We read it in beauty magazines. Our hair stylist recommends it. Celebrities endorse it. Conditioners are part of the hair care regimen aimed at giving us softer, smoother, and shinier locks. But how do hair conditioners work exactly? How do they transform dry, tangled hair into a mass of light silkiness?
Author Krystnell A. Storr writes it is all about opposites attracting each other in an article published on www.scienceline.org. Conditioners contain positively-charged cationic surfactants, or surface active agents, which binds to the negative charge of the hair strands. Storr further explains that the attraction is so strong that the surfactants completely cover the cuticle flakes protecting the inner layers of the hair strands, ensuring they continue overlapping against each other like fish scales. When cuticle flakes are snug and tight, they easily slide up past each other preventing them from jutting out and causing tangles and breaking off eventually. Thus, hair feels soft and smooth.
Hair conditioners also contain moisturizers and fatty oils that lock in moisture in each strand, preventing them from becoming dry and brittle. Some oils, like olive and coconut oil, also improve the hair’s elasticity, making it feel softer and more manageable. Glossers and detanglers, which are usually silicons and polymers, coat the hair strands with light-reflecting chemicals for a shinier appearance. Other active ingredients include thermal protectors to shield the hair from excessive heat from styling, lubricants, and sunscreen, among others.
With the abundance of different conditioners in the market, make sure to choose the right conditioner based on your hair type to maximize its effectiveness. For fine and flat hair, a volumizing conditioner is best to give it more bounce and body, while a deep and smoothing conditioner works better for big, curly hair to get the frizz under control. Specific conditioners are also available for color-treated hair to prevent color fading.
For softer, shinier, bouncier, and more manageable tresses, make sure to condition your hair regularly with the right conditioner for you.