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Is Conditioner Bad For You?

Also Known As: Hair conditioner



Short answer

No, most conditioner is not bad for you. Just make sure you are using the right conditioner for your hair type, applying the product correctly, and reading the ingredient label carefully.



Long answer

Conditioner is something that most of us use daily. It’s the natural step after shampoo to seal the hair cuticle back down, lock in nutrients and soften the strands. At least that’s what it’s supposed to do. But does using conditioner every single day actually do your hair any good? Or could it actually be bad for you?

It depends on what type of conditioner you’re using. There are many different kinds, and the one that you choose can drastically impact your hair—for better or for worse. For example, if you have thin hair, you should avoid thick, heavy formulations. These products are intended to moisturize, but they will weigh your hair down and can result in excessive oil production. The opposite holds true for those with thick hair: steer clear of thin, lightweight conditioners. They typically don’t provide enough moisture to nourish your hair, which can quickly turn into breakage and a never-ending fight with frizz.

The way you apply conditioner can also affect the health of your hair. It’s important to avoid your roots whenever you’re using conditioner. Instead, focus the product on the ends up through the mid-point of your strands. Your roots won’t be as damaged as the ends, so they won’t need the excess moisture. And if you saturate them in conditioner anyway, you are more likely to end up with an oily scalp and greasy locks.

While conditioner type and application techniques are important to hair health, ingredients are essential to your overall well-being. Some conditioners don’t do anything for your hair at all: they coat it in chemicals to make it appear silky and smooth, while secretly damaging your strands and seeping potential toxins into your scalp.

Avoiding harmful conditioners is easy if you know what ingredients to look out for. Stay away from anything that contains isopropyl alcohol: it’s drying, flammable and toxic when inhaled. Even worse, sulfates (specifically sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates) are known to aggravate the skin and dry out the scalp. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review reports that these sulfates are irritants at levels of two percent or greater; they also suggest that cosmetic products should not include levels higher than one percent. The scariest part? Some studies have also suggested that sulfates are carcinogens which can penetrate the skin of your scalp and be absorbed into your bloodstream.

While there are some slightly terrifying ingredients to avoid, you shouldn’t let that stop you from conditioning your hair. As long as you pay attention to the product label and directions, conditioning actually provides some great benefits for the look, feel and overall health of your hair.

Possible short-term side effects

  • excess oil production
  • greasy hair
  • frizz
  • damage to hair
  • skin irritation

Possible long-term side effects

  • cancer (from sulfates)

Ingredients to be aware of

  • isopropyl alcohol
  • sodium lauryl
  • laureth sulfates


  • hydrates hair
  • softens strands
  • prevents tangles
  • protects from damage
  • decreases breakage
  • reduces frizz

Healthier alternatives

  • conditioner free of isopropyl alcohol, sodium lauryl, and laureth sulfates

Thank you for your feedback!

View Sources | Written by Rachel Adams
Published on: 10-23-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

View Sources
Written by Rachel Adams
Published on: 10-23-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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