Does it matter what kind of conditioner you use? “YES!” some shout vehemently. “Nah,” say the more chill among us. “I think so?” says moi, as I scratch my head and wonder if my hair would feel less dry had I used a different post-cleanse product.
This question may be as old as time (or at least as old as the invention of conditioner) — and just as divisive as “where do you stand on thongs?” — but I believe it’s safe to say that there isn’t one blanket answer. When I was growing up, my (white) mother would wash her hair with whatever shampoo and conditioner combo was cheapest; displayed no brand loyalty or affinity for a certain outcome, yet her hair always looked the same. I can’t say the same: My highly textured hair and three different curl patterns (looser towards the back and bordering the base of my skull, tighter in the front, kinkier in the middle) ensures that the kind of conditioner I use matters. But I’m still not sure which is best and why.
So I decided to cull some insight from the MR community at large. “Best conditioner for curly hair?” I queried our Instagram following with the intention of putting the most recommended ones to the test.
Below, my reviews of the top five, from just okay to all-time favorite. I relied on my senses to guide my ratings and judged based on slip (a term I see all over curly hair blogs and conditioner reviews that comes from “slippery” and measures how “lubricious” and good at detangling the product is), smell, and moisturizing capability — three categories that I have found to be most important for me and my thirsty-ass hair. Without further ado:
This conditioner was no doubt the most highly recommended out of all included in this experiment, and now that I’ve tried it, I gotta ask… am I the only chick with curly hair who doesn’t stan DevaCurl products? This is the only one I’ve tried, and it was just meh for me. Okay feel, good slip, not extremely moisturizing, smells more like unscented hand lotion than anything else. I typically don’t rinse my conditioner out completely (because of aforementioned thirsty ass hair), but that practice did not work with this conditioner, which really colored my experience of it. It left my hair filmy and dull, a condition of which I was not a fan. It seems DevacCurl is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of product (Harling loves it), but for me it gets a 2.5/5.
This smells like a natural, tea tree-infused cold cream. (I really enjoy that, btw.) The packaging itself (which features very cool branding) calls the condish “a rich, butter-like concoction” and I would have to agree. This conditioner is thick! But unlike winter’s greatest style hack, the key to poppin curls might not lie in conditioner that is dressed up like (a squeeze bottle full of) butter. This conditioner required I do a lot of work to achieve only minimal hair shaft penetration — it felt more like it coated my curls, which is not what I’m personally looking for but could make a good mask. This product might be better for those of you who don’t consider your hair “dry,” but wasn’t ideal for me. 3/5.
This was a sleeper recommendation — it wasn’t on my radar before I embarked on this journey. I love the emerald green packaging, but that is second to the fantastic scent which was apparently developed by a French perfumer just for the brand. It’s sweet and floral and… is that a top note of apple? Peach? Cuba’s national flower La Mariposa Blanca? The conditioner itself is, like Dizziak’s, pretty thick. While this contributed to my hair feeling really moisturized in the shower, it didn’t feel like the hydration seeped in as much as it would have if this were a more viscous product. Slip was okay but I did have to work the product in to fully lubricate my hair. That said, I could envision a world where I used this as a hair mask or deep conditioner treatment (I bet it’s divine under a hot towel) — and less frequent use would make the higher price point (about $5.15 per fluid ounce) more bearable. 3.5/5.
I got so many recs for this brand (and variety in particular) that I had to try it again despite having used it in the past with only satisfactory results. I can confidently report that one thing this conditioner does do is smell fan-fucking-tastic — top marks in the olfactory category. It also has a very nice hand feel and good slip in general (no snags). My thirsty hair soaked it up with the quickness — something I’m always looking for in conditioners — but didn’t look especially moisturized post-rinse (to be fair, it never really does, but since this is billed as “curl and shine” conditioner, I did have an expectation that wasn’t met). I didn’t have any problems with this conditioner though, and it has the lowest barrier to entry of all the conditioners I tested (the price is on point and it can be purchased in any local drug store). Rating it a 4/5 for quality matched with accessibility — which even extends to its pump-handle packaging!
OKAY SCENT! Remember those Original Gourmet brand lollipops that were always sold at the checkout counter in craft stores? This condish smells like the cotton-candy flavored one of those. It also feels fantastic — lots of slip. My lil sausages (anyone else have a term of endearment for their fingers?) ran right through these curls thanks to all the lubrication this conditioner provided. I really like the viscosity here too — it’s thick, but didn’t coat my strands. This aided in absorption so my hair felt hydrated but not weighed down post-use.
This was my fave conditioner out of all of them and the one I’m going to experiment with using for a prolonged period of time. (Should I do a one-month trial and report back?) Giving this condish a 4.5/5 for moisturized cotton candy curls.
Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.