A a good cream rinse is key to keeping locks healthy, hydrated, and easy to style (yes, even for those with superfine strands).

By Melissa Goldstein
November 06, 2018
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The notion that conditioner stops performing once hair “gets used to it” is a myth. Lackluster locks are a result of product buildup. Use a clarifying shampoo to remove it.
Peter Ardito (comb, conditioner), The Morrisons (woman)

The Repair Crew

No matter how meticulously you care for your hair, some damage is inevitable. Repeated washing, brushing, blow-drying, and even the environment can take a toll. "Color-treating hair also makes it more vulnerable," says NYC colorist Sharon Dorram. But what shampoo and heat styling strip away, conditioner replenishes, says cosmetic chemist James Hammer. Formulated with static-calming polymers, oils, and other emollients that soften and eliminate snarls, it coats the cuticle, penetrating weakened patches. Measure out a quarter-size amount (less if your hair is short and fine, more if longer or thicker), and let it sit for up to three minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Get a head start with these expert picks.

HAIR CARE: Why You Should Use a Vinegar Rinse
Peter Ardito

FINE

Most cream rinses feel too heavy on thin, fragile strands. To get the healing without the heft, reverse your routine: Wet hair, and apply conditioner first on the lower half only. Then rinse and shampoo as usual, focusing on the scalp to remove residual dirt and styling product.

Drugstore: TreSemmé Beauty-Full Volume Pre-Wash Conditioner and Shampoo, $5 each, amazon.com.

Salon: Philip Kingsley Elasticizer, $53, amazon.com.

Peter Ardito

MEDIUM

This hair type is spoiled for choice. Do you want frizz-taming? Volumizing? Extra shine? Read the labels and take your pick. But across the board, advises stylist Paul Labrecque, look for proteins (like silk or wheat) and quenching lipids (found in lighter oils, like macadamia). Work the product through dry areas, like highlights, as well as the ends, which are older and more processed than the roots.

Drugstore: OGX Thick & Full + Biotin & Collagen Conditioner, $8, ogxbeauty.com.

Salon: Terax Original Crema Moisturizing Daily Conditioner, $24, amazon.com.

Peter Ardito

CURLY

From soft waves to tight spirals, this texture has a unique structure that prevents scalp oils from migrating down the hair shaft. As a result, it's frail and craves moisture. For a gentle, hydrating one-step routine, try a soapfree conditioning cleanser. Use several pumps, massaging it into the scalp and then combing it through to evenly distribute. Proceed with your shower, then rinse well.

Drugstore: Matrix Biolage Cleansing Conditioner for Curly Hair, $13, amazon.com.

Salon: DevaCurl No- Poo Original Zero Lather Conditioning Cleanser, $22, sephora.com.

Peter Ardito

COARSE

If your hair seems to gulp down conditioner, look for one with a dense consistency that includes shea butter and rich oils, like argan or avocado. "If you rely on heat styling to make hair more manageable," says Jennifer Yepez, "ingredients like creatine and ceramides, which smooth and strengthen hair fibers, are also important." Saturate strands from roots to ends, then let soak for a few minutes.

Drugstore: Garnier Fructis Smoothing Treat, $5, amazon.com.

Salon: Kérastase Paris Resistance Fondant Extensioniste, $40, kerastase-usa.com.

Deep Treatments

Hair still thirsty? Consider these additional hydrators.

LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER

A light mist on clean, damp hair "helps protect from hottool damage," says stylist Tony Salle, who also uses it on dry strands to add texture.

Living Proof Restore Perfecting Spray, $29, sephora.com.

DRY CONDITIONER

On days when you don't shampoo, spray this blend of natural oils and silicones from midshaft down to minimize flyaways and extend the polish of a blowout.

Drybar Detox Dry Conditioner, $23, thedrybar.com.

Peter Ardito

CONDITIONING MASK

It contains a concentrated amount of emollients to replenish extra-parched, overworked hair. A weekly application, in place of regular conditioner, keeps colored hair from becoming brittle and extends its vibrancy, Dorram says.

Klorane Mask With Mango Butter, $26, ulta.com

Peter Ardito

Martha's Pick

New York City colorist Giselle calls the entire Milbon line "a game changer." Martha's a fan of the freesia-scented Volumizing Treatment, too. "Everyone I recommend it to loves it," she says.

OUR EXPERTS

Sharon Dorram, colorist and owner of Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger, in Manhattan

James Hammer, a cosmetic chemist in Uxbridge, Massachusetts

Paul Labrecque, hairstylist and owner of the Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa in Manhattan, Philadelphia, and Palm Beach

Justine Marjan, a Los Angeles–based hairstylist and TreSemmé global stylist

Tony Salle, a Dallasbased hairstylist

Jennifer Yepez, an NYC-based hairstylist

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