Conscious Consumer Review: Wintertime conditioners for difficult hair

Typically once winter truly takes its grip on the Philadelphia region I am forced to take every beauty supply I own, pack it into a box, and switch to some more “advanced” high-end product that promises to save my skin from the inevitable destruction caused by my tendency to talk around in 30 degree weather for the hell of it. This means that all of my lovely all-natural, vegan, organic products get tucked away and I end up buying whatever bottle of conditioner promises most fervently to do the job. Is this hypocritical of me? Maybe. But spending four months with painful, irritated skin  and hair so dry and damaged that it feels like straw is enough to drive a person thoroughly insane, and I am just too busy to lose my mind, build a blanket fort, and swear off society every time temperatures hit 30 degrees.

To that end, I’ve spent a bit of time this past December trying out a few different consumer-conscious products ranging from environmentally friendly to organic to vegan. I’ve rounded them up to review here, in the hopes that anyone who struggles the same as I do can benefit from my knowledge gained.

Now I’d like to note that I typically have thick straight hair that somehow manages to be both oily and frizzy simultaneously, and there is no conditioner on this earth that promises to handle that kind of significant workload. So, while many of these conditioners may be perfect for normal hair, they had quite the task ahead of them when it came to my own needs.

Conscious Consumer Review: Conditioners 

Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Fortifying Conditioner | $5 (but frequently on sale for $3)

from drugstore.com

I decided to start simple (and by simple, I mean cheap) with Garnier’s highly biodegradable conditioner. I had used the accompanying shampoo for a little over a year, so I was hopefully that this particular product would work well. It is also pretty eco-friendly, since it is 92% biodegradable and doesn’t have silcone, paraben (a chemical preservative in cosmetics), or dyes. I also didn’t see the traditionally used sulfates on the ingredients list, which was a BIG plus. The bottle is also made out of highly-recyclable materials, which is awesome. 

This product didn’t recommend itself as fully to the “conscious consumer” requirements that I had been trying to set for myself (in being considered organic or at the very least, vegetarian), but admittedly because I was familiar with the brand and because of the smaller price tag, I decided to give the product a try.

To start, the smell of the product is fine. Not rub-it-all-over-myself fantastic, but nice and clean. Honestly, it doesn’t smell as good as its partner shampoo (which I highly recommend) but it’s not too far off. The real trouble was when I poured it out into my hand- it was very runny, and when I rubbed it into my hair, I needed to add a little bit more of the product to get it to coat evenly (once again: my hair is incredibly thick. If you have normal or thin hair, this probably won’t be an issue that you will have).

All in all, the conditioner easily rinsed clean, and my hair felt marginally softer, but for the most part my hair still ended up feeling dry and a little frizzy. It also didn’t do much for my scalp. If it were summertime, this conditioner would probably be perfectly fine, but it just wasn’t up to the task of battling my wintertime hair.

If I were using one of those weird, 5 star rating systems, I would give it 3 stars. The product is clean, smells fine, and is both readily available in most supermarkets and affordable. It’s also nice to know that what’s swirling down the drain is mostly biodegradable. But it honestly couldn’t do the job the way I needed it to, not in the winter at least.

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Conditioner: Mango | $8

from albabotanica.com

I went to my area Wegmans to pick up this particular conditioner, which they stock in their organic section. This conditioner was slightly more expensive, but is also 100% vegetarian, and doesn’t contain parabens, phthalates, or common sulfates ( Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Myreth Sulfate, which contains 1,4 dioxane and is considered a carcinogen). As an added perk, the bottle was made out of 100% post-consumer resin.

Now, I broke one of my own rules in trying out this conditioner- I despise smelling like food. The brand carries other scents like Plumeria and Gardenia, but those weren’t available where I was shopping, so I went with what they had. Honestly, it smelled absolutely fantastic, so I was willing to be mango-scented for the duration of the trial.

The conditioner is nice and thick when it comes out of the bottle. A half-dollar sized amount of product was easily worked through my hair and scalp, which is nigh-unheard of when it comes to my hair. The only downside is that the product takes longer than typical to rise out, but the effort was so worth it with how soft my hair became afterwards. Even after my hair had dried, it was soft and didn’t require as much product as usual to style. My hair was a little more weighed down than is typical, but since it ended up doing the job of the hair styling product that I use, I didn’t mind that much.

This conditioner would get 4.5 stars from my make-believe rating system. It’s consumer-conscious, smells great, and works really well. The only downside is the slight weightiness of the product, which honestly wasn’t too much of an issue to me but might be more of a concern for others.

LUSH Happy Happy Joy Joy Conditioner | $13

Last summer I went on a LUSH kick. I adore LUSH; their store smells great, the sales reps are fantastic, and their products are bottled with a sticker that tells you who made your product, on what date, and when it’s best to use the product by. On my first trip I was given a few samples, and their Happy Happy Joy Joy conditioner was among them. I went back this winter and bought another bottle of the stuff to try out against winter weather to see how it held up.

from lushusa.com

Of all of the LUSH conditioners that are available, this one has my favorite scent. It’s very clean, slightly floral/citrusy, and honestly just fantastic. If I could send you a whiff of it through smell-ray technology I would. But it’s runny (although to be fair, LUSH doesn’t really conceal this fact- they will tell you in the store that it’s less thick than other alternatives and it’s mentioned on the website). On the plus side, this conditioner is Vegan and isn’t tested on animals. However, it is really disappointing to see sodium lauryl sulfate on the ingredients list under “safe synthetics.”

The conditioner, while thin, works well. Instead of using more of the conditioner to compensate for its thinness, I let it sit in my hair longer (this decision was made largely because the conditioner cost $13 a bottle, and there was no way in hell that I was wiping out a 3.3 ounce bottle of conditioner in one go). The conditioner soaked up into my hair but rinsed out easily, leaving my hair very soft and smelling awesome. On the downside, it didn’t do as great of a job as I would have hoped in controlling my frizzy hair, and it didn’t really do anything for my scalp. But once again, the smell. My goodness, I love the smell. And truly, my hair was incredibly soft after use.

Ultimately, I would give this product 2.5 stars in my arbitrary galaxy-themed rating system. I was really disappointed that for such an incredibly expensive conditioner (you pay almost $4 an ounce compared to Garnier’s $.33 cents an ounce and Alba Botanica’s $.63 cents an ounce), sulfates were still listed as an ingredient. In addition, the conditioner just couldn’t handle the wintery weather as well as I hoped that it would, although as a summertime conditioner it works really well. Plus, it takes a special LUSH trip to get the conditioner. It’s not available in a typical store.

Ultimately, it’s Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian Mango Conditioner that has stuck around in my shower caddie. Eventually I’d like to try the other scents, but for now I’m more than satisfied with the job that the product is doing!

Do you have your own favorite wintertime conditioners? Leave a comment or contact me to share- I’d love some recommendations!

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