Hair conditioner is a surprisingly recent addition to the standard beauty product range, but its quality and effects have improved radically since it was introduced, and it's now an essential for most women – and many men, too. Its benefits include strengthening hair and leaving it softer, shinier and easier to manage. According to Dr Steve Shiel of Pantene, conditioner protects and repairs and, regardless of hair type, anyone with hair over 10 centimetres long can benefit from using it.
Some myths and half-truths persist, however, that make some people reluctant to use conditioner, claiming that they don't like the effect it has on their hair. Shiel suggests that many of the people who say hair conditioner leaves their hair feeling dull or lank have not given the newer products a chance, or are simply using the conditioner incorrectly. In fact, modern hair conditioners are designed specifically to increase the feeling of lightness, and their main objective is to leave hair softer, shinier and sleeker by reducing static build-up.
The way in which the conditioner is applied is absolutely key to achieving these results. Typically, the roots of the hair do not need extra conditioning, so the product should be applied from half-way down the hair shaft and extended downwards to the tips. The quantity used is important, too, with the tendency being to use too much. Exactly how much you need will depend on a number of factors – the length of your hair, how dry it is, how often you condition, and even the type of conditioner you use – but a dollop the size of a walnut should be plenty.
So, with that in mind, let's take a look at four basic myths:
- “After conditioning, my hair feels greasy”
As long as we apply the product correctly – from mid-way down the shaft and downwards to the tip, avoiding the roots – the effect will be to moisturise the needy zones, not over-moisturise the areas of hair that don't need it.
- “Conditioning leaves my hair flat with no volume”
Make sure you're using the right type of conditioner for the effect you want to achieve. There is a wide variety of products on the market, so choose the one that's appropriate depending on whether you want your hair to look sleeker, to define the curls or give body and volume etc.
- “You only need to use conditioner on damaged hair”
Conditioner certainly has a restorative function, so should be used on coloured and damaged hair, but it also has a preventative function and helps protect from external factors that can cause damage – the weather, aggressive hair treatments, the hair dryer... As always, prevention is better than cure.
- “Conditioner takes the shine away”
One of the things that conditioner will do, if applied correctly, is to close the hair cuticle – the outer layer of the hair – and make it smoother. This makes the surface sleeker and more reflective, meaning that your hair should look brighter and shinier.