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We love the Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner for its ability to repair mild to moderate damage on all types of hair.
An essential step in any hair care routine, conditioner’s primary purpose is to add moisture back into your hair after shampooing, which keeps your hair hydrated, nourished, and strong.
But the benefits don’t stop there: “[Conditioner] detangles, adds shine, and many of the conditioners on the market now can deeply repair heat damage after one-time use,” says Sunnie Brook, a Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist. “It also refortifies the cuticle with a protective coating, ensuring your hair continues to grow and not break.”
To find the best conditioners for every hair type, we spent hours researching ingredients, formula types, overall value, and more for dozens of products. In addition to talking to Brook, we also sought the advice of two more experts: Chad White, the national director of education at Zenagen Hair Care, and Shelly Aguirre, a hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.
Our top pick is the Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner for its ability to get deep into your hair to repair damage. We also love that it’s compatible with all hair types.
Read on to learn more about our top picks and find out how to choose the best conditioner for your hair.
Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner
Best Overall Conditioner
Who it’s for: People who want a conditioner that can go deeper into strands than the average formula.
Who it isn’t for: People who want a conditioner that is designed for their specific hair type.
Olaplex has a large and loyal following for its ability to go the extra mile in repairing your hair. The No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner was designed to penetrate deep into strands, allowing it to basically mend breakage in addition to moisturizing your hair. Although the brand has gained popularity for its ability to repair hair damaged from chemical treatments, this formula could truly benefit anyone as it is designed for all hair types. It also works on damage sustained from everyday occurrences, including sun exposure, brushing, heated tools, and environmental pollution.
Hana Hong, Real Simple’s beauty editor, tried out Olaplex and was incredibly pleased with the results: “I really appreciate that it doesn’t leave a greasy or heavy feel on my hair, a normally unavoidable side effect for hair conditioning,” she previously wrote. “It will also make your strands shinier and healthier with each use.” It’s also worth noting that this conditioner is vegan and free of parabens, phthalates, phosphates, and sulfates, and it was not tested on animals.
Price at time of publish: $30
Tresemmé Moisture Rich Conditioner
Best Drugstore Conditioner
Who it’s for: People who want a lot of conditioner for less.
Who it isn’t for: People who prefer to buy their hair products from their salon.
If you’d prefer a more budget-friendly conditioner, consider this drugstore option from Tresemmé. Despite its low price, the formula contains great ingredients, such as niacinamide and ceramides. Niacinamide helps with the texture and gloss of your hair, while ceramides are known for their ability to strengthen by adding moisture back in. The ingredient is so hydrating that it’s no wonder this product is especially good for people with dry, frizzy hair (although the brand says that all hair types can use it).
This conditioner also contains biotin (aka vitamin B7), which is known for its ability to add volume to fine hair. For this reason, you don’t need to worry about the conditioner weighing down thinner hair. It’s also free of parabens, silicones, and sulfates.
Price at time of publish: From $7
Size: 28–39 ounces
Key Ingredients: Biotin, ceramides, niacinamide
Hair Type: All, especially dry and frizzy
Ouai Fine Hair Conditioner
Best Conditioner for Fine Hair
Who it’s for: People who want a lightweight yet volumizing conditioner for thin hair.
Who it isn’t for: People who have excessively dry hair.
People with fine hair need a conditioner that doesn’t contain any heavy ingredients that could weigh down their hair. This conditioner from Ouai is designed with fine hair in mind, offering not only moisturizing benefits but also the promise of being able to add volume to your hair. It hydrates hair with the addition of glycerin and chia seed oil, the latter of which is a lightweight oil that can reduce frizz and add shine to your hair. Another key ingredient is biotin, which also adds shine as well as the ability to strengthen and thicken hair, and hydrolyzed keratin, which helps repair damage.
“I love the Ouai Fine Hair Conditioner because it has a texture that is easy to work into my hair, and it leaves my hair feeling soft and healthy,” says Brandi Fuller, associate commerce editor. “My hairstylist always compliments how healthy my hair is, and this conditioner is one of the reasons why my hair looks and feels strong and nourished.”
Price at time of publish: $30
Size: 10 ounces
Key Ingredients: Glycerin, chia seed oil, biotin, hydrolyzed keratin
Hair Type: Fine
Not Your Mother’s Tahitian Gardenia Flower & Mango Butter Conditioner
Best Conditioner for Curly Hair
Who it’s for: People with curly hair who suffer from frizz and split ends.
Who it isn’t for: People with fine hair who don’t want heavy ingredients in their conditioner.
Conditioner is vital to maintaining the health of curly hair. That’s because the natural oils produced on our scalp have a harder time traveling down curls compared to straight strands. As a result, curly hair can often get dry and frizzy. This conditioner, which was designed for curly hair, is deeply moisturizing to help lessen these troubles.
The Not Your Mother’s conditioner contains glycerin, which offers an array of benefits for your hair, including targeting frizz and strengthening through the hydration it offers. Not only that, but the conditioner also contains mango butter, an emollient that is known for bringing softness to your hair. It’s so effective at moisturizing that it can prevent split ends from occurring. This product is vegan and made for all curly hair types, though if you have tighter curls, the brand recommends using more product for better results.
Price at time of publish: $17 for 2
SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Rinse Out Conditioner
Best Conditioner for Coily Hair
Who it’s for: People with coily hair who experience breakage from prolonged dryness.
Who it isn’t for: People with oily hair.
Coily hair is the curliest out of all curly hair types. Because of this, it’s subject to a greater level of dryness that, when not under control, can cause breakage. The best solution is to get a conditioner with next-level moisturizing ingredients, and this one from SheaMoisture offers exactly that. The formula contains lots of oils that will help give your hair some much-needed moisture, including castor oil for strengthening, coconut oil for taming frizz, and jojoba oil for repairing breakage. Another hero ingredient is shea butter, which, in addition to being an incredible moisturizer, also reduces inflammation, increases shine, and protects hair from sun damage. What’s more, with the addition of apple cider vinegar, you’ll likely have an easier time detangling.
This conditioner is recommended for curly hair types 3A, 4A, 3B, 4B, 3C, and 4C, and it’s safe to use on color-treated hair. This product is also sulfate-free and cruelty-free. Plus, if you’re looking to invest more in BIPOC brands, know that SheaMoisture is a Black-owned business.
Price at time of publish: $11
Size: 13 ounces
Key Ingredients: Castor oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, apple cider vinegar
Hair Types: 3A, 4A, 3B, 4B, 3C, and 4C curly hair
Biolage Hydra Source Conditioning Balm for Dry Hair
Best Conditioner for Dry Hair
Who it’s for: People who have dry hair that needs more hydration than typical conditioners can provide.
Who it isn’t for: People who want a more affordable conditioner.
If you find that your hair is so dry that your regular conditioner isn’t making much of a difference, it’s time to level up and try the Biolage Hydra Source Conditioning Balm. It contains plenty of ingredients that will help replenish the moisture that your hair last lost and in turn, control frizz. These ingredients include glycerin and apricot oil, the latter of which is known for being great for dry scalps. Apricot oil is anti-inflammatory and will seal moisture into your hair, which creates soft, smooth strands. Other standout ingredients are aloe for added hydration, vitamins that help keep your hair strong, and cupuacu butter, an emollient that has been called a “super moisturizer.”
What’s also great about this conditioner is that it is vegan, paraben-free, and cruelty-free. The brand recommends this formula for fine to medium hair. It is safe to use daily, just make sure to leave it on anywhere from one to three minutes for the best results.
Price at time of publish: $37
Size: 33.8 ounces
Key Ingredients: Glycerin, apricot oil, aloe, cupuacu butter
Hair Types: Fine to medium hair
The Body Shop Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Conditioner
Best Conditioner for Oily Hair
Who it’s for: People with oily hair who want to use a conditioner that won’t make their hair look greasy.
Who it isn’t for: People who want a more moisturizing conditioner.
People with oily hair sometimes skip conditioner for fear that the oils or other moisturizing ingredients will make their hair greasier. But with the right formula and application, your oily hair won’t get worse by using a conditioner. This one from The Body Shop is lightweight in feel and doesn’t contain any ingredients that could exacerbate oily hair. The formula uses tea tree oil, which is great for oily hair because it helps to naturally regulate oil production (oily hair is a result of the overproduction of oil). The addition of aloe vera is also beneficial because it helps remove any excess oil that is produced by your hair.
The brand claims that 97 percent of the ingredients used in this product are of natural origin. And of those ingredients, a few, including aloe vera and tea tree oil, are organic. Plus, the product has been vetted by The Vegan Society, a non-profit organization that verifies that products are truly vegan. The Body Shop recommends you apply this conditioner mid-length to ends, but if that ends up being too much for your hair, try just conditioning the ends.
Price at time of publish: $12
Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Super Moisture Conditioner
Best Conditioner for Damaged Hair
Who it’s for: People who want a formula designed to repair moderately damaged hair.
Who it isn’t for: People who want to pick up their conditioner at the drugstore or grocery store.
Damaged hair can feel like a hopeless situation and may require a lot of trial and error to find the right products to bring it back to life. With all this conditioner has to offer, we think the Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! may be your silver bullet. Wendy Vazquez, one of our writers, swears by this conditioner for her damaged hair. “I was pleasantly surprised by the effects after just one use, and with continued use over the last month and a half, I’ve reaped the benefits,” she says. “My hair now feels softer and silkier than it has in a long time, and my frizz is much more tamed. I no longer have to use my leave-in conditioner or hair oils when air-drying my waves, either.”
This success can be attributed to the conditioner’s formula and a bevy of effective ingredients. One of these is argan oil, which is an anti-inflammatory ingredient that does so much for the hair: It moisturizes, prevents breakage from occurring, increases your hair’s elasticity, and protects from styling, coloring, and sun damage. The algae extract also present in this conditioner moisturizes and strengthens hair as well, while the addition of panthenol and sodium PCA help in retaining moisture. The conditioner can be used on all hair types and has been formulated to be compatible with hair that has been relaxed as well as hair that has been color-, chemically-, and keratin-treated.
Price at time of publish: $39
Size: 16 ounces
Key Ingredients: Argan oil, algae extract, panthenol, sodium PCA
Hair Types: All
Biolage Color Last Conditioner
Best Conditioner for Color-Treated Hair
Who it’s for: People who want a conditioner that will help their color last longer.
Who it isn’t for: People who want a more budget-friendly conditioner.
After spending all that money to dye your hair, you want to ensure that the color lasts as long as possible. Luckily, the right hair care products can help extend the life of your color. Brook recommends this popular conditioner from Biolage for color-treated hair because it’s a gentle, low-pH formula. “This will ensure the life of your color is extended and protected,” she says. When used correctly, this conditioner can keep color intact for up to nine weeks after going to the salon, according to the brand.
This pick can also be used on bleached hair as well as natural-colored hair. Other pros of the product are that it contains only vegan ingredients (including glycerin) and is cruelty-free. For the best results on your color-treated hair, the brand recommends pairing this with the Biolage Color Last Shampoo.
Price at time of publish:$25
Size: 1.7, 13.5, or 33.8 ounces
Key Ingredients: Glycerin
Hair Type: All types of color-treated hair
It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner
Best Leave-In Conditioner
Who it’s for: People who routinely style their hair and want to use more conditioner to protect from dryness and damage.
Who it isn’t for: People who don’t feel like they need to add an extra moisturizing product to their haircare routine.
Although a leave-in conditioner isn’t considered as essential as a regular conditioner, adding one to your hair care routine will further nourish your strands and protect them from damage. What makes the It’s A 10 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner so great is its blend of hydrating and strengthening ingredients. This includes panthenol (an emollient), aloe vera, and silk amino acids. It also contains green tea extract, which is anti-inflammatory, and sunflower seed extract, which the brand says can help with shine and softness. This leave-in conditioner is safe for color-treated hair and Leaping Bunny Certified, a distinction that confirms that this product was not tested on animals.
Just keep in mind that a leave-in conditioner should not replace your regular conditioner, but it should work in tandem with it. After you’ve washed and conditioned your hair, apply your leave-in conditioner to your wet hair and let it do its thing. Depending on your hair type, this will help with hydration, detangling, and protection from the negative effects of styling. Leave-in conditioners technically work for all hair types, but those with dry, damaged, and curly hair will benefit from them the most.
Price at time of publish: $18
Size: 4 ounces
Key Ingredients: Panthenol, aloe vera, green tea extract, silk amino acids, sunflower seed extract
Hair Types: All
Overall, we recommend the Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner, which is compatible with all hair types. This conditioner differs from your average because its formula is designed to get deep into the strands of the hair to repair all kinds of damage, whether that’s from the sun or your regular blowouts. For a more affordable option, we suggest the Tresemmé Moisture Rich Conditioner. The drugstore formula contains ingredients such as biotin, ceramides, and niacinamide, which make it especially great for dry and frizzy hair.
How to Shop for Conditioners Like a Pro
All of the hairstylists we spoke to stressed the importance of choosing a conditioner designed for your specific hair type, as they all have different needs. “For example, a curly/coily hair type will need more moisture and shine ingredients than a conditioner for a fine/thin hair type,” White says. “While a damaged hair type will need amino acids, proteins, moisture, UVA/UVB protection, and cuticle-sealing properties that would be too much for non-damaged hair.”
Hair type also encompasses color-treated hair. White and Aguirre agree that people with color-treated hair need to seek out conditioners that will protect their color from fading in the sun, such as conditioners that offer UVA/UVB protection. This kind of information, as well as what hair type the conditioner is designed for, is usually labeled on the bottle.
When it comes to hair care, as well as beauty at large, it can be really beneficial to scan the ingredients list before you buy. Which ingredients will be best for you depend on your hair type.
For people with curly or coily hair that is medium to coarse, Brook recommends using products with argan oil, shea butter, and cupuacu butter; while people with fine hair will benefit from “volumizing” conditioners that have panthenol, a form of vitamin B5 that “will hydrate the hair without weighing it down,” she says.
“If you have oily hair, use a clarifying conditioner and look for cetearyl glucoside as an ingredient,” Brook says. “It helps clean hair, retain moisture, and leaves your hair touchably soft.” For damaged hair, she suggests using conditioners that have squalane oil: “This is a natural emollient that will strengthen and repair your hair making it three times stronger after one use,” she says.
Conditioner vs. Leave-In Conditioner
Conditioner is used after shampooing your hair, while leave-in conditioner is used after you’ve completed your shower and dried your hair with a towel. The latter is optional, but there are notable benefits that can improve your hair.
“Whether it’s being used for its sun protection or repair, leave-ins cover a multitude of bases,” White says. “Have a hair type that tangles easily? Use a leave-in on those tangles. Been in the pool/swimming and want to protect your hair? Use a leave-in. Need extra moisture, heat protection, or protein on those slightly over-processed ends? You guessed it, use a leave-in.”
White believes that all hair types that use heat on their hair need a leave-in conditioner, and Aguirre recommends those with thick, curly hair use both a rinse-out and leave-in conditioner as part of their hair care routine.
Questions You Might Ask
What will happen to my hair if I don’t use conditioner?
The consequences of not using a conditioner vary depending on your hair’s health. According to White, if you have healthy, non-damaged hair and scalp, it isn’t “a tragedy” to skip using conditioner altogether. However, if you use chemicals or heat on your hair, damage is inevitable if you don’t use a conditioner, according to White, who says that “[conditioners] are essential to protect and preserve the hair’s appearance, health, density, and overall style.” Brook agrees, telling us that not using a conditioner can lead to scalp issues, lost elasticity in the hair, and thus breakage and split ends.
Conditioner is also one of those products that you should use regardless of your hair type. White says that people with fine, thin hair often skip conditioner, but they are often those that need it most. If you find that a conditioner isn’t working for you, it’s likely not the right conditioner for your hair type. The hairstylists we interviewed all stressed how important it is to buy for your hair type, so make sure to shop around and experiment until you find the conditioner that works best for you.
How can I get the most out of my conditioner?
All of our experts say that the biggest mistake they see people making with conditioner is over-application. So to get the most out of your conditioner, try applying less product.
Brook recommends starting with a nickel-size dollop for fine or short hair and a quarter-size dollop for long or thick hair. Using less conditioner is not only beneficial for your hair, but it will make the bottle last longer so you don’t have to replenish as often.
Another mistake Brook and White point out is that people rinse out their conditioner too quickly, which can leave hair feeling heavy, dull, and lifeless. To prevent this, Brook recommends letting the conditioner sit in your hair for two to three minutes so that it can soak up all of the formula’s nutrients.
What ingredients should I avoid in a conditioner?
According to White, the ingredients you should avoid are dependent on your hair type. So for example, if you have fine hair, an ingredient you should steer clear of is anything heavy like shea butter. Hair type aside, Brook recommends everyone avoid conditioners with parabens, silicones, and drying alcohols.
Take Our Word for It
This article was written by Rachel Center, a lifelong lover of all things fashion and beauty and a product reviews home writer for Real Simple. She spent hours researching all the components that make the best conditioners, ultimately choosing the products in this list based on ingredients, effectiveness, size, and overall value. She also interviewed three hairstylists, including Sunnie Brook, a Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist, Chad White, the national director of education at Zenagen Hair Care, and Shelly Aguirre, a hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.
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