5 Common Conditioner Myths Debunked

  • Copy by: Melanie Rud Chadwick
  • Photography By: Jennifer Kathryn Photography

It may be a standard part of most of our hair care routine, but there’s more than one misconception out there about conditioner. So forget everything you thought you knew about this shower staple! We chatted with Rolanda Johnson Wilkerson, PhD, principal scientist, and senior manager of scientific communications at Pantene (and you know they know all things hair), to get the lowdown on how conditioner can alleviate the stress on your tresses and leave you with the most luscious locks ever.

MYTH #1: Damage is only caused by mechanical, thermal, and environmental factors.

Over-zealous hair brushing, daily blow drying, UV rays…yes, all of these are common culprits of damage. But there’s another sneaky source of damage doing a number on your strands: H2O. Even though you can’t see it, the build-up from minerals in water can have damaging effects, explains Wilkerson. Not to mention, this residue can also affect your color: Blond hair can take on a greenish tint and brunettes can look brassy. Also, those regularly scheduled highlights can take a toll on your tresses. “Any kind of chemical changes—color, perms, relaxers—strip the hair of its ‘F layer,’ a protective outer layer that shields the rest of the hair,” says Wilkerson.

So what’s a girl to do? Since we’re obviously not going to suggest completely quitting your hot tools or never coloring your hair (let’s be realistic here!), the key is to arm yourself with the right products to shield your strands from all of these saboteurs. And while heat protectants, UV sprays, and other products are great, the fastest and easiest way to get a daily dose of defense is in the shower—use a good conditioner. Contrary to popular belief, it does more than just smooth and detangle; by hydrating and strengthening hair, it’s also your first line of defense against all types of damage.

MYTH #2: Hair damage occurs only at the surface of the hair.

“Hair damage starts on a molecular level, where we can’t even see it,” says Wilkerson. As it progresses from the inside of the hair to the surface, you may start to notice a change in color and texture—roughness and dullness are both telltale signs. Still, many (ourselves included!) may not realize that hair is in not-so-great shape until it starts to break and snap—hello, split ends. But, at this point, the damage has been going on for quite some time.

Think about what happens when you get a rip in your jeans—it doesn’t just appear out of nowhere; the fabric thins and frays before it actually tears, says Wilkerson. The same goes for your strands. Distressing, we know, but the good news is that conditioner works on all levels of the hair, not only keeping the surface looking and feeling smooth and sleek, but also hydrating and strengthening strands from the inside.

MYTH #3: Damage starts at the tips of hair.

It’s those jagged, dry ends that really show signs of wear and tear, right? The brand new hair at your roots can’t possibly be damaged…can it? You bet, and most likely is. Think about all of those damaging elements we mentioned—you’re not just blow-drying or washing or coloring the tips of hair. Those common culprits affect the entire length of your hair. And it’s totally true that ends are the oldest and have been exposed to damaging effects for the longest amount of time.

Sure, you could easily snip off some split ends and think your hair is healthy again, but sadly, unless you’re shaving your head, even a cut won’t address the damage happening along the lengths and at the root. What will help is applying your conditioner from root to tip. Worried it will weigh down your style? Keep reading…

MYTH #4: Don’t use conditioner on roots because it will weigh hair down.

We’re willing to bet you’ve heard this myth before, and yes, with some of the crazy thick variants out there, it may be the case. So, scan the ingredient label: Formulas loaded with rich, natural oils, or butters (coconut, argan, shea) tend to feel heavier on hair. Instead, seek out lightweight products that use silicones, which smooth hair without weighing it down, like Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal Conditioner. An added bonus: This formula also features a unique kind of targeted technology, so it repairs just the parts of the strand that are damaged, says Wilkerson (i.e. the parts of your hair that need the most conditioning).

MYTH #5: There isn’t an added benefit to using a shampoo and conditioner from the same collection.

This one was news even to us (take a look in our shower and you’ll find a whole slew of mismatched cleansers and conditioners). But, like peanut butter and jelly or chips and guacamole, it turns out that matching shampoos and conditioners are better when they’re together. “Shampoo isn’t only cleansing your hair, it’s also designed to prep your hair for the conditioner and ultimately make it work more effectively,” explains Wilkerson.

This is also especially important when you use products with a particular styling goal in mind, like more volume or smoothing. So remember, you’ll always get the best end result when you wash and condition with a pair of products from the same line.

This post is sponsored by Pantene but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.