Conditioners, Oils, Detanglers: When to Skimp and When to Splurge

It’s no secret that haircare and money go hand-in-hand. By far one of the most lucrative businesses, companies with natural lines are cropping up all over the place. Hand-in-hand with the high output of some natural creams, jellies, custards, cowashes, and conditioners, is a high price tag. But is it always worth it to spend gobs of money on your products? Let’s examine where it may be beneficial to spend extra, or save money in your regimen.

Pre-Poos & Oils: SPEND

In this area, cutting corners isn’t always the best idea. When it comes to oils for your hair — whether it be for sealing, pre-pooing, or other treatments, the higher the quality, the better. And generally speaking, higher quality comes with a higher price tag. Spend the extra bucks for oils that are virgin, cold pressed, unrefined, and contain at least 99% of said oil (sometimes, companies may add Vitamin E [tocopherol acetate] to oils to preserve and improve shelf life…this is fine). Virgin and cold pressed oils are not subjected to the same heat extractions and chemical additives that reduce the vitamin, nutrient, and fatty acid content of the oils. For the best bargains on quality oils, click here.

Conditioners: SAVE

Most conditioners (with the exception of like, Shea Moisture) are based in the following ingredients:

  • Water: depending on the brand, 50 – 80% of your conditioner is water
  • Fatty Alcohols: Cetyl, Cetaryl, and Stearyl Alcohols are those creamy bases, commonly derived from palm or coconut oil that act as emulsifying agents (helping oil and water mix) and contribute to that velvety feel of conditioner.
  • Behentrimonium Chloride or Methylsulfate: Conditioning agent great for adding softness, and surfactant (provides mild cleansing).

These ingredients constitute a considerable bulk of most conditioners, ranging from Suave and Herbal Essences, to Carol’s Daughter and DevaCurl. We use SO much conditioner one a regular basis, why spend $20 a bottle, when you can spend $3 and achieve the same results? Click here to check out some cheap conditioner swaps.

Cowashes: SAVE

Before all these hair lines began rolling out cowashes and cleansing conditioner, what were you washing your hair with? Chances are, you cowashed regularly and occasionally used shampoo (or some super-power natural clarifying agent). It worked for you, or else you wouldn’t have done it that way for so long. Why spend the extra money now? Click here for my recommendations on super cheap and super effective conditioners for cowashing.

Shampoos: DRAW

Most shampoos (even some that claim to be “sulfate free”) contain sulfates. It may not be SLS, but there are tons of sulfates, ranging in harshness, that companies use in shampoos. If you’re just looking for a good ol’ fashioned sulfate scrubdown, don’t spend tons of money on a fancy shampoo. If you shampoo often (weekly) and need a particular cleansing agent that is present in a top shelf shampoo, go for it. For those of us who tow the mid line (shampooing monthly, or less frequently), a good shampoo can be purchased for $10 or less, and last a long time. For more info on shampoos arranged by sulfate harshness, check out Jc’s article on The Natural Haven Bloom.

Deep Conditioners: SPEND

A good quality deep conditioner can be the difference between dry brittle hair, and hair that stays moisturized all week long. In this department, there are different formulations for different hair types and needs. If there were one area to splurge in, this would be the one. Some deep conditioners are protein heavy, oil based, or contain penetrating conditioning ingredients. If your hair happens to perform best when deep conditioned regularly with a more expensive product, don’t deny your hair…unless you can find one that performs just as well for cheaper. Of all my hair products, my deep conditioners are the most expensive. Please note that expensive for me is $12 – $15 for at least 10oz of product.

Detanglers: SAVE

Fancy detanglers are easily one of the easiest money suckers for naturals. We want a product that is going to melt tangles, remove shed hairs, and cut the time we spend unraveling knots in half. I’m sure somewhere out there, this product exists. But for the most part, most detanglers are just super slippery agents that make the process more bearable. I don’t know about you all, but I am heavy-handed when it comes to detanglers. My hair needs to be saturated with product to get going. If this is how you detangle, it doesn’t make sense to spend tons of money on a small bottle of detangling product — especially if you’re prone to use 2/3 of that bottle in one session. Cut your costs by investing in detanglers that come in bigger bottles, or serve more than one purpose (like a conditioner).

Styling Products: SAVE

I have to constantly remind myself of this one. Every new styling product isn’t meant for me to rush out and buy. In fact, in my excitement about a week ago, I spent $20 on a 12oz bottle of curling gel. I stared at the bottle for two days before my good sense kicked in. Needless to say, I returned it without ever using it. Although the ingredient list looked good, and everyone raves about the line, I could see myself dousing my hair in the product, using half the bottle in one styling session, and being mad. A $20 gel habit is something I can’t afford. Chances are, you can find comparable styling products (butters, creams, gels, jellies, taffies, custards and more) to those high end lines for $7 – $9….or make them yourself. If it’s a must-have product, or something that you have are just burning to try, keep your eyes peeled for sales. For example, I have been super curious about Nubian Heritage Indian Hemp & Tamanu Grow and Strengthen Edge Taming Taffy lately. But at $12 – $14 for a 6oz jar, I wasn’t willing to take the plunge. On Instagram I posted about CVS having a Shea Moisture & Nubian Heritage buy one get one half-off sale this week. Perfect timing to get 2 jars for $18. All products aren’t miracle workers, and don’t always live up to their claims. Keep that in mind when shopping!


What areas in your regimen do you skimp and splurge on?

For more from Christina check out her blog, The Mane Objective. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook.

Christina Patrice

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 Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.


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32 thoughts on “Conditioners, Oils, Detanglers: When to Skimp and When to Splurge

  1. I try to save where I can on all these and what I think I spent the most on was my DC which was Aubrey O-honeysuckle conditioner which was around £15-16 and was in my product junkie days and really wasn’t the best for me anyway.

    I have found I compare size to price (amongst other factors) on whether I decide to splurge. No matter how wonderful something is you need to be a decent size/amount plus a handful of awesomeness for me to think of splurging more than £10 on any DC or moisturiser (won’t even consider this for any of the other things as I have found other cheaper good quality alternatives that work fine).

    I spend most on shea butter (organic & fairtrade) but I buy in bulk and it lasts long and is affordable and works out to still be cheaper in the long run and has multi-use .

  2. I would say underneath my sink i have over $75 worth of hair products.. and to be honest when they all run out I am only repurchasing the thing i can afford this time. Which means a simple regimen for me.. I love my coconut oil, castor oil, and shea moisture leave in… I cant do without those.
    As for a cowash and deep conditioner, i wouldn’t mind trying something else, even though my deep conditioning (organic something) does fine.
    so…. great post as usual.

  3. I splurge on leave in conditioner(Giovanni), save on shampoo(don’t use it more then once a month), save on cowash conditioners, and splurge and save on deep conditioners. As for oils I use the same oils that I cook with(coconut and olive), and castor oil I buy from CVS. I buy Vatika when I can get to the Ethnic market, which is not often, but it’s very affordable.

  4. I do spend with the hair treatment because I know I only use it once in a week. But I also find shampoos and conditioner in one brand, because I have been believing they should come together, which should not be the issue. Great tips.

  5. Pingback: Cleansing & Conditioning Natural Hair | Anyiah Essentials

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