How Does Hair Conditioner Work?

How Does Hair Conditioner Work?
How Does Hair Conditioner Work? (Image:

General Overview

A hair conditioner is a haircare product that moisturizes a hair strand from root to tip. It changes the appearance and texture of the hair, making it look shinier and feel softer to the touch. The first hair conditioner was introduced at a world fair in Paris in 1900 by a perfumer named Ed Pinaud. Early hair conditioners were often very greasy and heavy, but over the years, manufacturers have modified the original formula to create hair conditioners that are light and non-greasy. There are two types of hair conditioners most commonly used: ordinary and leave-in. Ordinary conditioners are applied to wet hair after shampooing and left in for about three minutes before being rinsed off. Leave-in conditioners are lighter and left in the hair until the next wash.


Hair conditioners contain different types of moisturizing and softening ingredients that make hair softer, shinier and glossier. The main ingredients include moisturizers, fatty oils, surfactants, glossers, thermal protectors, detanglers and lubricants. Most of these ingredients such as moisturizers and fatty oils coat the hair with humectants that lock in moisture and prevent the hair from becoming dry and brittle. Glossers and detanglers coat the hair with silicone polymers that reflect light and give the hair a shiny appearance. Thermal protectors absorb heat and protect the hair from heat damage caused by blow drying or curling irons. Thus, conditioned hair tends to be shinier, bouncier, softer and sleeker.


Hair conditioners are put into categories depending on what they do for different types of hair. People with fine, thin hair need a volumizing conditioner to plump out their thin hair strands and give more body to the hair. People with thick, coarse hair often need deep conditioners that smooth out the coarseness and make hair look and feel softer. People with dry hair need a conditioner that contains a high amount of essential fatty acids that transform dry, porous hair into more pliable, shiny hair. A professional hair stylist can help a person determine what type of hair conditioner they need based on their natural hair texture.

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