By Christi­na of The Mane Objec­tive

Let’s be hon­est here — there is big mon­ey in the hair­care indus­try. And at one time or anoth­er, we all fall prey to the allur­ing claims of “hair is 873% stronger after just one use!”, and fan­cy pack­ag­ing tout­ing super-ingre­di­ents and exot­ic oils. Many times, those daz­zling prod­ucts come with a hefty price tag. As a recov­er­ing prod­uct junkie, I am always look­ing for ways to reces­sion-proof my hair­care arse­nal, and save a few bucks. I have nev­er per­son­al­ly been a big believ­er in drop­ping major dough on hair­care prod­ucts, but I know there are many nat­u­rals who will spend upwards of $40 on a small bot­tle of con­di­tion­er and not bat an eye­lash. Some­times, the pur­chas­es are jus­ti­fied (for peo­ple who believe in uti­liz­ing exclu­sive, exot­ic, organ­ic, sil­i­cone-free, paraben free prod­ucts). Oth­er times, we have to just con­cede and admit that the sham­poo has been squirt­ed in our eyes.

I’m not sure about you all, but I am a con­di­tion­er freak. Hands down, it is the prod­uct that I buy most fre­quent­ly, and in the largest quan­ti­ties. My hair soaks it up like crazy. Suf­fice it to say, con­di­tion­er is my sta­ple prod­uct for every­thing — from co-wash­es, to leave-ins, to detan­gling, to deep con­di­tion­ing treat­ments and even styling. Since I use so much, I lit­er­al­ly can­not afford to spend $30 every two weeks on an 8oz bot­tle of the creamy con­coc­tion. While some of my sta­ple prod­ucts are bar­gain base­ment cheap by nature (Aussie Moist), oth­ers require me to do a lit­tle more work to get them to a desir­able price point. For more infor­ma­tion on get­ting expen­sive prod­ucts for less mon­ey, click here.

Before I get start­ed, please know that this arti­cle is guid­ed by the fol­low­ing para­me­ters:
–I live in LA. There­fore, all price points are guid­ed by what’s avail­able to me. Prices are based on my find­ings at Ulta Beau­ty and Tar­get, and refer specif­i­cal­ly to con­di­tion­ers only.
–For pur­pos­es of com­par­i­son, I am bas­ing every­thing on Jc’s find­ings on the impor­tance of the first five ingre­di­ents in a con­di­tion­er. Sure, many of the more expen­sive prod­ucts con­tain the com­plex chem­i­cal con­coc­tions, exot­ic and arbi­trary oils and extracts, but read the arti­cle here and under­stand why they’re more of a mar­ket­ing ploy than a mir­a­cle ingre­di­ent.
–I am not sug­gest­ing that the cheap­er prod­ucts work bet­ter — rather that for less mon­ey, you may be able to acquire a prod­uct with a sim­i­lar effect.
–The exam­ple prod­ucts used are not nec­es­sar­i­ly sil­i­cone or any­thing else-free. But for what it’s worth, none of the prod­ucts have sil­i­cones or parabens in their first 5 ingre­di­ents.

Now that we’ve got­ten that out the way, let’s get down to busi­ness. For most nat­u­rals, repairing/restoring, mois­ture, and curl def­i­n­i­tion are some of the most high­ly sought per­for­mance points for con­di­tion­ers and hair prod­ucts. In my jour­ney to Ulta Beau­ty and Tar­get, I sought out pop­u­lar expen­sive brands and poten­tial, more cost-effec­tive alter­na­tives:

Reparative Conditioner

CAROL’S DAUGHTER Monoi Repairing Conditioner vs. L’OREAL Eversleek Sulfate-Free Reparative Smoothing Conditioner

Price Point: Carol’s Daugh­ter will cost you $20.00 for an 8.5oz bot­tle, while the same size of L’Oreal prod­uct is only $5.99.

Carol’s Daugh­ter First 5: Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alco­hol, Stear­ami­do­propyl Dimethy­lamine, Glyc­erin, Isodo­de­cane

L’Oreal First 5: Aqua (Water), Cetearyl Alco­hol, Helianthus Annu­us Seed Oil (Sun­flower Seed Oil), Behent­ri­mo­ni­um Chlo­ride, Glyc­erin

Ingre­di­ent Break­down:
–50 — 80% of any giv­en con­di­tion­er is water alone.
–Cetearyl Alco­hol is a blend com­posed main­ly of Cetyl and Stearyl Alco­hols — waxy/creamy fat­ty alco­hols that act as emul­si­fiers and thick­en­ers.
–Stear­ami­do­propyl Dimethy­lamine is a sur­fec­tant and slip-adding alter­na­tive to sil­i­cones derived from rape­seeds (read: canola oil).
Glyc­erin is a humec­tant (absorbs and helps retain mois­ture)
–Isodo­de­cane is a hydro­car­bon ingre­di­ent and emol­lient, added to prod­ucts to pro­mote spread­abil­i­ty.
Sun­flower Seed Oil acts as an emol­lient, soft­en­ing agent, and con­tains valu­able fat­ty acids that help pre­vent hair break­age.
–Behent­ri­mo­ni­um Chlo­ride is a surfectant/cleansing, anti-sta­t­ic and con­di­tion­ing agent.

Why L’Oreal Wins: The Carol’s Daugh­ter Monoi line focus­es on “The reju­ve­nat­ing Monoi Oil – an age-old nour­ish­ing blend of Tahit­ian Tiare Gar­de­nia Flower and Coprah Coconut Oil – plus replen­ish­ing Bam­boo Water and Pro-vit­a­min B5 [to] help for­ti­fy dis­tressed hair against breaks and snaps”. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the oil blend ingre­di­ents don’t appear until 9th and 10th on the list. The Bam­boo Water? 14th. Pro-vit­a­min B5? 20th. By the way, Carol’s Daugh­ter has Sun­flower Seed too — but list­ed at 19th. L’Oreal on the oth­er hand, puts much of its adver­tis­ing stock in Sun­flower Seed oil, and lists the prod­uct at 3rd.

Moisturizing Conditioner

OJON Dry Recovery Hydrating Conditioner vs. SHEA MOISTURE Organic Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner

Price Point: Ojon’s prod­uct will set you back $23.00 for 8.5oz, while $9.99 gets you 12oz of Shea Mois­ture.

Ojon’s First 5: Water, Cetearyl Alco­hol, Shea But­ter, Palm Oil, Behent­ri­mo­ni­um Chlo­ride

Shea Moisture’s First 5: Deion­ized Water, Buty­ros­per­mum Parkii (Shea But­ter), Argan Oil, Coconut Oil, Behent­ri­mo­ni­um Chlo­ride

Ingre­di­ent Break­down:
Shea But­ter: Emol­lient fat from the nut of the East or West African shea nut tree used to mois­tur­ize and soft­en hair.
Palm Oil: Plant oil derived from the flesh of the palm fruit. It is an anti-bac­te­r­i­al, anti-oxi­dant oil rich in vit­a­mins A, E, D and K.
Argan Oil: Plant oil pro­duced from the ker­nels of the argan tree. It is a Vit­a­min A, E and anti-oxi­dant rich oil that nour­ish­es and pro­tects hair.
Coconut Oil: Oil extract­ed from the meat of coconuts. It is unique in the sense that it is one of the few oils that can pen­e­trate the hair shaft to pro­vide mois­ture. It also reduces pro­tein loss when used as a pre-poo treat­ment.

Why Shea Mois­ture Wins: Although the first five ingre­di­ents for both prod­ucts are pret­ty sim­i­lar, Shea Mois­ture gets you the bet­ter deal. Ojon’s pack­ag­ing states, “This rich and rapid dai­ly mois­ture-proof­ing sys­tem with the hair-repair­ing pow­er of nature’s gold­en elixir [Ojon oil] plus Blue Agave, Shea But­ter, Jojo­ba Oil and Babas­su Oil instant­ly quench­es parched strands and sur­rounds them in an invis­i­ble aura of pro­tec­tion”. With the excep­tion of shea but­ter and ojon (alm), all the oth­er oils are present in neg­li­gi­ble amounts. In fact, on a list of ingre­di­ents 14 rows long, agave doesn’t appear until the 11th row. Shea Moisture’s prod­uct gets you more bang for your buck; after water, the next three ingre­di­ents are oils.

Curl Defining Conditioner

DEVACURL One Condition vs. HERBAL ESSENCES Totally Twisted Curls

Price Point: For $18.95, you can have 12oz of DevaC­url. Or, you can get the same amount of Herbal Essences for $2.99.

DevaCurl’s First 5: Water (Aqua, Eau), Cetearyl Alco­hol, Behent­ri­mo­ni­um Chlo­ride, Glyc­erin, Gly­col Dis­tearate

Herbal Essences’ First 5: Water, Stearyl Alco­hol, Behent­ri­mo­ni­um Methyl­sul­fate, Prunus Seroti­na Fruit Extract (Wild Cher­ry), Orchid Extract

Ingre­di­ent Break­down:
–Gly­col Dis­tearate: Fat­ty acid com­pound that acts as an emol­lient and con­trols vis­cos­i­ty (read: thick­en­er)
–Behent­ri­mo­ni­um Metho­sul­fate: Ammo­ni­um salt that acts as a con­di­tion­ing agent and sur­fec­tant
Wild Cher­ry Fruit Extract: Fra­grant, mois­tur­iz­ing and con­di­tion­ing extract of dried wild cher­ry
–Orchid Extract: Con­di­tion­ing extract known for fra­grant and sooth­ing prop­er­ties

Why Herbal Essences Wins: DevaC­url is “Call­ing all curls” with their prod­uct line, focus­ing sole­ly on the niche mar­ket of tex­tured and curly hair. With curly hair need­ing much more mois­ture and TLC than straighter hair, this line appeals to nat­u­rals as a no-brain­er. But with the first 5 ingre­di­ents con­sti­tut­ing the vast major­i­ty of any prod­uct, I am hard pressed to find a rea­son why this par­tic­u­lar prod­uct stands apart from the rest and war­rants a near­ly $20 price tag. In fact, you may be bet­ter off with the Herbal Essences. At least some herbal-esque ingre­di­ents made it into the top 5.

The Bottom Line

Maybe you tried the less expen­sive prod­ucts, and didn’t like the results they gave. Maybe you used them incor­rect­ly (yes, even though you know it’s conditioner…reading the instruc­tions on the bot­tle gives you the best insight into a product’s intend­ed use). Or maybe you’re like most of us, and assumed that because a prod­uct is expen­sive, it con­tains expen­sive ingre­di­ents and must work well. If you dis­cov­er that you’re expen­sive prod­ucts work best for you, then keep doing what you’re doing. At the end of the day, the mantra of doing what works best for you still holds true. I am by no means sug­gest­ing that you raid your prod­uct stash, and toss out your $50 con­di­tion­er that a sales­per­son con­vinced you to buy. I just encour­age every­one to do their own research — under­stand that some­times, we are the vic­tim of our own illu­sions. We deceive our­selves into believ­ing that some things work, or are bet­ter because they cost more.…and that isn’t always the case.

Ladies, what are your favorite cheap alter­na­tives to expen­sive con­di­tion­ers? And which expen­sive con­di­tion­ers are worth the cash?

Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and liv­ing in Los Ange­les, Christi­na is BGLH’s res­i­dent tran­si­tion­ing expert and prod­uct junkie. In addi­tion to lov­ing all things hair, she is a fit­ness novice and advo­cate of wear­ing san­dals year-round. For more infor­ma­tion on tran­si­tion­ing, nat­ur­al hair, and her own hair jour­ney, vis­it maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pic­tures fol­low Christi­na on Insta­gram @maneobjective.

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80 Comments on "3 Cheap Alternatives to Expensive Natural Hair Conditioners"

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Infor­ma­tive arti­cle, thanks. The Shea Mois­ture restora­tive con­di­tion­er is the busi­ness. It’s def­i­nite­ly my go to con­di­tion­er since it is a rinse-out or leave in. If I’m between wash­es, a lit­tle water/aloe/infusium 23 spritz fol­lowed by this con­di­tion­er makes my 4b
hair soft and springy. <3


Exact­ly. I was get­ting ready to say that I live by the Shea Mois­ture Restora­tive con­di­tion­er. My hair loves th entire line so I stick with it.


I love Deva Curl One Con­di­tion. It is expen­sive, but it does to my hair what I want it to do. I tried Herbal Essence prod­ucts four years ago when I first went nat­ur­al, and I hate the per­fumey-ness of that brand. The fra­grance is so strong, it burns my nose. I’ll stick with One Con­di­tion for now.


Excel­lent arti­cle — real­ly enjoy­ing the addi­tion­al tips in the com­ments. Going to try the tip about adding oil to my con­di­tion­er

Curly Queen

Great arti­cle. I real­ly like how you broke down the com­par­i­son.


This was a good arti­cle, I like how they broke down all the ingre­di­ents. Luck­i­ly I’ve been pret­ty thrifty any­way and have been using the cheap­er ver­sions on my hair for the last few years :)


I usu­al­ly just by a big bot­tle of Cheap­ie con­di­tion­er and split it in half and add my own oils. Lasts me months, and I know for a fact what oils are in there.

I do the same thing. I use an emp­ty pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tion bot­tle and fill it with my cur­rent cheap con­di­tion­er, which is Tresseme’s split-end con­di­tion­er and pour a table­spoon of olive oil in it. I shake it up, and I use it to co-wash between bi-week­ly sham­poos or clar­i­fy­ing. It leaves my hair feel­ing like mag­ic! I think the proof of this lies with the fact that I no longer need to use gel of any kind to main­tain curl def­i­n­i­tion. My hair is so effec­tive­ly mois­tur­ized that I only need to apply coconut oil or cas­tor oil while wet… Read more »



Great Arti­cle! I think on some lev­el I’ll always be a prod­uct junkie but it’s nice to know when I can’t afford the high end stuff, I can get alter­na­tives. I love Devac­url One Con­di­tion so I’m excit­ed to try the Herbal Essens­es!

Ah the joy of no longer being a prod­uct junkie. This was a good arti­cle though Just goes to show you how impor­tant it is to read your ingre­di­ents list. Anoth­er good tip is to look for reoc­cur­ing ingre­di­ents in your favorite prod­ucts. Exam­ple: My hair loves cas­tor oil and I use to look for it on the ingre­di­ents list when pur­chas­ing a hair prod­uct. Now I don’t both­er. I just bought a bot­tle of the stuff(castor oil) and add it to my con­di­tion­ers as need­ed. I’ve done the same with coconut oil, aloe vera and even shea but­ter. I… Read more »

Great post. Thanks loads


great arti­cle! I nev­er spend more than ten bucks on a con­di­tion­er and this just proves why


very good post.


Enjoyed this post. Very infor­ma­tive.

Thick Nigerian Hair
The most expen­sive con­di­tion­er I bought was the $20 Carol’s Daugh­ter Black Vanil­la Smooth­ie. It was okay but not fan­tas­tic and the quan­ti­ty was so minute that I was done with that jar in about 2 uses. The worst cheap con­di­tion­er I’ve used is the Queen Helene Cho­les­terol; it did noth­ing for my hair and it smells (and I nev­er com­plain about fra­grances). Now, I just mix some Yes To Car­rots Pam­per­ing and Tre­semme Smooth & Silky con­di­tion­ers and add some coconut oil, Ojon Restora­tive Treat­ment, and CD Lisa’s Elixir. It stretch­es my pen­ny. The sec­ond the YTC runs out,… Read more »

Herbal Essences Hel­lo Hydra­tion is my con­di­tion­er, detan­gler, leave-in, styler, mois­tur­iz­er, and shav­ing cream for a measly $6 for the big bot­tle with a pump.


I LIVE for that conditionner!!…lol I thought I was the only one who also used it as a shav­ing cream,it has so much slip!!


I agree. It’s an all in one with a super cheap price tag that gave me bet­ter slip than when I tried my friend’s bot­tle of Wen.


Just want­ed to say my fav inex­pen­sive conditioner/masque is neu­tro­ge­na triple mois­ture deep recov­ery hair mask. About $5 per jar. I always have some handy.

regina s

i but using the cheap stuff not know­ing was that it was good prod­ucts any­way.


Very help­ful article.I too fol­low JC’s tips for pick­ing out a good conditioner.I have real­ly saved mon­ey that way.

My tip is to buy the sam­ple or trav­el size.It works for me and if i do like it then i buy the big size.Majority of brands whether online or drug­store do offer sam­ples.


I real­ly appre­ci­ate this infor­ma­tion. Do you know of any inex­pen­sive alter­na­tives to WEN. I real­ly love this con­di­tion­ing sham­poo brand but it is real­ly expen­sive.


Hey there! Sal­ly Beau­ty Sup­ply has a gener­ic ver­sion of WEN called Hair One.


I like WEN but I found the Hair One didn’t work as well. I was real­ly dis­ap­point­ed. Would like to try the Lisa Rinal­di ver­sion


Lore­al has a con­di­tion­ing cleanser out that I like bet­ter than Wen! It’s the Ever Sleek line.


Lisa Ridal also has a Wen substitute.…works very well. I found it in a beau­ty sup­ply store.


if the truth be told: there are lots of very cheap hair care prod­ucts out there that work — just as well if not bet­ter than the more expen­sive ones.


Right? My go to con­di­tion­er actu­al­ly comes from Dol­lar Tree. That means its $1!! It has glyc­erin, olive oil, jojo­ba oil, avo­ca­do oil, and aloe vera juice in it!! Makes my hair shiny and curly :)

Joan B. in S. C.

Yes, @Tyler, please pro­vide the name. These ingre­di­ents seem like every­thing I’ve been want­i­ng to try!








I real­ly liked this post cause though I think I am fair­ly con­science about read­ing labels the com­par­i­son aspect of this arti­cle is what real­ly opened my eyes. I don’t think I spend that much mon­ey on hair prod­ucts but the most expen­sive thing would have to be my $12 darcy’s botan­i­cals pump­kin seed con­di­tion­er which is some­thing I do not see myself giv­ing up any­time soon!


Love DB pump­kin seed con­dr!


I know right! I love my Darcy’s Botan­i­cals. The Cocoa Bean one is awe­some too. 

But gen­er­al­ly, I have found that expensive,mass pro­duced, com­mer­cial prod­ucts rarely have the ingre­di­ents to sup­port their pack­ag­ing claims. I’d nev­er have real­ized this had I not gone nat­ur­al and tak­en an inter­est in ingre­di­ents.


I have found that switch­ing to more afford­able prod­ucts has actu­al­ly worked bet­ter for me in the end. I use Nutress Instant con­di­tion­er as my pre-poo/ detan­gler. Nutress is real­ly afford­able. I just use the Stop Break spray and then put my EVCO after it to seal. This sim­ple rou­tine has grown my hair like crazy.