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How Are Hair Conditioners Different?

By HERWriter
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We are always told to follow shampooing our hair with conditioner. Certainly hair behaves differently if we don’t use it but why? What is in all these conditioning choices that makes them unique? How does one know what to choose?

Decisions about which conditioner to use is based on various qualities of your type of hair and what you are trying to accomplish. Conditioners fall in to three basic groups:

• Oil/moisture replacers: Shampooing removes moisture and oil from our hair. Moisturizers in conditioner come in the form of concentrated humectants. These types of conditioners are good for those with dry, curly, frizzy or coarse hair. Humectants in conditioners have names such as cetyl or stearyl alcohol, panthenol, silicone or other “cone” ending names along with other essential oils.

Oil based conditioners contain essential fatty acids (EFAs) and are intended to act like the natural sebum oil your scalp produces. These are important for use on color-treated or extremely dry hair.

• Reconstructors, volumizers or body enhancers: Conditioners that contain protein or volumizers are called reconstructors. The protein coats the hair shaft and ends as well as fills in damaged areas to the outer cuticle, giving the appearance of thicker smoother hair. The effect is temporary so claims that they permanently strengthen the hair are untrue. These conditioners are helpful to use on thin or limp hair to give it more body and shine.

• Detanglers and manageability enhancers: These types of conditioners act to close the cuticle layer of the hair using acidifiers (low pH solutions of 2.5 to 3.5). Each strand of hair then resists becoming tangled in the other hairs. Acidifiers act to increase elasticity and bounciness of hair. These are good for people with “fly away” hair or more textured locks. Additionally, some conditioners may include thermal protectors in the form of polymers that distribute heat. This is important if you are someone who blow dries your hair to give added protection.

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

try baby shampoo if normal shampoo ruins your hair. u still gotta wash out the dirt and sebum buildup!

July 3, 2011 - 11:44pm
EmpowHER Guest

This is funny that you wrote about this as I saw the infomercial for those WEN products which contains only conditioning and no abrasive shampoos and I was going to try and wash my hair a couple times a week and condition the other days....

I am too active to NOT wash my hair as I may insult others around me (pun intended), so I am glad to hear that this has worked for both of you.

Great article,

April 2, 2011 - 9:22am

My hair is also dry. I probably also only wash once a week. The other days I just get it wet and style after putting something on it to make it more manageable. Thanks for the idea to try a "conditioner" wash. I havn't tried that before.

April 1, 2011 - 8:49pm
HERWriter Guide

Thanks for this great article Michele!

My hair is so dry that I can only shampoo it once a week and on other days I "wash" it with conditioner. I leave it in while I wash and shave my legs and then comb through and rinse. If I shampooed more than once a week, my hair would be fried. Conditioner is a dry-haired girls best friend!


April 1, 2011 - 12:13pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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