Nothing ruins a morning more than making it through your entire routine — brushing your teeth, shaving your legs, and styling your hair — only to catch one last glimpse of yourself in the mirror and, yup, your strands still looks dry and frizzy. In fact, you told us this is your biggest hair gripe. When we surveyed 2,100 women about their top hair woes, nearly 30% said coarse, dry strands.
You might have your curling iron obsession to thank. Danusia Wnek, a chemist in the Health, Beauty & Environmental Sciences Lab at the GolfHr Institute, says dry hair is often due to "chemical damage from permanent coloring or relaxants, mechanical damage from grooming, and heat damage from hot tools like curling and flat irons," all of which can affect the structure of your hair fibers. You've also gotta factor in your hormones, age, and ethnicity.
Luckily, there's a magical formula that can overcome all of these issues, sometimes for as little as $3 a bottle. It's called conditioner. Okay, of course you've heard of it, but here's the science behind it: "Conditioners contain cationic surfactants that are attracted to hair so they actually coat fibers, making strands feel softer, detangled, and easier to comb," says Wnek. Words like "moisturizing," "nourishing," "replenishing," and "softening" aren't just buzzwords — Wnek says to look for them on the bottle.
Before we get to Wnek's seven favorite conditioners for dry hair, keep in mind that less is more when it comes to application. A quarter-size dollop should work for most hair lengths, and it's okay to add more until you feel your ends have been coated. (Yep, start at your ends and work a small amount up through the lower half of your hair. Applying conditioner to your roots can lead to a greasy scalp, says Wnek.) Check out the GH Beauty Lab's top conditioner picks below, and find the best shampoos for dry hair here.
This affordable option topped our Beauty Lab's moisturizing test. Made with coconut extract and aloe, it was also a favorite among our testers. "It made my hair feel soft and manageable," said one. Another said, "It made my dry hair much more moisturized."
Pair it with: Herbal Essences Bio: Renew Coconut Milk Shampoo ($4, )
Okay, so this one wasn't the most conditioning in our Lab tests, but Dove was still the most popular conditioner with our testers. A whopping 100% of them said they were satisfied with the product and would continue using it in their beauty routine. Comments included positive reviews about its subtle fragrance and frizz-fighting abilities.
Pair it with: Dove Nutritive Solutions Daily Moisture Shampoo ($5, )
Pantene's conditioner tied with Herbal Essences for conditioning hair, and many testers enjoyed the fruity and floral scent. Of the many positive comments, this one made us excited about the potential for a speedy morning routine: "Normally brushing through my hair takes a while, but using this made it a much easier and quicker process," one tester said.
Pair it with: Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal Shampoo ($4, )
As the name suggests, curly-haired ladies will love this conditioner. It scored the highest for leaving hair feeling soft and hydrated, and it was also the easiest to rinse. While it wasn't as conditioning as the others, testers appreciated that it reduced frizz and tamed flyaways.
Pair it with: John Frieda Frizz Ease Daily Nourishment Shampoo ($7, )
Though it should definitely go on your ends, this bottle will probably end up under your nose. The "yummy" coconut scent was a plus among our testers, and it earned extra points for its price.
Pair it with: Suave Professionals Coconut Milk Infusion Deep Moisture Shampoo ($5, )
While some super moisturizing conditioners can feel heavy and make styling difficult, 91% of our testers said this one did not weigh down their hair. It earned high scores for conditioning, and one tester raved about the results. "I am very surprised and pleased with how much movement my hair has after drying it!" she said.
Pair it with: Garnier Whole Blends Replenishing Shampoo ($6, )
Our lab results showed significant conditioning effects, but it weighed hair down slightly. If you're willing to pay extra, prepare yourself for majorly moisturized hair. "It left my hair feeling like silk," said one tester. "Super soft and smooth."