Banishing Bad Hair Days since 1997!™

Hair Conditioner


Christina Milian

Hair conditioners are hair care products that has the potential to temporarily change the texture, condition and overall look and feel of human hair. How does this work? Hair conditioners are formulated to coat the hair shaft. In some ways, hair conditioners are like spackle used to fill holes in walls.

Conditioners are designed to fill in damaged sections of the hair's cuticle to make the hair look and feel softer, smoother and less damaged.

When applied to split ends, conditioners will help temporarily fuse them together minimizing their appearance. They will also help to eliminate flyaway strands, pump up shine and shimmer and improve overall manageability of the hair.

Some hair conditioners are actually used on human hair extensions, 100% human hair wigs and other human hair accessories. They serve the same purpose adding softness, shine and overall manageability.

Hair Conditioners Since The Beginning Of Time

Since the beginning of time humans have used a wide range of oils and other softening agents to smoothe and condition strands. Early humans were known to use fats and oils from dead animals such as bear and whale fat and blubber.

Natural oils derived from coconuts and other fruits were also used on human heads with the goal of softening, smoothing and conditioning.

According to hair historians, hair conditioners were actually used by men in the Victoria era. The downside to the oil, known as Macassar, was it's high grease factor which required the inventions of special cloth and materials to prevent the oil from leaving grease spots on furniture and bed clothes.

Modern hair conditioners are generally linked to Ed Pinaud who created what was called brilliantine for the 1900 World's Exposition in Paris. The product was designed to soften not only men's hair, but scratchy beards and mustaches.

Since that introduction of Brilliantine at the turn of the century, hair conditioners have evolved into a major hair care product that is considered to be an essential part of most hair care programs.

Type of Hair Conditioners

Unfortunately for the average hair consumer there is not one simple conditioning product that works for all types, textures and conditions of human hair. In fact there are vast numbers of conditioning options that cover the following hair conditioning options:

1. Pre-shampoo conditioning treatments (oils, creams or similar) 2. Conditioning and moisture enriching shampoo formulas 3. Post shampoo rinse-out conditioners which are also known as finishing rinses and instant conditioners 4. Deep conditioning treatments which can be used at a variety of times on either dry or wet hair. 5. Leave-in conditioners used after hair is washed and towel dried 6. Reconstructors 7. Acidic rinses 8. Conditioning detanglers designed to condition while detangling after shampoo sessions 9. Moisture enhancing hair mousses with conditioning properties 10. Conditioning straightening, serums and sculpting sprays 11. In-between shampoo conditioners including oils, butters and moisturizers

There are also niche conditioners that are designed to preserve, intensify and/or extend colored hair. In addition, there are conditioners formulated for chemically treated hair or extremely damaged hair.

Key Differences of Hair Conditioners

When selecting a hair conditioner always focus on the following factors:

1. Hair Type (thin/fine, medium, thick, very thick) 2. Hair Texture (straight, wavy, curly, kinky, mixed) 3. Current condition of hair and ongoing hair challenges 4. Amount of post-shampoo tangling (light tangling, mild, heavy) 5. Hair styling goals 6. Use of hot styling tools (blow dryers, hot rollers, irons)

Hair Conditioner Descriptions

Although there are exceptions to every hair rule, most hair that is baby fine and or thinning does not need conditioning treatments of any kind. If the strands have been damaged due to chemical treatments, the best conditioners would be rinse-out and leave-in/detangling sprays applied just to the damaged areas.

If conditioning agents are used in any fashion, they should be the lightest formulas available.

Most hair that is wavy, would most likely benefit from rinse out conditioners, moisturizing detanglers and/or leave-in conditioners. Depending on the coarseness of the hair, wavy hair would benefit from regular deep conditioning treatments and hair oiling, when needed.

Naturally curly and kinky hair as well as chemically treated or damaged hair would benefit from an extensive program of appropriate conditioning. Long hair would also benefit since the longer the hair, the more fragile and prone to damage it becomes.

Depending on your needs, consider the following hair conditioning treatments:

Condition Hair Only When Appropriate

Christina Milian

A lot of misconception exists regarding how much hair conditioner should be applied, how long it should be allowed to remain in the hair and whether to apply to wet, damp or bone dry strands.

Is there a clear answer? Yes, the answer is that there is no clear cut formula. It all depends on the individual and their hair's current needs.

One thing is certain. Always start by reading the instructions for use with each conditioner. The manufacturer will provide general use tips.

Another good rule of thumb to follow with hair conditioners is to get advice from your trusted hair care expert. Not only will they be able to tell you what type of conditioning program your hair would benefit from, they can recommend specific products.

Conditioning Packaging

Depending on the ultimate goal of the hair conditioner, it may be packaged in a variety of forms ranging from solid bars, creamy rich packs, sprays, oils, gels or liquids.

It is important to keep all conditioning products from being compromised by human fingers, hands or other elements such as high and low temperatures or water. While it is often convenient to store your rinse-out conditioners in the shower, make sure that they can not be altered by shower heat or spray.

If you use oils or creamy packs, always remove a small amount via a special spatula or plastic spoon and place in a separate bowl to avoid dipping your fingers into the mother lode. Fingernails are often contaminated and this makes it easy to spread unwanted bacteria to your base supply.

Avoid storing any conditioning products in direct sunlight or in rooms with extremes of temperature. Some products such as oils may require storage in dark, cool areas. Read the instructions on each conditioning formula.


The basic role of a hair conditioner is quite simply to condition the hair, make it softer, smoother and easier to detangle and style. Hair conditioners actually coat the hair's shaft with a variety of ingredients designed to achieve a wide range of goals from helping to soothe damaged sections, seal in additional moisture as well as act as a protective long term barrier.

It is important to remember that hair conditioners, while they can offer amazing results when selected wisely, they are only temporary. The next time you turn on the shower and step in, all those fabulous conditioning results will wash right down the drain.

If you want to talk more about these or other hair care articles on or anywhere else, please post a message on's Hair Talk Forums

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