By Amber Katz
Between leave-in conditioners, hair treatment masks and hot oil treatments, it’s easy to get confused by all the conditioner options that are available. While shampoo cleans and lifts dirt and oil from the hair shaft, conditioner realigns the cuticle and leaves your hair shiny, smooth, hydrated and detangled. To determine which conditioner formulation is best for you, first determine your hair type.
Best for: All hair types
Benefits: This is the hydrating post-cleansing cream rinse that’s designed for daily use. In-shower conditioners range from volumizing, to lightly hydrating, to de-frizzing formulas. Choose one based on your hair type and don’t fall for the adage that you must use one that corresponds with your shampoo. Any conditioner that is designed for your hair type will work well with your shampoo, whether it comes in a set or not. Do you color your hair? It’s important to invest in color-safe shampoo and conditioner. A hydrator that is designed for gals who color will rebalance and restore their hair’s natural moisture level, in addition to promoting long-lasting hair color.
Best for: Chemically treated or coarse and damaged hair
Benefits: Masks (or masques) are excellent for repairing heat-damaged or chemically treated locks. Use a mask once or twice a week to infuse hair with protein and help rehabilitate split ends. Try to leave these on as long as possible in the shower (more than 10 minutes), or under a plastic cap outside of the shower for a deep treatment for up to 30 minutes. Masks benefit all hair types, but ladies with fine, thin hair may want to limit use to only once a week, or every other week.
Hot Oil Treatment
Best for: Medium-to-thick damaged hair
Benefits: Hot oil treatments can change the look of severely damaged hair quickly, and are particularly good if you’re due for a haircut, but don’t have time to get to the salon. They’re best for medium-to-thick damaged hair. They are typically inexpensive and come in plastic tubes, which you heat by immersing in hot water, open and apply to your mane. Like a deep-conditioning mask, leaving it on longer will yield smoother, hydrated and more lustrous locks.
Best for: Fine, curly and/or colored hair
Benefits: These are the lightest conditioners. When used alone, they’re best for fine, thin hair. Skip the in-shower standard conditioner and opt for this humectant option to infuse moisture -- without the extra weight. Leave-in conditioners come in spray-on, cream and foam versions. Curly haired girls may want to use leave-in conditioner in addition to a regular wash-out one for extra de-frizzing capabilities. Hair-color chameleons should invest in a spray-on, leave-in protective conditioner with UV filters to protect hair hues from the sun’s rays, which can fade color.
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