What You Need to Pick the Right Conditioner for Your Hair Type

Find the right conditioner to maintain healthy, shiny strands

Pick the Right Conditioner
Pick the Right Conditioner Lead.

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Most people out there are tragically unaware of the fact that they're not using the right conditioner. Due to the myriad options, it's easy to pick a bottle in haste that will weigh your hair down, or leave it static, dry, and brittle. There are things you need to know before you buy a conditioner, starting with what it actually does.

Conditioner is typically used right after washing your hair and is meant to replace the lost moisture from shampooing. It also smooths the cuticle of your hair, which in turn reduces tangling, increases shine, decreases static, and helps make your hair more manageable. Conditioner is very important for all hair types, but not every conditioner will work for your hair type.

The rule of thumb is this: shampoo should be chosen based on your scalp condition, conditioner should be used to treat and enhance the condition of your hair. If your scalp is oily and your ends are dry (which is common), choose shampoo that is best suited for an oily scalp and a conditioner that is best suited to hydrate your dry ends. Why? Like your face, treating the oil condition on your scalp begins with proper cleansing. Introducing the proper moisture back into your hair is done by selecting the right conditioner.

So, when you're browsing for a conditioner, the most important thing is the way the ends of your hair feel to the touch. Do you deal with a lot of static? Does your hair feel dry, damaged, or brittle? Is it oily, limp, or lacking shine?

What Conditioner Types Actually Mean:

Conditioner packaging is obviously designed to tell you how absolutely life-changing each product is. However, with words like fortifying and volumizing, it leaves you wondering what the conditioner is actually supposed to do (and if it's even a good fit for your hair type).

So, what exactly do these conditioners do for your hair? We break down the buzzwords below.

  • Hydrating/Moisturizing: great for adding moisture, shine, and smoothness to hair. Good for thick, curly, or course hair.
  • Volumizing: excellent choice when your hair is fine or limp. If your hair or style need a boost and lift, a volumizing conditioner won't weigh you down.
  • Strengthening/Fortifying: good for damaged, over processed, highlighted, weak, or brittle hair.
  • Balancing: balancing conditioners are typically a nice middle of the road option. Not too moisturizing, but won't dry your hair out.
  • Smoothing/Straight Hair: extra moisturizers and smoothing agents help seal the cuticle and provide a smooth start for your straight hairstyle.
  • Curly Hair: conditioners that are formulated for curly hair are typically very moisturizing and make an extra effort to reduce frizz.

The Best Conditioner for Weak, Breakage-Prone Hair

If you find that your hair often breaks off during brushing, washing, or styling, you'll want to look for a strengthening conditioner to fortify your hair from the inside out with strengthening ingredients like keratin and moisturizing agents.

  • Look for conditioners with strengthening ingredients, but don't overuse them. Overuse of ingredients like protein can actually lead to more breakage.
  • The Byrdie editors are big fans of the Nexxus Unbreakable Care Thickening Conditioner.

The Best Conditioner for Oily, Limp Hair

If your hair tends to be oily or greasy, you may skip conditioner altogether and likely often find that conditioner makes your hair feel worse. While some people can skip conditioner with good luck, there are conditioners out there that can help reduce oil. Here's what to look for and what to avoid when choosing a conditioner for an oily scalp:

  • Avoid conditioners that are "hydrating," "moisturizing," "smoothing," or otherwise considered good for curly hair. These conditioners tend to pack in too much moisture at once, and will cause your hair to be limp.
  • Look for labels that read "volumizing," "light," "strengthening," or "balancing." Added protein may be a good thing for oily hair. These products are less moisturizing and more effective at removing excess oil.
  • If your hair is fine and oily, try using conditioner first, then shampoo.

When applying conditioner, keep the product off your scalp. Apply a small amount to the midshaft/ends of your hair and spend extra time rinsing (an absolute minimum of 30 seconds). Sometimes, oily hair is actually the result of conditioner not properly rinsed.

The Best Conditioner for Dry, Damaged Hair

When your hair is dry, damaged, or brittle, choosing the right conditioner can make or break your good hair day. It's important to choose a conditioner that will help prevent future damage:

  • Avoid "strengthening," "fortifying," and "volumizing" conditioners.
  • For hair that is only a little dry, look for shampoo labels that promote moisture, hydration, smoothing, balancing, or help with curls. These products are great for balancing moisture without adding too much to weigh your hair down.
  • If your hair is particularly damaged, consider a conditioner that packs a harder punch. Look for labels that promote repair, control frizz, are good for highlighted hair, and protect from heat damage.
  • Deep conditioners are a great investment for dry and damaged hair. With use 1-4 times per month, your hair's damage can be managed, and future damage can be prevented.
  • Try a coconut oil treatment for intense damage repair.

The Best Conditioner for Natural Curls

Hydrating, moisturizing, and smoothing are all signs a conditioner may be good for your natural curls. Moisturizing is of the utmost importance when you have curly hair as the natural oils cannot travel throughout the strands of hair and distribute the moisture evenly. If you don't pay close attention to nurturing your natural curls, this lack of natural moisture can lead to fragile hair.

Here's a few tips to keep in mind when reaching for a new conditioner:

  • Look for products that call themselves "hydrating", "smoothing", and "moisturizing".
  • Consider your curl type when picking out a conditioner. 4c will require a much more intensively moisturizing conditioner than 3b which could actually be weighed down with a more intense conditioner.
  • Those with type 2 curls should steer clear of anything too heavy like waxes or creams that may weigh down their hair.
  • Those with type 3 curls should reach for creams and leave-in conditioners that are more intensely moisturizing.
  • Those with type 4 curls will benefit from using oil-based creamy conditioners and regularly doing a leave-in conditioning.

Shop Our Fave Conditioners

Get the most out of your conditioner by selecting one with your hair type in mind. These are our go-to conditioners for a variety of hair types.

Best for Thickening: Nexxus Unbreakable Care Thickening Conditioner

Unbreakable Care Thickening Conditioner
Nexxus Unbreakable Care Thickening Conditioner $18.00

Formulated specifically for thin and fine hair, Nexxus' Unbreakable Care Thickening Conditioner will keep your hair moisturized while enhancing volume. It's infused with a strengthening blend of biotin, keratin, and collagen amino acids.

Best for Dry Hair: OGX Argan Oil of Morocco Conditioner

OGX Argan Oil of Morocco Conditioner
OGX Argan Oil of Morocco Conditioner $9.00

Argan oil is packed with the good stuff: antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-6 fatty acids. If you have dry hair, this conditioner is a hydrating solution. Get silkier, more luscious strands with this conditioner.

Best for Deep Conditioning: Camille Rose Naturals Algae Renew Deep Conditioning Mask

Camille Rose Natural Algae Renew Deep Conditioner
Camille Rose Naturals Algae Renew Deep Conditioner $20.00

This deep conditioner sealed in moisture and is designed to help strengthen your hair. Its key ingredients include biotin from algae and mango butter. You can call it quits on thinning and breakage thanks to this deep conditioner.

Best for Limp Hair: Briogeo Blossom & Bloom Ginseng + Biotin Volumizing Conditioner

Briogeo Blossom & Bloom Ginseng + Biotin Volumizing Conditioner
Briogeo Blossom & Bloom Ginseng + Biotin Volumizing Conditioner $28.00

If your hair is on the limp side and needs a bit of volume, Briogeo's Blossom & Bloom conditioner can help your hair achieve a lifted and full appearance. This formula is packed with biotin, ginseng, and maltodextrin for thicker, more nourished hair.

Best for Natural Curls: Mizani Moisture Fusion Intense Moisturizing Mask

Mizani Moisture Fusion Intense Moisturizing Mask
Mizani Moisture Fusion Intense Moisturizing Mask $32.00

Enjoy the intense moisturizing effects of this hair mask packed with argan oil, honey, and cupuaçu butter. Deeply moisturize your coils with this mask, designed to bring back bounce to brittle curls.

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