How to Choose a Conditioner

Shannon R., SELF magazine

Hair conditioner isn't just for women with full, thick and/or excessively damaged hair. Almost everyone could benefit from using a conditioner, and luckily there are formulas created for virtually every hair type (even ladies with fine hair!). Heat styling, combing, washing and even towel drying can all lead to damage, causing hair to look and feel dull and dry. Conditioners can help reduce flyaway, tame frizz and keep hair looking smooth and shiny. Here is what you need to know about picking the right type of conditioner for you!

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Rinse-out conditioner

Virtually every shampoo has a rinse-out conditioner partner and rinse-outs are certainly the most commonly used type of conditioner. These formulas contain ingredients like fatty alcohols and high molecular-weight silicones. Fatty alcohols (ingredients like Stearyl Alcohol) are what make conditioners thick, rich and creamy. They also "coat" the hair to make it feel smooth and easy to manage. Silicones (like Dimethicone) also coat the hair making hair feel smooth and look shiny.

Pros
: Rinse-out conditioners work well! They make hair easier to comb, more manageable, smoother and shinier.

Cons
: Silicones and fatty alcohols "coat" the hair which can make hair feel heavy and weighed down.

Best for
: Rinse-outs are best for women with normal to thick hair. If you have fine hair and prefer rinse-outs you may want to use formulas without silicone (these are usually the inexpensive formulas) and be sure to only apply conditioner to the bottom third of your hair to minimize weigh down.

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Leave-in conditioner
While leaving a product in your hair may seem like it would be heavy and weigh hair down, leave-ins are actually designed to be lighter! Leave-ins use ingredients like humectants, quats and low molecular weight silicones. Humectants (like propylene glycol) add moisture to your hair without being heavy. Silicones add shine and smoothness. However, the silicones used in leave-ins are different than those used in rinse-outs. Leave-ins use silicones that are more volatile (evaporate quickly) so they are less likely to weigh hair down. Finally, quats (like Polyquaternium-10) "stick" to the damaged sites on hair to keep it looking healthy. Leave-ins usually come in a spray or thin cream, which makes them feel quite different than rinse-out conditioners.

Pros
: Leave-ins are lightweight and work well without feeling heavy (they don't contain fatty alcohols like you find in rinse-outs).

Cons
: They might be too light for women with thick or frizzy hair that like that "coated" or slightly "weighed down" feeling.

Best for
: Women with normal to fine hair and those that are concerned about weigh down. Leave-ins also do a good job of protecting against heat damage (since they are left on).

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Can you use a rinse-out conditioner as a leave-in product?

If you have hair that is really thirsty for moisture, you can certainly use a rinse-out as a leave-in product. Just be sure to use sparingly and stick to the ends or you will end up with greasy tresses! And, in case you were wondering, leave-ins don't work as rinse-outs. The ingredients (particularly humectants) are not designed to stick to or coat the hair so the product will just rinse down the drain with no conditioning benefits left on your hair.

Bottom Line

Conditioners are one of the best defenses against damage and can keep hair looking and feeling its best. Whether you have thick hair parched for moisture or fine, thin hair with just a few flyaways you should definitely give one of these conditioner formulas a chance.


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