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When you’re in a full-blown hair crisis and your strands feel like crap, a great at-home remedy is a deep conditioner. It’s a quick fix to several issues, from brittle ends to dehydration to overall dull, lifeless hair. Deep conditioners have the powers sent from above to go deep into the hair shaft and deliver nutrients that revive your locks. No wonder it’s our favorite part of the wash routine.
Back in the day, you might have created your own “deep conditioner” by taking whatever conditioner you had and leaving it on your hair for an extended amount of time. But today, the range of moisture masks that target specific hair needs is far beyond what we could've dreamed of. Whether it’s frizz, heat-damage, or breakage due to chemical treatments, there’s a deep conditioner out there for you—and for all hair types too.
Best Overall: Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner
Most hairstylists swear by the Olaplex code and often use the brand’s whole system to revive dull, color-treated strands. In spite of its reputation though, it’s not only great for those who dye their hair. This at-home mask works overtime to re-link all broken hair bonds and add lustrous shine. (It's also a favorite of Byrdie's senior editor, Hallie Gould.)
Best for Damaged Hair: Kérastase Résistance Masque Therapiste Hair Mask
Your hair doesn’t have to be super-damaged to use a deep conditioner, but in cases where it is, this Kérastase option is a total pick-me-up. The aqua bottle is packed with refreshing, rebuilding, and revitalizing hair benefits. Case in point: its ceramides and pro-keratin ingredients, which aid in the building and smoothing of the hair follicle and leave your strands looking impossibly shiny.
Best for Fine Hair: Christophe Robin Regenerating Mask with Rare Prickly Pear Oil
Ceramides are a part of a complex family of fats or lipids called a sphingolipid. They work to restore the skin barrier and lock in moisture.
A great option for anyone with fine, limp hair, this regenerating mask from famed French hairstylist Christophe Robin has the ability to add body and thickness. It’s chock-full of plant ceramides that work to restructure the core of the hair, making it stronger from the inside out. Take your time with this product—after shampooing, take a small amount and massage it onto your scalp, adding water as you continue to massage it in. Then, rinse it out for the softest strands ever.
Best for Dry Hair: Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture Masque
It's not a marketing gimmick: this caviar-infused deep conditioner reverses my hair back to its middle school days when my doobie was long, strong and had a youthful bounce. It’s best used on dry, coarse hair.
Best for Color-Treated Hair: Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask
I admit that when I first picked up this Briogeo deep conditioning mask, I didn’t expect my hands to reach for it every single week when it was wash-time—but that's exactly what happened. The Nova-complex of transformative nutrients in this formula leaves my 4C, kinky and tightly-coiled hair so healthy-feeling, that I just want to touch it all day. And it’s perfect for treated hair.
Best for Frizz: The Mane Choice Heavenly Halo Herbal Hair Tonic & Soy Milk Deep Hydration Mask
Not many of us actually have the time or tools to sit under a dryer for a true deep conditioning session. For a similar effect, this product actually recommends that you leave it on your hair for up to one hour and cover your hair with a plastic cap—no heat required. The promised results are improved elasticity and soft, frizz-free hair. Upon testing, we can say it delivers on its promise.
Best for Curly Hair: Rene Furterer Karinga Ultimate Hydrating Mask
A defining, penetrating conditioner for textured, kinky, coiled, and frizz-prone hair, this heavy formula literally coats your strands like a cream mask. The formula provides deep hydration, helping to repair previous damage and boost hair bonds.
Best Budget: Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Moist Deep Conditioner
Jojoba oil is a natural oil produced from the seed of the Chinensis plant, a drought-resistant shrub native to southern Arizona, California, and Mexico. It mimics natural sebum and conditions and seals moisture in the skin without clogging pores or exacerbating acne.
No lies were told when “miracle” was planted into the title of the three-minute magic formula of a conditioner. Ideal for all hair types—but especially amazing on dry, fine hair—this potion’s aloe, jojoba, and sea kelp combination instantly transform tired hair into silk.
What Our Editors Say
"This product's title doesn't lie. It works miracles. My curls require intensely hydrating conditioners, and this one always leaves them looking healthier and thoroughly moisturized." — Olivia Hancock, Associate Editor
Best Budget, Runner-Up: Verb Ghost Hair Mask
Glycerin is a naturally occurring compound in the body; in topical skincare, it is derived from plants. It functions to draw water to the skin and continue hydrating it, making it a great ingredient for extreme dryness.
VERB's quality is shocking for the brand's affordability. One of our favorite products they sell is their Ghost Hair Mask, which is great on any texture of hair from straight to coily. It's light so it won't weigh down your hair after use, and the combination of moringa seed oil and glycerin moisturizes and nourishes hair.
Best for Relaxed Hair: Davines NOUNOU Hair Mask
Aussie brand Davines is about as sustainable as they come, and while that's a major perk of the brand, there's no sacrifice in efficacy. While some other nontoxic hair brands may leave you with straw-like strands even after deep conditioning, Davines uses tomato extract to prevent the common pitfall. The mask also helps detangle, which makes it a godsend.
Best Korean Beauty: BEIIGIC Damage Repair Treatment Mask
You've heard about K-beauty, but what about K-haircare? This mask from Korean skin-and-hair brand Beigic is vegan and made without silicones, so truly anyone—even people with sensitivities—can use it. What is in it? Green coffee bean oil for healthy follicles and protection, argan oil for moisture, and D Panthenol to reinforce damaged strands.
Best Protein: SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate Repair Protein-Strong Treatment
When it comes to deep conditioning, the first thought is usually moisture — but your hair needs protein too every now and then to restore and strengthen your strands. Adding this to your regular routine will bring over-processed hair back to life, making it soft and supple to the touch again.
This deep conditioning treatment is ideal for medium waves to curls
Overall, our top pick for the *very* best deep conditioner would have to be the Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner. It works its magic on dry, damaged, and color-treated hair by re-linking broken hair bonds, lending it a gorgeous, healthy shine. If you’re seeking a deeply nourishing treatment that won’t weigh down your hair, trust that Verb’s Ghost Hair Mask will get the job done, whether your hair is straight, wavy, or coily. It hydrates each strand with moringa seed oil and glycerin, leaving the hair oh so shiny—and more importantly, residue-free. Finally, if your color-treated hair needs some love, reach for Briogeo’s Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask. The nutrient-rich formula is intensely hydrating, formulated with a powerful blend of reship oil, B-vitamins, and algae extract. Use once a week for shiny, healthy, and frizz-free hair.
What to Look for in a Deep Conditioner
In addition to deeply moisturizing the hair, hairstylist and artistic director at Matrix Michelle O’Connor recommends reaching for a product that also has strengthening properties. She explains that lackluster hair in need of repair is usually experiencing some degree of breakage, so it’s important for it to get the strength it needs from proteins and oils. Keratin and argan oil are two great examples of ingredients to keep an eye out for.
A Concentrated Formula
O’Connor also recommends looking for products with concentrated formulas, as they tend to better penetrate the hair shaft. “When the penetration ability is heightened, the deep conditioner fills in the gaps and nicks that are present in the surface of hair that’s damaged,” she says. This will lead to hair that's smoother, shinier, and stronger.
A Lightweight Finish
While you'll want your deep conditioner to truly nourish the hair, you also don’t want it to leave it oily or weighed down. Look for formulas that will ramp up hydration while still providing a lightweight finish sans any heavy or sticky residue.
Can you use a deep conditioner with regular conditioner?
Does dry or damaged hair need both regular conditioner and deep conditioner, or is that overkill? According to O’Connor, if your hair is very damaged, you can (and should) still use both. She recommends applying traditional conditioner as usual, then following with a deep conditioner for an extra reparative measure.
How long should you leave deep conditioner in your hair?
How long you’ll need to keep your deep conditioner in for will vary from product to product, so be sure to thoroughly read through any directions on the packaging. However, O’Connor mentions that leaving deep conditioner in for longer than recommended won’t harm your hair. “In fact, many people with curls and coils love to add time and elements of steam and heat to further enhance the penetration,” she says. “This is especially key when you have low porosity hair.”
Meet the Expert
Michelle O’Connor is a professional hairstylist and the Artistic Director at Matrix.