It’s hard to pick the best drugstore conditioner. After all, it comes in many brands and formulations. But expensive isn’t always better. Read on to learn about the best conditioners available at most big-box stores.
Looking for the Best Drugstore Conditioner?
If you’re splurging on conditioner, you’re probably wasting your money. There are awesome drugstore options that cost next to nothing and deliver pure, nourishing hydration to a range of different hair types.
There are some things that are worth splurging on in the beauty world high-end shampoo, skincare, and cosmetics often outperform their cheaper drugstore counterparts. But we’re all about finding affordable alternatives whenever possible.
Our PIcks for the Best Drugstore Conditioner:
- Best for Dry Hair: OGX Extra Strength Damage Remedy Conditioner
- Best for Oily Hair: L’Oreal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Clay Rebalancing Conditioner
- Best for Fine Hair: OGX Weightless Hydration & Coconut Water Conditioner
- Best for Coarse Hair: Finesse Restore & Strengthen Moisturizing Conditioner
- Best for Damaged Hair: L’Oreal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Conditioner
Conditioner, interestingly, is one of those hair care staples that we’ve discovered is hardly ever worth splurging on. Shampoo, maybe. But your conditioner really doesn’t need to be expensive to give you an endless stream of good hair days.
We’ve found (along with millions of others) that some drugstore conditioners perform at the same level or even better than their high-end counterparts. But you have to know how to find these affordable hidden gems!
If you know which brands and types to look for, a good drugstore conditioner that costs a fraction of the luxe brands will keep your hair:
- Silky soft
- Lightweight and manageable
- Deliciously fragrant
- And super shiny
Oh, and switching to a budget-friendly conditioner will leave more room in your beauty budget for the things that are truly worth the splurge (like the Dyson SuperSonic hair dryer seriously good).
If you’re sick of spending more than you need to on conditioner, we’ve got some game-changing good news for you. You can scoop some of the best drugstore conditioners that totally transform your hair for less than $5!
Keep reading to learn what to look for (and avoid) in drugstore conditioners, plus see our favorite affordable picks for every hair type! Ditch the dead weight and find the best cheap conditioner for your hair in this guide.
What to Look for in a Drugstore Conditioner
Before we dive into the best drugstore conditioner options for different hair types, we need to address the basics. What should you be looking for in a drugstore (or any) conditioner? What are the must-haves in the ingredient list and what should you try to steer clear of?
Once you know what to look for and avoid, you’ll be able to scan any store shelf or ingredient list to find the best conditioner and eliminate those not worth your time. Let’s look at the most common conditioner description words and what they mean first.
Conditioner Descriptions and What They Mean
As you browse the labels of different conditioners, you’ll come across a few basic terms that tell you what the conditioner formula is like and which hair type it’s best suited for. If you know what the terms mean, that is! Here’s a quick cheat sheet for conditioner terms and what they mean:
- Moisturizing, hydrating, or quenching: These formulas are designed to add and attract moisture into hair. They restore the moisture balance to keep hair hydrated and healthy. These types of conditioners are best for very dry, coarse, thick, or curly hair.
- Smoothing or anti-frizz: Smoothing, anti-frizz formulas are designed to artificially smooth the hair’s outermost cuticle layer so it lies flat to eliminate frizz and flyaways. These formulas are also good for high-porosity hair that tends to look and feel rough. Learn more about hair porosity here.
- Volumizing, texturizing, or lightweight: These formulas are designed to remove excess buildup, dirt, and oil from hair to leave it bouncy, lightweight, and ready to style with extra volume. These formulas are best for oily, greasy, fine, or limp hair that tends to lie flat on the head.
- Fortifying, strengthening, or damage-repairing: These formulas are designed for weak, damaged hair that has lost its natural strength and is showing signs of damage. Typically, these formulas contain protein to help repair the bonds in the hair and leave it looking and feeling healthier. These formulas are best for high-porosity, damaged, processed, and weak strands that are prone to breakage.
- Balancing: These formulas are designed to correct scalp-centric issues like oiliness, inflammation, and dryness. They are typically moderately moisturizing and may contain therapeutic essential oils like tea tree, rosemary, or lavender oil. These formulas are best for oily hair, oily scalp with dry ends, normal (not dry or oily) hair, and slow-growing hair.
When you’re on the hunt for a good, cheap conditioner, here are the things you should be on the lookout for according to your hair type and condition (see what we did there?).
Dry, Brittle, or Straw-Like Hair
If your hair feels dry, brittle, or like straw to the touch, you need a conditioner that delivers intensive moisture that penetrates the hair shaft. Chronically dry hair can appear frizzy with lots of flyaways, and it doesn’t feel pleasing and soft to the touch.
Using the right conditioner for this hair type will correct those issues by restoring the moisture balance inside and outside every strand. Look for conditioner with any of the following words on the label to ensure it has the power to quench your dry hair’s intense thirst:
Conditioners with these words on the label are typically deep-conditioning formulas that focus on providing a ton of moisture for dry, brittle hair.
Quick and important note: If your hair feels like straw and you use a lot of protein-based hair products, you may be dealing with protein overload on your strands. Try switching to a protein-free formula in shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products to see if it resolves the issue.
Oily, Greasy, or Limp Hair
If you have genuinely oily, greasy, or limp hair, the last thing you think you need is moisturizing conditioner. After all, your scalp is doing almost too good of a job keeping your roots moisturized with oil!
But people with an oily scalp and resulting limp, lifeless locks can still benefit from using conditioner if their ends are dry. Only apply conditioner to your ends if you have this hair type to avoid weighing your hair down even more.
Look for conditioner that states any of the following to ensure it won’t cause your hair to look and feel oilier:
For those really struggling with oiliness just a few hours after shampooing and conditioning, try switching up the order of your hair cleanse. Condition your ends first, then follow up with shampoo. You’ll notice a big difference!
Read Next: Best Shampoo for Oily Hair
Processed, Color-Treated, or Damaged Hair
Hair that has been subjected to a lot of damage (heat, chemical processing, environmental, etc.) requires a little extra love from the conditioner you use. Using a conditioner formulated to repair damage and restore hair’s natural softness, shine, and strength is key.
Reading the labels on drugstore conditioners will help you quickly determine which ones you should consider. If your hair is color-treated, chemically processed, or showing signs of serious damage, look for conditioner with the following words or descriptions on the label:
- Damage repair
- Safe for color-treated hair
- Bond strengthening or repair
- Protein fortified
Any conditioner with these words on the label will be specially formulated for damaged hair. And these conditioners really do work to fix and repair the day-to-day damage many of us put our hair through.
Damage-repairing conditioner typically contains some type of hydrolyzed protein (protein molecules broken down so they’re small enough to be absorbed by your hair).
That hydrolyzed protein is the “magic” damage-repairing ingredient in conditioner formulas designed for processed, highly damaged hair.
Normal, Balanced Hair
We’re not jealous or anything (we totally are), but if you have normal, balanced hair, it’s really easy to find a good, cheap conditioner that works. Formulas for normal hair that isn’t either oily or dry don’t concentrate too much on ingredients designed to “fix” hair issues.
Instead, they’re full of ingredients that are meant to keep your hair soft, manageable, frizz-free, and shiny. If you have normal, balanced hair, you don’t need an intensively moisturizing conditioner.
On the other hand, you don’t want to choose a conditioner that will be drying or strip your hair of its natural moisture. Opt for balanced formulas that give you the best of both worlds.
You might see these types of conditioners labeled as:
- Normal hair
Balancing conditioners for normal hair provide enough moisture to keep your strands perfectly hydrated while sneaking in therapeutic, nourishing ingredients that keep the balance of your scalp and hair in perfect harmony. Nourishing essential oils like tea tree, lavender, and rosemary are all common ingredients in balancing conditioners.
Here’s the Best Drugstore Conditioner for Your Hair Type
Now that you’ve brushed up on your conditioner know-how, are you ready to see the best drugstore conditioner options for your hair type? We’ve listed our favorite picks for each hair type below.
1. Best Drugstore Conditioner for Dry Hair
Moisturizing, hydrating conditioner formulas are key for dry hair. We scoured the drugstore brands to find the best intensely moisturizing options that get rave reviews from women and don’t cost an arm and a leg.
The best is OGX Extra Strength Damage Remedy + Coconut Miracle Oil Conditioner, and it wins by a long shot for women with chronically dry hair.
It luxuriously coats every strand in a deeply moisturizing matrix of ingredients that banish dryness, brittleness, and roughness. Nourishing ingredients in the formula attract additional water into strands to keep them soft, supple, and hydrated.
In this conditioner, you’ll find aloe vera juice, vanilla bean extract (it’s an incredible scent!), and coconut oil to seal all that fresh hydration into your strands. Oh, and if you’re trying to avoid putting any chemical nasties on your hair, this is definitely a winner.
The formula is sulfate-free, surfactant-free, and paraben-free so all you’re giving your hair is pure, unadulterated moisture when you use this conditioner. In true drugstore conditioner fashion, it’s under $7 for a bottle of this miracle oil conditioner for dry hair!
2. Best Drugstore Conditioner for Oily Hair
Oily, greasy, limp, and lifeless hair can be such a bummer to deal with. You shampoo and condition only to find your scalp getting oily again a few hours later! Ask me how I know. You might’ve even sworn off conditioner long ago if you have this hair type.
Fear not, fellow oilies, for we have discovered the true holy grail of conditioner for oily hair. It’s L’Oreal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Clay Rebalancing Conditioner.
After months of personal usage, I can personally attest to the oil-reducing, end-moisturizing powers of this perfectly balanced conditioner. This formula seems to target dry, frizzy, rough ends like a heat-seeking missile.
Even if you apply it closer to the roots (usually a no-no for oily scalps), it won’t overwhelm your scalp and roots with grease. That’s thanks to the unique clay-based formula that actually soaks up excess oil as it cleanses and conditions.
This conditioner contains 3 types of oil-absorbing clay, including the much-lauded Kaolin clay, to gang up on grease and leave your hair feeling genuinely moisturized, not oily.
3. Best Drugstore Conditioner for Fine Hair
Fine hair has a thinner diameter than medium or coarse hair. If you have fine hair, it might tend to look thin even if you have lots of it.
You probably also struggle with heavyweight conditioners leaving your fine hair limp and lifeless. The best drugstore conditioner for fine hair is easily OGX Weightless Hydration + Coconut Water Conditioner.
This lightweight conditioner formula won’t overwhelm fine strands with too much moisture. But nourishing coconut water and a touch of coconut oil will nourish and gently hydrate your hair to keep it healthy, soft, and full of movement.
Using this lightweight conditioner will help you boost your hair’s volume and appearance without the use of any protein-based volumizers that can be too weighty for super-fine hair.
Electrolytes in the formula help direct additional water into your hair strands to keep them perfectly balanced with natural moisture that isn’t heavy and coating the outsides of strands.
4. Best Drugstore Conditioner for Coarse Hair
Coarse hair is thicker in diameter than fine or medium hair. Because each strand is so thick and coarse, this hair type tends to look fuller and more dense than others. At times, it can even be overwhelming!
Coarse hair has uniquely high moisture and protein needs. Finesse Restore + Strengthen, Moisturizing Conditioner is the best drugstore option we’ve found for coarse hair.
If you haven’t been using a conditioner specifically formulated for coarse hair’s intense moisture and protein needs, you will immediately notice the difference after trying this one. It literally contains silk powder to make your hair, well, silky-soft.
Soy protein helps it smooth over any lifted areas in your hair’s outermost cuticle layer to cut down on frizz and leave your hair looking smooth and shiny. And if you’re the type that loves a lot of slip in your conditioner, this is going to be your new go-to drugstore option.
5. Best Drugstore Conditioner for Damaged Hair
Remember that Looney Tunes sketch with Daffy Duck and Hugo the Abominable Snowman? The big, well-meaning monster says “I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him…” as he basically loves Daffy Duck to the brink of strangulation.
That’s what many of us are doing to our hair when we love it to death with chemical processing, heat styling, tight hairstyles, and more. Fortunately, there’s a drugstore conditioner that is super affordable and helps physically reverse the damage you’ve done to your hair.
It’s L’Oreal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Repairing Conditioner, and it’s going to whip your mane back into shape. This tried-and-true conditioner formula uses protein to physically reinforce damaged hair strands and protein bonds that break due to chemical processing or heat damage.
It generously coats every hair with a healing and restoring ceramide matrix that fortifies and strengthens the hair, adds a nice shine, and banishes frizz, tangles, and dryness. Damaged, unhealthy hair needs a little love and this conditioner gives it freely.
From rich fatty acids and ceramides that nourish deep inside strands to strengthening protein that patches and repairs any damage along each strand, this formula is the best thing for damaged hair.
This conditioner is only around $7. For the damage-correcting effects, we think it outperforms even high-end comparable products. You really can’t go wrong with this one!
Things to Consider When Switching Conditioners
Did you make a note of the best drugstore conditioner for your hair type? Great! Here are a few things you should think about when you switch your conditioner. These tips can really help you get the most out of your new formula!
- Make it an experiment. Ever change to a new hair product and wonder if it’s truly helping your hair? Note the date you switch conditioners and track your results with a journal or quick notes in your calendar. Note anything of interest: Frizz, shine, manageability, tangles, styling ease, oiliness, dryness, etc. This will help you experiment with a new conditioner and know exactly how it affected your hair.
- Don’t apply it to your scalp. Even if you don’t have oily hair, applying conditioner directly to your scalp is best avoided. Conditioner will “compete” with your natural oils to moisturize the scalp and can result in buildup that must be clarified and removed to avoid more scalp problems. If you have a chronically dry scalp, use a weekly deep-conditioning hair mask instead.
- Rinse it out correctly. Conditioner should be fully rinsed from your hair to avoid leaving excessive amounts clinging to your strands. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing! Fully rinse conditioner from your hair by running water through your hair for a minimum of 30 seconds (but longer is better). If you feel your hair isn’t soft enough after rinsing, look into a good leave-in conditioner to use.
- Jot the date on the bottle when you open it. Many don’t hang onto a bottle long enough to realize, but shampoo and conditioner expire after 12-36 months. Since a bottle of conditioner tends to last us longer than a bottle of shampoo (we generally use less of it), it’s key to know when your conditioner is getting too old to use. Use a Sharpie to jot down the date you opened it so you can throw it out when it’s expired.
- What’s your budget? You can generally expect to spend somewhere between $2 and $10 on a drugstore conditioner. The best options are generally somewhere in between, around $5-$7. If you’re on a tight budget but don’t want to sacrifice your hair’s health and appearance to save a buck, we recommend opting for a drugstore conditioner compatible with your hair type that is priced from the mid to high end ($5-$10) drugstore price range for the best results.
- Be careful when disposing of your old conditioner. If you’ve discovered that the conditioner you were using is not right for your hair, you’ll probably be getting rid of it. But be careful of how you dispose of conditioner or any hair care product. You shouldn’t pour it down the drain. Instead, take it to your local hazardous waste facility for proper disposal OR throw away the entire, closed bottle to avoid it leaching out into the water supply.
So, What’s the Best Drugstore Conditioner?
So there you have it — the best drugstore conditioner. You’re now armed with everything you need to properly moisturize and nourish your hair without dropping big bucks on high-end conditioners.
You know how to properly decipher conditioner labels, saw the best drugstore conditioner for your hair type, and found out a few helpful tips to make the most of your new conditioner after you make the switch.
Now, all that’s left to do is give our recommendations a try and see how they positively transform your hair! Here’s to a steady stream of great hair days.