10 Best Conditioners for Active People Tested and Compared
When you’re a runner or an athlete, you’ll often hear advice about how to best take care of your muscles and joints as part of your regular routine. It’s more rare, however, that you’ll get the same advice regarding other parts of your body like your lips, your eyes, and your hair. When we put so much effort into caring for our bodies while we’re active, it doesn’t make sense to leave out some of the most sensitive parts just because they often aren’t directly impacted.
Running can be especially hard on our hair because of the damage of rough activity, the elements, and even washing it every day. A lot of standard shampoos don’t do us any favors either, often stripping our hair of natural oils and leaving it brittle and dry. Some people also make the mistake of skipping out on conditioner because they don’t want their hair to be greasy or they feel like they just don’t have the time when in fact a quality hair conditioner can reverse the damage we have done and lets us have the best hair without having to sacrifice our daily workouts.
We’ve put together an entire list of the best conditioners for active people so you can get your hair on the road to recovery and start enjoying the benefits of healthy hair. Make sure to check out the custom criteria we used to choose each conditioner on our list of the best of the best, and see our FAQ if you have any questions or want to find out what the best way to get the most out of your conditioner is.
- 100% naturally derived ingredients
- Sun Bum Leave-In
- UV Protection
- OGX Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco
- Deep Conditioning
If we have the time and money to invest in our quality gear, products, and overall health then why not take the time to maintain and ensure the health of our hair as well?
10 Best Conditioners for Active People
Frizzy, dry, color treated and/or damaged hair. Most users love this for curls but it is also light enough for those with straight or thin hair.
The conditioner itself is very thick and a little goes a long way. Most users recommend letting it sit on hair for a few minutes in the shower to get the most benefit.
Once dry, even hair that is typically frizzy will be soft and silky.
This conditioner gets its name from the 18 silk amino acids (naturally derived from silkworms) that work alongside Keratin and Aloe Vera to promote hair strength and health. Shea Butter, Argan Oil and Jojoba Oil moisturize hair and scalp while Pomegranate and Hibiscus lock in moisture to prevent future damage.
The official scent is vanilla but many users note a hint of maple as well.
100% Naturally-derived ingredients. Sulfate Free and Cruelty Free.
A little of this thick conditioner goes a long way. However, some users feel the size of the bottle is a bit small for the price.
- 100% naturally derived ingredients
- Cruelty Free
- Pleasant Vanilla-Maple scent
- Combats frizz and adds shine
- Small bottle for price
2. Sun Bum 3-in-1 Leave-In
Tangled tresses of any type! Anyone running outside can benefit from the UV protection in this 3-in-1 treatment. This versatile option has something for everyone as it works wonders for moisturizing, detangling, and preventing fading color without compromising volume.
This spray on leave in conditioner is great for detangling after the shower or a swim. If sprayed on while hair is wet it dries leaving hair soft and moisturized without any of that crunchy texture typical of most sprays. It also helps with frizz when air drying.
Hair will be soft and frizz free.
UV protection prevents the sun’s damaging rays from drying out hair and fading natural or processed color. Detangling after a shower or swim also benefits long-term hair health by causing less hair to break off with brushing. Please note this is protection for hair only. It does not have SPF so if you are concerned about burning your scalp you will need additional protection!
Coconut-Banana smell that is reminiscent of suntan lotion or tanning oil. Most users love the subtle summer-time scent.
Cruelty Free, Paraben Free, Alcohol Free, Gluten Free, Vegan. Made in the US. Quality natural ingredients include Coconut Oil , Banana Pulp and Peel, Banana Leaf, Quinoa Protein, Sea Salt, Sea Kelp, Seaweed, Argan Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, Black Lava Sea Salt.
The price is reasonable for a cruelty-free product and is about mid-range for leave-in sprays. You can certainly find cheaper options but could also spend a great deal more on hair products. The bottle is a bit small but the fine mist coats hair well with fewer sprays.
- UV protection
- Moisturizing Detangler
- Controls Frizz
- Convenient Spray On
- Cruelty Free
- Small bottle
- Does not protect scalp from sun
OGX Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco
Repairing damaged hair of all types and keeping healthy hair strong and silky.
This deep conditioner is strong enough to give your hair a smooth and soft feeling without making it greasy or too heavy, no matter the type.
You should see results after the very first wash because of the deep conditioning qualities of the argan oil and other ingredients like coconut oil.
This conditioner is mild enough to use every time you wash and will strengthen your hair as well as keep it from tangling, preventing breakage. If you’re very active or often heat style your hair it can keep up with the daily wear and tear your hair will face.
The scent of this conditioner is pleasant without being overbearing and will cling to your hair long after you use it. The fragrance is natural and rich because of the deep conditioning oils, and not flowery or artificial smelling.
There are plenty of deep conditioning natural ingredients here, like argan oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and cocoa butter. It’s sulfate, paraben, and cruelty-free.
This is a decently priced conditioner that provides a lot for such a little investment. A small amount goes a long way and it is versatile enough to use regularly or occasionally. It’s a great way to get the deep conditioning of a hair mask without the cost or intensity that many quality hair masks carry.
- Deep conditioning
- Pleasant scent
- Results after one use
- Sustainable ingredients
- Paraben, Sulfate, and cruelty-free
- A little goes a long way
- Contains artificial dyes
4. Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Moist Deep Conditioning Treatment
This conditioning treatment can be used on any hair type however, it really targets those with curls, waves and/or thicker hair.
This thick and creamy conditioning treatment should be applied in the shower and, as the name suggests, should be left on for three minutes before rinsing.
Once dry, hair will be noticeably softer and silkier.
Jojoba oil and dimethicone create instant softness while Australian Aloe and Sea Kelp work to strengthen and promote hair growth in the long term.
This bright, fruity and floral scent lingers in hair once it’s dry. It is certainly fruity and sweet but not too delicate or feminine to be enjoyed by men and women alike.
Free of sulfates and drying alcohols. It does use dimethicone which is a common silicone used to condition hair and add shine. Some people choose to avoid products with dimethicone as it is heavy and can build up in hair weighing it down. However, this silicone build-up is less likely to be an issue if you are only using it once a week as recommended.
Price is a huge perk of this conditioning treatment. It is very affordable and each bottle will last a while if you are sticking to once a week usage.
- Easy and quick conditioning treatment
- Instant moisture and softness
- Great fruity smell
- Dimethicone may weigh down hair
5. Briogeo Rosarco Reparative Leave In Conditioning Spray
Moisturizing dry or brittle hair and controlling frizz. It works great for thick hair but the lightweight, non-greasy formula is highly appreciated by those with thinner hair.
This thin, milky formula sprays easily onto clean, damp hair. The lightweight formula dries soft without weighing hair down.
Whether air dried or blow dried, users note significantly softer and less frizzy hair.
Rosehip, argan and coconut oils restore strength and moisture levels to protect against heat and other damaging factors.
Reviewers love the subtle floral scent.
Made in the U.S. Cruelty Free and Vegan. 98% Naturally derived. No Sulfates, Silicones, Phthalates, Parabens, DEA or Artificial Dyes.
It may not be cheap but you are investing in a product made in the U.S. with natural ingredients. A 5 oz bottle should last a few months of daily use.
- Convenient Leave-In Spray
- Conditions and protects from further damage
- Made in the U.S.
- Cruelty Free and Vegan
- Small bottle
6. Mixed Chicks Leave In
Taming frizz and softening curls or waves.
This gel like leave in conditioner should be applied to wet hair after washing. The texture is a bit thick but not greasy or waxy. A few people notice some stiffening or residue when using too much.
Fresh, well defined curls and no frizz.
Moisturizes hair to restore elasticity and soften curls.
Low odor, not too sweet.
Some artificial colors people may choose to avoid due to possible links to cancer. Again, these are still considered safe by the FDA, particularly in cosmetics.
Price is slightly more expensive than others on this list.
- Moisturizing formula great for curls
- Controls frizz
- Great for a wide variety of hair types
- Artificial colors
- May be too heavy for some
7. Paul Mitchell Lemon Sage
Thinning, damaged or brittle hair as well as psoriasis.
This light and moisturizing conditioner is easy to work through hair. Notes of lemon, peppermint and tea tree oil provide an uplifting tingling sensation.
Hair dries feeling fuller and detangled with no added weight or residue.
This conditioner adds moisture to hair to repair damage and breakage while also protecting against future exposures. It will not magically thicken hair but it can strengthen strands, revitalize volume and promote hair growth to make hair appear fuller and thicker. Key ingredient tea tree oil is ideal for eliminating buildup around hair follicles. This promotes hair growth and can also be very soothing for sensitive scalps and psoriasis.
Bright lemon is subdued by a woodsy sage making this scent work well for both men and women.
It does used propylene glycol (PEG) as a volumizing agent. While PEG is great for volume and adding shine immediately after washing, it has potential to be drying in the long term.
This conditioner is a bit more expensive than the typical drugstore selection but the revitalizing lemon, tea tree oil and peppermint promote hair growth and volume with a fresh scent.
- Soothing Tea Tree Oil promotes hair growth
- Makes hair appear fuller and thicker
- Prevents further damage
- Lemon-Sage scent
- Propylene glycol may be drying
8. DevaCurl One
This creamy conditioner should be combed through hair with fingers in the shower, focusing on the ends.
Once dry curls should be soft, much more manageable and well defined.
Olive oil and nourishing botanicals add moisture and softness to hair.
Pleasant lemongrass scent.
Cruelty free and Vegan. Paraben, Sulfate and Silicone free.
More expensive than the drugstore variety but many users with curls agree it is worth the investment.
- Great for curls
- Tames frizz
9. It’s a 10 Miracle Deep Conditioner Plus Keratin
Any hair type but works particularly well for color treated or damaged hair.
This white condition is easy to apply throughout hair at the end of your shower. The bottle recommends letting it sit on hair for 2-5 minutes however many users prefer to leave it on for 5-10 minutes for maximum benefit.
Leaves hair silky and shiny.
This product improves hair health over time. The key ingredient Keratin builds over time working to coat and smooth hair follicles to repair past damage and protect from future harm.
Smell is pleasant but strongly perfumed and it does not linger for long.
Cruelty Free. Sulfate and Paraben Free.
- Keratin improves strength and hair health
- Protects from further damage
- Makes hair smooth and soft
- Needs to be left on hair for 5-10 minutes
10. Fekkai Brilliant Glossing
Bringing shine and polish to dull or damaged hair.
The soft cream formula is lightweight and easy to distribute through hair.
Leaves hair feeling smooth, soft and very shiny without weighing down curls or giving a greasy appearance. Users love the glossy and polished look of a professional blowout with no additional products.
This conditioner features natural olive oil which is rich in vitamins and antioxidants that add strength and shine to hair as well as lock in moisture.
Fekkai describes the subtle scent as “Fresh Floral Garden” but users describe it more accurately as clean and spa-like with hints of cucumber or citrus.
This formula does have some parabens and artificial colors some people choose to avoid. Parabens are preservatives used in food and cosmetic products to prevent microbial growth and prolong shelf life. While they are considered safe by the FDA, there is some possibility of a link to breast cancer with heavy paraben exposure. Artificial colors also may be have links to cancer or childhood ADHD but are still not considered unsafe for use in cosmetic products.
The Fekkai line features higher end products that carry a hefty price tag for the salon-quality finish they provide.
- Leaves hair looking polished and soft
- Pleasant clean scent
- Strengthens damaged hair
- Parabens and Artificial Colors
The Metrics We Used to Determine the Best Conditioners
Like shampoos, conditioners can target different problem areas and hair types. Generally speaking, a person with thick, curly hair is going to require more moisture in a conditioner than someone with limp, thin hair. The conditioner that perfectly moisturizes curls will weigh down that limp hair and worsen the issue. Similarly, a lightweight volumizing conditioner will revitalize that thin hair and may not do enough for thicker hair.
Here we focused on how the conditioner feels during application and how easy it is to use. Regardless of the consistency, we wanted to make sure that it is easy to work through hair and will not add too much time to any washing routine.
Like many cosmetic products, conditioners can include a variety of natural and chemical ingredients some of which are controversial. In this section, we noted whether products were labeled as cruelty free, vegan, gluten free, free of drying alcohols, etc to help you find the product that fits with your concerns.
We attempted to find a variety of natural options but did not completely rule out conditioners with parabens, silicones, alcohol or artificial colors. These ingredients are all considered safe by the FDA but some people choose to avoid them due to the possible risks associated.
Parabens are preservatives that prevent microbial growth in a variety of products. This improves shelf life and can be very beneficial for the longevity of any given product, some studies have suggested a link with breast cancer and many people choose not to take the risk. Artificial colors are also somewhat controversial and are actually banned in the European Union as the European Classification and Labeling considers it to be a human carcinogen. Again, extensive testing by the FDA continues to consider it safe in cosmetic products.
Alcohol free and silicone free products have been hitting the markets widely and are somewhat more complicated to discern the risks of. Certain alcohols are known as short chain alcohols such as Isopropyl Alcohol, and Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) are all used to add volume or sheen immediately after use but can cause damage, breakage, and dryness in the long run. On the other hand, some other alcohols are known as fatty alcohols such as Cetyl alcohol and Stearyl alcohol actually do help give hair a smooth and soft feeling without drying it out.
The only downside is that when these fatty alcohols do coat the hair they have potential to build up and cause a greasy appearance. Similarly, silicones provide wonderful smoothing and softening properties but have the same potential to build up in hair. So people who struggle with limp hair may choose to avoid products with any alcohol or silicone while those who are fighting frizz and have enough volume to go around need not worry.
For each item we consider the price per ounce of each product compared to others on the market as well as how long it may last and how significant the difference it will make to hair.
Why use a hair conditioner?
Protection: Conditioners are able to give temporary protection against damage and weathering which is a plus for runners who spend long runs outside in different weathers. Protective maintenance is given to hair existing health so that further damage is limited. We protect our skin with high-quality sunscreens and so we should protect our hair.
Soft and natural: Rich in emollients to enhance soft natural hair which makes hair more manageable and malleable.
Static: your hair will stay hydrated which allows static charges in hair to flow and reduces localized static where hair fibers repel each other creating an uncontrolled flyway appearance.
Healthy moisture retention: the hair will be protectively coated which works for reducing hair porosity and this seals healthy moisture into hair fibers.
Shine: healthy oils which protectively coat hair while providing a healthy shine, this is a result of improving the alignment of the hair fibers.
Smoother: The ingredients in a good conditioner create a protective film on the cuticles and the damaged areas are protected and an evenness is created which gives a smooth looking appearance to hair.
Detangling: Most of us with longer hair have faced detangling issues. Hair maintained by conditioners is much easier to wet comb due to less friction from cared for hair which has been protected from mechanical damage.
Other Things Worth Thinking About
It can be hard to wait around for results, especially if your hair needs the relief now. We favored products that seemed to make a substantial difference to users after only one use.
Many conditioners use ingredients to produce shine or softness immediately after use but can actually be damaging or drying in the long term. We looked for conditioners that featured nourishing ingredients that will improve hair health and prevent damage over time. The goal of conditioner should be to build stronger hair rather than just covering up damage.
Scent can be important, both in considering conditioners that have pleasant fragrances and in looking for conditioners that will have no scent at all. If you’re using a leave-in conditioner or condition regularly, you may want a conditioner that smells great and has a long-lasting fragrance. If you have sensitive airways, difficulties with strong smells, or spend a lot of time in an enclosed space with others (at an office for example) you may want to look for that lacks a fragrance altogether.
Q: What ingredients should I avoid in conditioner?
A: Many people choose to avoid shampoos with parabens (preservatives) and artificial colors as there is a possible link to cancer. Another common ingredient to avoid is anything with “fragrance” listed. “Fragrance” is used to protect the company’s privacy to their recipe for a particular scent so it does not list out the specific ingredients. If you find yourself having skin sensitivities to many products you may consider steering clear of these mysterious fragrances.
Short chain alcohols are another group of ingredients you may consider avoiding. These alcohols such as Isopropyl or Polyethylene Glycol may be drying to hair in the long term. Finally, those struggling with product build up or hair that is weighed down may skip conditioners that use silicones or fatty alcohols as these are common culprits.
Q: Do I really need a conditioner?
A: Yes! Conditioner helps restore hair’s moisture and essential oils for maximum hair health. If you want healthy hair that recovers well and won’t become brittle or damaged, definitely invest in a good conditioner (and a good shampoo, too)!
Q: How often should I use conditioner?
A:This mostly depends on your hair type and the type of conditioner you’re using. If you have hair that is dry and damaged you may need to condition every time you wash. Thicker hair that gets oily easily may only need conditioning once a week. If you have a light conditioner you can probably use it more often without having overly heavy or greasy hair, but if you’re using a deep conditioner or a hair mask you probably will only want to use it occasionally.
Also consider that cheap shampoos can easily strip your hair, making it retain grease and grime easier and damaging it. Some people skip shampoo altogether, opting to only condition their hair to minimize the damage shampoo can do. Not washing your hair every time you shower can also help with damage, but isn’t always an option, especially for athletes who work up a sweat. You can look up different options for different hair types and methods of washing and experiment a little so you can find a solution that works best for your hair.
Q: How do I apply conditioner?
A: In general it is best to focus conditioner at the ends of hair and avoid rubbing it into the scalp as it can clog pores and prevent hair growth. However, some cleansing conditioners are intended to be used closer to roots in order to help with volume. Read the instructions on your bottle to determine how to best apply your conditioner for maximum benefit.
Q: How should I protect my hair when running?
A: First and foremost, protect your hair from the sun! Consider wearing a hat or leave-in sun spray to prevent damage from UV rays. The second piece of advice from hair stylists is to mix up your running hairstyle. Oftentimes with running, we throw our hair up in a convenient and reliable ponytail to get it out of our face and off our neck. However, using an elastic in the same spot every day can cause hair to break off. Consider switching up your style with a bun or braid occasionally to keep hair healthy and breakage-free. Don’t worry too much about sweat–it doesn’t actually cause any damage to your hair directly, but it will definitely make you feel dirtier because sweating increases the amount of oil you’ll produce.
Q: Can conditioner cause my skin to breakout?
A: Yes, conditioner can clog pores and cause breakouts, particularly on the back or around the hairline. If you are experiencing this issue make sure to wash your body after all the conditioner is fully rinsed out. Another, less common issue when using conditioner is skin sensitivity. If this is a concern, look for a conditioner that does not use fragrance and features natural and soothing ingredients such as tea tree oil.
- 10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid, Web page, Jan 23, 2015 ,
- The Truth About Propylene Glycol, According to a Chemist, Web Page, Jan 12, 2016 ,
- Alcohols and Your Hair, What You Should Know, Web Page, Jun 19, 2015 ,
- How Often Should You Really Wash Your Hair?, Web Page, Oct 16, 2016 ,
- Silicones: Separating The Good From The Not-So-Good, Web Page, Jul 14, 2014 ,