It’ll be my first natural anniversary at the end of the month, and in that time, my product junkie tendencies and shopaholic ways have led to me buying a LOT of products. Like. A lot. A rather worrying amount. So in order to assuage my guilt about the horrendous amount of money I’ve spent on my hair, I’m going to turn it into a learning experience for you guys, so you don’t have to follow in my wicked ways. (Not yet sure how I’m going to deal with the guilt about all the other things I waste money on… stay tuned for that.)
And so begins the first of what I plan to make a series of posts entitled ‘Holy Grail or Tragic Fail’? Genius, I know. Welcome to HG/TF Volume I: THE CONDITIONER POST.
There is a mind-blowingly huge variety of products available for hair these days, but one simple constant is every natural’s need for a good, solid conditioner. That is, a regular, rinse-out conditioner. Y’know. Normal stuff. And so, this is where we begin!
I’ve used countless conditioners over these past months. Some were great, some were meh, some were overpriced, some were shockingly cheap, and some made my hair snap off in my hands… but we’ll get to that particular story in due time. Because I have a good memory, and because I compulsively make notes about most of the things that happen to me on a daily basis, I recall my experience with the following conditioners in good enough detail to write a sort of mini-review on each of them, and so that’s what I’ll do. Each product will be given a star rating, with five denoting a holy grail and one star or less being the banner of a TRAGIC FAIL. I hope you guys are ready for this, because I am going to be BRUTAL.
1: While my word SHOULD be law, it regrettably is not (yet). So please remember that these are just my opinions and experiences! Different products work completely differently depending on the person who uses them 🙂 I simply offer my thoughts as a starting point.
2: None of the images used in this article belong to me
Alberto Balsam Blueberry and Coconut Conditioners: £1 for 400ml
The Alberto Balsam range is the unsung heroine of hair care. These bad boys come in a wide variety of pretty colours and exciting scents, with corresponding shampoos and conditioners, and that STRONGLY appeals to my need for colour coding and coordination. They also lie very nicely in my hair product drawer(s. Don’t tell anyone about the second and third ones under my bed).
When I first went natural, the Blueberry Antioxidant conditioner was my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE. It had amazing slip, left my hair feeling soft and moisturised, and best of all, it was ONLY ONE POUND. YES. ONE POUND. As you may have realised by now, I love things that cost a pound (it makes me feel better about buying fifty of them at once) and this product was unbelievably good for such a low price.
But, as you probably noticed, I am referring to the blueberry conditioner in the past tense. Why? BECAUSE IT IS DECEASED—ahem, I mean, discontinued.
Doubtless it could still be found somewhere in the dark depths of the internet (Tesco online, to be precise), but I can’t be bothered with such nonsense because I secretly share the soul of my 86-year-old great-grandmother. I have searched high and low for this product for many months, and I can find no sign of it or its matching shampoo in any pound shop, local supermarket, or petrol station in the land. Le weep. Le cry. So eventually I was forced to search amongst the ranks of the Roberto Balsalm army for an alternative, and I found one: their Coconut and Lychee conditioner.
My hair loves coconut (it knows it’s part Jamaican) so I expected this conditioner to work well, and I was right: it does. It’s lightly scented, creamy and thick, yet still with great slip, and it leaves my hair moisturised and shiny. BUT. It’s just not as good as the blueberry one was. Like, honestly, this isn’t even psychological; for all its benefits, the coconut conditioner cannot recreate the post-rinse softness of the blueberry. Sigh. It is, however, a great replacement, and a cracking product in its own right.
4/5 Stars: Really Fancy Possibly Blessed Hebrew Chalice
Inecto Coconut Conditioner: £3.85-£4.99 for 500ml
The price of this conditioner depends on where you buy it, so you’ll have to break out your bargain-hunter hat if you plan on trying it as cheaply as possible—which I would recommend you do, because it ain’t that great.
This conditioner smells like….conditioner. Not in a good way, but in a super boring way that will not have people sniffing your hair with a smile on their faces (is it just me who likes that? It can’t be just me). It has mediocre slip. If your hair is quite loose, or has been in braids or something, you’ll detangle just fine with this. If your hair is thick and kinky, knot-prone, or you don’t detangle as often as you should: stay away from this product. It did okay (just okay, mind) in my 3c areas, but my 4a areas weren’t too happy. It’s a damn good thing my hair likes coconut.
Literally everything about this product was achingly mediocre for me. Underwhelming. The conditioner equivalent of a sigh. Maybe buy it. Maybe don’t. I wouldn’t. You can. Y’know, if you fancy it. Try it out, maybe? You never know. Or something.
2/5 stars: Faded Mug of Tea That You Let Go Lukewarm and Now You Can’t Drink It
Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Conditioner: £3.50 for 400ml
Hello Hydration is often touted as a great budget product for natural hair, but I had a bad experience with Herbal Essences as a child (think lil Tiss at a white relative’s house, both my parents absent, with a comb literally honest-to-God STUCK in my wet, conditioner-soaked hair) so I avoided it for a while. Eventually, though, I succumbed, and tried it out, and it was worth it.
This is a good product. If it weren’t for the fact that I have my £1 coconut conditioner to fall back on, this would probably be my budget conditioner of choice. It’s fairly priced (although nothing can beat the wonder of Alberto Balsalm’s £1 range), comes in a pretty, blue, interestingly-shaped bottle, and it smells very nice. Maybe not nice enough to warrant all the shouty business that goes on in their adverts, but still nice.
As far as actual conditioning goes, this has decent slip and moisturises my hair adequately. It’s not so moisturising that I’d use it as a quick co-wash to replenish moisture mid-week (which I sometimes do when necessary) but on wash day, when I’m following up with a deep conditioner anyway, it does juuuust fine. For drier or damaged hair, this conditioner probably wouldn’t work amazingly. However, I think it would suit a range of textures as long as the hair is in a healthy state. I’d definitely recommend trying this product; it might even work better for you.
3/5 stars: A Pretty Chrystal Glass
Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner (w/Sea Kelp and Argan Oil): £12.99 for 384ml
I love Shea Moisture as a company because, as it says on all of their products, it was started by a woman names Sofi Tucker in Sierra Leone, and I am a woman with Sierra Leonean heritage soooo TWINNING. More importantly, they use Sierra Leonean women as suppliers for their main ingredient, shea butter, and I’m all for empowering women.
This conditioner can also be used as a leave-in, but for now I’ll be assessing its performance as a regular conditioner.
It smells divine. There’s really no other word for it. Every Shea Moisture product I’ve used has smelled amazing, and this one has one of the best scents of the bunch. It’s not floral; more a very vital, earth kind of fragrance, and subtle too.
The product doesn’t have the best slip, so if you’re a fan of conditioner detangling, this probably isn’t for you. However, it does feel very thick and nourishing. It’s almost luxurious enough to justify the price tag. It also leaves hair very moisturised, but there are other conditioners that offer more moisture for less money. Despite this product’s positives, I personally wouldn’t purchase it again purely because the price doesn’t quite match the results it produces—but if you have spare cash, go ahead!
3/5 stars: Another Pretty Chrystal Glass. Lovely collection we’re amassing, really.
Tresemme Moisture Rich Luxurious Moisture Conditioner: 900ml for £5.24
You see that name up there? ‘Moisture Rich Luxurious Moisture Conditioner’? That, my friends, is what deception looks like.
There is a school of thought in our society that believes excess of anything is generally a sign of overcompensating for a lack of said thing. The name of this conditioner proves that theory correct. THIS CONDITIONER MADE MY HAIR BREAK. Ahem. Sorry, couldn’t hold it in any longer.
Yes, this conditioner made my hair break. It was fully tragic. I paid actual money for this demon, this snake in the grass, AND IT BETRAYED ME. I could mention the smell and the bottle and all that but frankly everything about this conditioner has been blotted out in my memory by the sound of my hair snapping and the image of my beautiful little curls lying sad and broken in my hand. I don’t know what witchcraft caused this tragedy, and I don’t care; this is the face of true horror, folks. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS STUFF.
ZERO STARS: TRAGIC FAIL. SCRATCHED AND FADED PEPPA PIG CUP THAT’S BEEN IN THE DISHWASHER TOO MANY TIMES AND HAS BABY SNOT ON THE RIM. FILLED WITH POISON. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
(Ahem. I mean. It totally might work for you. This is just the honest truth about what happened to me and as you may be able to tell.. I’m kinda scarred.)
Aunt Jackie’s In Control Anti-Poof Moisturising and Softening Conditioner: £6.49 for 420ml
I don’t like the name of this conditioner, because I like my hair poofy, thank you very much. The conditioner itself, however, I quite like.
It comes in a tub, which is great because it’s easy to slop any excess conditioner right back in there instead of wasting it. It’s blue, which makes me happy because it looks like a magic potion, and it smells lovely! Like old-fashioned, powdery sweets… which is nice… to me… Okay, yeah, you’re gonna have to trust me on that one.
The product itself is great; it’s very thick, and feels almost like a deep conditioner rather than a regular conditioner, but it still has wonderful slip. Thankfully it is not actually anti-poof, but it’s certainly anti-frizz, as well as living up to its claim of being moisturising and softening. There is one downside, though; I have to be very careful with this product, because, though it’s never irritated my scalp, if I get any on my neck or face it causes a slight rash. Clearly I have some kind of allergy to one of the ingredients, and it kind of ruins an otherwise amazing product for me. I’d definitely recommend it though!
4/5 stars: Really Fancy Possibly Blessed Hebrew Chalice
Palmer’s Olive Oil Replenishing Conditioner: £3.99 for 250ml
I love Palmer’s Olive Oil range, and this conditioner is truly great.
It’s has a gentle, conditioner-y smell, which is kind of boring, but also better than smelling of olive oil. It comes out green, like the bottle, and like olives, which is super fun and makes me happy. The conditioner has an amazing texture, extremely thick and creamy, and really feels like it replenishes the hair; after rinsing, my hair feels extremely smooth and clumps more, which is a sign of high moisture levels in my hair type. It also has excellent slip, so works well for conditioner detangling.
The only real downside to this conditioner is that it comes in 250ml tubes. S-i-i-i-g-h. Seriously? That’s, like, two washes. Three at best. Work with me here, people. I NEED DECENT QUANTITIES.
4.5/5 stars: Holy Shot Glass
Aussie Three Minute Miracle Reconstructor: £4.99 for 250ml
This conditioner is another popular ‘mainstream’ product, aimed at dry and damaged hair but suited to the average natural’s moisture needs. The smell is light, pleasant, and unidentifiable to me, but I’m assuming it’s eucalyptus… I could be wrong (I’m probably wrong). I particularly like the bottle design; it’s very easy to grip, squeeze, and move on with your process while hanging your head upside down over the bathtub, which is convenient—especially for me, Dropper of Everything I Lay My Hands On. However, it is another example of a product with too little actual product; why do I need to buy two of these to get a decent amount? Hello?!
The product is marketed as a kind of mini-deep conditioner, and it does pack more oomph than the average rinse-out. It also has good slip; when I was young and had hip-length (when stretched) natural hair, my mum used a combo of this and L’Oréal’s No Tears (which was a lie, by the way, that stuff stung like nobody’s business) on my hair, and I was always lookin’ fresh to death. For a six-year-old.
Despite its benefits, though, I can’t get past the tiny product size. Would I accept half a cookie? Would I buy two halves of a cookie, instead of an entire cookie? No, I would not. Similarly, I will not buy half a conditioner. Soz. You totally can though, if you fancy it.
4.5/5 stars: Holy Shot Glass (Batman! Ahem, sorry. Geek jokes.)
OGX Weightless Hydration Coconut Water Conditioner: £6.99 for 385ml
This is that conditioner. I have spent months passing over OGX products in the store, because, frankly, there are way too many words on the front of the bottle and it kind of stressed me out. But one day, while waiting for my sister to finish at school, I wondered into my local Boots and noticed that OGX products were 3 for 2. The promise of a sale compelled me to finally read those words that had so put me off, and my life was forever changed.
This conditioner is the absolute bomb. I bought a few OGX products, which I will review shortly, and I absolutely adore quite a few of them, BUT. THIS. CONDITIONER. THOUGH.
This conditioner will fix you as a human being. Drink too much Diet Coke? Worry not, the Coconut Water conditioner is here for you. Elderly relative keep making offensive comments at family gatherings? Just douse them in this conditioner, it’ll fix them right up. Grades slacking? Motivation waning? Fam, don’t worry. Just get you some Weightless Hydration Coconut Water Conditioner.
This product may be on the pricier side of the list, but it is well worth it. After using this conditioner, my hair feels like silk. I let my hair air dry with no product after using this conditioner and I ended up with soft, clumped coils the likes of which have never been seen on my product-less head before.
The scent is fresh, clean and soft, the slip is Godly, the thick, velvety texture is delicious and the results are AH-MAZING. The 4a sections of my hair usually come out of a conditioning section fluffy and slightly frizzy; it takes deep conditioner to get them on board with the shiny-hair agenda. With this conditioner, though, nothing is needed to make my coils act right.
I’ve gone through almost three bottles, but it’s so amazing that I’m planning on venturing into the rest of the (pretty extensive) OGX range of conditioners to see if this is a one-off or if there is a horde of Holy Grail conditioners just waiting to be discovered. Watch this space, folks. And while you’re watching, go ahead and order this conditioner.
5/5 stars: DING DING DING! Holy Grail!
So there you have it–my list of mini-conditioner reviews, ranging across various brands, price ranges and key ingredients. Why not try them out for yourself? Feel free to comment your holy grails and tragic fails below!
*NOTE: This post was originally publish on the 4th of November 2015 and has since been updated for clarity.*