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The Best Cleansing Conditioners

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Cleansing conditioners are not a new innovation — people with coarse and curly hair have used them for decades as a moisturizing alternative to traditional, detergent-laden shampoos. Lately, cleansing conditioners have been gaining traction in the mainstream beauty space for their ability to cleanse hair without stripping it of its vital natural oils, but finding the right cleansing conditioner for your unique hair type can be tricky. The best cleansing conditioners for all hair types are free of sulfates and other potentially drying detergents, and are instead made with plant-derived butters and oils to cleanse your hair and scalp without drying them out. To find your perfect match, keep reading.

Which Cleansing Conditioner Is Right For You?

Some good-for-hair ingredients to look for in a cleansing conditioner include plant-derived extracts, oils, and butters (such as green tea extract, argan oil, coconut oil, and shea butter). If giving your hair a bit of volume is a priority to you, go with a lightweight or foaming cleansing conditioner, whereas dry, wavy, and curly hair types should choose a richer formula that’s heavy on the moisturizing ingredients. If you have damaged hair or simply like a smoother look, keratin can be helpful, too.

How To Use Cleansing Conditioner

Cleansing conditioners combine the benefits of a shampoo and conditioner and one, so it’s the only product you’ll need to both wash and nourish your hair. That said, you still might want to use a regular shampoo (or a clarifying shampoo) on occasion to give your hair a more thorough clean, especially if you use lots of styling products or are prone to an oily scalp.

Shop The Best Cleansing Conditioners

In a hurry? Here are the best cleansing conditioners to try:

  1. The Overall Best Cleansing Conditioner: UnWash Bio-Cleansing Conditioner
  2. The Best Cleansing Conditioner Under $10: Creme of Nature Creamy Hydration Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner
  3. The Best Splurge-Worthy Cleansing Conditioner: Oribe Cleansing Creme For Moisture & Control
  4. The Best Strengthening Cleansing Conditioner: Kristin Ess Frizz Management Cleansing Co-Wash
  5. The Best Cleansing Conditioner For Fine Hair: R+Co Analog Cleansing Foaming Conditioner

1. The Overall Best Cleansing Conditioner

Pros:

  • Ideal for color-treated hair.
  • Helps define waves, coils, and curls.
  • Contains hydrolyzed keratin.

Cons:

  • May be too rich for fine hair types.
  • Pricey.

Whether you have coarse, fine, or color-treated hair, you can reap the benefits of this UnWash Bio-Cleansing Conditioner. It contains cationic cleansers that attract excess oil and grime to wash them away without damaging or drying out your hair (or scalp). This cleanser also contains evening primrose oil to support hydration and and hydrolyzed keratin, which is a key protein for building back broken bonds in color-treated or bleached hair.

Key Ingredients: Panthenol, evening primrose oil, hemp seed oil, hydrolyzed keratin Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 13.5 oz.

Relevant Review: “Best cleansing conditioner ever. I have coarse, thick hair and it’s hard to find good product that will leave my hair super soft and shiny. I’ve been using this product for over a year. I like how I don’t need too much of this for every wash compared to other cleansing conditioners. Love the texture and smell of this also.”

2. The Best Cleansing Conditioner Under $10

Pros:

  • Comes in a large bottle that lasts a while.
  • The most affordable option on this list.
  • Good for dry and curly hair types.

Cons:

  • Can feel greasy for people with oily scalps.
  • Has a strong scent.

Looking for a low-stakes entry into cleansing conditioners? Creme of Nature’s co-wash is just as effective as it is affordable, thanks the moisturizing argan oil and smoothing keratin inside. This cleansing conditioner is particularly great for people with wavy, curly, or coily hair since it’s on the richer side and has superior detangling abilities.

Key Ingredients: Panthenol, argan oil, hydrolyzed keratin Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 12.52 oz.

Relevant Review: “This stuff is amazing! The smell lasts the whole day and it helps with detangling. I brought it on my trip to Florida and used it daily after the beach. I thought it would be too hard on my 3B hair but my curls popped off everyday! Highly recommend.”

3. The Best Splurge-Worthy Cleansing Conditioner

Pros:

  • Contains antioxidants to protect hair from environmental damage.
  • Smells luxurious.
  • Good for fine and oily hair types.
  • Has a lightweight feel.

Cons:

  • It’s the priciest option on this list.

If you want to add an extra-luxe product to your hair care routine, look no further than Oribe’s cleansing conditioner. It contains all sorts of botanical extracts, including lemon and orange blossom, which work as astringents to offer a clean feeling; watermelon and lychee to protect hair from environmental aggressors; and artichoke leaf, which, according to the brand, helps leave hair smooth and soft. There’s also caffeine, coconut oil, and water mint essence in here, which work to invigorate, moisturize, and soothe your scalp, respectively. It’s suitable for all hair types, and can be used with or without conditioner depending on how dry your hair is.

Key Ingredients: Lemon extract, orange blossom extract, artichoke leaf extract, caffeine, coconut oil Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 8.5 oz.

Relevant Review: “This stuff is absurdly expensive, but I haven't found any other product that does what this does. It cleans very well and leaves hair very soft and not at all frizzy. Smells great.”

4. The Best Strengthening Cleansing Conditioner

Pros:

  • Contains the brand’s Zip Up Technology to seal frayed strands.
  • Good for dry, curly, and coily hair types.

Cons:

  • Some Amazon reviewers report that this product leaves behind buildup.

Cleansing conditioners are great for dry and damaged hair since they’re ultra moisturizing — Kristin Ess, however, takes its cleansing conditioner up a notch with its Zip Up Technology, a proprietary complex from the brand that aims to protect hair against environmental damage and prevent color fading while simultaneously working to “zip up” (or seal) frayed ends. This cleansing conditioner also contains keratin to smooth and rebuild broken hair, while coco-glucoside (a cleansing agent derived from coconuts) provides a clean feel.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, hydrolyzed keratin, hydrolyzed pea protein, coco-glucoside Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 8.45 oz.

Relevant Review: “[...] This is the cowash of my dreams. It is decently priced and the best cowash I have tried, and best of all the smell is very light. [...] If you are looking at this, try it. It gives your hair the freshness of shampoo but the curls of your dreams with the moisture and natural oils you need. I am naturally redheaded with frizzy hair, this literally zips it into place, and brings my curls back that regular shampoo and conditioner were stripping out.”

5. The Best Cleansing Conditioner For Fine Hair

Pros:

  • Foams for a familiar cleansing sensation.
  • Contains protecting and nourishing antioxidants.
  • Best for fine and oily hair types.

Cons:

  • It’s pretty pricey, especially considering that it’s the smallest bottle on this list.

R+Co’s cleansing conditioner is a great option for those with fine or oily hair since it foams out of the bottle, providing you with that familiar lather while cleansing. Inside you’ll find argan oil to moisturize, green tea to add antioxidant protection, horsetail extract to cleanse and help encourage hair growth, and nettle leaf extract to add shine to damaged hair. This cleanser has a lightweight feel — perfect if you want a cleansing conditioner that feels more like a traditional shampoo.

Key Ingredients: Argan oil, green tea, horsetail extract, nettle leaf extract Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 5.75 oz.

Relevant Review: “I have tried at least 6 different cleansing conditioners and they all made my hair and scalp extra oily. I have very fine hair and this cleansing foam conditioner works WONDERS. I was able to go from shampooing my hair twice a week to only shampooing once a week after I started using it. You only need a little bit, so the small bottle does last a while, but I do wish they offered a larger size than 32 oz. Overall, if you have fine hair, this is a great option if you want to cleanse your hair everyday without shampooing or using oily cleansing conditioners.”