When you have a million haircare products and treatments to choose from, it’s easy to get swept up in stylers and forget to focus on basics like shampoo and conditioner. Shampoos are essential to washing away product build-up and cleansing the scalp, while conditioners help hydrate and replenish proteins in your hair. As with most things in life, it all comes down to finding the right formula for your hair type. To determine what that means for your specific strands, keep scrolling for insight from a few of our favorite industry pros.

Why You Need conditioner

Woman applying hair conditioner.

Hairstylists and colorists are exposed to every product in the game, and even they’ll make a case for conditioner as one of the most important beauty buys when it comes to improving your mane’s overall health and appearance. “Conditioner moisturizes the hair after shampooing and makes it soft and easy to detangle,” says Linda de Zeeuw, a master stylist at Rob Peetoom Salon in Brooklyn. “It also closes the cuticle of the hair, which is important to keep the moisturizing ingredients in and to protect the hair from external damage.” (Photo via Piotr Marcinski / EyeEm/ Getty)

On the opposite side of the spectrum, when you skip out on conditioner, your locks are more prone to knots and snagging, not to mention dry mids and ends. Michelle Gonzalez, a colorist at Mimi’s Salon in Belmar, New Jersey, points out that well-conditioned strands are easier to style after your shower is complete. “Wet tresses are more fragile and easier to snap and break while you brush them. Conditioning the hair helps prevent this from happening by making it more manageable,” she notes.

What To Look For in a conditioner

Woman shopping for conditioner at the supermarket.

As you browse the beauty product shelves (whether IRL or virtually), the key to finding the best conditioner is recognizing both your mane’s current status and what you’d like to improve about it. “Know your hair type (for example, dry, damaged, fine, or curly) and what you want from your conditioner (ie: a weightless/reparative/moisturizing formula), so you can research products for your specific needs,” Stephanie Brown, a colorist at the IGK Salon in New York City, says. (Photo via asiseeit/ Getty)

While moisturizing masks and shampoos may make you feel like you can ditch your conditioner, think again. Nearly all hair types rely on conditioner to achieve a truly healthy finish. “If your strands are naturally dry or dehydrated, you need moisture; if your mane is chemically treated, it will need protein or keratin (both of which are main ingredients in many conditioners). For finer hair types, a lightweight conditioner is advisable, and for coarse tresses, an oil-based conditioner will be nice,” de Zeeuw says.

Making The Most Of conditioner

Woman with shiny hair on white background.

To get the most out of your conditioner, it’s important to know how (or, rather, where) to apply it. “The first inch of the hair is already moisturized by natural oils from the scalp, so conditioner is best used in the mid-lengths and ends,” explains de Zeeuw, pointing out that if you use conditioner on the scalp, it can weigh the hair down. “Squeeze some water out before applying the product, as the excess dilutes your conditioner and prevents [strands] from soaking up the moisturizing ingredients.” (Photo via CoffeeAndMilk/ Getty)

Once you’ve applied your conditioner, let it sit for a minute or two, and rinse thoroughly. The rinse is key for ensuring the added moisture doesn’t leave your mane looking oily in the long run. “I love conditioner, so I never feel like you can overdo it, but you can make the mistake (as I have many times) of not rinsing out all of the conditioner,” Brown points out. Not using enough conditioner can prove the process just as ineffective. “The best trick I have to not underdo it is to [make sure you have enough to] brush through [to your ends] either with a comb or your fingers,” says Brown.

For sustained protection against environmental stressors, consider leave-in conditioners. “They are an easy way to lock moisture into your hair,” says TKTKKT and celeb hairstylist Lacy Redway. “Leave-in conditioner aids with detangling and leaves hair more manageable for styling. It also helps with combatting frizz and creates a barrier for your hair against elements like heat and weather.” To apply, use the same technique as with a wash-out, and concentrate on the mid-lengths to the ends so you don’t weigh roots down.

Stylist-Approved Favorites

1. Moroccanoil Moisture Repair Conditioner ($25): This Moroccanoil product is one of Brown’s must-haves for dry hair, thanks to hydrating, restorative ingredients like keratin and argan oil.

2. Olaplex No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner ($28): Gonzalez is a big fan of this highly reparative formula for all hair types, but she notes it’s an especially beneficial option for use on color-treated strands, thanks to its sulfate- and paraben-free ingredient list.

3. Davines Oi Conditioner ($38): de Zeeuw believes an oil-based conditioner is best for very coarse hair that needs some extra TLC and loves this Davines formula because it utilizes nourishing ingredients like roucou oil.

4. Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Purifying Conditioner ($5): Brown touts this drugstore option as an optimal pick for oily hair due to its eco-friendly formula, chock-full of moisturizing and refreshing ingredients like wild water mint extract and raspberry extract.

5. Pureology Curl Complete Conditioner ($22): Gonzalez recommends Pureology products in general and loves this particular conditioner for curls and waves that can benefit from extra definition and a de-frizzing defense.

6. Dove Ultracare Crème Concentrated + Repair Conditioner ($5): One of Dove’s latest launches, this conditioner intensely moisturizes dry, damaged strands for a healthy head of hair.

7. Nexxus Clean & Pure Nourishing Detox Conditioner ($17): Redway praises this option for its ability to remove product build-up from the scalp while smoothing strands.

8. the good stuff color protect milk no-rinse conditioner ($8): This quick-absorbing, leave-on conditioner deeply hydrates strands and protects against color fade over time.

RELATED: 11 Leave-In Conditioners That Are Perfect For Curly Hair

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