10 Best Conditioners for Active People Tested and Compared

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As runners and athletes, we always ensure our muscles and joints are in tip-top shape, but we neglect everything else in the process. If your hair is in need of some serious TLC, you have come to the right place and will benefit from our list of the best conditioners for active people

After our muscles and joints, our hair suffers the most. We need to wash it every day because the salt in our sweat dries out our hair over time. Unfortunately, standard shampoos and other standard hair products do not effectively clean our hair. In fact, over-washing with most standard products can leave your worst off than it was to begin with—and in order to fix this we need to restore our hair’s natural oils. Investing in a quality hair conditioner will reverse the damage we have done and lets us have the best hair without having to sacrifice our daily workouts.

Most people steer away from conditioners because they can weigh down your hair or make it too oily. However, if you find the best conditioner for your hair and activity level you will actually improve your hair. The right conditioner will fit your specific needs—whether it’s strengthening your thinning hair, taming your frizz, managing your tangles, or revitalizing your dull or limp locks.

Last Updated: April 29, 2018
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By Giselle Killebrew:

It is important we use the right products for our hair. We regularly update our products to provide you with the best options for you.

Silk18
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Sun Bum Leave-In
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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

 

1. Silk18

This conditioning treatment is 100% derived from natural ingredients and has a comforting vanilla-maple scent. It is perfect for combatting frizz and damage and will leave hair feeling soft and silky. This treatments is slightly more expensive but a little goes a long way.
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Best for:
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.

Hair Feel:
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.

Immediate Reward:
Once dry, even hair that is typically frizzy will be soft and silky.

Long-term benefits:
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.

Smell:
The official scent is vanilla but many users note a hint of maple as well.

Ingredient Notes:
100% Naturally-derived ingredients. Sulfate Free and Cruelty Free.

Value:
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.
Pros
  • 100% naturally derived ingredients
  • Cruelty Free
  • Pleasant Vanilla-Maple scent
  • Combats frizz and adds shine
Cons
  • Small bottle for price

2. Sun Bum 3-in-1 Leave-In

Soaking up the sun is a perfect perk of running outside but while you are absorbing all that great Vitamin D you are also exposing yourself to damaging UV rays. Most people are learning to protect skin by using sunscreen or covering up with long clothing, but have you ever considered the damage it could be doing to your hair? This 3-in-1 leave-in conditioning spray provides UV protection for hair and is ideal for detangling and moisturizing on the go.
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Best for:
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.

Hair Feel:
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.

Immediate Reward:
Hair will be soft and frizz free.

Long-term Benefits:
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!

Smell:
Coconut-Banana smell that is reminiscent of suntan lotion or tanning oil. Most users love the subtle summer-time scent.

Ingredient Notes:
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.

Value:
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.
Pros
  • UV protection
  • Moisturizing Detangler
  • Controls Frizz
  • Convenient Spray On
  • Cruelty Free
  • Vegan
Cons
  • Small bottle
  • Does not protect scalp from sun

3. Acure Pure Mint

This natural option is very affordable and is a great option for anyone seeking a bit of volume. The super lightweight texture revitalizes hair, leaving it feeling clean and voluminous.
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Best for:
This lightweight conditioner is great for thin or limp hair seeking volume.

Hair Feel:
The conditioner itself feels lighter and thinner than most. It is designed to be worked in from roots to ends and leaves a refreshing tingling sensation on the scalp.

Immediate Reward:
Immediately after use hair will be more voluminous and a little bit softer. It is not ideal for detangling but over time hair will appear healthier and stronger.

Long-term Benefits:
Quinoa protein, Argan Oil and Echinacea Stem Cells provide lightweight moisture, strength and volume to limp locks.

Smell:
Scent is minty fresh and clean.

Ingredient Notes:
Cruelty Free and Vegan. Paraben and Sulfate Free.

Value:
Slightly more expensive than bargain drugstore brands, you’ll certainly get your money’s worth for this organic conditioner.
Pros
  • Organic
  • Paraben and Sulfate Free
  • Lightweight texture for added volume
  • Long-term moisture and strength
  • Great value for a natural brand
Cons
  • Will not leave hair as silky as some other conditioners
  • Not ideal for detangling

4. Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Moist Deep Conditioning Treatment

An affordable fan-favorite for infusing your hair with a ton of moisture in just 3 minutes. This classic deep conditioning treatment will save you time and money when compared to other deep conditioning options and it works wonders for making hair instantly softer and shinier. If you can find a few extra dollars and 3 minutes once a week, you can have softer and more luscious locks.
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Best For:
This conditioning treatment can be used on any hair type however, it really targets those with curls, waves and/or thicker hair.

Hair Feel:
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.

Immediate Reward:
Once dry, hair will be noticeably softer and silkier.

Long-term Benefits:
Jojoba oil and dimethicone create instant softness while Australian Aloe and Sea Kelp work to strengthen and promote hair growth in the long term.

Smell:
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.

Ingredient Notes:
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.

Value:
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.
Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy and quick conditioning treatment
  • Instant moisture and softness
  • Great fruity smell
Cons
  • Dimethicone may weigh down hair

5. Briogeo Rosarco Reparative Leave In Conditioning Spray

A natural and effective leave-in spray that strengthens hair and provides protection. This spray improves hair health and prevents further damage with a quick spray after the shower. This small bottle is a great and easy option for tossing in a gym bag.
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Best for:
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.

Hair-Feel:
This thin, milky formula sprays easily onto clean, damp hair. The lightweight formula dries soft without weighing hair down.

Immediate Reward:
Whether air dried or blow dried, users note significantly softer and less frizzy hair.

Long-term benefits:
Rosehip, argan and coconut oils restore strength and moisture levels to protect against heat and other damaging factors.

Smell:
Reviewers love the subtle floral scent.

Ingredient Notes:
Made in the U.S. Cruelty Free and Vegan. 98% Naturally derived. No Sulfates, Silicones, Phthalates, Parabens, DEA or Artificial Dyes.

Value:
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.
Pros
  • Convenient Leave-In Spray
  • Conditions and protects from further damage
  • Made in the U.S.
  • Cruelty Free and Vegan
Cons
  • Small bottle
  • Price

6. Mixed Chicks Leave In

A nice lightweight leave-in conditioner that reduces frizz and defines curls and waves for a wide variety of hair types. Apply in the shower after washing and leave in to soften hair and improve bounce.
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Best For:
Taming frizz and softening curls or waves.

Hair Feel:
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.

Immediate Reward:
Fresh, well defined curls and no frizz.

Long-term Benefit:
Moisturizes hair to restore elasticity and soften curls.

Smell:
Low odor, not too sweet.

Ingredient Notes:
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.

Value:
Price is slightly more expensive than others on this list.
Pros
  • Moisturizing formula great for curls
  • Controls frizz
  • Great for a wide variety of hair types

 

Cons
  • Artificial colors
  • May be too heavy for some

7. Paul Mitchell Lemon Sage

This thickening conditioner strikes a great balance between a smoothing detangler and lightweight volumizer. It may be a bit pricey but the lemon, sage, peppermint and tea tree oil are energizing and uplifting to give hair a fuller appearance. These ingredients are also beneficial for anyone struggling with psoriasis or dry scalp.
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Best for:
Thinning, damaged or brittle hair as well as psoriasis.

Hair Feel:
This light and moisturizing conditioner is easy to work through hair. Notes of lemon, peppermint and tea tree oil provide an uplifting tingling sensation.

Immediate Reward:
Hair dries feeling fuller and detangled with no added weight or residue.

Long-term Benefits:
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.

Smell:
Bright lemon is subdued by a woodsy sage making this scent work well for both men and women.

Ingredient Notes:
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.

Value:
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.

Pros
  • Soothing Tea Tree Oil promotes hair growth
  • Makes hair appear fuller and thicker
  • Prevents further damage
  • Lemon-Sage scent
Cons
  • Propylene glycol may be drying
  • Price

8. DevaCurl One

Curly hair girls swear by the DevaCurl line for transforming and defining curls. This creamy daily conditioner is an absolute favorite. Whether you are using this with other DevaCurl products or mixing and matching with other brands, you will notice a difference in the health and quality of your curls.
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Best for:
Curly hair

Hair feel:
This creamy conditioner should be combed through hair with fingers in the shower, focusing on the ends.

Immediate Reward:
Once dry curls should be soft, much more manageable and well defined.

Long-term benefits:
Olive oil and nourishing botanicals add moisture and softness to hair.

Smell:
Pleasant lemongrass scent.

Ingredient Notes:
Cruelty free and Vegan. Paraben, Sulfate and Silicone free.

Value:
More expensive than the drugstore variety but many users with curls agree it is worth the investment.
Pros
  • Great for curls
  • Tames frizz
Cons
  • Price

9. It’s a 10 Miracle Deep Conditioner Plus Keratin

This keratin-infused deep conditioning mask adds strength to hair and protects from damage. Keratin is an essential protein for hair growth and is frequently used in spendy smoothing treatments for hair. For a fraction of the price you can get a boost of keratin and strength for your strands.
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Best for:
Any hair type but works particularly well for color treated or damaged hair.

Hair Feel:
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.

Immediate Reward:
Leaves hair silky and shiny.

Long-term Benefit:
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:
Smell is pleasant but strongly perfumed and it does not linger for long.

Ingredient Notes:
Cruelty Free. Sulfate and Paraben Free.
Pros
  • Keratin improves strength and hair health
  • Protects from further damage
  • Makes hair smooth and soft
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Needs to be left on hair for 5-10 minutes

10. Fekkai Brilliant Glossing

This high end conditioner is worth the investment as it leaves hair glossy, shiny and smooth with just a few washes. Users note regular use helps hair appear very clean, polished and styled with less effort or additional products. Not a bad perk, if you are squeezing in a run and shower before heading to work.
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Best For:
Bringing shine and polish to dull or damaged hair.

Hair Feel:
The soft cream formula is lightweight and easy to distribute through hair.

Immediate Rewards:
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.

Long-term Benefits:
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.

Smell:
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.

Ingredient Notes:
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.

Value:
The Fekkai line features higher end products that carry a hefty price tag for the salon-quality finish they provide.
Pros
  • Leaves hair looking polished and soft
  • Pleasant clean scent
  • Strengthens damaged hair
Cons
  • Price
  • Parabens and Artificial Colors

The benefits of hair conditioners are positive

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.

 

The Metrics We Used to Determine the Best Conditioners

Best for

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.

Feel

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.

Ingredients

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.

Value

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.

 

Other Things Worth Thinking About

Immediate Reward 

The immediate reward is what you may notice immediately after using the shampoo. We favored products that seemed to make a substantial difference to users after only one use.

Long-term Benefits

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/Fragrance

Scent can be an important factor. Particularly for conditioner and leave-in conditioner as it is the last product you put in your hair and has the highest likelihood of lingering throughout the day.

 

FAQ

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 conditioner?

A: Yes! Conditioner helps restore hair’s moisture and essential oils for maximum hair health. If you are worried about weighing limp hair down, consider a volumizing or thickening conditioner to add body. Unless you keep your hair super short, everyone can benefit from a little extra moisture.

Q: How often should I use conditioner?

A: That really depends on your hair type. If you have thicker or curlier hair you may want to condition every time you wash or even skip a wash and just add a wash. Those with thinner hair may only want to condition a few times a week.

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.

Q: Does 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 can be skin sensitivity when using conditioner. 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.

Sources

  1. Cunningham, Vanessa:, 10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid, Web page, Jan 23, 2015
  2. McKay, Tonya, The Truth About Propylene Glycol, According to a Chemist, Web Page, Jan 12, 2016
  3. McKay, Tonya, Alcohols and Your Hair, What You Should Know, Web Page, Jun 19, 2015
  4. Tumin, Remy, How Often Should You Really Wash Your Hair?, Web Page, Oct 16, 2016
  5. Kevin, Silicones: Separating The Good From The Not-So-Good, Web Page, Jul 14, 2014
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