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What is the best conditioner for chemically treated hair?

Having chemically treated hair, whether it’s color-treated, permed, straightened, or any other chemical process, can take its toll on your hair’s health and manageability. Using the right conditioner is key to restoring moisture, shine, and softness to hair that’s been damaged from chemicals. With so many products on the market claiming to be formulated for chemically treated hair, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. This guide will walk you through what to look for in a conditioner for chemically treated hair and provide recommendations on the top conditioners based on your specific hair needs.

What to look for in a conditioner

When shopping for a conditioner for chemically treated hair, there are a few key ingredients and formulas to look out for:

  • Moisturizing ingredients: Look for conditioners with moisturizers like shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, argan oil, and olive oil. These oils will help replenish hydration in dry, damaged strands.
  • Protein: Keratin, silk amino acids, and hydrolyzed wheat or soy proteins will help strengthen and reinforce delicate, compromised hair.
  • Bond repair: Many conditioners now contain patented technologies with active ingredients that can rebuild broken disulfide bonds in the hair from chemical treatments. Some common bond repair ingredients are bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate, maleic acid, and Olaplex.
  • pH balancing: Look for a lower pH around 4-5, as this will help close and smooth the raised cuticle layers that chemical treatments can cause.
  • Color-safe: If you have color-treated hair, be sure the conditioner says it’s safe for color-treated hair and won’t cause fading.
  • Silicone-free: Some choose silicone-free options as silicones can cause buildup over time.

In general, thicker, cream-based formulas tend to be most moisturizing for very dry, damaged hair. Also pay attention to the scent and avoid fragrances if you have a sensitive scalp.

Conditioners for color-treated hair

Color-treated hair needs extra moisture and protection to keep color looking vibrant and prevent dryness. Here are some top-rated conditioners for keeping colored hair healthy:

  • Olaplex No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner: Uses Olaplex’s patented bond-building technology to repair damage and protect color. Ultra-hydrating formula with oleic acid.
  • Pureology Strength Cure Conditioner: Formulated for weakened and color-treated hair. Contains protein, aromatherapy oils, and UV filters to protect color.
  • Redken Color Extend Magnetics Conditioner: Amino-ion complex helps seal in color pigments. Soy protein and oils nourish hair and boost shine.
  • Joico Color Endure Conditioner: Designed to preserve color vibrancy. Infuses hair with moisture and has UV filters to prevent fading.
  • Matrix Total Results Color Obsessed Conditioner: Quinoa protein strengthens while adding moisture. Helps defend against color washout.

Conditioners for permed or chemically straightened hair

Perms and chemical straightening processes like relaxers break the bonds in hair and leave it extremely fragile. Look for strengthening conditioners that soften and hydrate the hair.

  • Schwarzkopf Bonacure Repair Rescue Conditioner: Formulated for weak, damaged hair. Ceramide complex rebuilds hair structure and protects from breakage.
  • It’s a 10 Miracle Moisture Conditioner: Lightweight formula provides intense hydration. Detangles, softens, and adds shine.
  • Redken Anti-Snap leave-in treatment: A concentrated leave-in treatment for fragile, over-processed hair. Fortifies with protein and ceramides.
  • DevaCurl One Condition Original: Creamy, hydrating formula is safe for chemically straightened curls. Defines curls and adds slip.
  • Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Restructuring Bond Repair Conditioner: Repairs damage and builds strength using caviar extract, vitamins, and oils.

Conditioners for damaged, overprocessed hair

Overprocessed hair that feels gummy, straw-like or keeps breaking needs serious reconstruction. Look for conditioners with protein and bond repair technologies.

  • K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask: Uses patented K18Peptide technology to repair broken bonds and rebuild hair. Improves texture, strength, and manageability.
  • Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask: Rosehip, coconut, and argan oils nourish hair. Peptides, biotin, and vitamin B strengthen strands.
  • Kerasilk Reconstructing Treatment: Salon-grade product for severely damaged hair. Keratin protein restores elasticity and health.
  • Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Protein Conditioner: Fortifies weak strands with hydrolyzed silk protein and Baobab oil. Great for overprocessed, heat-damaged hair.
  • Pureology Hydrate Sheer Condition: Ultra-hydrating and reparative with protein, jojoba, and antioxidants. Moisturizes without weighing hair down.

Ingredients to avoid

There are a few harsh ingredients found in some conditioners that you’ll want to avoid with chemically treated hair:

  • Sulfates (SLS, SLES): Can be too stripping and drying for compromised hair.
  • Silicones: Can cause buildup and prevent proper moisture absorption over time.
  • Alcohol: Can be overly drying and cause irritation.
  • Parabens: Used as preservatives but can be irritating for some.

How to use conditioner for best results

To get the most benefit from your conditioner and properly nourish your chemically treated hair:

  • Apply conditioner from mid-length to ends after shampooing. Avoid the scalp.
  • Comb through with a wide-tooth comb or wet brush to evenly distribute.
  • Let sit for 2-5 minutes before rinsing for deep conditioning.
  • Rinse with cool water to seal the cuticle and lock in moisture.
  • For extra dry hair, use a leave-in conditioner after showering.
  • Use a deep conditioning hair mask 1-2 times per week.

Other tips for caring for chemically treated hair

  • Use a sulfate-free, gentle shampoo to prevent stripping hair.
  • Let hair air dry instead of blow drying to prevent damage from heat styling.
  • Use heat protecting sprays and limit use of hot tools.
  • Get a trim regularly to remove split ends and keep hair healthy.
  • Give hair a break from chemicals when possible.

Comparison of top conditioners for chemically treated hair

Brand Top Benefits Best For
Olaplex Repairs bonds, hydrates, protects color All chemically treated hair
Pureology Strengthens, softens, color protection Color-treated hair
Redken Seals in color, nourishes, anti-fade Color-treated hair
Joico Preserves color, hydrates, UV protection Color-treated hair
Matrix Strengthens, moisturizes, color defense Color-treated hair
Schwarzkopf Rebuilds hair structure, anti-breakage Damaged, permed hair
It’s a 10 Lightweight hydration, detangles, shine Permed, straightened hair
Redken Repairs bonds, strengthens Fragile, overprocessed hair
Briogeo Nourishes, strengthens, repairs Severely damaged hair
Kerasilk Reconstructs, restores elasticity Overprocessed hair


Caring for chemically treated hair requires diligent conditioning with products containing ingredients that nourish, strengthen, and repair damage. Look for conditioners with proteins, oils, ceramides, and bond-building technologies. Avoid harsh ingredients like sulfates and silicones. Deep condition weekly for very damaged hair. With the proper conditioner and haircare regimen, you can restore your chemically treated hair to its healthy, shiny, vibrant best.