The Best Conditioners for Dry Hair
The trickiest thing about dealing with dry hair is the sheer number of possible causes. The list of what could be making your hair dull, dehydrated, and frizzy is practically endless and spans everything from genetics to overwashing to hot tools. The causes of dry hair can also compound, meaning that if you have a hair type or texture that is naturally dry (curls and coils, for example) and you regularly heat style your hair, you're going to be dealing with extra crispy strands, explains Adam Federico, expert stylist and R+Co director of content.
At the end of the day, "there's no one common link or factor when it comes to dry or dehydrated hair," says Federico. "It really goes back to the individual, what type of hair they have, and what they may be doing to it at home."
When looking for conditioners to restore and rehydrate your hair health, it's important to understand the two categories that can cause dryness: predisposition (basically meaning you're born this way; shoutout to my fellow curly folks) and external factors. "Individuals with coarse, curly hair may struggle with a natural dryness which commonly occurs within these hair types," says Federico. When it comes to external factors, it's helpful to think of dry hair in terms of what it's missing: moisture. The more moisture you take out, the more you're going to have to put in via products like conditioner. Heat-styling saps moisture from your hair, no matter how much oil you slather on. The same goes for excessive washing, which strips your hair's natural oils as well as dirt, explains Federico.
Hair that's predisposed to dryness can usually handle thicker, creamy products without adverse side effects including greasy build-up. If you fall into this category, you can look for moisturizing conditioners without worrying too much about what's on the label. If, however, you have both a predisposition to dry hair and compound that with external factors like color-treatment or frequent heat-styling, you'll want to look for products with ingredients like protein and vitamins E and C that will strengthen your weakened hair cuticle. The same goes for those whose hair falls firmly in the latter category and are experiencing dryness solely from external factors: look for conditioners with vitamins and oils that protect and strengthen in addition to offering hydration. This is especially true for folks with fine, dry hair which is prone to build-up and breakage.
Once you've determined if your hair's dryness falls into the predisposition or external factor category, you can start sorting through rehydration options that are right for you — including these top picks for conditioners for dry hair.
Best Strengthening Conditioner for Dry Hair: R+Co ATLANTIS Moisturizing B5 Conditioner
Thanks to a combination of pro-vitamin B5 to hydrate strands and fatty oils to seal and coat them, adding shine, this conditioner works overtime to both restore hair's health and hydrate. In addition to the moisture-boosting ingredients, this conditioner (which smells amazing, by the way) also boasts rice bran oil as a strengthening agent that reduces split ends and nourishes hair.
Best Deep Conditioner for Dry Hair: Davines NOUNOU Conditioner
Davines is a favorite for the thirsty-haired and NOUNOU is just one of the brand's hydrating conditioners — but it is a standout. Vitamin E works as an antioxidant to heal and protect both hair and scalp while emollients coat hair strands to ease detangling and fight breakage. It also contains glycerin, a humectant that moisturizes hair, says Tonya Lane, a cosmetic chemist and founder of CurlyChemistry. It's paired with sweet almond and jojoba oil which work together to seal in moisture and help the hair cuticle lie flat. (P.S. Jojoba oil is incredible for your skin, too.)
Best Conditioner for Color-Treated Dry Hair: Philip B. White Truffle Conditioner
If you've ever bleached your hair, you know the struggle of suddenly porous strands which can't seem to hang onto moisture. But don't despair, that's where this gem from the renowned Philip B. comes in. This one features a combination of lavender, chamomile, hops, and nettles for hydration plus an amino acid complex made of oat and soy for strength and elasticity. It also contains vitamin E which is great if you can't part with your heat styling tools just yet and your hair still needs some built-in protection. (Then follow these other steps to heal and hydrate colored and over-processed hair.)
Best Drugstore Conditioner for Dry Hair: SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate Repair Conditioner
Honey is a natural hydrator, says Lane, and when combined with protein-rich yogurt, you've got an incredibly moisturizing and restoring conditioner on your hands — and in your hair. (That's why you can make amazing DIY hair masks at home with these same items.) This particular combination of ingredients also boasts shea butter, avocado oil, and aloe vera juice which deeply penetrate the hair cuticle to heal and hydrate. (The brand also makes a leave-in conditioner with similar ingredients that reviewers swear by.)
Best Conditioner for Dry, Brittle Hair: Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner
Once a salon secret, Olaplex has become directly available to shoppers via retailers like Sephora in recent years, which is amazing news because this stuff works wonders — as over 100,000 Sephora users who've "liked" the product can attest. This at-home version of the salon go-to for seriously damaged hair focuses on repairing the hair cuticle while also providing intensive hydration. In terms of key ingredients, Olaplex No. 5 includes a patented bonding agent — bis-amino diglycol dimaleate, which rebuilds fractured and breaking hair strands — as the primary ingredient, but also features glycerine for moisture and both cetrimonium chloride and behentrimonium chloride. The latter two ingredients, known as cationic conditioners, smooth the hair cuticle, coat the hair, and ease detangling, according to Lane.
Best Lightweight Conditioner for Dry Hair: Verb Ghost Conditioner
Dry hair and thick hair aren't always one and the same, and sometimes you simply can't reach for a heavy, butter-rich conditioner post-shampoo. Whether it's your natural texture or due to buildup or weakened hair that can't bear to be weighed down, try a lightweight conditioner like Verb Ghost Conditioner. Moringa seed oil (also used in some skin-care products) is the sealant featured in this one, which locks in moisture provided by jojoba oil and aloe vera juice. As a breakage-fighting bonus, this conditioner also includes quinoa protein, which protects hair from damage while also strengthening the individual strands.
Best Luxury Conditioner for Dry Hair: Oribe Gold Lust Repair & Restore Conditioner
This ultra-lux conditioner is, admittedly, a splurge, but its ingredients mark the silky smooth intersection of skincare and haircare with a focus on healing the hair cuticle from the inside out. Consider this stellar lineup: niacinamide, caffeine, green tea, and vitamin C (all hydration-boosting favorites in the skincare community) deeply penetrate and repair the cuticle, plus shea butter and biotin fully saturate your hair with moisture. Argan oil seals the deal and adds extra shine.
Best Conditioner for a Dry, Itchy Scalp: Jupiter Nourishing Conditioner
While hair dryness is hard enough to handle, adding a dry scalp to the equation narrows down your options considerably, since treating the scalp is more complicated than treating hair alone. Jupiter, an entire hair-care line dedicated to fostering a healthy, hydrated scalp, adds probiotics, vitamin E (in this case, its antioxidant properties are added to support the skin on your scalp), and calming oat kernel to support the scalp's moisture barrier. Plus, there are the usual hydration offenders: glycerin and safflower, lavender, and coconut oil. (See: The Difference Between Dandruff vs. Dry Scalp)
Best Conditioner for Thick, Dry Hair: Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Hair Mask
It may not be common knowledge, but you don't always have to follow hair-care instructions. For example, if you have thick, coarse, or curly hair that also happens to be bone dry, it's okay to use a hair mask instead of and in the same way as a conditioner. (Promise, loads of folks do, including our own executive editor.) This hair-mask-as-conditioner favorite is packed with vitamin B5 and biotin (two dry hair healing go-to's) plus sweet almond and argan oils to seal in the nourishment. It's a deliciously whipped, thick conditioner, so if you're worried about scalp slickness, it's best to apply from mid-shaft to tip, steering clear of the roots altogether. Or, if your hair is dry all over, slather it on. (This brand makes a conditioner that's a favorite for curly hair, too.)
Best Conditioner for Extra-Fine Dry Hair: Drybar On the Rocks Lightweight Conditioner
For those among us with extra-fine or fragile hair — if your hair won't hold a basic braid without tons of hairspray or if you've bleached your hair beyond oblivion, this one's for you — the struggle to hydrate without weighing down or greasing up your hair can be difficult or demoralizing. If you're experiencing thinning hair, the same applies; nothing feels worse than accidentally overworking fragile strands and having them come out in your hands. Thankfully, this ultra-light, mega-moisturizing conditioner has been around for a while and is a proven success. Coriander, macadamia nut, and olive oils seal fragile hair cuticles while charcoal powder cuts down on buildup normally caused by seriously hydrating conditioners.