December 16, 2009 3:33 PM   Subscribe

What's the best drugstore conditioner to smooth and detangle very dry, curly, tangled hair?

My hair is long, fine, and dry, and it tangles like crazy. Because it's curly, I can only comb it in the shower while it's wet and saturated with tons of conditioner, so I need a thick, slippery conditioner that detangles really well. It should cost under $7/bottle, since I use so much. And it's ok if it's very heavy or weighs down the hair, as my hair isn't prone to greasiness. The product's "slippiness" and detangling ability are my main concerns.

Any suggestions?
Are there any ingredients I should keep an eye out for?
posted by pseudostrabismus to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The "slippiest" drugstore conditioner I've ever used is Pantene. They have one for curly hair and one for color-treated or damaged hair - I've found that the one for color-treated/damaged is more moisturizing and detangling for my hair (I, too, have fine, curly, dry hair). I can run my fingers right through my hair in the shower after I use it.
posted by bedhead at 3:37 PM on December 16, 2009

I love Pantene Pro-V Curl Formula for my own fuzzy dry hair.

Also, John Frieda has a great spray-in detangling product that's available in many drugstores.

If you want to pay a bit more and don't mind the smell of coconut, there's a Bumble and Bumble coconut-jojoba conditioner that works marvelously, but I don't use it because it smells like coconut.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:39 PM on December 16, 2009

Best answer: Do you condition after shampooing? Or do you do a conditioner-only wash?

I ask because abandoning shampoo entirely can significantly help with combatting over-dry, tangly, frizzy hair in general, and it doesn't require using tons of conditioner every time, like it used to when I conditioned after shampoing. (My own no-shampoo method is to "wash" with super-cheap $2 conditioner, like Suave or Herbal Essences, then do a conditioning phase with a slightly more expensive product like this one.) Once a month or so I do a clarifying rinse with a mix of half apple cider vinegar and half distilled water. It's seriously improved the texture of my hair overall, and I use far less product than I used to.
posted by scody at 3:48 PM on December 16, 2009 [6 favorites]

I too have dry, curly, cotton candy type hair. The slipperiest drug store conditioner I've ever used is the Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine Conditioner. Also, the Herbal Essences Totally Twisted is pretty slick as well. Personally, I've never had good results with Pantene -- it always seems to leave my hair sticky.

If you ever run into some extra money, the two best conditioners I've ever used were Ouidad Curl Quench and, the one I currently swear by, Lush Coolaulin conditioner. In my opinion, they're worth the extra cost since you really only have to use a tiny, tiny amount to get the same results. You can get tiny sample bottles for relatively little cash to give them a try.

Also, as a side note, I only shampoo every two-three days, which helps combat the dryness as well.
posted by ailouros08 at 3:52 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pantene is recommended time and again for this reason. I also like TRESemme Vitamin E Moisture Rich shampoo and conditioner, as well as Aussie MOIST.

Make sure you're using a moisturizing (not clarifying, etc) shampoo, since that will lead to tangling as well, and avoid 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, if you're not doing so already.
posted by runningwithscissors at 3:54 PM on December 16, 2009

Ooh, scody's post inspires me to suggest that you might want to read Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey and/or check out the forums at . There's a whole philosophy about how to care for curly, frizzy, and kinky hair and plenty of folks with opinions about what products and what ingredients to use.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:57 PM on December 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

(Re: the LUSH Coolaulin conditioner: I love love love the way it smells, but I don't find it slippery at all, so I have to use a lot of it. Like, two handfuls for my chin-length hair.)
posted by runningwithscissors at 3:57 PM on December 16, 2009

You might like No More Tangles; I think they still make it. It's for kids, and it's in with baby stuff. I used to use it a lot and liked it. Then I forgot it existed. Until right now.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:00 PM on December 16, 2009

Matrix Biolage Conditioning Balm is awesome and carried in most CVS stores; Unfortunately, it's also kind of expensive. Solution? Buy the generic (GVP brand, black and white bottle) at Sally Beauty Supply for $5.99.
posted by biggity at 4:03 PM on December 16, 2009

Have you tried Creme of Nature? It's marketed toward black women but it's been a staple of many curly-heads for the better part of 30 years. You might have to find a drugstore in an ethnic neighborhood but you can buy a huge bottle for around your price range.

If you are willing to try an online brand, I highly, highly recommend the Curls line of products. I use both the cream cleanser and conditioner and my hair is happier for it. I have straight-up nappy (and pretty) black girl hair and this stuff makes it soft to the touch ... and it smells heavenly.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 4:04 PM on December 16, 2009

A Terrible Llama: "You might like No More Tangles; I think they still make it."

Yup, my daughter uses it. It's available at drug stores in the baby shampoo area.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:35 PM on December 16, 2009

I used to use Pantene (for women of color or some crap like that). Since that has cones I switched over to the Giovanni line These are really really good and get right through my super thick hair. The Aubrey Organics line is good but slightly over your price point. You might want to check out There is a lot of info over there on different products and conditioners that give you slip. Be careful though, I ended up spending a lot of money on hair products after reading through all of the product reviews.

Herbal Essences Hello Hydration is my current drugstore favorite and usually costs around $5. I also do the no-shampoo cheapy conditioner wash since most shampoos only dry my hair out some more.

One more warning - all of these conditioners make my bathtub super slippery and gunky.
posted by mokeydraws at 4:37 PM on December 16, 2009

Nthing Pantene Pro-V Curlorific-whatever. It has only very low silicone levels. Actually my real favorite is the Costco knockoff, since I have to use pretty obscene amounts.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:07 PM on December 16, 2009

Pantene is fantastic, as mentioned, and I also find the "Got 2 Be" line, specifically the "Instantly Satisfied" conditioner, to be the best at quick and painless detangling.

Now, you have mentioned that you can only detangle while in the shower. I was the same way for a very long time. However, I have at last found a detangler/leave-in conditioner that allows me to do this thankless task outside of the shower (thus saving hot water!). It is Infusium 23, and comes in a spray bottle, and is quite cheap at the drug store.
posted by Pomo at 5:37 PM on December 16, 2009

Best answer: I've been using Clairol's Herbal Essences Totally Twisted for combing based on's recommendations (direct link: and it works well for me.
posted by bluesapphires at 5:39 PM on December 16, 2009

A good friend has had long hair her whole life, and turned me on years ago to Nature's Gate conditioner. It's the only thing I use when my hair is any longer than chin length, it seems to keep the hair conditioned and a bit slippery for days after washing, and thus prevents breakage. At least that's my experience. My friend said her hairdresser switched to it for her long-haired clients, she was so impressed.
posted by dbmcd at 7:14 PM on December 16, 2009

Yes, yes, yes to Lorraine Massey's Curly Girl! Dump the shampoo, which is only contributing to drying out your hair further, and your curls will definitely thank you for it. Detangling with the conditioner on in the shower is in fact part of the care recommended in the book.

I'm at five years no-poo, and seriously, that book changed my life. :)

For product recommendations, I really like L'Oréal's Vive Pro Nutri Gloss conditioner (for medium/long hair that's curly/wavy). Only that one variation on the formula, though! It's as thick and non-runny as even the magic conditioners they include for after-coloring, but not silicone-based. Awesome conditioner.
posted by lysimache at 7:22 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I really like Neutrogena Triple Moisture Daily Deep Conditioner. Runs about $7. (Doesn't combing wet hair tend to damage it, though?) Also, I used No More Tangles when I was a kid, it's good stuff.
posted by citron at 7:51 PM on December 16, 2009

As usual I am plugging It is easy to order online, and the hair products can't be beat. Conditioners I love include Coolaulin, mentioned above, Retread, Okra, and for leave in, American Cream or Jasmine and Henna Fluff Ease. (Speaking as a very dry and curly haired person myself.)

And unlike almost every drugstore product maker, they DON'T test on animals.
posted by bearwife at 9:32 PM on December 16, 2009

I love "yes to carrots" mud conditioner. I recently found it at safeway, about $7. Massage it in, comb it through with fingers or a wide tooth comb, leave it in, and curly, moist curls are yours. :)
posted by anitanita at 10:46 PM on December 16, 2009

In addition to an after-shampoo conditioner, a small amount of "hair serum," left on the ends works well for my long hair. I like this kind, which is not expensive.
posted by easilyamused at 4:36 AM on December 17, 2009

OK, this could have been me three years ago. I hated my hair in high school - people called me "Frizzy." Endless tangles. Here's what I have learned since then:

1. Even if you don't want to commit to the no-poo thing, you can still benefit from shampooing less frequently. I shampoo once or twice a week. My hair is much smoother and less frizzy since doing this.

2. A cheap store-brand conditioner can actually work pretty well, if your hair is not being over-dried from shampoo. I like Suave Essentials because it's cheap (so I can use a lot), it's silicone-free, and it smells pretty.

3. After combing with my fingers and blotting with a towel, I rub a quarter-sized dab of conditioner through my hair. You don't need to get any fancy leave-in stuff, just plain Suave is fine. Then scrunch and go about my day. It seems to make my hair smoother and weigh it down just enough. I don't even use hair gel anymore.
posted by beandip at 10:26 AM on December 17, 2009

I have curly hair and have found the best solution to all my hair woes.

Suave's Tropical Coconut Conditioner (I don't shampoo anymore)

Finger comb through (or wide tooth comb sometimes)

Blot hair with a T-shirt

Scrunch with Deva Curl AnGEL

I get complimented constantly on my hair and I was Miss Frizzy all through high school
posted by blue_bicycle at 2:51 PM on December 17, 2009

My friend has very curly hair and to combat frizz she only washes her hair once a week and she uses a bit of conditioner to style it - works great for her because she always has beautiful curls and no noticeable frizz.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:16 AM on December 20, 2009

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