Billy Madison may have famously debated whether shampoo or conditioner is better (remember the bathtub scene with the battling bottles?), but we’d like to argue that they’re equally important. Sure, shampoo does the cleansing, but conditioner is paramount for re-introducing lost moisture back to your hair. And more moisture ultimately equals strands that look smoother and shinier, not to mention are much easier to comb through and generally feel stronger and healthier. So consider conditioner to be your shampoo’s unfailing sidekick, a must-use any time you wash your hair.
Looking for a good one? Check out the best conditioners, below.
Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner
Little goes a long way
Softens the hair
Very thick consistency
May be drying for some
Who else recommends it? The NY Post, Self, and The Strategist all picked the Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner.
What do buyers say? 92% of 52,900+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
Byrdie Editorial Director Hallie Gould sings the praises of this conditioner—as well as the accompanying shampoo and treatment—time and time again. The entire line targets broken protein bonds in the hair caused by things such as coloring, chemical processing, and more. In a nutshell, it’s choice for strands that need a little (or a lot) of extra TLC. Just a quick FYI, because it is very thick, Gould says it’s best applied only on mid-shafts to ends, especially for those with fine hair.
Price at time of publish: $30
Hair Type: All | Size: 8.5 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Dove Nutritive Solutions Conditioner Intensive Repair
Softens the hair
Overpowering smell for some
If you’re anything like us and like to really load up on conditioner, opting for a wallet-friendly option, like this one, is always a good move. It works equally as well as its pricier counterparts, nourishing strands from the inside out, delivering both immediate smoothing benefits but also improving the condition of your hair over time, too.
Price at time of publish: $5
Hair Type: Dry and Damaged | Size: 12 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Hair Food Avocado & Argan Oil Smoothing Conditioner
Softens the hair
Full of natural ingredients
Might dull some hair
As a general rule, we heart pretty much all of the conditioners (and shampoos, for that matter) found at the drugstore, but this one really stands out. The namesake ingredients work to tamp down frizzies, hydrate, and prevent breakage, and the formula also happens to be sulfate-, paraben-, and dye-free. We’re partial to this variant, but don’t miss the four other options, all of which boast delicious scents.
Price at time of publish: $12
Hair Type: Frizzy | Size: 17.9 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Dry Hair
OGX Argan Oil of Morocco Conditioner
Doesn't provide a lot of lather
As the name suggests, the star of the show here is Moroccan oil, one of the best oils for hair there is. (Packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-6 fatty acids, it’s naturally deep conditioning.) This luscious and thick formula is ideal for those with extra-parched hair, leaving it unbelievably silky after even just one wash.
Price at time of publish: $7
Hair Type: All | Size: 13 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Runner-Up, Best for Dry Hair
Nexxus Humectress Ultimate Moisture Conditioner
Smooths and softens the hair
Gentle on the hair
Doesn't lather much
This conditioner works by targeting—and strengthening—your hairs’ natural protective barriers. Translation? Moisture gets locked in for up to 24 hours. Fortified with caviar and a special protein complex, the formula works hard to leave your stands ultra-silky smooth, all in a formula that never feels greasy or heavy, even if you have fine hair.
Price at time of publish: $31
Hair Type: Dry | Size: 33.8 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
"After testing the Nexxus conditioner for the first time, I let my hair air dry about 80% and then finished up with a blow-dryer. Afterward, my hair felt softer than normal and laid smoother then it does when I use my usual conditioners." — Joline Buscemi, Product Tester
Best for Fine Hair
Matrix Total Results High Amplify Conditioner
Shines hair in 8 seconds
Has a water-like lightweight constitution
Can be used daily
Might not give results desired for some
Conditioning can prove to be slightly tricky for those with fine hair. Choose too heavy or too rich of a formula and you risk it weighing down your strands, leaving your fine hair looking even flatter. While this newbie may not technically be called a conditioner, it’s the perfect conditioner sub for anyone with limp locks. The water-like formula boasts a special technology that penetrates the hair cuticle to leave hair nourished and with a mirror-like shine…and, according to the brand, does it all in just eight seconds.
Price at time of publish: $21
Hair Type: Fine | Size: 6.8 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Curly Hair
Miss Jessie's Crème de la Crème Conditioner
Moisturizes the hair
Smells light and fresh
Might be drying for some
Fun fact: Curly hair is naturally more likely to be dryer than straight hair. (The shape of the hair makes it harder for oils from the scalp to make it all the way down the hair shaft.) In other words, conditioner is arguably even more of a non-negotiable for those with curly hair. Enter this creamy formula, specially formulated to moisturize, smooth, and detangle curly and wavy textures, yet without ever weighing down the hair.
Price at time of publish: $11
Hair Type: Curly, Wavy, Thick, Coily | Size: 8 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Thinning Hair
Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Clinical Densifying Foam Conditioner
Not only is this an airy foam conditioner with a lightweight texture to ensure thinning hair looks full and voluminous, but it also boasts ingredients to help improve the density of your strands. Namely, Indian gooseberry (or amla) and red clover, two herbs known for boosting hair thickness and strength. Pair it with the accompanying Alterna shampoo and scalp treatment in the line if you’re dealing with unwanted shedding.
Price at time of publish: $38
Hair Type: Fine | Size: 8.5 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Colored Hair
Pureology Hydrate Conditioner
Improves texture of hair
This salon brand has been a staple in the industry for two decades but recently got a revamp and now has new packaging and even more exceptional formulas. We’ve long been fans of this color-protecting conditioner; while it’s always been sulfate-free, it’s now also free of mineral oil and parabens. What it does contain is a patented antifade complex comprised of sunflower seed and vitamin E to ward off color-fading culprits, think UV rays and pollution. The formula is also super concentrated—you get over 70 uses from one bottle—and the scent is delightful, an invigorating herbal and minty combo.
Price at time of publish: $35
Hair Type: Thick, Dry, Color-Treated | Size: 9 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for All Hair Types
Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Banana + Coconut Nourishing Superfood Conditioner
Full of antioxidant-rich fruit ingredients
Team Byrdie loves this conditioner, a surefire pick for pretty much anyone and everyone. The lightweight cream works on all hair textures, and thanks to a line-up of hair-loving ingredients (banana, coconut, and acai, to be exact), it's chock full of nourishing vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Taking a cue from those active ingredients, the juice bottle-inspired packaging and sunny yellow hue are sure to make you smile.
Price at time of publish: $30
Hair Type: All | Size: 12.5 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Unite Hair Leave-In Conditioner
Locks in color
Provides UV protection
Might not detangle enough for some
For those looking to step up his or her conditioning game—and/or whose hair isn’t in the best shape—following a wash-out, using a leave-in conditioner is like the cherry on top of the good hair sundae. Here’s one foolproof pick, great for all hair types, and offering detangling, heat-protective, moisturizing, and reparative benefits with every lightweight spritz.
Price at time of publish: $33
Hair Type: All | Size: 8 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Verb Ghost Hair Mask
Adds shine and softness
Might feel only fairly nourishing to some
At least once per week, you should swap your standard conditioner for a hair mask. As a face mask does for your complexion, it’s a quick and easy way to notably improve the condition of your mane; think of it as a regular conditioner on steroids. More specifically, stock your shower with this mask. It works on all hair types and textures, from stick-straight and fine to coarse and curly, and imparts mega hydration and shine, yet has a surprisingly lightweight feel.
Price at time of publish: $20
Hair Type: All | Size: 6.3 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
For the best results, leave it on for at least five minutes before rinsing (our move is to apply it before shaving our legs).
Best for Damaged Hair
Davines OI Smoothing Conditioner
Leaves hair super soft
Won't weight down fine strands
Suited for all hair types
The botanical scent may be too strong for some
Everything about this buttery cream feels pampering, including the impressively soft and shiny results. It’s thick and rich scooped out of the tub, but melts into a blanket of softness as you apply over damp hair, so it won’t weigh down even the finest hair. It’s formulated with the brand’s signature Roucou Oil, which is loaded with beta-carotene and vitamin A that nourishes and conditions dry or itchy patches on the scalp, and protects and silkifies strands. Unlike some conditioners which require some extra patience in the shower, this one works its hair smoothing magic in less than three minutes and rinses to reveal beautiful salon-worthy glossiness.
Price at time of publish: $44
Hair Type: All | Size: 250ml | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Coily Hair
Pattern Beauty Intensive Conditioner
Full of conditioning coils
Might be too rich for some
This conditioner is the richest in Tracee Ellis Ross’ lineup of curly hair product perfection, and that’s precisely what makes it so special. It’s especially effective at penetrating tight, coily strands and conditioning the heck out of drier hair with low porosity. Plus, it doubles as a repair treatment mask if you let it work with the steam of the shower and it sits on hair for 10 minutes before rinsing. It’s free of all the questionable stuff like parabens, formaldehydes, and phthalates which tend to leave hair coated and heavy, and chock full of all the good stuff, like safflower seed oil, jojoba oil, and avocado oil which keep curls glossy and bouncy. Heck, even the sweet floral scent of neroli, rose, and patchouli feel like a treat to your senses.
Price at time of publish: $32
Hair Type: Curly, wavy, coily | Size: 13 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Wavy Hair
R+Co Atlantis Moisturising B5 Conditioner
This bottle works more like a deep moisture treatment than a basic conditioner thanks to the intensely hydrating blend of vitamins and extracts. A mix of Vitamin B5, prickly pear stem extract, and rice bran oil help to deeply penetrate strands, smoothing and taming pesky frizz and flyaways, and nourishing the scalp to treat hair at the root. The antioxidant-rich formula is enough to pamper the heck out of dry or damaged hair, and equally as effective at keeping wavy hair looking glossy, with that fresh-out-of-the salon bounce. It strikes the perfect richness that leaves hair looking and feeling noticeably silkier, without feeling greasy or coated.
Price at time of publish: $34
Hair Type: Wavy | Size: 8.5 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Oily Hair
Rahua Voluminous Conditioner
Good for co-washing
Pleasant spa-like scent
May not be rich enough for dry hair types
This bottle is packed with calming herbal goodness like lavender, eucalyptus oil, lemongrass, green tea, and rosemary which treat your hair and your senses to a spa-like conditioning experience. The formula is lighter than most in this lineup, but that is precisely what makes it suitable for oily or finer hair types, and an ideal product for co-washing. Lemongrass works double duty, combating excess oils on the scalp while also restoring bounce and shine, so you don’t have to compromise volume for silkiness. It’s also packed with the brands signature Amazonian rahua nut oil which is celebrated for its nourishing benefits that condition deep within the hair shaft to lock in moisture and give hair that gorgeous, glossy finish.
Price at time of publish: $38
Hair Type: Fine | Size: 9.3 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Thick Hair
Ouai Thick Hair Conditioner
Detangles long, thick hair
Softens coarse strands
Light floral citrus scent
Too rich for finer hair types
While thick hair complaints may be considered champagne problems in the hair world, finding the right products that can actually penetrate and condition dense, sturdy strands is hard to come by. That’s where Jen Atkin answers thick hair prayers with a vegan formula packed with rich conditioning ingredients like avocado oil, shea butter, and marshmallow root extract. The hair-softening trifecta effectively detangles and hydrates the thickest heads of hair leaving strands smooth and more manageable post shower. The formula is rich and luxurious which makes for a pampering conditioning experience, and leaves behind a rejuvenating floral citrus scent that will boost your mood.
Price at time of publish: $38
Hair Type: Thick | Size: 10 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Sensitive Scalp
Necessaire The Conditioner
Gently cleanses and hydrates scalp
Leave it to one of the Internet’s buzziest brands to have us break cardinal beauty rules, applying conditioner directly to our scalp, instead of just mid-lengths to ends. The unique formula features a blend of hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, which you’re more likely to find in your face moisturizer than your conditioner. The powerful blend treats the scalp to a dose of TLC, gently removing any buildup or flakes, and conditioning the scalp to help prevent future dryness or itchiness. The moisturizing formula also does a number detangling the lengths of your hair without weighing them down, so you can comb through root to end- with that satisfying glide of beautiful silky, refreshed hair and scalp.
Forewarned if you’re expecting a thick conditioner, this has a lighter weight, milky texture. Some hair types found this wasn’t thick enough for their preferences. The fragrance-free formula is also great if you’re sensitive to scents, but some users missed that scented shower experience.
Price at time of publish: $38
Hair Type: Sensitive Scalp | Size: 8.4 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Chemically-Treated Hair
Amika Conditioner for Damaged Hair
Good for dry, brittle hair
May weight down finer hair
This cheerful mint green bottle delivers a much-needed boost to dry, damaged, over-processed hair that needs it most. It’s spiked with the brand’s proprietary blend of plant-based proteins and plant butters that deliver bond-repairing benefits that strengthen hair from the root. As with all Amika products, the super fruit sea buckthorn berry delivers a shiny coat that leaves frazzled hair looking salon-fresh. It’s an impressively hydrating formula that any hair type can benefit from and reap the smoother, stronger, polished results.
Price at time of publish: $31
Hair Type: All hair types | Size: 9.2 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Meet the Expert
Kristen Shaw is a celebrity hairstylist and men’s groomer based in New York and Los Angeles.
What to Look For in a Conditioner
When shopping for a conditioner, celebrity hairstylist Kristen Shaw says it’s key to find a formula that works with both your hair type and the type of shampoo you’re using. “For example, if you have curly, dry hair, it would be great to use a curly shampoo that will specifically add moisture to your hair and then use a smoothing conditioner to help lock down any frizz,” she says. If your hair is on the oily side, you’ll want to opt for a conditioner that’s more lightweight, pairing it with a gentle cleansing shampoo that will combat excess oil without stripping the hair or scalp.
Moisturizing and nourishing
All conditioners aim to, of course, condition your hair. Still, Shaw really stresses the importance of a formula that’s deeply nourishing and moisturizing (even if it's lightweight), which is especially a must if your hair is on the damaged or dry side. “This also enables you to leave your conditioner on longer and turn it into a healing hair mask!”
Finally, Shaw recommends avoiding silicones when possible. “These make your hair super shiny, but they don’t actually help the hair at all,” she explains. “In fact, silicones often break down your cuticle over time and cause more damage, essentially masking the problem until it’s too late.”
How often should you use conditioner?
You should condition your hair every time you shampoo it. Shampooing hair removes dirt and oils and opens the hair shaft. Conditioning seals those shafts and locks in nourishment, which can help strengthen and moisturize your hair.
How do you apply conditioner?
Always apply conditioner to wet hair. Evenly distribute the product throughout your strands, starting from the mid-length all the way to the bottom. For hair that gets oily easily, only apply to the ends of your hair. If you have curly hair, apply the conditioner closer to your roots and distribute down your hair to lock in moisture. Feel free to let the product sit in your hair for a few minutes to let the ingredients work their magic. Thoroughly rinse the product out of your hair before drying and styling.
Does conditioner expire?
Yes, conditioner will expire. Depending on the ingredients, an unopened conditioner can last for up to three years. Oftentimes, the expiration date of the product is stated on the bottle toward the bottom. You can also tell if a shampoo has gone bad if the texture starts to change and becomes clumpy, discolored, or doesn't seem to be working how it used to.
Why Trust Byrdie
Melanie Rud is a contributing writer for Byrdie where she covers all things beauty—from buzzy ingredients to acne advice. Lindsay Colameo is a seasoned freelance beauty writer and editor with over a decade of experience contributing to leading print and digital publications including InStyle, Byrdie, Real Simple, and more.
We tested 28 conditioners to find the best for many hair concerns in 2022. New York Post. https://nypost.com/article/best-conditioners-for-every-hair-type-review
The 21 best conditioners that will hydrate your hair, according to experts. Self. https://www.self.com/story/best-conditioner-for-hair
The 12 very best conditioners. The Strategist. https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-conditioners.html
Yu JY, Gupta B, Park HG, et al. Preclinical and Clinical Studies Demonstrate That the Proprietary Herbal Extract DA-5512 Effectively Stimulates Hair Growth and Promotes Hair Health. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:4395638. doi:10.1155/2017/4395638