Sleek, smooth hair that slides through your fingers and looks elegant and frizz–free— that’s the goal! However, so many different processes and products, from our regular shampoo and coloring, to blow drying and styling, can leave hair damaged and dry. This is why conditioning is such a vital step. It hydrates and heals hair so that we can keep doing all of the other things we love to do to our hair.
It used to be that natural products were used for periodic hair conditioning, such as aloe vera leaf juice and honey. Unfortunately, natural conditioners tend to be more costly in raw materials and production, and so most companies have switched to cheaper synthetic alternatives. These alternatives, however, are not safe or healthy, and nowadays conditioner is one of the worst products for toxic chemical introduction to the body. They almost all contain sulfates and dioxanes, as well as propylene glycol, momoethanolamine (MEA), diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), formaldehyde, and methylisothiazoline. All of these are known carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and nervous system toxins. However they do make your hair shiny, so who cares? We care!
Conditioning is important, but it shouldn’t be toxic. Conditioning is actually essential for anyone with longer hair because it reduces the recurring strain of brushing. It detangles hair by making the cuticle lay flat so that there is less friction from the hairs rubbing against each other. This same effect also makes hair shiny and more reflective, and helps to keep moisture locked in. Many conditioners also reduce static electricity and contain sunscreens that protect hair from UV light. But all of this can be accomplished naturally— you don’t have to use all those chemicals. An apple cider vinegar rinse is a great way to get all of these effects, as is a hot oil treatment. But if you don’t find either of these methods a substitute for regular conditioning after every shampoo, then there are a lot of products that will do it well.
Some people are a part of the ‘no-poo’ movement that seeks to eliminate shampoo from their routine altogether. The idea is that shampoo is too harsh on hair, stripping it excessively of the natural oils produced to protect it. Instead, they often rely on only baking soda or warm water to cleanse their hair. Or, they do what’s called ‘co-washing’, meaning ‘conditioner-washing’. The idea is to use a conditioner for its smoothing benefits and mild-cleansing. It loosens up dirt and grime and makes it easy to wash out, without stripping the natural oils from your scalp. Many people have great success with it, especially people with very curly hair. Obviously if you’re only going to use one product in your washing routine, then you’d better make sure it’s a good one!
Whether you’re just looking to sub out your chemical–laden drugstore conditioner for something better, or are relying on conditioner for a greater portion of your overall hair care, here are three great options:
This brand is great for all types of hair problems, including frizziness, dry hair, uncontrolled curly hair, static, and easily–damaged color–treated hair. The 18 refers to eighteen different amino acids that are actually found in real silk— that’s right, the worm kind. These are naturally extracted and applied to your hair for that same, beautifully sleek look.
Maple Holistics Silk18 Natural Hair Conditioner is made from water, aloe vera leaf juice, cetearyl alcohol, behentrimonium chloride, glycerin, several olivates and natural triglycerides, phytokeratin, argan oil, shea butter, organic pomegranate, hibiscus, green tea and sea buckthorn, jojoba oil, and natural vanilla for scent. The jojoba and argan oils strengthen and protect strands, while also providing an unmatched shimmer. Botanical keratin replaces lost keratin in the hair shaft, which is a frequent reason why hair is easily broken and frizzy. The amino acids naturally soften hair, making curls bounce and straight hair swing. Your hair will feel so wonderful that you won’t be able to keep your hands out of it. The amino acids also have a calming effect on brassiness, mildly and gently improving color tone in treated hair. It’s great!
This product is particularly popular among people with very curly and ethnic hair. It does an unbelievable job guarding curls and really sealing in moisture from the top to the bottom. The amino acids do a wonder behind the scenes so that hair is nourished from the inside out and problems that a conventional conditioner can’t handle are brushed away completely. It is also cruelty-free.
Jāsön is a Greek word that means ‘healer’. The company was founded in California on the premise that good soaps and moisturizers should be good for your whole body, as well as for the environment. All of their products are 100% biodegradable and never tested on animals. They are also careful to leave out any chemicals of dubious effect on the body. They believe that a product can be effective without being harsh.
Jāsön Sea Kelp Conditioner contains water, sunflower seed oil, behentrimonium chloride, cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, aleurites moluccana (candlenut) seed oil, algae extract, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, calendula officinalis flower extract, panax ginsing root extract, and plumeria acutifolia flower.
The sea kelp is rich in fatty acids that rehydrate hair, while the aloe vera, ginsing root and various oils prevent fly-aways. The conditioner is unscented but has a pleasant, mild fragrance from all of the botanical extracts. It is particularly popular among men who just want to smell clean, not like they bathed in a flower.
Majestic Pure Pink Grapefruit Hair Conditioner is loaded with beneficial ingredients for your hair. The base is organic aloe vera juice, and the formula is loaded with pink grapefruit essential oil, green tea and rooibos tea leaf extracts, activated charcoal, and MSM.
The pink grapefruit essential oil provides a wonderful burst of invigorating natural fragrance, as well as acting as an antibacterial and protecting color–treated hair from sun damage. The green tea and rooibos tea extracts prevent split ends, level the cuticle of the hair shaft, and normalize oil production in your scalp. Activated charcoal cleanses hair by pulling out and absorbing toxins, oil, and dirt, as well as reducing irritation, dandruff, and itchiness. It also adds volume to hair. Finally, MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane, tops off the nourishing benefits. This naturally occurring organic form of sulfur supports hair growth and strengthens the overall strands being produced.
This conditioner is a great blend for all hair types and works best if left to absorb for several minutes before rinsing. The whole formula is 85% organic and filled with added vitamins to boost your hair’s natural beauty. It is a great option for ‘no-poo’ supporters.
Whether you use conditioner every day or are just looking for something to heal a little unexpected damage, you can get the job done without poisoning your body. All of these options will give you beautiful locks without the battle that some of us have become so accustomed to. Use them alone, with a natural shampoo, or in any way you want— you’ll love the results, and so will everyone looking at you!