Large mechanical brushes on a tunnel car was system wash the hood of a car from the automobile drivers perspective. Large mechanical brushes on a tunnel car was system wash the hood of a car from the automobile drivers perspective.

At-home hair conditioning products and treatments are enjoying a wave of newly-envisioned formulas and leave-in hair treatments boasting exciting formats and novel ingredients.

The hair conditioning scene is now dominated by proven and popular skincare ingredients, the rise of scalp microbiome care, and expanded haircare routines to encourage moisturization and hydration.   

In this article, we'll delve into all you need to know about hair conditioning, including the benefits of hair conditioner & deeper conditioning and the best ingredients for enhancing the health & look of your locks.

What Is Hair Conditioner?

Hair conditioner is a cosmetic product used to improve the appearance and texture of hair. A moisturizing or conditioning agent, hair conditioners are made up of humectants and emollients as their two primary ingredients, along with oils, silicones, and cationic surfactants (or soaps and detergents). 

Hair conditioners are typically applied to wet hair after shampoo and work to replenish moisture that's lost during the shampoo phase. They're typically rinsed out after use. 

The much-loved second step of our hair washing routines helps make hair more manageable, softer, smoother, and less frizzy. Hair conditioners can also work to prevent damage to the hair’s shaft and the onset of split ends. 

The view from inside a car looking through a water splashed windshield that is going through the spot free rinse section of a tunnel car wash. The view from inside a car looking through a water splashed windshield that is going through the spot free rinse section of a tunnel car wash.
Soapy water from a tunnel car was shystem drips down a blue car door and window.Soapy water from a tunnel car was shystem drips down a blue car door and window.

What Is Deep Conditioning?

Deep conditioning is a hair treatment that coats and manages the hair with nourishing ingredients. It's designed to add moisture and strength to the hair to create a slick, shiny, and smooth appearance. 

As the name suggests, deep conditioning goes one step further than regular conditioning and is left in the hair for a longer period of time, around 20-30 minutes, before it's rinsed out. Its texture is also thicker, creamier, and heavier than standard hair conditioners. 

Deep conditioning can detangle hair, improve smoothness, increase shine, and reduce frizz. The benefits of deep conditioning are also likely to last far longer than regular hair conditioners—even for days after their application—as they reach a deeper level of the hair strand than daily conditioners, which only hit the hair’s surface

Benefits of Using Hair Conditioner

Hair conditioners are products that treat and manage hair to maximize its health and appearance. Shoppers want products that not only help their hair but contribute to their overall health and wellbeing as well. They actively shop and spend on haircare that provides physical advantages and psychological boosts. 

Using a hair conditioner can provide many benefits, including:

  • It keeps your hair healthy
  • It improves your hair’s appearance
  • It's a convenient at-home treatment
  • It’s a luxurious and spa-like act of self-care
  • It encourages a healthy scalp
  • It can help to avoid hair loss and combat damage
  • It reduces frizz 
  • It makes your hair easier to manage
  • It promotes softer and shinier hair
The view from inside a car looking through a water splashed windshield that is going through the spot free rinse section of a tunnel car wash. The view from inside a car looking through a water splashed windshield that is going through the spot free rinse section of a tunnel car wash.
Soapy water from a tunnel car was shystem drips down a blue car door and window.Soapy water from a tunnel car was shystem drips down a blue car door and window.

Types of Hair Conditioner

Regular Hair Conditioners

A regular hair conditioner is typically the second stage of a consumers’ hair washing routine. Applying hair conditioner follows shampooing and is typically left on the hair for at least three minutes, before being rinsed out. 

Sometimes referred to as surface conditioner, regular conditioner gets this name as it is designed to only hydrate the outer layer of the hair strand. Regular hair conditioner products work to ensure the surface layer receives all of the product’s intended and beneficial properties. 

Regular hair conditioners can help to detangle the hair and reduce frizz, while also increasing its smoothness, moisture and shine.

Deep Conditioner

A deep conditioner provides hair with much-needed moisturization, improving its health and manageability by luxuriating locks with a longer and deeper treatment. It's a thick and creamy hair treatment applied to the hair and left on for some time before being rinsed out. 

Deep conditioners are packed with more nutrients than regular hair conditioners. These additional  humectants, emollients, and hydrolyzed proteins amplify the moisturization and strength-based benefits of hair conditioning.  

Deep conditioning takes place after shampooing and soaking wet hair to encourage easy detangling and maximum absorption. Detangling the hair from the ends right up to the roots promotes sought-after shine and smoothness, removing knots and tangles while avoiding damage. 

After application, consumers should rinse their hair with cold water to close and protect the hair’s cuticle—leaving it to enjoy the benefits of the hair conditioning treatment. 

Cleansing Conditioner

A cleansing conditioner (or co-washing or conditioner-only washing) cleanses, conditions, and nourishes the hair and scalp of dirt, oil, and product build-up. 

As a temporary no-shampoo treatment option, cleansing conditioners are 2-in-1 products that aim to combine the very best of shampoos and conditioners. 

However, it doesn’t mean it’s time to throw away the shampoo bottle yet, as cleansing conditioners do not create the lathered-up, soap-sudsy feel that shampoo users know and love. As cleansing conditioners can feel strange in contrast to traditional shampoos, they are recommended for use every few days so consumers can alternate with daily shampoo to provide a gentler alternative.

Cleansing conditioner formulas are ideal for haircare consumers with sensitive, dry, and damaged hair. They contain gentle surfactants that effectively remove dirt and the accumulation of haircare products while still being mild enough for daily use. Cleansing conditioners offer tender loving care to tresses by nourishing the hair without an additional haircare step.

The view from inside of a car looking out of the passenger window as a large yellow brush dries passenger side of the vehicle.The view from inside of a car looking out of the passenger window as a large yellow brush dries passenger side of the vehicle.
Soapy water from a tunnel car was shystem drips down a blue car door and window.Soapy water from a tunnel car was shystem drips down a blue car door and window.

Leave-In Conditioner

A leave-in conditioner (or no-rinse or leave-on conditioners) treats the hair after washing but before drying (though towel-dried hair is ideal) and styling it. 

Leave-in conditioners do what they say on the jar (or bottle or spray!) and are not washed out of the hair. Instead, they remain attached to hair strands and penetrate the hair shaft to encourage detangling, add moisture and hydration and protect it from damage—helping to keep the overall look and feel of the hair healthy. 

Products can be applied after shampooing and conditioning (yes, it does not have to replace regular conditioners). Leave-in conditioners are usually a more lightweight texture and are designed for various hair types, including dry, fine, damaged, textured, or color-treated hair. To make the most out of its moisturization properties, people with thicker hair may need to use more leave-in conditioner than those with fine hair.

Dry Conditioner

A dry conditioner provides moisture, fights frizz, detangles tresses, and stimulates shine. 

The dry and water-free product is sprayed onto hair after being washed and dried, appealing to haircare consumers' demand for waterless formulations. Dry conditioners are also ideal to use as a finishing spray to hydrate dry hair or give it a touch-up during the day, especially in hot and humid climates. 

8 Best Hair Conditioner Ingredients

Hair is made of protein fibers called collagen. Certain ingredients in hair conditioners can strengthen these collagen fibers, encouraging healthy hair growth and appearance. Other ingredients in conditioners help make hair smoother and easier to manage by reducing knots, tangles, flyaways, and frizz.

Formulators can select hair conditioning ingredients to reflect hair type, condition, needs, and concerns to maximize moisturization, management, and overall positive hair health.

1. Water

Water is used to formulate virtually every cosmetic and personal care product. It can be found in lotions, creams, makeup, moisturizers, personal care items, skincare, shampoo—and of course, hair conditioners. 

Hair conditioner shoppers are looking for healthy and hydrated tresses, and water is the number one natural moisturizer for our locks, making it a must-have in hair conditioners.

3. Behentrimonium Chloride

Behentrimonium chloride is an effective hair conditioning agent with antistatic and emulsifying properties. Haircare consumers are seeking conditioning products that pack plenty of moisture into their locks. Behentrimonium chloride boasts the amount of moisture content in the hair and provides manufacturers with a trusted and stabilized ingredient for hair conditioning formulas. 

The naturally-occurring ingredient is a popular choice in both hair conditioners and masks. Behentrimonium chloride, which comes from the Brassica rapa olifera (or rapeseed) plant’s seeds, helps reduce static and frizz in hair, making it smoother and more manageable. It also helps to keep oil and water in balance, creating a healthy, lustrous shine. 

Behentrimonium chloride is a type of trimonium which forms cationic chains that interact with the anionic charges in the hair’s protein structure. The attraction results in the ingredient’s conditioning properties, which are then passed onto the hair. 

5. Glycerin

Glycerin belongs to a key group of ingredients in hair conditioners, humectants. Humectants, and glycerin, in particular, are loved by consumers as they attract moisture from the environment and deep within the skin, bringing it to the surface. The moisture is absorbed, given to the hair, and locked in to provide hydration. 

Adding glycerin to a haircare routine can provide a much-needed moisture boost, particularly for consumers with dry hair. A 2016 study found glycerin to be “the most effective humectant” compared to alpha-hydroxy acids, propylene glycol, butylene glycol, urea, and sorbitol.

7. Dimethicone

Dimethicone is a type of silicone ingredient popular in hair conditioners for its ability to control frizz and give hair extra slip and shine.

It's often used to create hair conditioning formulas as it's known to detangle and smooth hair. Dimethicone can smooth down and bind the cuticles to the hair strand, giving it a silky texture and shine. It’s also valuable for heat-damaged hair as it has heat protectant benefits that help combat the impact of thermal styling.

Dimethicone creates a protective barrier on the hair’s outer layer, known as the cuticle, which contributes to the hair’s healthy appearance. However, it does not fully protect against water entering or escaping the hair cuticle. It comes in various polymer sizes and consistencies, from thin fluid to thick, gooey varieties. 

The ingredient is not water-soluble and, therefore, consumers perceive it to be hard to rinse off. Haircare shoppers may actively avoid it for its association with coating tresses with a greasy-like texture. However, dimethicone is recognized by the International Journal of Trichology for its ability to protect the hair shaft from abrasive handling, contributing to healthy and effective management. It is also known for its ability to develop hair strand density, giving the appearance of sought-after volume and lack of breakages.

2. Olive Oil

Olive oil is a natural ingredient that's known for its conditioning properties. It's respected and loved among hair conditioning aficionados for its ability to moisturize and strengthen hair. 

Another plus of olive oil in hair conditioning formulas is that the oil penetrates the hair shaft, preserving moisture and adding softness. It can help to smooth hair as well as reduce frizz. The shine often attributed to olive oil may also be due to the oil's ability to smooth the hair's outer cuticle.

Olive oil is considered a leading hair conditioning ingredient in dry and thick hair. It’s also a proven and popular ingredient to use on chemically-treated hair and to treat hair damage such as split ends.

4. Cetyl Alcohol

Alcohols are often associated with a drying effect on the scalp, but this isn’t the case for all. Some alcohols are put into haircare formulations for their immense hydrating and conditioning effect. Cetyl alcohol is one of them—and it has been recognized for its ability to work wonders in hair conditioners. 

Cetyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol that's often used in hair products. This fatty alcohol, derived from plants, is popular in major haircare products to relieve hair-related concerns. It's heavier than ethanol, for example, giving more hydration and moisturization to the hair for longer.  

The presence of cetyl alcohol in haircare products helps improve the manageability of hair and seal in moisture. It also helps to soften and smooth hair, providing shine and nourishment from root to tip, creating voluminous and vibrant hair.

6. Benzophenone

Benzophenone is an aromatic ketone that possesses UVB and UVA absorbing properties, designed to filter out harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Benzophenones are a type of organic compound often used in sunscreens  and provide beneficial properties in a range of haircare products, including shampoos, hair sprays, and hair conditioners. 

The ingredient works to protect the hair cuticle from UV damage. It also aims to preserve the results of specific chemical treatments such as hair dye use. It does this by maintaining the integrity of different ingredients and effects, such as color, scent, and stopping them from deteriorating in the sun.

8. Fructose

Fructose is a simple sugar molecule that is made up of glucose. It’s a water-soluble, colorless, and odorless crystalline substance with a sweetish taste. It’s a carbohydrate commonly found in various foods, such as fruits and honey, and is also produced commercially from sugar cane, sugar beets, and corn.

But what does all of this mean for hair care and hair conditioning, in particular? Well, fructose is known to have water-binding properties for hair, helping to hydrate and lock in moisture (the number one benefit shoppers want to see in their hair conditioning selections). 

Fructose has hygroscopic properties, which means the material can attract and keep water molecules by absorbing and adsorbing them from their surroundings. Absorbing refers to the complete absorption of a liquid into an absorbent material, while adsorbing relates to single molecules, atoms or ions gathering on the surface of a material. It works to condition the hair, softening and protecting it from environmental factors, making it a popular choice for hair conditioning formulas. 

Tips For Formulating Hair Conditioner Products

  • Design your hair conditioning formula for a specific hair type, need, or concern. 

  • Inspire and invigorate hair conditioning innovations by using hero skincare-related ingredients. Skincare remains an influential big sister to haircare.

  • Add scalp care benefits to your hair conditioning product. Scalp care formulations emphasise the importance of strengthening and caring for hair. They also focus on cleansing and moisturizing the scalp without stripping hair strands.

  • Consider health and wellness needs such as how your hair conditioner can help to enhance confidence and self-esteem and form part of a much-loved self care routine. Consumers want to find products that can help improve their external health and appearance as well as their internal wellbeing.

  • Explore eco-conscious formats that involve zero waste, such as conditioner bars, powder formats, and single-use tablet options that optimize water use.  

The view from inside of a car looking out of the passenger window as a large yellow brush dries passenger side of the vehicle.The view from inside of a car looking out of the passenger window as a large yellow brush dries passenger side of the vehicle.
Soapy water from a tunnel car was shystem drips down a blue car door and window.Soapy water from a tunnel car was shystem drips down a blue car door and window.

Shop Ingredients for Hair Conditioner Products

Whether you’re looking to create a deep, cleansing, leave-in, or dry conditioner, there’s a wide range of effective and in-demand ingredients to choose from.

Take a look at our entire ingredient portfolio for inspiration and ideas for your next hair conditioning product.

Contact Us for Formulation Support

Finding the perfect combination of hair conditioning ingredients for your specific conditioning hair product and consumers’ hair type can seem overwhelming. 

That’s why we’re on hand at every step of the formulation process, from concept to creation, to make it simple, stress-free, and successful. 

The view from inside of a car looking out of the passenger window as a large yellow brush dries passenger side of the vehicle.The view from inside of a car looking out of the passenger window as a large yellow brush dries passenger side of the vehicle.

Is it better to go to a car wash or wash at home?

The car wash market has seen steady growth over the past 20 years. International Carwash Association (ICA) research indicates that in 1996, 52.4% of consumers preferred at-home washing rather than going to a car wash. However, in 2014, that number reduced to 28.4%, with growth from 74.6% to over 71.6% of consumers favoring professional vehicle cleaning services. In 2019, it was estimated to be approximately 77%. Rather than washing at home, the benefits of going to a car wash include the following:

  • Convenience – Professional car wash facilities, especially tunnel car washes, offer time-saving convenience, which customers value. This includes the frequent adoption of mobile apps for online reservation booking systems to skip waiting lines and mobile payment systems for easy, cashless transactions. 
  • Affordability – A tunnel car wash averages around $15, depending on the type of specialty services also provided. Basic car washes are just about the same as spending for washing at home when you factor in the cost of soaps, sponges, cloths, buckets, and other necessary materials. However, car washes can provide more thorough cleaning specialties for a relatively low additional expense. Popular add-ons include undercarriage and engine cleaning; adding wax coats; tire cleaning; and interior deodorizing and sanitation. Many tunnel car wash operations offer customers loyalty benefits, including free washes and services for repeat visits.
  • Investment protection – Beyond vehicle hygiene, car washes can help sustain a car's value over time. This is especially vital when consumers look to sell or trade in an automobile, and the condition receives appraisal. Regular professional washes and add-on services like clear-coat protection can help guard a vehicle against UV rays, moisture, and various environmental impacts. Other typical road adversities, such as mud, grass clippings, bird droppings, and numerous corrosive types of debris that cause rust and paint fading can also impact the vehicle's overall value.
  • Improved fuel efficiency and maintenance – Believe it or not, regularly washed cars help to improve a vehicle's fuel economy. Layers of dirt and grime can potentially decrease airflow across the surface, making it less aerodynamic and increasing drag, which boosts the vehicle's fuel usage. Regular car washes can help save gas and prolong the vehicle's life to keep it on the road longer. 
  • Easier winter washing – The busiest time for car washes is during the winter when 32% of consumers opt to wash their vehicles (mainly because of the road salt on icy roads). Tunnel car washes provide a quicker, more convenient way to clean the car rather than washing it at home by hand in less than favorable, oft-rigid winter weather conditions.
  • Sustainability – It can be more environmentally conscious for consumers to take their vehicles to a tunnel car wash. Newer car wash facilities use water reclamation systems that reuse 90% of the water, so only 9 to 15 gallons of fresh water are used during the entire washing cycle. This is far less water than the estimated 40 to 140 gallons it can take to wash a car at home in a driveway. Additionally, at-home soap products and road debris are deposited directly into the city's water supply through storm drains. Car washes, however, have more wastewater regulation and are generally cleaned better. The sustainable approach is better for business, too. Tunnel washes currently optimizing water usage and green chemicals can reclaim and reuse water for eco-friendliness, and these operations can also turn cars faster on their conveyors. 


Specialty lab services

Innovating at the intersection of science, technology and consumer trends, Univar Solutions partners with customers and suppliers to create high-performing products and sustainable formulations.


Aquabio, Car Wash History: From Simple Beginnings to Modern Day Features:

Automatic Vehicle Wash, Tunnel Systems:, 5 long-lasting benefits of carwashing:, Going green: Save electricity, water and money:, Lessons in carwash tunnel layout:

Detail Pro POS, 20 Car Wash Statistics in 2021 That Will Surprise You:, Car Wash Industry Statistics:

How It Works, How does a car wash work?:

JBS Industries, 10 Trends You Should Know About the Car Wash Industry:

JBS Industries, Best Car Wash Add-Ons:

PSD Codax, Tunnel Car Wash Systems - A Beginner's Guide to Tunnel Car Wash Systems:

Sunset North Car Wash, Here's What (Tunnel) Car Washes Are Really Doing to Your Car:

Synchrony, 5 Reasons to Visit the Car Wash - and What to Watch Out For:

Thompson Sales Company, Wash Your Car Yourself or Take It Somewhere:

Tommy's Express, Do clean cars improve gas mileage?:, Tunnel Car Wash - All you need to know:, All you need to know about clean cars and fuel efficiency:

Western Carwash Association, Water Conservation: