What does a Conditioner do?

You’ve never used a conditioner and don’t get the hype, do you? You don’t think it’s necessary or important.

Here, you’ll find all the answers to your questions about how conditioners work, what they perform, and why you should include them in your hair care regimen.

What is a Conditioner?

A conditioner is a hydrating substance created to enhance the look, feel, and manageability of hair.

Conditioners are fantastic for mending split ends and preventing hair damage as well as detangling hair, reducing friction, minimizing frizz, and generally enhancing hair health.

Deep conditioners, cleansing conditioners, leave-in conditioners, and rinse-out conditioners are the different types of conditioners.

Deep conditioners, as their name suggests, are an intensive type of hair treatment for dry, brittle, or damaged hair. Deep conditioners penetrate the hair cuticle’s inner cortex and work their magic from the inside out.

Cleansing Conditioning (Co-wash) functions as both a shampoo and a conditioner to wash and condition the hair at the same time.

A leave-in conditioner doesn’t require rinsing and can hydrate and maintain the health of your hair all day.

Rinse-out Conditioners are the regular kind of conditioners that are used every day after shampooing and rinsed out.

Can your rinse-out conditioners serve as a leave-in conditioner? 

A regular type of conditioner may contain stronger ingredients, and leaving it in the hair for an extended period may do more harm than good for the health of your hair.

 A leave-in conditioner, on the other hand, may contain milder ingredients that allow it to stay in the hair for longer while maintaining its health.

How does a Conditioner Work?

The hair cuticle contains keratins. These keratins are negatively charged because of the way they’re folded and also serve as an anchor to the outer layer of the cuticle.

Humectants, oils, and cationic surfactants are the major components that make up the conditioner.

Cationic surfactants are substances that have positive charges on their hydrophilic end.

What the conditioner does is supply these positive charges to the hair fiber to balance out the negative charges from the keratin, and this attraction lubricates the cuticle by lowering the fiber’s water-repellency.

How to apply a Conditioner?

Step 1: Apply conditioner to your hair shaft after shampooing, working your way up from the tips to the roots.

Because the hair scalp doesn’t lack moisture, conditioners shouldn’t be used at the roots. But always make sure to concentrate on the roots when shampooing. This helps in removing dirt and product build-up.

Step 2: Next, distribute the conditioner into the hair ends using a wide-tooth comb, your fingers, or scrunching.

Scrunching, finger combing, and pressing hair together, help saturate the hair more which translates to more binding sites for the conditioner. These are not advised for curlies as they could disrupt the curl pattern, and introduce frizziness.

Step 3: Depending on the product description leave the conditioner in your hair for 5 minutes or longer. After that, rinse thoroughly and continue with your regular hair care routine.

Best Conditioners for curly hair 

Deep conditioners

  • Damage Remedy Intensive Masque by Aveda
  • Davines Love Curl Mask
  • Leave-in conditioner
  • Deva Curl Leave-in Decadence Moisturizing Conditioner
  • Ouidad Leave-in Conditioner


  • As I Am now Co-wash Cleansing Conditioner
  • Carol’s Daughter Curl Cleansing Conditioner 

Components that make up a Conditioner and functions.


The key ingredient of a conditioner is a class of chemicals called quaternary ammonium compounds, or “quats.” 

Quats, which are positively charged polyatomic ions, interact with negatively charged ions at the hair shaft to increase compatibility and shine while reducing friction and tangles.

Both in the wet and dry states, quats enhance the conditioning of hair.

Quats make detangling a breeze and combing through wet and dry hair easier. It also helps make the hair soft, shiny, and healthy, and reduces flyaways.

Poly quats, of which common examples include cetrimonium chloride and behentrimonium chloride, are one of the widely used conditioning agents.

Fatty alcohols 

You’ve probably heard that alcohol-based products should be avoided because they act as drying agents, which is the opposite of what we want for our hair.

The ideal alcohols for our hair are fatty alcohols. They come from natural sources and are long-chain fatty acids with a higher molecular weight.

Fatty alcohols function by forming an oily coating that traps moisture creating that conditioning effect.

Fatty alcohols are emulsifiers, which means they facilitate the mixing of water and oil in products.

Lubrication, moisturizing, and hydration are the properties of fatty alcohols

Examples of Fatty Alcohols:

  • Myristyl alcohol
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • Laurel alcohol
  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Behenyl alcohol
  • Cetearyl alcohol
  • Cetyl alcohol


Silicone works by forming a thin oily film to trap moisture, this film also reflects light providing slip and shine to the hair which helps straighten and smooth the hair.

Why is silicone bad? 

Silicon prevents moisture from penetrating the hair shaft and over time this leads to dryness which could result in hair damage and frizziness.

Silicon also attracts dirt and forms product buildup, weighing the hair down and making it appear limp and lifeless.

Silicone buildup cannot be easily washed out of the hair except by a clarifying shampoo and this would strip the hair of its natural oils resulting in dryness.

Silicones come in two varieties: water-soluble and non-water-soluble. Because they do not dissolve in water and would require a clarifying shampoo to remove silicone accumulation in the hair, non-water-soluble silicones are often categorized as bad silicones. 

While water-soluble silicones can dissolve and be readily removed from the hair, examples of water-soluble silicones that are frequently used in hair products are Cyclomethicone and dimethicone copolyol.

Non-water-based silicones 

  • Cetyl dimethicone
  • Cetearyl methicone 
  • Dimethicone
  • Stearyl dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Amodimethicone
  • Trimethyl Amodimethicone
  • Cyclopentasiloxane

Because curly hair is prone to dryness, silicones are more damaging to curly hair.


Humectants can attract and retain moisture.

The most efficient humectant is known to be glycerin or glycerol. It pulls in moisture to the hair and scalp.

It also aids in forming a barrier to stop moisture from escaping from the hair follicles.

By keeping moisture in the hair shaft, humectants prevent breakage and damage to the hair.

The general health of the scalp benefits from glycerin’s capacity to draw and hold moisture. Numerous problems, including dandruff and excessive oil production, can be avoided by keeping the scalp adequately hydrated. 

Scalp health is crucial for managing hair issues since healthy hair begins at the scalp.

Your hair is strengthened by glycerin, which helps shield it from breakage and other forms of damage. It preserves the integrity of your shaft and stops split ends from forming.


Because oil molecules are small enough to pass through the outer cuticle and can replenish protective oil in the hair, oils help keep the hair moisturized and act as a barrier against hair breakage and damage.

Oils are essential for preserving hair from harm. The oil can lubricate the hair shaft better and aid in preventing hair breakage. It can also serve as a barrier against harmful and aggressive substances.

Castor oil, shea butter, almond, coconut, olive, argan, and jojoba oils are all excellent choices.

The primary reason coconut oil is utilized for most hair care products is that it works without affecting the protein content of the hair.

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