The most important thing I've learned from experimenting with products and regimens for my daughters' hair is to read labels. Conditioners are formulated to do specific things for specific hair. A host of conditioners are made of expensive ingredients, and promise to deliver miracles. Many people hope conditioners will reverse hair damage. I try to keep my daughters' hair healthy by avoiding heat, and chemicals relaxers. I treat their strands gently. I encourage them to drink lots of water, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. We grow strong strands from the inside out.
I don't believe a conditioner will force my daughters' hair to grow.
I don't believe a conditioner will repair split ends.
I don't believe a conditioner will make my daughters' nappy hair shine like the straight haired image on the packaging.
I don't believe the weekly application of a conditioner will restore the moisture balance of hair I routinely stress and dry out.
I don't believe conditioners repair heat damage.
Some conditioners do strengthen nappy hair over time by putting protein back into the shaft BUT it's a sensitive process. Too much protein may render the strands hard and brittle. I haven't needed to artificially restore strength of my daughters' hair, because my goal is to prevent the damage from happening in the first place.
I use conditioners to detangle my daughters' hair, and to introduce another layer of moisture after washing. Slip is a term used to describe a conditioner's ability to cause the shingles on the hair shaft to lay down. This creates a smooth surface which allows individual strands to slide against each other without snagging. I prize slip, because it greatly reduces my detangling time and makes the entire process more pleasant for my daughters. In my house, different conditioners work better for different daughters.
When testing conditioners for effectiveness, try one product at a time for at least a month, unless a clear negative outcome is experienced with the first use. Be careful to notice if your daughter's hair becomes dull, feels tacky, sheds excessively, or performs poorly over time. I've read that some people don't respond well to frizz fighting agents called "cones". You'll find them in the conditioner's list of ingredients with long words ending in "cone". The higher up on the list they appear, the greater their concentration in the conditioner.
Cones work by coating the hair shaft. Over time, they may weigh it down and promote dryness by blocking the penetration of water. A good shampoo is necessary for removing the build up of cones. If your daughter's hair responds poorly to cones, you will find many cone free natural conditioners.
If a conditioner is laden with ingredients I generally avoid it. Allergic reactions are more easily ferreted when we can easily identify what was offered. Simple conditioners, with a main purpose of moisturizing tend to be cheap and effective for us. A valuable tip I learned on the internet is to increase their "slip" value by mixing them with castor oil.
I use the following conditioners for my girls:
Suave Naturals (any flavor)
VO5 (any flavor)
Trader Joe's Nourish Spa
Trader Joe's Refresh
Like my shampoos, I water down my conditioners and apply it to my daughters' hair using a spray bottle. All my girls except Mocha Girl One (age 11) experience chalky build up unless I rinse conditioners from their hair completely.