There’s some things in hair care we hold near and dear—like conditioner and silk pillowcases—but, can we have too much of a good thing? The unfortunate answer is yes; that trusty smoothing, detangling, frizz-fighting conditioner can be bad for your hair. Covering your bed in silk pillowcases is still okay though!

Like most skincare, beauty, and haircare routines, finding the right balance is crucial. Too little conditioner can leave your locks dry and brittle, while over-conditioning could be the source of many symptoms from damage, hair loss, or just plain bad hair days.

If your hair is going through it and you feel as though you’re doing all the “right” steps to save it, it could be the more simple steps that you’re messing up! Here’s how to tell if over-conditioning is currently in your routine and get back to balanced basics.

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Is Conditioner Bad For Your Hair?

Don’t fret, some things are still sacred in the world of hair care! Conditioner itself is not bad for your hair, but there’s a lot of misuse over this thought-to-be straightforward product. Especially true for those of us with fine or thin hair: we shouldn’t rely on this product so heavily.

Conditioner is bad for hair when you use too much, don’t rinse it properly, use it too often, or you use the wrong conditioner for your hair type. Simply put, “over-conditioning” is more damaging than not using enough conditioner as it can heavily coat the hair shaft in conditioning agents like:

  • silicone
  • parabens
  • dimethicone
  • benzophenone
  • cetrimonium chloride
  • diazolidinyl urea
  • Isopropanol

These bad ingredients are found in MANY shampoos and conditioners for their softening, smoothing, and shine-boosting effects, but hair definitely doesn’t want to be coated in them.

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The Damage Conditioner Can Cause

While you’d think throwing a thick layer of conditioner onto your hair would make you step out of a Pantene commercial, you’ll likely see flat, greasy, or lifeless locks instead. The damage conditioner can cause isn’t from that lazy shower sesh where you didn’t rinse it all out, it’s the regular and repeated over-use of conditioner that weakens the hair shaft and damages hair.

Besides just looking flat and greasy, conditioner is bad for your hair when there’s excess sitting on the strands and scalp. Your hair may feel limp, unmanageable, piecey, and as though you cannot hold an updo to save your life.

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Can Conditioner Cause Hair Loss?

Yes! As we said, we love conditioner. She’s great. But, it’s not a one-size-fits-all product for everyone.

Depending on your hair type, you likely don’t need to put conditioner from root to tip. Those with curly or coily hair are often OK to apply conditioners all the way through, but for straighter hair types consider other ways to get moisture closer to your root because it may be achievable in other products.

If you feel like conditioner is what your hair needs because it lacks moisture, consider these points too:

  • Are you overwashing hair? Making it feel like it needs conditioner at the root?
  • Is your shampoo too drying or clarifying?
  • Is your hair or scalp dry from overdoing moisturizing/conditioning products that contain silicones or parabens?

Conditioner can cause hair loss if you’re coating your hair too heavily. It can be clogging your scalp or damaging the hair shaft causing breakage (AKA more hair fall!)

Can Conditioner Cause Hair Breakage?

Most people fear hair being too dry because it makes it more susceptible to breakage, and this is definitely true, but like too little conditioner breakage can be a symptom of over-conditioning hair as well.

This makes conditioner bad for your hair because the hair shaft becomes coated in conditioning agents that sit on the strand making it weaker and more brittle over time. You’ll be fine if you use a heavy conditioner here and there, or leave it in too long every now and again, but for optimal hair health and zero damage, use less conditioner!

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How to Prevent Damage Caused By Conditioner

The good news is that preventing over-conditioning is one of the easiest tweaks you can make to your routine. It just takes a little more attention to find your hair to conditioner ratio.

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Use the Right Amount of Conditioner

The amount of conditioner you need depends on your hair type and length of course. But, as a general rule, a nickel-sized amount is enough for shoulder-length hair, while longer hair may require more. If you use conditioner to mostly detangle, comb hair through in the shower while the conditioner is setting. You’ll likely find you need less than you thought!

Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Using conditioner every time you wash your hair is not always necessary! Try switching up your conditioning schedule such as doing one deep conditioning treatment in the shower per week as opposed to conditioning every time you wash your hair.

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Rinse Thoroughly

One of the biggest culprits of over-conditioning is not rinsing your hair thoroughly enough. Be sure to rinse your hair thoroughly after applying conditioner to remove any excess product. And when in doubt, rinse again.

Use the Right Conditioner for Your Hair Type

Not all conditioners are created equal. Be sure to choose a conditioner that is specifically formulated for your hair type; you likely don’t need the most moisturizing, heaviest hydrating option for every wash.

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Use Other Hair Care Products Sparingly

Using too many hair care products can also lead to over-conditioning. If you use a leave-in conditioner, a hair serum, and a hair oil all at once, you may be overloading your hair with too much product. Stick to one or two products at a time to avoid over-conditioning.

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