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How to Choose the Best Conditioner for Dry Hair

BY Felicia Ler

You’re in the haircare aisle of your local drugstore and undecided about which of the bazillion colorful bottles is the best conditioner for dry hair.

Should you go for simple hydration or choose a nourishing formula? Which ingredients help moisturize your curly hair without the icky buildup? Also, what’s the deal with sulfates and silicones?

If you’ve ever had a hard time finding your perfect match, this guide will help steer you in the right direction. Read on for how to choose the best conditioner for dry hair.

Why Conditioner, You Ask?

Besides shampoo, conditioner is the next non-negotiable on your shower caddy for haircare products. But why is conditioner essential to the look and feel of healthy-looking tresses, even more so for dry hair?

For starters, a conditioner doesn’t just tackle parched fibers. It also tackles other concerns related to dryness: Out-of-control frizziness, dull-looking strands, painful knots, the ever-present split ends, and hair breakage stumping your hair growth goals.

As we all know, various culprits are to blame for hair dryness. Think of your oft-used blow dryer, recent dye job, the sun, hard water, salt water, chlorinated water, and even your shampoo.

If you’re raising your brows at the last one, you may not have heard that shampoos usually contain anionic surfactants. These cleansing agents intensify the negative charges on the hair shafts and raise the cuticles. Boom, you’ve just leveled up the frizz, tangles, and split ends on your ‘do.

That’s where conditioner comes in to smooth things down, so to speak.

Most conditioning formulas contain cationic ingredients (positively charged substances) to neutralize the negative charge left behind by shampoos. They also slick down the ruffled cuticles to minimize frizz and inter-fiber friction. This, in turn, cuts down on the risk of unwanted knots and temporarily heals split ends. The now-smooth cuticles also do a better job of reflecting light, promoting the appearance of shiny-smooth hair, so that you (or your stylist) have an easier time styling your tresses.

How to Choose the Best Conditioner for Dry Hair

The trick to choosing the best conditioner for dry hair is to take your hair type, hair thickness, and porosity level into consideration.

1. Skip the Harsh Ingredients

Certain hair types may tolerate certain haircare ingredients but that’s not the case for moisture-starved fibers that are already at their weakest. If you also have curly and coily hair, the delicate structure of your hair shafts likely requires a gentler formulation.

That’s why it’s in your best interest to skip the sulfates and other potentially harsh ingredients. Fortunately, every haircare product at Function of Beauty is formulated without them.

2. Say Yes to Silicones — Or Not

Some love silicones, others don’t — it’s all about your individual preferences.

On the upside, silicones are prized for their conditioning abilities to downplay frizz, flyaways, and tangles. They also help enhance the shine and smoothness of your strands, making dry hair more manageable. These synthetics also help your mane appear shiny while protecting it from heat styling, pollutants, and other harmful elements.

That said, certain types of silicones do accumulate on your scalp and hair to create buildup. Plus, their film-forming nature may prevent other moisturizing hair products from entering the fibers. Still, there are ways around these potential downsides of silicones to make them work for you.

If you want to steer clear of silicones altogether, Function of Beauty’s custom shampoo and conditioner offers a silicone-free option.

3. Lightweight Hydrators vs. Rich Moisturizers

Those with thin hair may prefer a light, hydrating conditioner that won’t weigh down their dainty fibers. The same goes for low porosity hair, as the closed-off cuticles mean that a moisturizing conditioner is more likely to sit on the hair shafts than sink in. Trust us, the resulting product buildup is so not worth it.

Instead, look for hydrating ingredients like:

  • Humectants: These lightweight molecules help pull water from the surrounding air into the hair shafts to increase your mane’s hydration levels. Go for ingredients like aloe vera juice and allantoin, which are present in Function of Beauty’s custom hair conditioner.
  • Lightweight oils: These oils are great for frizzy hair and flyaways without flattening baby-fine hair. They also help replenish the natural oils in your fibers. Top choices include argan oil, jojoba oil, and grapeseed oil (which is used in our “Thermal Protection” hair goal).

If you have coarse, thick hair or highly porous strands, you probably need extra-moisturizing ingredients to properly condition hair and make detangling a breeze. 

Your best bet is ingredients with emollient and occlusive properties. They help soften and smooth the strands, and create a protective film on the fibers to seal in moisture. Some good options would be heavier oils, such as avocado oil, castor oil, coconut oil, and olive oil. You can also play around with plant-based butter like cocoa butter and shea butter.

For exceedingly dry, brittle hair, use a hair mask as a deep conditioner. Function of Beauty’s custom hair mask is an intensive deep-conditioning treatment that delivers an optimal blend of nourishment to help give your locks the moisture they need.

After using rinse-out conditioners, you can follow up with our custom leave-in conditioner, an ultra-lightweight conditioning cream perfect for all hair types.

4. Top Up on Antioxidants

Dehydrated hair that’s experienced more than its fair share of brittleness and breakage probably craves a hair conditioner.

On top of the usual hydrators, look for antioxidants to fight the free radicals. They wreak oxidative damage on the amino acids within the fibers and break down hair proteins like keratin. The result is hay-like, damaged hair.

Science shows that antioxidants are your best defense against harmful free radicals. One 2012 study discovered that natural antioxidants derived from artichoke and rice lightened protein degradation in the hair shafts to maintain their shine and color.

That’s why at Function of Beauty, we use a mix of synthetic and naturally derived ingredients to cater to dry hair. For example, rice bran oil is present in our “shine” and “straighten” hair goals. Meanwhile, sunflower seed oil rich in vitamin B5 and vitamin E is used in our conditioner base. Explore more in our ingredient glossary.

How to Use Conditioner Correctly

After you’ve picked the right conditioning formula for your tresses, learn how to use conditioner the right way.

  • Use conditioner as often as your mane needs it: Coarse hair types and those who regularly heat-style or chemically treat their locks will likely benefit from using conditioner whenever they’ve shampooed their hair. Meanwhile, those with thin hair may want to use conditioner less frequently — for example, once every few washes. Remember, everyone’s mane is different, so condition as your hair sees fit.
  • Apply the conditioner strategically: Unlike shampoo, you don’t want to slather the conditioner from the roots to the ends of your hair. Doing so only means your mane will look greasy and weighed down from too much product. Instead, apply conditioner from the mid-lengths down to the tips.

Find the Best Conditioner for Dry Hair at Function of Beauty

Ready to find the best conditioner for dry hair? Well, at Function of Beauty, we like to outdo ourselves by providing the best shampoos and conditioners for dry hair.

If you find the mass-market formulations sold at places like Amazon and Sephora not meeting the unique needs of your dry locks, try our custom shampoo-and-conditioner duo.

Choose from hair goals like “color protection” to protect colored hair from ultraviolet (UV) fading or “deep condition” for seriously dried-out strands. If you’re averse to sulfates, you’ll be happy to hear that we only provide sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners.

To make washing and conditioning fun, you can also pick your own color and scent. (There are also dye-free and fragrance-free options if you prefer that.) And the bonus? We’re vegan and cruelty-free, too.

So, what are you waiting for? Take our hair quiz today!