Our Favorite Conditioner: The 2022 List Beauty Awards

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Scrolling through hair accounts on Instagram, you'll find plenty of pictures showcasing long, silky hair with a glossy shine that rivals the reflective water in a crystal-clear lake. It's the new "liquid hair" trend, and it's catching on quickly (per InStyle). But shopping around for the perfect conditioner that will give you a patent leather-like shine is not as easy as it may seem. With so many innovative indie haircare companies competing with tried-and-true salon brands, there are numerous different conditioners out there that all promise to give you enviably shiny locks.

Therefore, The List decided to test several different conditioners of various price points and brands so you don't have to waste your time or money. The conditioners we tested had claims ranging from oil control to hydration and shine-building to strengthening. All of the conditioners were rated in six categories: formula, application, moisturization, softening capabilities, smoothing/frizz-taming properties, and overall look. To keep testing similar to our usual hair-care routine, we used the same styling products for each wash including a hair mask, leave-in conditioner, volumizing treatment, bond repair treatment, detangler, and heat protectant. Then we finished our look using the Conair Inifinitipro Quick Styling Hair Dryer and Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer & Volumizing Hot Air Brush.

So without further ado, here are The List Beauty Awards: conditioner edition.

Briogeo Superfoods Mango + Cherry Oil Control + Balancing Conditioner: Winner

Briogeo, a Black-owned beauty brand, centers around natural, six-free hair-care — meaning there are no harsh sulfates, silicones, phthalates, parabens, DEA, or artificial dyes in the products (per The Cut and Briogeo). The brand's recently released Superfoods Mango + Cherry Balancing Conditioner won out as our favorite for 2022. This conditioner claims to work on all hair types: straight, wavy, curly, and coily. It hydrates and leaves a healthy shine to dry, dull hair while balancing oil production at the same time. 

With a 4.7-star rating on Sephora, the $29 conditioner contains papaya extract to control oil production, cherry extract to hydrate hair, and vitamin-rich mango juice/extract to protect against free radicals. This conditioner also claims to be color-safe. It ranked high in formula, application, moisturization, softening capabilities, and overall look. Smelling like a yummy smoothie, this product is the perfect consistency — just a little product went a long way in completely covering our long hair. Applying like a dream, it immediately softened and detangled hair unlike ever before. 

The conditioner deeply moisturizes hair without being overwhelmingly rich, so hair won't fall flat and demi-permanent hair color stays intact. Immediately after blow-drying, our hair looked fairly smooth and sleek. By the next day, the ends were even smoother. Our hair felt lightweight, springy, and hydrated, while the color looked even more vibrant. Overall, our hair felt and looked like we had gotten a salon-quality blowout. We couldn't stop swinging our hair back-and-forth like we were the stars of a hair conditioner commercial.

I.C.O.N. At Home India Conditioner: Runner-Up

I.C.O.N. is a brand started by salon owner Jorge Rubin and international artist Chiara. Its "At Home" line offers professional salon-quality products to customers. We decided to test I.C.O.N At Home India Conditioner ($27.50), which claims to strengthen and moisturize hair. 

Inspired by Ayurvedic medicine, the conditioner contains moringa oil, which has historically been used in natural Indian haircare. In addition, the product contains argan oil, amber, and seaweed with the aim to boost hair growth and impart shine for dull, limp hair. This conditioner ranked high in formula, moisturization, softening capabilities, and smoothness/frizz taming.

The conditioner's formula is thick and luxurious, but we noticed that it didn't apply as well as the Briogeo conditioner. It required more product and took longer to detangle our hair. Once we were able to run the formula through the hair such that everything was detangled, though, our hair felt moisturized from the oils and incredibly soft to the touch. After styling our hair, we noticed a smooth, sleek style, and loved that we could run our hands through the tangle-free hair. Overall, we loved the salon look the conditioner gave but found that it wasn't as shiny as the Briogeo conditioner, which is the main reason this conditioner ranked slightly lower.

NatureLab. Tokyo Perfect Shine Conditioner: Runner-Up

NatureLab is a haircare brand based on Japanese beauty rituals with natural ingredients like plant stem cells, pearl extract, and quinoa protein (per NatureLab). The company offers haircare products for various concerns, including volume, smoothness, and even shine. because Refinery29 recommends NatureLab. Tokyo Perfect Shine Conditioner ($15) for a reflective, silky shine, we decided to put it to the test and see if it would give us TikTok-worthy liquid hair. The conditioner contains grape stem cells to repair damage, platinum fiber to add lightweight shine, pearl extract which provides iridescence, and hydrating hyaluronic acid (via Ulta).

This conditioner ranked high in application and moisturizing properties. The formula didn't feel as luxurious as the Briogeo or I.C.O.N conditioners, but it applied well to our hair strands, immediately softening and detangling our hair. We felt it moisturized our hair and left a beautiful shine after styling it. We also found that our hair felt as soft as the I.C.O.N conditioner, only our hair became slightly more tangly. Our naturally wavy hair started waving more than usual while applying our usual pre-styling products. This makes us think that this is the perfect wavy hair conditioner for air-drying, rather than blow-drying. 

While our hair generally looked smooth, we felt it lacked the straight-out-of-the-salon look the previous two conditioners gave us. Otherwise, for the price, this is a high-performing conditioner that will give shine and lightweight body.

Neutrogena Healthy Scalp Gentle & Soft Micellar Water Conditioner: Runner-Up

Neutrogena is known for its affordable skincare products. Now the company has branched out to haircare based on skincare ingredients, per Better Homes and Gardens. Centering around various scalp-related concerns, the brand's Healthy Scalp products consist of various ingredients like micellar water, tea tree oil, and pink grapefruit.

We tried Neutrogena Healthy Scalp Gentle & Soft Micellar Water Conditioner ($8.74) to see if it really was gentle and hydrating for our color-treated hair. This conditioner rated high in its softening capabilities. The thicker formula seemed substantial, but our hair seemed to drink it up quickly so it took a lot of product to cover our hair. The impractical bottle design along with the hard-to-squeeze plastic made it difficult to get the conditioner out, and we had to screw the top off in the end.

While the fresh-smelling conditioner softened our hair, it seemed to leave a dull residue on our hair and caused it to lack shine and smoothness. Overall, our hair didn't look frizzy, but it seemed weighed down. Initially, our hair seemed moisturized, but as the days went on, we felt our hair become dehydrated. This could be due to dimethicone in the product. Dimethicone provides slip to conditioners and detangles hair, but it can lead to build-up on hair (via Cosmopolitan). This can block water from entering the cuticle, which can cause limp, dry hair. This conditioner seems like a great deal at first, but it doesn't seem great for hair health.

Biolage Colorlast Conditioner: Runner-Up

Started in 1990 by hairdresser Arnie Miller, Biolage contains natural botanical extracts and a professional quality formula that is often used in salons. Biolage Colorlast Conditioner ($20) claims to preserve your hair color for nine weeks, in addition to detangling, softening, and leaving a shine to your hair. The paraben-free formula contains orchid extract, which the company claims is naturally "fade-defying."

This conditioner rated particularly high in formula. While the thick and slightly creamy formulation felt substantial, the product seemed to disappear on our hair. It felt like our hair was drinking up all the product, and it wasn't as rich as the Briogeo conditioner. If you have color-treated or bleached hair like we do, then this conditioner doesn't detangle as well as we'd like. Even though we used several hydrating products, our hair initially looked slightly frizzier and less smooth, and it felt like it lacked the necessary moisture required for color-treated hair

While we had to use a substantial amount of conditioner, it did soften our hair and gave it plenty of light and springy body. Within the next two days, we found that our hair looked much sleeker and had regained lost moisture. Despite its name, this conditioner seems like it would work best on oilier, non-color-treated hair that needs more volume. Regardless, we think we're sticking with the Briogeo conditioner for the perfect 'Gram-worthy "liquid hair."