How does hair conditioner work?

Looking for that silky smooth hair? Maybe conditioner will help. But how does conditioner actually work? What does it do???



I’ve always understood that shampoo is what washes your hair, but have never really understood the concept of conditioner. Yeah, it makes your hair soft and smooth, but how? One of the ingredients in conditioner called cationic surfactant is what really does the trick. Your hair has dead skin cells that wrap around a cuticle layer. The cationic surfactants is what holds these skin cells and cuticle layer tight together, making your hair smooth. If they weren’t wrapped tightly together, that’s what would cause your hair to be frizzy and rigid.

Conditioner also has other chemicals and oils (good ones of course) that will make your head and hair have a balanced pH level. The pH level of your hair is what determines how dry your hair will be, or even if your hair looks a little greasy. Too much conditioner will cause this greasy look to it, most likely on the top scalp of your head.

Like I said before, conditioner has oils in it that also help detangle your hair. After shampooing and scrubbing, your hair is clean, but can also become extremely knotted. This is what the oils are for. The oils in conditioner are like a lubricant that smooth out the coated conditioned pieces. But what people don’t realize is that your hair is really just dead skin cells, meaning that its really just dead tissue. So when people are concerned about the health of their hair, they are really worrying about an unreal thing; dead tissue can’t be healthy. So, the point of conditioner isn’t to save your hair or make your hair healthy again. It’s job is to simply make it look “healthy”, and that can be whatever definition of healthy you think it should be. The takeaway from this is that conditioner has a purpose, and there are reasons why it acts the way it does. If you want detangled, silky, smooth and shiny hair, using conditioner is your best bet for  that “healthy” look!

Here is a video that I found that explains what I talked about. Enjoy!

8 thoughts on “How does hair conditioner work?

  1. Emily Lippincott Post author

    I always thought the same way as you, that conditioner just smoothed hair out after shampooing. I always wondered how though. It’s the conditioner that tightens the cuticle and outside layer of the hair which ends ups smoothing it out. I bet that if I never used conditioner, my hair would be frizzier and definitely more rigid than it is now!

  2. Emily Lippincott Post author

    I thought it was funny too that hairdressers say this. Because when you really think about it, how can hair be considered healthy when its really “dead’? And many people including myself refer to the bad/split ends as “dead ends” when the whole piece of your hair is a dead tissue. I’m going to have to reconsider my choice of wording!

  3. Emily Lippincott Post author

    When you use the two in one shampoo and conditioner products, do you find that the conditioner part doesn’t work as well as it would if it were separate? Whenever I have used two in one products, my hair is always a tangled and knotted mess. I always buy separate because of this, and wonder if people have the same problem as me. That would be an interesting topic to look into, whether it is better for your hair to use separate shampoo and conditioner or two in one products. Maybe that will be my next blog!

  4. Emily Lippincott Post author

    I actually did not know that! I always condition the ends of my hair more than the roots on the top of my head because that is usually the spot that gets the most tangled. I always thought that conditioning the top of your hair would make it look greasy. Thanks for sharing the article and the tip! I’m definitely going to condition my roots more now!

  5. Jessica M Lee

    Did you know that when you use conditioner you should focus on conditioning the roots because that keeps it from getting split ends and helps keep your hair healthy? Here’s a website that really helps with tips for conditioning your hair!

  6. Nicholas Sivak

    I too have wondered what the purpose of conditioner was. Thank you for thinking to write a blog about it. It is interesting how the dead skin cells on your hair are what cause it to look and feel so different. I personally use combination shower products that serve as shampoo and conditioner in one bottle. I wonder if it is better, worse, or about the same to use these combination bottles or to pick up to separate bottles to use. Interesting post!

  7. Alana Marie D'agnese

    I always wondered the same thing! I did not know that hair was actually dead tissue. That’s funny because even hair dressers refer to hair as being “unhealthy,” when it can’t be healthy at all. I know that they also make leave in conditioner which really helps de-tangle and defrizz hair, especially if you have curly hair.

  8. jvn5243

    I always wondered the same thing! I love using conditioner, it makes my hair so smooth and silky. However as a girl with curly thick hair, I do agree that conditioner helps detangle your hair. I never knew that conditioner is actually saving your hair! I just thought it was to smooth out your hair after the shampoo, the video in your blog was also very informative.

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