz (a true miracle) and is one of the best I’ve tried.
2. Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat & UV Protective Primer, $29
What’s great about Bumble and bumble’s leave-in conditioner is its versatile charm. It’s a heat protectant, a pre-styler and a moisturizer all in one, so it’s 100% worth the less-than-$30 price. Plus, it’s great to apply on second-day hair when you want a bit more moisture on your ends.
3. Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Leave-In Conditioning Milk, $32
If you want a silky-smooth leave-in conditioner, grab Alterna’s Caviar Anti-Aging Leave-In Conditioning Milk. As you can tell, I’m pretty obsessed with this brand line and truthfully, can’t recommend it enough. This product helps detangle and enliven your strands, too.
4. OUAI Detangling & Frizz-Fighting Leave-In Conditioner, $28
If you don’t want to use a hair mask but still want to reap its benefits, spray a bit of OUAI’s Detangling & Frizz-Fighting Leave-In Conditioner from the scalp down. Its scent is incredible, it has a lightweight texture and will last for a good while.
5. Living Proof No Frizz Leave-In Conditioner, $27
Living Proof, as its popularity suggests, is one of the top brands you can pick up if you’re looking to transform the state of your hair. I recently tried its No Frizz Leave-In Conditioner for the first time and wow — it’s definitely a product I tend to reach for after many showers.
Notably, I enjoy how it’s well-equipped for many different hair types and textures. That said, it’s fantastically buildable and like no other.
Best Personalized Hair Conditioners
Alongside my testing of grab-and-go hair conditioners, I also took multiple hair quizzes to try out some of the leading personalized haircare brands: Formulate, Function of Beauty and Prose.
It’s hard to choose favorites here, but Formulate is a standout personalized haircare brand (see our full review for more). What’s great about Formulate is how you’re not receiving pre-made bases; everything is fully custom.
This conditioner is one I continue to grab, especially if fuller hair is what I’m after. Though an investment, it’s well worth the purchase if you’re looking for a personalized chemist and hair expert to take your locks into account.
2. Function of Beauty
Buzzy and beloved by many, Function of Beauty’s pick-your-own-color shampoo and conditioner is great to snag if you want the biggest bang for your buck. Its large bottle — more importantly, the formulation inside — is great if you have frizzy hair, specifically, as its scents and weight were the perfect balance for my hair.
If you want super silky hair, buy Prose. Its fresh-scented formula is one you’ll instantly love. Not to mention, the ingredients are all vegan and based on a highly intensive hair quiz that, after taking, is worth it for the health of your hair.
Your hair conditioner questions, answered by hair experts
Below, we consulted two haircare experts to give you the 411 on all things hair conditioners (including how to properly use them).
How much hair conditioner should I apply?
How much hair conditioner to apply depends on your hair type and texture. “Fine thin stands will need less product and thick coarse hair will require more,” Abramite explains. “Begin with a dime to a quarter-sized amount and add more if necessary.”
How often should I use a leave-in conditioner?
“A leave-in conditioner is used primarily to moisturize mild to moderately dry hair and to repair damaged hair,” Fitzsimons said. “To see the best results, you should try applying a leave-in conditioner two to three times a week or after every wash.”
Moreover, if you find that your hair may need more than that, there’s no harm in using it more until you reach desired softness, he adds.
How often should I use a hair mask?
According to Abramite, hair masks are intense moisturizing treatments. “Masks are typically used once a week but can be used daily if the hair is extremely dry or damaged,” she notes. “As long as the benefits are suiting the hair’s needs, use as often as necessary.”
What ingredients should I look for in a hair conditioner?
Ahead, see what our two hairstylist experts have to say about recommended ingredients for each hair type:
- Oily Hair: Look for products that have serum-busting oils such as rosemary, basil and lemon as these products are antibacterial and have cleansing properties that will help unclog pores. Aloe vera gently removes oil and calms the scalp, too.
- Thinning Hair: If you’re looking to target hair growth, biotin is your number one savior. This ingredient has been shown to improve hair loss, and promote hair growth. Rosemary oil improves blood circulation and promotes hair growth, too.
- Curly Hair: Look for organic argan oil, glycerin, and castor oil to help bring moisture back to your strands and to define your curls by making them soft and bouncy.
- Dry Hair: Look for avocado oil and olive oil are good to moisturize dry, brittle hair. As a general rule of thumb, argan oil is really good for virtually any hair type.
- Frizzy Hair: Look for a product that has shea butter, coconut oil and cocoa butter to replenish the strands and keep flyaways at bay.
- Damaged Hair: Damaged hair turns brittle and straw-like from overprocessing the strands, heat styling, or improper care. To help combat those effects, find conditioners that have ingredients that will help smooth and soften your locks like hydrating oils, shea butter and glycerin.
- Fine Hair: Look for collagen and caffeine to help remedy fine hair.
- Wavy Hair: Similar to curly hair types, moisture is key. Look for ingredients such as avocado, argan, jojoba and coconut oils.
- Bleached Hair: When you have bleached hair, what you really need to focus on is hydrating your locks since they will become a bit damaged after. Look for coconut oil as it can work to nourish your strands and prevent protein loss.
What ingredients should I avoid in a hair conditioner?
“When looking, you should definitely avoid products for the hair that include sulfates, parabens, formaldehyde, and retinyl palmitate,” Fitzsimons lists. “These ingredients are often associated with hair loss as they are easily absorbed through your skin and are harmful to your scalp, creating a slew of issues including dryness irritation and color fading.”
Abramite also advises staying away from silicones, as “they can build up and leave product residue on the stands making hair dull,” she adds.
How long should hair conditioner stay in your hair before rinsing?
Good question, right? Conditioner should typically stay in the hair for about five minutes before rinsing, and a mask should remain in the hair for ten to 20 minutes, per our experts.
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