Move over dry shampoo: there’s another waterless hair care product on the market. Dry conditioner is having a major beauty moment right now -  it adds shine, tames frizz and detangles, all without a drop of water. But does dry conditioner actually live up to the hype? Here, everything you need to know about this new beauty phenomenon...

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The difference between dry shampoo and dry conditioner

While dry shampoos typically contain alcohol, kaolin clay and starch to absorb oil, dry conditioners contain a host of softening, anti-static ingredients that nourish the hair. High quality dry conditioners generally contain plant oils as a base ingredient to nourish hair. Hair stylist Christopher Jordan from the Edwards & Co Melbourne salon says you should look for dry conditioners that contain “hydrolysed silk and antioxidants – these ingredients help strengthen, soften and keep the hair feeling hydrated.”

Dry shampoo is usually applied on the roots, but dry conditioner should only be spritzed from mid lengths onwards to prevent heaviness. Christopher says dry conditioner should always be used on dry hair. He recommends brushing the hair with a wide-tooth comb afterwards to evenly distribute the product. 

What’s the difference between dry conditioners and other hair nourishing products?

Unlike traditional conditioner, dry conditioner is less emollient and adds more texture to the hair. Think of it as a light treatment that adds gloss, removes static and tames frizz. According to Juhee Han, a bridal hair stylist and makeup artist, dry conditioner is easier to layer than traditional hair serums because the finish is less creamy and slightly grittier. In fact, you can use dry conditioners to extend your blowdry and hold your hairstyle in place. Dry conditioners and shampoos have one thing in common: they both offer volume. While dry shampoo can add major body, dry conditioners give the hair a very subtle lift.

KIM KARDASHIAN IS A REPORTED FAN OF DRY CONDITIONER. SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Why it’s perfect for frizzy hair

The molecules of dry conditioners are small, and therefore can “penetrate the cuticle of the hair, creating smoothness and shine,” according to Christopher. That’s precisely why dry conditioners work best on hair that has natural curls, waves and frizzy hair – because these hair types have the most porous or open cuticles.

Should you ditch conditioner for good?

Dry conditioner, whilst hydrating, is not as nourishing, and doesn’t penetrate the hair shafts as deeply as its in-shower counterpart. Christopher explains that dry conditioner is a styling product, not a hair care product. “Normal conditioners are a care product and designed to physically smooth and shut the cuticle of the hair fibre post-shampoo,” he says. So think of dry conditioner as your ‘in between’ treatment to soothe damaged, or lacklustre tresses before the next condition.

FYI: when we cleanse our hair with shampoo, our hair cuticles open. Conditioners complete the process by closing the hair cuticles. Closed hair cuticles reflect more light (read: look glossier and more radiant) and take on a smoother, softer texture.

The ultimate dry conditioner?

Christopher Jordan’s holy grail dry conditioner is the Oribe Soft Dry Conditioner. The super precise applicator is a bonus, enabling you to laser in on specific areas, and the nozzle dispenses the perfect amount of product. As for the actual results? “Luxe in a can!” Christopher shares. “It gives your hair a lightweight cashmere, soft feel – with luminous shine”. It’s also suitable for those who are opting for a clean and green choice – this dry conditioner is free from synthetics such as parabens, sulfates and sodium chloride.

Juhee Han’s top pick is Kristin Ess’s Dry Conditioner, which she uses as the finishing touch for all her bridal clients. Juhee says it holds hairstyles in place beautifully and tames frizz immediately. Ultimately, her clients love the gloss it imparts and how it de-tangles knots effortlessly.

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Story by Kristina Zhou

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