How to Choose a Hair Conditioner: Is it Really Useful for Your Hair?

by GONG-FU JHANG
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hair conditioner

We’ve all heard about the importance of using a conditioner after we shampoo our hair, but how important is this step really? While most people do shampoo and condition regularly, many others have decided that skipping the conditioning step is no big deal.

The truth is that conditioning your hair is a crucial step in your hair care plan, and skipping it even once can have negative consequences on your hair. Clean, conditioned hair stays soft and shiny and also has fewer tangles and split ends. Let’s take a look at the item that we call hair conditioner and learn what it’s all about.

What Is Hair Conditioner?

hair conditioner

Hair conditioner is a moisturizing agent that consists of ingredients such as oils, silicones, and emollients. It also contains something called cationic surfactants, which is a fancy name for soaps and detergents that wash away the excess oil in your hair and scalp. Shampooing always strips your hair of some of its moisture, and a conditioner puts that moisture back in so that your hair is healthier and smoother.

Conditioning products also reduce frizz and make the hair much easier to comb through once you’re done. Conditioners also refortify the cuticle (the outer lining of the hair) with a protective coating so that hair can continue to grow because it won’t break as easily. Conditioners reduce the friction between the strands of hair and make the hair look and feel much better.

After a conditioning treatment, you’ll have fewer split ends, hair that is much easier to comb through, and hair that has been conditioned with moisturizers that will remain in the hair until your next shampoo time rolls around.

Hair becomes damaged every day due to stress, air quality, and other hair care products and treatments. Eventually, the cuticle breaks due to all of this damage, which is why a good conditioner is so important. This product fills in the places where the hair is damaged -- the hair injuries, so to speak -- and coats the hair so that it is soft again.

Think of conditioners as cement that is used to fill a pothole. Conditioners essentially do that for each strand of hair, which is why it is so important to include this step in your hair-care treatment every single time you shampoo.

What a Conditioner Does

hair conditioner

In a nutshell, a good hair conditioner moisturizes, shines, de-frizzes, de-tangles, smooths, and conditions the hair so that each strand is protected from the stressors that we put upon it every single day. If you don’t believe that conditioners are that important, consider what happens when you stop using them for a while. The negative side effects include:

  • Difficulty combing
  • More flyaways
  • More frizz
  • Easier to split
  • Easier to break
  • Disappearing shine
  • Less softness

Indeed, if you skip a mere one or two conditioning treatments, you’ll start to notice a difference in how your hair looks and feels, not to mention how easy it is to manage. Each time that you condition your hair, it improves the overall quality of each hair strand, so if you skip the conditioning treatments or stop them altogether, you’ll immediately notice a difference.

How Does a Hair Conditioner Work?

hair conditioner

If you’re curious about how a conditioning product works, it’s really very simple. Each strand of your hair is covered in tiny cells that resemble fish scales. When damage occurs due to stress, the environment, or other hair treatments, those cells start to stand out, and this makes each strand of hair look rough and dull, not to mention unconditioned. A good conditioner smooths down those scales so that your hair is smooth, shiny, and soft once again.

When you condition regularly, you get less static and fewer split ends. Hair is easier to style as well, but keep in mind that the main reason to use a hair conditioner is to keep your hair strands healthy. When you shampoo your hair, the cuticle opens up, and when you condition your hair, the cuticle is sealed back up, which means the pollutants have a much harder time getting into the strands and the nutrients stay inside the strands, and that’s what you want for healthy, beautiful hair.

So, if anyone tells you that conditioning your hair is not necessary, you’ll know that this isn’t true. Healthy hair is both clean and conditioned hair, and both products should be used regularly if you want locks that look great and are healthy. Conditioners can even be made with numerous all-natural ingredients, and since they’re leaving out all of the bad ingredients these days, they work wonders with all types of hair problems.

There Are Several Types of Conditioners

hair conditioner

Check out conditioners in any drug store or beauty salon and the first thing that you’ll notice is how many of them there are. This is good, because just as everyone’s hair is different, their conditioning needs will be different as well. Some of the many types of hair conditioners on the market today include:

  • Standard post-shampoo hydrator
  • Deep conditioner that you leave in much longer than a standard one
  • Cleansing conditioner, or all-in-one product that combines the shampoo and the conditioner in one bottle
  • Leave-in conditioner, which doesn’t get rinsed out and works throughout the day to protect your hair
  • Dry conditioner, a temporary measure to reduce the oils in your hair, that is spritzed onto your hair and rubbed into the hair and scalp

The most important thing you can do when choosing a conditioning product is to find one that suits your particular hair type. For instance, you can choose between products that work on dry hair, oily hair, normal hair, color-treated hair, damaged hair, etc.

And if you’re thinking about using one brand for your shampoo and another brand for your conditioner, one word of advice: don’t! Hair care products are made to work together and complement one another so that your hair looks and feels like you want it to.

Does this mean that using different brands will ruin your hair? Not necessarily, but the results you get won’t be the same as they would be if you use the same brand for both products. You can only get great results that look like a professional takes care of your hair if the shampoo and conditioner you use are made by the same company.

Of course, there are some professionals who will tell you that one conditioning product is just like the next conditioning product, especially when it comes to choosing between conditioners for different hair types.

If you must choose between the “wrong” conditioner (e.g., one for dry hair when your hair is normal or oily) and no conditioner at all, always choose the former. Not using conditioning products on a regular basis can damage the hair over time; therefore, it’s always best to use a conditioner than to not use one, even if it isn’t the type you think is best for your hair.

What Is the Difference Between Leave-in Conditioner and Normal Conditioner?

hair conditioner

We all know that there are conditioners you rinse out and those you do not, but is that all there is to the different types of conditioners? Is there really a difference between a regular conditioner and a leave-in conditioner?

Believe it or not, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” The main differences lie in the purpose of each conditioner. For instance, a leave-in conditioner is specifically made to rehydrate the hair in between shampoos. It leaves hair more manageable and softer. You can think of these conditioners as a temporary measure or something to keep your hair looking and feeling good in between shampoos.

On the other hand, a regular conditioner does much more than that. In addition to rehydrating the hair, regular conditioners also strengthen the hair strands and protect them from future damage. With regular conditioners, you’ll find much heavier conditioning agents and moisturizers.

This is because they have to work quickly before you rinse them out. Most of them are made to work in two to three minutes, then must be washed out of the hair. If you leave the conditioner in for longer than that, you could experience irritation and itchiness because of the buildup.

So while regular conditioners are made with heavy moisturizers and do much more for the hair, leave-in conditioners are usually made with lightweight moisturizers that work over an extended period of time, which is why you can leave it in and not wash it out of your hair after you apply it.

And if you’re wondering if you can use both a leave-in conditioner and a standard one, the answer is yes, you can. In fact, both types of conditioners are highly recommended by most professionals because they work together to give you a head of hair that both looks great and feels great every time.

How to Use Leave-in Conditioner

hair conditioner

Using a leave-in conditioner is very simple. Just wait until you get out of the shower and you’ve towel-dried your hair, apply it to your wet hair, and use a comb or brush to disperse it throughout your hair. Afterwards, just leave it alone. And when you apply it, concentrate on the ends and shafts of the hair, not the scalp. If your hair is curly, you may want to use a leave-in cream that you simply scrunch into the ends of your hair strands.

And that’s it for leave-in conditioners. It really couldn’t be any easier than it is, but it’s still a good idea to read the directions on the bottle of conditioner so that you don’t miss anything important. After all, each brand is a little different and you’ll want to make sure you do everything right so that your hair turns out just like it’s supposed to.

The Difference Between Hair Conditioner, Hair Mask, and Hot Oil Treatments

hair conditioner

There are many types of conditioners to nourish and smooth out your hair, yet each one is made for a different purpose. We’ve already gone over the differences between regular and leave-in conditioners and how each is important for your hair. Now, let’s go over the differences between basic hair conditioners, hair masks, and hot oil treatments.

Basic hair conditioners should be used every time you shampoo and work with your shampoo to keep your hair in great shape. Hair masks are deep-conditioning products made especially for dry or damaged hair. Finally, hot oil treatments are used to nourish and lubricate the hair strands. Both masks and hot oils are used periodically and not every single time you shampoo.

1. Appearance

Most conditioners come in liquid or cream form and can be just about any color. They are neither too thin nor too thick; therefore, it is easy for the hair to absorb them. Hair masks are usually made with honey or fruit oils, as well as argan oil and many others. They come in a thick cream form that is placed all through the hair. Finally, hot oil treatments come in small clear tubes and are usually a bright yellow-orange color. They usually provide more permanent results than a deep-conditioning mask does.

2. Frequency

When it comes to standard conditioners, they need to be used each and every time that you wash your hair. What the shampoo takes away from your hair, the conditioner puts back, so you’ll need to use your conditioner every time you shampoo.

As far as how often you should use hair masks and hot oil treatments, that will vary depending on a number of things, most importantly the condition of your hair. Most hair masks and hot oil treatment products suggest using them once or twice a week for the best results.

3. Use

If you’re using a hair mask and hot oil treatment on the same day, the hot oil treatment should be completed first. This is the order you should go in: the hot oil treatment, shampoo, then the hair mask treatment. You can also use the hot oil and mask treatments on different days if you like. It’s really up to you. Always keep in mind that you should always go by the directions on the products themselves because each product may be a little different.

4. Effect

Because hair masks and hot oil treatments do different things for your hair, one should never be replaced by the other. In other words, you’ll need both of these products for healthy hair. Regular hair conditioners repair and smooth out the hair, while masks are considered a deep-conditioning treatment and therefore help repair damaged hair. Hot oil treatments give the hair strands the extra moisture that so many of them need, in addition to some lubrication to help keep the scalp healthy.

5. Period

Generally, regular conditioners stay on for two to three minutes and then are washed out of the hair. Hair masks are usually left in up to five minutes, but again, that can vary between the different brands. Hot oil treatments are usually massaged into the scalp and kept on there for one to two minutes before being washed out because these treatments tend to work very fast.

Again, using both the mask and the hot oil treatment on the same day is just fine. When you do this, you can either skip the standard conditioner or use it as you normally would after you shampoo.

Difference Between Hair Oil and Conditioner

hair conditioner

Hair oil is a leave-in treatment that is usually made out of argan oil or some type of fruit oil, including coconut oil. The oils penetrate the hair strands and condition them so they are soft and manageable.

They do not rinse out like regular conditioner does, but these two products can work together beautifully to give you the hair you’ve always desired. You can use both of these products every time that you wash your hair if you like, since you’ll be rinsing one out and leaving the other one in your hair.

1. Ingredients

If you choose hair oil such as jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil, argan oil, and coconut oil, the good news is that you’re getting just that ingredient and little to nothing else. Regular conditioners are made just as good these days because they no longer contain ingredients such as parabens, sulfates, or any of the other harsh chemicals that used to be found in your average conditioner. Conditioners generally contain emollients and oils to keep hair soft and tangle-free.

2. Effect

Hair oil is used mostly on dry and frizzy hair, although most of it is made for all hair types. It adds moisture into the hair to tame out-of-control locks and gives your hair some extra shine as well.

Conditioners are there to replace the moisture that your shampoo takes away, which is why it is so important to use them every time you wash your hair. Regular conditioners replace what you lose through your shampoos, and hair oil adds moisture and tames the frizzies.

3. Use

Both hair oil and conditioner are best when used right after you shampoo your hair. Both perform an important task and keep your hair soft and manageable. But even on the days that you don’t wash your hair, you can still use your hair oil if you like.

While conditioner is rubbed into the hair and rinsed out before you get out of the shower, hair oil is not rinsed out and therefore can be applied to the hair at any time. Even on days when the frizzies seem to be extra bad, using a touch of hair oil can solve that problem almost immediately.

4. Role

Hair oil is mostly used as a quick fix. It is very good on the hair strands, but it isn’t really made for a long-term solution. Regular conditioners, on the other hand, allow your hair to continuously improve as long as you use them. While conditioners should always be a part of your hair-care routine, you can use hair oil only as needed if you like because the two products serve two completely different purposes.

The Wrong Way to Use Essential Oil Hair Care

hair conditioner

If you’d like to experiment with conditioners that are made out of essential oils, you should know that there are tons of them available. That being said, not all essential oils are alike. Remember that with the exception of lavender oil, all oils have to be diluted first before using them. You can dilute them with a carrier oil such as sweet almond or even vegetable or olive oil.

Also, make sure that they are 100% pure oils and not already a blend. If this happens, your further diluting the oils will make them weak and possibly ineffective in the end.

Here are the three main essential oils that you should never use in your hair:

  • Lemon oil. People want to use lemon oil because it can lighten up your hair, but it also causes your hair shaft to shrink. In addition, if you have hair that already needs some TLC, lemon oil can be disastrous. It can cause hair to fall out and even makes your remaining locks look lifeless and dull.
  • Castor oil. This oil has been touted as a cure for almost everything, but it causes the hair to felt and makes it tangly and frizzy. It is simply not a good oil to use on your hair for any reason.
  • Olive oil. The news surrounding olive oil is both good and bad. Olive oil is indeed great for your hair shaft, but it can weigh down your hair and even make it greasy and too oily. It is also considered a comedogen and can therefore cause your hair to feel scratchy all the time.

Keep in mind that some essential oils cause allergic reactions in some people, so when you first start using these oils, make sure that you pay attention to how you’re reacting to them. If you’d like to know which essential oils cause the most allergies, here they are:

  • Peppermint oil
  • Clove oil
  • Jasmine absolute oil
  • Ylang ylang oil
  • Sandalwood oil

This isn’t saying that you shouldn’t give these oils a try, but be careful because you might be one of the people who is allergic to them.

Of course, if you’re interested in the best oils to use on your hair, here are a few that are good for both the hair and the scalp:

  • Almond oil. It penetrates deep into the hair shaft and is even more intense than coconut oil.
  • Coconut oil. This is perfect for dry or damaged hair or anytime you need a good scalp massage.
  • Mustard oil. This stimulates circulation and generates heat for those cold winter days.
  • Sesame oil. Dry hair and split ends can be gone by using a little sesame oil.

To be sure, before you use any type of essential oil or regular oil on your hair, do some research on it first. Essential oils are all natural, but this doesn’t mean that they’re all good for you. Do your due diligence so that you can feel confident about the oils that you do end up using.

How to Choose a Conditioner for Different Hair Types

hair conditioner

Choosing the right conditioner is crucial and, believe it or not, it doesn’t always have to match your shampoo. While the brands should be the same, the type of shampoo and conditioner you use may be different.

Why? Because as a general rule, your shampoo should be chosen depending on the condition of your scalp, whereas your conditioner is chosen depending on the condition of your hair. And yes, most people with dry scalps also have dry hair and vice versa, but that is not always the case.

If your scalp is dry, you’ll want to use a shampoo for dry hair, but if your hair just happens to be oily at the ends, for example, you should go ahead and buy a conditioner that is specifically made for oily hair.

If you’re not sure how to tell the true condition of your scalp or hair, do not worry because it is much easier than you think. All you have to do is feel the ends of your hair and see how they feel. They may be oily and limp, dry and brittle, full of static, or lacking any shine whatsoever, but once you determine your hair type, you can more easily choose what type of conditioner to buy. Here are some tips to help you decide on the type of conditioner you should be using:

  • If your hair is limp or oily, don’t be tempted to skip the conditioning phase. A lot of people do this, but it isn’t a smart idea. Instead, look for conditioners that can reduce the amount of oil in your hair. This means never buying ones that have words such as “hydrating,” “smoothing,” or “moisturizing” in the title. They may in fact put too much moisture in your hair and therefore make it look and feel worse. You’ll want to see words on the label such as “volumizing,” “balancing,” or “light” because these usually have added protein, and protein is good for oily or limp hair. These conditioners also tend to be better at removing excess oil than other conditioners are. Remember to keep the product off of your scalp but only on the ends of your hair.
  • If your hair feels dry, brittle, or damaged, the conditioner you choose should have something in it that actually heals the hair strands and prevents future damage from occurring. Never buy conditioners with words such as “fortifying,” “volumizing,” or “strengthening.” You have enough of that already! Hair that is only slightly dry needs products that promise to hydrate, moisturize, smooth, or help with curls. For extremely dry hair, you’ll want one that promises to control frizz, repair the hair, and protect from heat damage. You might also want to consider a deep conditioner, which you’ll keep in for longer but which is made to repair very dry and damaged hair. Use these conditioners once or twice a week for the best results. Products with coconut oil are especially effective.

And while we’re talking about the descriptions on the various products, believe it or not, they each mean something specific. Here are some words that you’ll find on product bottles and what they mean when choosing the right conditioner:

  • Balancing: These are middle-of-the-road options and are slightly moisturizing but never dry out the hair.
  • Curly hair: These are very moisturizing and work hard to add ingredients that control frizziness.
  • Hydrating or moisturizing: These add moisture, smoothness, and shine to the hair. If your hair is thick or coarse, this is the type of conditioner that you’ll want to look for.
  • Smoothing: These conditioners have extra moisturizers and help seal the cuticle. If you have straight hair or use a hair straightener regularly, this is the product you need.
  • Strengthening or fortifying: These products are perfect for highlighted, weak, brittle, or damaged hair. They are also good for hair that has had too many styling products used on it.
  • Volumizing: If your hair is limp or fine, this is what you’ll want to look for in a conditioner. Volumizing conditioners lift and boost the hair strands without weighing them down.

Choosing the right conditioner for your hair should be much easier now that you know what to look for. Those product descriptions use certain words for a reason, but when you think about it, the words make sense. If you make sure you read the labels on your shampoos and conditioners, you’ll have better luck finding the perfect products for your hair.

[Recommended Reading:How to Choose the Right Shampoo for You]

Things to Note About Using Hair Conditioner

hair conditioner

By now, you’ve already grasped some of the big advantages of making a quality conditioner a part of your hair care routine. You already know that there are conditioners available for all hair types and you’re probably anxious to get out there and find the perfect conditioner for your own hair. But just to make sure that we didn’t forget anything in this article, here are a few things that you might not already know about conditioning products for your hair.

  • They hydrate your hair follicles. If you’re one of these people whose hair gets dry during the winter months, try using a good hair mask once a month so that you can get rid of dry flakes and your hair will be soft and sleek like it was when you were young.
  • Never condition the roots of your hair. The hair is healthiest and newest at the roots, so they simply don’t need as much conditioning as the ends and mid-shafts of your hair do. When applying conditioner, start at the tips of your hair and only go about half-way up your hair.
  • You can use conditioners as styling products if you like. Conditioners are good for your hair, so it won’t hurt if you use them on damp hair once in a while before you work some magic with your hair creation. Leave-in conditioners work best for this purpose.
  • You can actually condition without shampooing first. There are so many types of conditioners that you can always find a good purpose for them. Leave-in conditioners and hair oils, for example, can be used on hair to tame frizzies and add some moisture to the hair even if it isn’t your shampoo day.
  • If your hair is color-treated, it’s going to need some extra TLC. If you regularly color your hair, a deep-conditioning treatment is especially important. Hair masks and deep conditioners will seal in the color and protect the hair’s cuticle so that your color stays with you longer.
  • Don’t fall for the “I’ll get used to my conditioner” myth. If you feel as if your conditioner is letting you down, either choose another one or use a clarifying shampoo once every two weeks so that the residue left behind by your conditioner can be wiped away.
  • Make sure that your conditioner doesn’t have ingredients that make your hair worse. In addition to finding conditioning products that avoid parabens and sulfates, you also need one that is free of silicone. Silicone strips your hair of its natural nutrients and can affect the texture as well

How to Use Hair Conditioner Correctly So That You Get the Best Hair Care

hair conditioner

Now that we’ve discussed how important conditioning your hair is, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to use conditioner and why it should be used a certain way. Many people don’t realize that like anything else in life, there is a right way and a wrong way to condition your hair. Below are some of the DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to conditioning your hair.

  • Always squeeze the excess water out of your hair before using conditioner. This way, the conditioner isn’t diluted and will work much better.
  • When applying the conditioner, use long fluid motions.
  • Leave the conditioner on only as long as the instructions tell you to, but not less than two minutes. It takes two minutes for the conditioner to adhere to the strands.
  • When using a deep conditioner, leave it on for three to five minutes.
  • Apply the conditioner first, then shampoo your hair. Shampoo can be harsh on your hair, but applying the conditioner first can help reduce the negative effects of the shampoo.
  • When conditioning your hair, apply the product to the tips of your hair only. The bottom three inches work best. The scalp is the healthiest part of the hair structure and the newest hair is on it. It is the older or lower strands of hair that need conditioning, so concentrate on that area of your hair.
  • Keep in mind that there is no need to leave your conditioner in for longer than what the manufacturer suggests. When it says two to three minutes, stick with that and don’t leave the conditioner in any longer. After all, if you leave it on too long, it can weigh down the hair.

Is it Possible for Hair Conditioners to Have a Negative Effect on Your Hair?

hair conditioner

While very rare, some people do occasionally have trouble using certain conditioners. For one thing, if you’re allergic to any of the ingredients in your conditioner, you can get a rash called contact dermatitis, which would be very uncomfortable.

Also, if you’re prone to acne and you don’t rinse the conditioner out completely, you may risk breaking out on your face, neck, or body. This is partly because conditioners can clog pores just like other products with oils do.

In addition to these things, conditioners sometimes weigh hair down and make it look flat and dull. The good news about this problem is that it is easy to solve. This is usually caused by using too much of the conditioner.

As a general rule, no more than a palm-sized scoop of conditioner is necessary for moisturizing your hair. When your hair is weighed down, it can look greasy and unkempt, but using a smaller scoop of conditioner is usually all it takes to get rid of this problem. Also keep in mind that this problem is usually associated with people who have fine hair and not others.

Can You Use a DIY Hair Conditioner?

hair conditioner

You can indeed use a DIY hair conditioner if you like. In fact, recipes for conditioners are all over the Internet, and each product helps with a specific hair problem. There are DIY conditioners for dry hair, curly hair, oily hair, and even color-treated hair.

If you’re going to do this, make sure that you do two things. First, research the recipe to make sure that it is appropriate for your hair needs. Second, always follow the recipe to the letter if you want to get the best results. And if you’re extra clever, you might even be able to come up with a few recipes of your own!

Conclusion

hair conditioner

Shampooing and conditioning your hair is imperative if you want beautiful locks and hair that is healthy. A good conditioner is not hard to find if you know where to look, but if you keep some of these tips in mind, the task becomes a lot easier on you. Since there are all types of conditioners, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding the one that best suits your needs, and the best news is that most of them are reasonably priced as well.


Other Recommended Reading

1.Hair Loss in Women: 10 Common Causes

2.How to Prevent Hair Loss: 10 Ways to Prevent Female Hair Loss

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