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The Best Conditioners, According to Hairstylists and Salon Owners

Photo: Disney

Recently we dove into the best shampoos for every hair type — but if you want to get the most out of your wash, it’s a good idea to follow that shampoo with conditioner, of course. “It’s very similar to skin care,” says Brooke Jordan, co-owner and master stylist at the Bird House in Gowanus. “You don’t want to wash without also moisturizing, unless you’re insanely oily. You want to give equal attention to moisture as you do to washing.” Advice on the application of conditioner will vary depending on your hair type — some stylists will tell those with thin hair to stick to a dime-size-amount applied just on the ends, while Jordan prefers to “really goop it on,” adding that, “I think people don’t use enough conditioner.” And so, while you’ll probably want to take advice on the amount of conditioner you should use from those who know your head best, as far as what brands you should buy in the first place — to help with everything from taming frizz to repairing heat damage — our panel of hairstylists and salon owners have you covered. Read on for their go-to conditioners for hair of all kinds, including some worthy of really gooping on.

Best conditioner overall

Stephanie Louis, owner of Stylebox Salon in Prospect Heights, calls this conditioner a staple at her salon. “It’s so good,” she says. “The best for weekly conditioning, detangling, and hair softening.” The detangling properties of the conditioner can be attributed to the inclusion of moringa oil, an essential oil derived from trees, known for its ability to moisturize and loosen up knots. The ingredient list also includes green tea extract, which is meant to protect against free radical damage and environmental stress; jojoba oil, which will help with split ends; and sunflower seed extract, which, according to Verb’s site, is a natural source of UV protection that will help prevent color fading.

We’ve heard good things about Verb’s shampoos and conditioners before — Sephora reviewers raved about both this conditioner, which one said was “neither too light and watery nor too thick and oily,” and the brand’s hydrating conditioner, which many said “moisturizes the hair without weighing it down.” And since the conditioner can be used on all hair types — according to Verb’s site, this includes “curly, fine, kinky, straight, thick, and wavy” hair — is gentle enough to use daily, and is one of the more affordable options on the list, we’re calling Verb’s Ghost conditioner best overall.

Best conditioner for normal hair

For those looking for something that will soften hair without weighing it down, Jordan suggests Sachajuan’s Normal Hair Conditioner. “It’s going to give your standard level of moisture — not particularly for dry hair, or particularly for super-damaged hair,” but for normal hair types, “it’ll be just moisturizing enough and not overly moisturizing,” she says. The product’s moisturizing properties in part come from the brand’s “Ocean Silk Technology,” which Jordan tells us is derived from sea algae and used in all of the brand’s products. “It’s supposed to be incredibly moisturizing without being heavy at all, and we find that to be true.” (According to Sachajuan, “Ocean Silk” refers to Rhodophycea and Chondrus crispus extracts, which are harvested from algae in the ocean and can be used for strengthening hair and protecting it from damage.)

“This conditioner is well worth the splurge,” says celebrity hairstylist Matilde Campos, who recommends it for normal to dry hair. “It fights frizz and untangles your tresses in seconds,” she says, noting that “a little bit goes a long way,” and that it gives hair extra body and bounce. It’s packed with nourishing ingredients like grapeseed oil, sunflower seed extract and ginger root extract (which nourish and soften hair), and reparative ones like sweet almond, jojoba, rice, and hydrolyzed vegetable proteins. It also contains Oribe’s signature complex which includes watermelon, lychee, and Edelweiss flower, all of which work together to protect hair from oxidative stress and photoaging.

Best lightweight conditioners

If you want something very lightweight, Masami Hosono, hairstylist and creative director at Vacancy Project, suggests Malin + Goetz’s Cilantro Conditioner. “We really like it because we don’t want anything too moisturizing, which can make hair super flat and heavy,” says Hosono. That’s largely because the stylists at Vacancy Project prefer to have the hair’s natural texture come forth, rather than forcing it with a very deliberate type of blow dry or brush curl. The Malin + Goetz conditioner is gentle enough for daily use, and has fatty acids, fatty alcohols, and shea butter to help hydrate (but not overly hydrate) the hair and scalp. It’s even lightweight enough that it can be used as a leave-in conditioner or styling product, according to brand’s site.

Another lightweight option comes recommended by Dhiran Mistry, stylist at David Mallett salon. “Amino acids help with water retention of the hair,” he says. Mistry says this can be used by all hair types, and that it contains coconut and jojoba oil, both moisturizing ingredients that won’t add weight to hair, and notes that the conditioner is free of parabens and silicone. And while, like the Malin + Goetz conditioner, this one is light enough for daily use, it should be rinsed out after a few minutes (so don’t try to use this one as a leave-in conditioner, like the Malin + Goetz could be). Also, if a cilantro-scented shampoo sounds a little too gourmet for your shower — though we should note that reviewers say the smell really isn’t that strong — lots of Kiehl’s reviewers raved about the pleasant scent on this one. “The fragrance smells of heavenly coconut,” comments one.

Celebrity hairstylist Christin Brown, who’s worked with the likes of Halle Berry and Yara Shahidi likes this lightweight, vegan, detangling conditioner for wavy, coily, and straight hair types. “It’s a moisture balancing conditioner that helps fight frizz,” she says. An added bonus: it smells like a rainy day.

Best conditioner for dry hair

“This is one of our staple conditioners that detangles any hair type or texture while treating dryness and virtually eliminating dandruff,” says Louis. “It’s especially amazing for tightly coiled hair.” The conditioner is packed with strengthening ingredients like soy and wheat keratin, which also add shine to hair. The dandruff-eliminating properties of the conditioner include menthol, camphor, and peppermint oil extracts, which soothe itchy scalps, and a botanical extract blend of chamomile, horsetail, nettle, and henna is also said to help aid scalp health and make hair shinier. (Safe assumption that these extracts would make this conditioner smell pleasantly minty, too, as has been noted in reviews.)