The 15 Best Conditioners for the Softest, Most Luxurious Hair, According to Stylists
The right formula for your strands might just banish bad hair days forever.
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Conditioner is crucial
We sometimes get so caught up in all of the fabulous-sounding hair products on the market that we forget just how essential the basics are. We’re talking about the OG superheroes: shampoo and conditioner. The best shampoo for your hair type—whether you have curly hair, pin-straight hair, oily hair, or whatever else—will provide the right foundation, while the best hair conditioner will put your hair over the top, making locks silky-smooth, healthy, and hydrated.
“After you shampoo to remove all of the debris and buildup, your hair is left in a bit of a raw state,” explains Angel Cardona, a top stylist for Sebastian Professional. “Conditioner helps to replenish hair by restoring moisture that could have been removed. It helps smooth the hair cuticle and adds body and shine.” The right conditioner also combats damage from environmental factors and beauty services, both of which raise your hair’s pH level. “[Those things] lead to dryness and damage, making your hair more difficult,” explains Brooklyn-based salon owner Devin Rahal. “Conditioners balance the hair’s pH, getting it closer to its natural level to make hair more manageable.”
But not every conditioner is created equal—and if you choose the wrong one, “it can leave hair limp and lifeless, taking away the body and shine,” warns Robin Groover, a brand educator for African Pride. “It can also leave hair hard and tangled, causing physical damage while styling.” Yikes! The bottom line: Choose conditioner wisely. The following products and expert tips will help you do just that and help you look instantly put together.
Best conditioner for dry hair: Moroccan Oil Hydrating Conditioner
Dry hair is the number one cause of breakage, split ends, and that awful brittle, straw-like feel, so you’ll need a hydration-heavy conditioner to quench your hair’s thirst. And if your hair doesn’t feel soft or conditioned after a wash, says Cardona, the culprit is more than likely a lackluster conditioner. “Someone with very dry hair could benefit from a product with red seaweed algae, which has been known for its healing properties and fights free radicals, ultimately offering deep hydration,” he adds. Moroccan Oil Hydrating Conditioner acts as a tall glass of water for dry hair, delivering a blend of argan oil and nourishing vitamins with moisture-attracting and cuticle-protecting red algae. Find out which beauty store is better: Ulta or Sephora.
Best conditioner for color-treated hair: R+Co Gemstone Color Conditioner
Highlights aren’t cheap! Protect your investment with a conditioner specifically developed to keep delicate color-treated hair as vibrant as the day you stepped out of the salon. “Using a product like R+Co Gemstone that protects color from fading is key,” says Howard McLaren, cofounder and creative director of R+Co, a salon-grade brand formed by some of the world’s best hairstylists. “Pea extract is a great ingredient, along with hibiscus extract, to stop color from fading,” he notes. Gemstone is formulated with both. In general, he adds: “Stay away from sulfates—they strip the hair.”
Best volumizing conditioner: OGX Thick & Full Biotin & Collagen Conditioner
Keeping fine hair moisturized, balanced, and happy can be tricky. “Using a heavy hydrating conditioner can weigh your hair down and make it look greasy faster,” cautions Rahal. OGX’s nourishing and seriously volumizing combo of collagen, biotin, and vitamin B7 penetrate and plump the hair cuticle. Plus, wheat proteins get to the literal root of the problem by strengthening strands to support hair’s full-bodied future growth while also fluffing the hair you already have, giving your mane a thicker appearance. Flat hair, by the way, ranks high among the hair mistakes that age your face.
Best frizz-fighting conditioner: Pantene Pro-V Smooth & Sleek Conditioner
Trying to tame frizzed flyaways can feel like a game where everyone loses, but according to industry legend Kevin Murphy, that doesn’t have to be the case. “The solution for hair that tends to frizz,” he says, “is a primer or a conditioner dense with moisture and with a rich, smooth finish.” One budget-friendly option: Pantene Pro-V’s Smooth & Sleek Conditioner, which is brimming with antioxidants and vitamins plus generous doses of argan and avocado oils. It fights the good fight against humidity and wards off flyaways to leave hair looking and feeling smoother and shinier. For a one-two punch, consider picking up this $8 frizzy-hair product that has near-perfect reviews on Amazon.
Best wearable conditioner: Christophe Robin No Frizz Care x Style
Double down on stubborn frizzies or be proactive on a rainy day by swapping out your regular conditioner for a frizz-focused primer, which is essentially a more concentrated, solution-focused, leave-in conditioner for specific hair types or concerns. “I encourage everyone to try a wearable conditioner, also called a primer,” says Murphy. “It’s a growing trend due to the premium results.” Simply spritz a generous amount of a product such as Christophe Robin Anti-Frizz Rescue Milk on damp hair for a clinically proven frizz-free 48 hours.
Best conditioner for damaged hair: Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Super Moisture Conditioner
In a nutshell, damaged hair needs restoration—and a lot of patience. “Damaged hair is a whole other ball game that has its own set of needs, primarily focusing on adding proteins and lipids back into the hair,” explains Cardona, adding that there’s no rest for the weary, as tending to damaged hair “usually requires a two-part conditioning process.” He recommends starting with a strengthening and repairing conditioner chock-full of soothing, naturally derived ingredients.
Briogeo’s Don’t Despair, Repair! Super Moisture Conditioner is a clean formulation filled with healing ingredients such as mineral-rich algae extract and panthenol to boost elasticity, along with the brand’s proprietary micro-encapsulated argan oil to repair damage along the cuticle. Follow up with a nutrient-rich hair mask.
Best conditioning treatment: Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector
One of the best-selling restorative treatments, Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector is a scalp-to-ends weekly treatment that benefits every hair type. People with damaged and color-treated hair should use this treatment twice a week, while someone with thin or fine hair needs to use it only once a week. The intense, revolutionary bond-building treatment targets and fortifies broken protein bonds within hair strands to strengthen their overall structure, prevent future breakage, and restore hair to its natural glory. And although hair treatments are game changers, Groover reminds us that we’re playing the long game here: “Damaged hair takes time and technique for the best recovery.” While you’re at it, learn the common hair myths that are ruining your hair.
Best conditioner for curly hair: Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner
“Hydrating conditioners and leave-ins are a must for curly hair,” says celebrity stylist Sabrina Porsche of Mane Addicts. “A good conditioner for curly hair will contain proteins, such as keratin, wheat, oat and silk protein, and good sealing ingredients that lock moisture into hair.” She loves conditioners that also offer a cocktail of oils, like argan, coconut, jojoba, or grapeseed, to seal moisture into strands.
Porsche suggests dousing just-washed curls with Ouidad’s Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner in the shower, rather than using a traditional conditioner, to let the heat activate deeper penetration, without rinsing. This intensely moisturizing yet surprisingly lightweight cream has botanical extracts like arnica and prickly pear, along with antioxidants vitamin B5 and green tea, to amp up moisture retention, improve overall manageability, and keep natural curls soft, silky, and defined.
Best conditioner for kinky or coily hair: African Pride Moisture Miracle Honey, Chocolate & Coconut Oil Conditioner
Tight curls and textures need layers of moisture to make up for their natural dryness. “Coarse hair needs more moisture,” says Groover. “Always look for natural ingredients that will work to repair and hydrate the hair naturally from the inside out.” Her ride-or-die product, African Pride’s Moisture Miracle Honey, Chocolate & Coconut Oil Conditioner, combines the natural conditioning benefits of honey and coconut oil with the restorative and strengthening benefits of cacao to transform dry coils into bouncy, hydrated, and healthy curls. Pay close attention to product descriptions, Groover adds, noting that “keywords for good strengthening conditioners are deep treatments, masks, and repair.”
Best conditioner for aging or thinning hair: Kevin.Murphy Plumping.Rinse
Hair thinning or loss can be triggered by many different factors, and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t just happen to men—at least one-third of women will experience thinning hair during their lifetime. But it can be revitalized. For those walking the fine-hair line, start preventative hair care early with research-backed ingredients and technology. The ace thickening ingredient to look for is biotin, according to McLaren, which “strengthens the hair to make it feel thicker.”
Kevin.Murphy’s Plumping.Rinse is a concentrated blend of powerhouse ingredients, including biotin, along with vitamin B to promote hair growth, oleanolic acid to reverse follicle aging, and rice protein and rice amino acids to help replicate the hair’s natural structure. It’s topped off with moisturizing shea butter for a finish so shiny and silky soft, you’ll forget you’re using it for anything else. Don’t forget to start the sequence with stylist-recommended shampoos for thinning hair.
Best natural conditioner: Burt’s Bees Shea and Grapefruit Deep Conditioner
There’s a lot to be said for a wonderfully neutral, daily-use conditioner that’s rich enough for dry hair and lightweight enough not to weigh down thin hair. This naturally powerful conditioner is formulated with grapefruit extracts and citrus oils to transform dull locks into glossy, healthy, and luscious-looking hair. And bonus: the energizing citrus fragrance will add some pep to your morning. Use it daily as a regular conditioning rinse, or let it soak in for a few minutes to act as a deep conditioner, which, according to Porsche, we all could use. “Even if you have straight, type 1 hair, never skip a biweekly deep conditioning,” she says.
Best splurge conditioner: Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Conditioner
Fast-absorbing, weightless, and brewed with the world’s finest, most exclusive ingredients, this velvety-smooth oil-gel textured formula leaves hair silky, supple, and perfectly primed for a big, bouncy blowout. Enriched with bergamot essential oil to balance and regulate oil on the hair and scalp, then mixed with purifying volcanic ferment, this conditioner delivers true head-turning radiance. But be warned: You won’t be able to stop touching your new soft-as-a-cloud hair.
Best conditioner for thick hair: Ouai Thick Hair Conditioner
A common gripe from the thick-haired crowd is the amount of conditioner they need to use during each wash routine. Thick strands gulp down conditioners so fast that you may start to second-guess whether you actually put on any conditioner at all. But thick hair has met its match with this equally dense and moisturizing conditioner—and you won’t have to use half the bottle in one wash. Its standout ingredient, marshmallow root extract, softens and detangles hair to make your life post-shower easy too.
Best eco-friendly conditioner: NuMe White Truffle Conditioner
One of Rahal’s favorite conditioners is from vegan, cruelty-free, and eco-friendly brand NuMe, calling it his “go-to for all types of chemically treated, unruly, or damaged hair.” In this white truffle conditioner, bamboo extracts fortify and strengthen strands, while a bevy of exotic natural fatty acids such as olive fruit oil, summer white truffle, and rapeseed oil, blend together to deeply moisturize hair and boost shine to dramatic new levels—the natural way.
Best new conditioner for curly hair: Living Proof Curl Conditioner
Science-backed brand Living Proof recently launched a collection specifically for curly hair, guided by MIT research studies to ensure that each formulation is incredibly effective and harnesses the most potent, problem-solving ingredients. Their new sulfate-free moisturizing curl conditioner promises to make curls three times stronger after a single use, thanks to a newly developed, patent-pending Healthy Curl Complex featuring a base of conditioning ingredients to detangle and define curls, eliminate frizz, and produce an overall sense of ease and order. Science for the win!
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- Angel Cardona, a top stylist for Sebastian Professional
- Devin Rahal, Brooklyn-based salon owner and celebrity hairstylist
- Robin Groover, brand educator for African Pride
- Howard McLaren, cofounder and creative director of R+Co
- Kevin Murphy, stylist and creator of Kevin.Murphy hair-care products
- Sabrina Porsche, a celebrity stylist with Mane Addicts