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What Does Conditioner Do?


What is conditioner?

Despite it being a mainstay in even the most basic hair care routine, there’s a good chance you haven’t questioned why conditioner is so important. Sure, you know that there are different kinds of conditioner formulated for different hair types, but why is it necessary? And beyond that, what does it do, exactly?

At the base level, conditioner is used to restore moisture and nourishment to your hair that may have either been lost in the cleansing process, or from other external factors. Depending on your hair type or texture, there are specific kinds of conditioner you might want to use: some offer color protection, extra nourishment for dryness, or anti-breakage protection. No matter what kind you choose, it’s one of the most important steps in your hair care routine and for your hair health — it helps to ensure you’re locking in moisture and shine, leaving you with protected, healthy hair.


What does conditioner do?

One of the roles of sebum is to nourish the hair follicle and help the cuticle lie flat — this helps to protect your hair, keeping it moisturized and shiny. But everyday wear and tear, excessive shampooing, and styling routines can strip away too many natural oils or raise the cuticle, which makes your hair look frizzy and dull. The science behind conditioner is that the negatively charged hair strand will bind with the positively charged surfactants (the main cleaning agents) in conditioner, helping to coat the hair, smooth the strands and help re-fortify the cuticle.

Davines OI Conditioner and Butter

How to use conditioner

Always check the packaging of your conditioner to see what the usage recommendation is, since leave-in times can vary depending on whether you’re using a regular or deep conditioner. But here’s a general routine to follow:

  1. After shampooing, make sure you’ve thoroughly rinsed your hair.
  2. Apply a small amount of conditioner through your lengths and ends of your hair — if you want to ensure proper distribution, you can comb it through.
  3. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Rinse thoroughly, then towel-dry and follow your usual styling routine.


How long should I leave conditioner in my hair?

The packaging of your conditioner should specify best practices for how long to leave your conditioner in, but in general you should let it sit for at least three minutes to do its job.


How much conditioner should I use?

This question really depends on your hair type and styling routine: if you have thick, dry hair, you’re going to need much more product than someone with thin or fine hair. Using too little conditioner will be ineffective, and using too much will often weigh your hair down and make it look limp (aside from the fact you’re wasting product). Start by using two quarters worth of conditioner and see how your hair responds — if it still feels dry, add more!

How often should I use conditioner?

In general, it’s recommended that you use conditioner after every wash, depending on your personal wash and styling routine. Shampoo and conditioner work together, with the conditioner being there to help restore lost moisture and lock in shine after you’ve thoroughly cleansed. If your hair is especially dry and damaged from processing, swap in a rich bond-building hair mask for your conditioner at least once a week.

What are the benefits of conditioner?

Haven’t sold you on using hair conditioner yet? Here are some of the most common benefits of including this in your standard hair styling routine.

  • Coats and protects the cuticle
  • Locks in moisture and shine
  • Reduces frizz
  • Detangles and makes your hair easier to comb
  • Boosts softness
  • Helps prevent split ends
  • Deep hair conditioners and hair masks can repair further damage and dryness


Davines Melu for long or damaged hair

How to choose a conditioner

Different hair types need different kinds of conditioner, and will benefit from a kind of targeted treatment. Look for products with natural ingredients, and use this as a starting point toward finding the one that works best for you.


  • For “normal” hair: Even if you feel like your hair is perfectly healthy and shiny, we would still recommend using a conditioner after you shampoo to make sure everything stays in balance. Wellbeing Conditioner is a hydrating conditioner for all hair types — it’s formulated with echinacea to gently cleanse, and antioxidants to make sure your hair stays strong and healthy (and free of split ends).
  • For dry hair: Dry or dehydrated hair needs moisture to look healthy and shiny. MOMO moisturizing conditioner is formulated to detangle and moisturize your hair from within, balancing the proper hydration levels in your hair.
  • For damaged hair: If you color or chemically process your hair, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing more dryness and breakage than those who don’t. This means that you need a richer kind of conditioner that can go deep into the hair shaft, helping to hydrate and repair. Luckily, NOUNOU conditioner for processed hair is an amazing way to restore moisture and nourishment. And for added nourishment, especially if your hair is extra dry or damaged, swap in the matching repairing hair mask or OI nourishing hair butter once a week.
  • For curly hair: We know that one of the most important things you’ll need in any curly hair routine is MOISTURE — curly hair tends to be drier than other hair types, so your conditioner needs to work to keep your coils hydrated. LOVE Curl Conditioner was formulated to enhance, control, and moisturize curly or wavy hair. It will give you soft and elastic looking curls, without weighing your hair down.
  • For fine or thin hair: Fine or thin hair still needs to be moisturized, but you need to make sure that it’s not so heavy your strands are left greasy or weighed down. DEDE Conditioner lightly detangles and softens, leaving you with perfectly hydrated hair.


Are there any cons of using conditioner?

While we wouldn’t say there’s a reason to not use conditioner, your hair might be negatively impacted if you don’t use it properly (or use the wrong kind for your hair). Avoid applying it to your scalp, as this can lead to build up and clog your follicles, hair loss, or just making your strands look heavy and greasy. Also be sure to take note of the condition of your hair after you start a new conditioner — if it’s looking heavy, or dry and tangled, that’s a good sign you’re not giving your strands the right amount of nourishment. Don’t be afraid to try a few samples to find the right fit!


Final thoughts about conditioner

Conditioner may have been something you didn’t think twice about including in your hair routine before, but we hope that you now feel confident choosing the right kind for your hair type. But if you have a tricky combination hair type, or just aren’t sure where to begin, visit your local salon to see what your stylist recommends. If you have any other recommendations for finding the right conditioner for your hair type, be sure to let us know in the comments below!

Fortifying, enhancing conditioner for natural or cosmetic blondes.


Elasticizing and hydrating conditioner for fine or thin hair.


Roucou oil-rich conditioner for soft and voluminous hair.


by Lauren Hannel, staff contributor

Photos by @goldandglowco


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