Are you unsatisfied with your hair texture? Do you feel like no amount of product or styling leaves you with the glossy, flyaway-free finish you want? Or do you suffer from scalp issues, like dryness or itching? Maybe you should try switching your hair conditioner for a Japanese one! However, with so many brands, like Kao, Shiseido, and Kracie, all available at various price points, it can get pretty daunting to decide on the best hair conditioner for you.
Our editors searched Japanese e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Rakuten, and Yahoo! Shopping for the best Japanese hair conditioners available online. We then picked out the 37 most popular products and tested them all.
Aki is a personal beauty advisor who's helped more than 50,000 clients. She is currently based at Skin Care Salon Tina Rossa, which opened in 2008 to provide treatment for hair and skin problems. She also works as a lecturer and writer, and appears on TV. Her qualifications include certified hairdresser/hair diagnostician, Aromatherapy Instructor with the Japan Aroma Environment Association, aromatherapist and organic advisor, and Coordinator for Nihon College of Health and Medical Science.
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
The expert oversees the Buying Guide only, and does not determine the products and services featured.
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While there's no concrete evidence to support this, some people online speculate that Japanese hair conditioner is more gentle and incredibly hydrating.
One possible reason is that Japanese hair conditioner is formulated for Asian hair in mind, which tends to be straighter and thicker in diameter than other ethnic groups.
Additionally, culturally speaking, Japanese people tend to wash their hair very frequently, with many people even washing their hair daily. This is likely due to the fact that Japan is fairly humid, and the culture takes cleanliness very seriously. However, washing your hair frequently can dry out your hair and scalp, which explains why Japanese hair conditioner is formulated to be gentle and moisturizing.
This is possible thanks to Japan's water hardness. According to a study published in 2021, compared to 27 other countries, Japanese tap water on average was found to have fewer minerals, with only 48.9 milligrams/liter, and is considered to be soft water. For comparison, roughly 80% of the U.S. has hard water with more minerals.
The most basic purpose of a conditioner is to make your hair smooth after shampooing. It should leave your hair detangled, so your fingers or comb pass through easily. It does this by coating the hair strands' surface, which dampens that squeaky feeling after washing as well as static electricity.
Hair treatments and masks are not much different from conditioners. They only vary slightly in their ingredients. Most conditioners have less silicone and fewer ingredients for repair and moisturizing.
We have some tips later on in the article about how to use conditioners and treatments, and what order to use them in after shampooing, so make sure to check those out!
When shopping around for the best Japanese conditioner for your hair, we recommend keeping these three points in mind.
Did you know hair length should be considered when choosing a conditioner? And of course, you want one that addresses any specific hair concerns you might have. Let's look at how different ingredients are better suited to some hair types and lengths than others.
If you have long hair and are concerned about things like split ends or styling damage, you want to look for moisturizing ingredients to help prevent further damage. Pair these with repairing ingredients. In addition to silicone, you can look for the ones our expert mentioned before (here's a recap.)
Silicone coats the hair very effectively, which not only makes hair cohesive, but it also improves gloss, detangles, and prevents static electricity. However, it can cause itching and acne on the scalp, so try to avoid applying it there.
If you have short, thinning, or weak hair, you can get more strength and elasticity by avoiding silicone in large amounts. Silicone can prevent moisture loss in dry hair and make it more hydrated, but it also weighs hair down. So if you want more volume, it will work against you.
Non-silicone conditioners tend to be lightweight and leave hair soft but strong. Look for simple formulas and ingredients.
Protein components in the conditioner's formula can replace the protein lost by dyeing, bleaching or other harsh chemical treatments. Look for moisturizing proteins like the following:
But if your hair is severely damaged, a conditioner might not be enough. In that case, we recommend using it in combination with another hair care product.
Especially in winter, when it can get really dry indoors, hair can suffer from loss of moisture due to evaporation. Supplement your hair with oils and moisturizers, but keep them in balanced proportions. This will prevent flyaways and dryness. Try to look for:
If you suffer from a dry scalp in addition to dry hair, stay away from shampoos with strong detergents. Amino acid-based shampoos are great for you because they won't remove too much sebum from the scalp. Look for ingredients that contain the term 'cocoyl.'
If you want your hair to be more manageable and cohesive, get a conditioner that can provide oils and water to give your hair a glossy finish. This is especially helpful in either dry or humid weather, when hair can get hard to control. Look for these ingredients:
Scalp and skin problems like inflammation, itching, irritation, acne and damaged skin can be caused by a conditioner's ingredients being left on the scalp. Some of the most common irritants are silicone, conditioning ingredients, UV absorbers and artificial colorants. Be sure to check for these if you're concerned about scalp problems.
Silicone, which produces a strong film, may cause itching and acne if not rinsed off fully. UV absorbers and coal tar pigments can also cause irritation. Even if a conditioner claims it provides scalp care, it might contain potential irritants! Be sure to rinse it completely and look for non-irritating formulas if you're worried about skincare.
If you use shampoo and conditioner from the same line, you'll be assured of a unified scent. But aside from that, there's no need to buy them in pairs. In particular, if your hair has severe damage, the conditioner that matches your shampoo may not provide enough repairing, so feel free to mix it up.
If you're not planning to stick to the same line, select your shampoo according to the condition of your scalp, and conditioner according to the needs of your hair.
For oily scalp, look for high detergency shampoos such as those with sodium laureth sulfate. To deal with hair damage or dryness, or if you have long hair, choose a conditioner with repairing and moisturizing ingredients. For volume on fine or short hair, get a conditioner with less silicone content.
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Scalp D Pack Medicated Conditioner
mybest's Top Choice! Superb Scalp and Hair Care
Merit the Conditioner
50 Years on the Market Means a Reliable Result
Demi Cosmetics Nicca Chemical
A Heavy Finish That Gives Luster to Dry Hair
Ma Cherie Air Feel Conditioner
Multiple Moisturizers for Conditioned and Smooth Hair
Dear Beaute Oil-In Conditioner Volume & Repair
Above Average and Easy to Find
Daiichi Sankyo Health Care
Minon Medicated Conditioner
A Moist Finish but Not for Scalp Care
Good for Post-Coloring Care, but Not Detangling
MUJI Aging Care Conditioner
Great Ingredients and Finish, but Not for Detangling
Almost a Perfect Finish, Just Needs Some More Moisturizing and Repair
Curel Medicated Conditioner
Basic Ingredients but Leaves Hair Moist and Smooth
Angfa's SCALP D Conditioner is made based on the concept of washing your scalp. There are many ingredients in this conditioner that help improve the health of your scalp and your hair - which is why it got a full score in our ingredients test.
As a conditioner that's basically made for your scalp, it's no surprise that there are no silicone and cationic ingredients. This means that you can scrub your scalp with no worries of damaging it. Aside from the scalp care function, there are also moisturizing and damage care ingredients formulated into this conditioner.
In our damage care and feel tests, this product also achieved scores above the average. We did notice a little dryness and flyaways after drying, but the hair came out soft with a beautiful shine, and overall, this conditioner did amazing in our tests.
With a slight herb scent, this conditioner is perfect for those who dislike overly sweet-smelling conditioners. This conditioner also suits any hair type, so we can confidently recommend this conditioner!
The Merit conditioner is a long-selling product that has been on the market for 50 years! This conditioner did not include any moisturizing or damage care ingredients so we were not able to give it a better score in the ingredients test, but it definitely left our hair smooth and tangle-free.
The hair was soft and smooth after using this, and after 6 hours of drying in low humidity, there were only a few flyaways at the end. The hair bundle overall looked cohesive and there was zero frizz.
A straight line of shine was immediately visible when we tried picking the hair up with the back of the comb, and this gloss was proof of its superb moisturizing ability. The hair was also tangle-free and we would highly recommend this for those with long hair.
With a light scent, this is also a great product for those who don't like conditioners with strong smells. If you are looking for an all-around great conditioner, we would highly recommend this.
Based on olive oil, Milleum comes in a big bottle. The overall finish of our test hair bundle was moist, even after six hours in low humidity, but there were some flyaways. When you lift the hair with a comb, the shine is apparent.
The hair separated easily but the overall finish of our hair bundle was moisturized and smooth, even after six hours in low humidity!
It has a heavy texture due to the silicone in the formula. This would be good for those who want to prevent drying, tangles and frizz. It does contain hydrolyzed collagen, but we wanted a few more moisturizers and hair-repair ingredients.
We were expecting more moisturization and damage care as we found hydrolyzed collagen listed in the ingredients, but this product managed to get a decent score based on its good balance between the silicone and nourishing ingredients.
The Ma Cherie conditioner helps suppress unpleasant scalp and hair odors with its fragrance. We found that stiffness and dryness in the hair seemed to return after drying for a few hours, but the hair bundle stayed cohesive without flyaways.
The shine and smoothness were adequate. There were many conditioning ingredients so we expected the hair to feel light and smooth after use, we actually found that it had a deeply moisturized feel instead.
Its large number of moisturizing ingredients means it could irritate the scalp if not rinsed well, which dropped the ingredients score a bit. But if you need moisturizing more than damage care, and aren't worried about sensitive scalp issues, it will work well for you.
If you're not one to be concerned about scalp irritation, and if you happen to be looking for a conditioner that leaves highly damaged hair moist and tangle-free, then this may be the conditioner for you.
Kracie's Himawari Conditioner is widely available and doesn't have any standout qualities, but it's above the average in all areas, too. It provides a gentle luster and smoothness.
It softens stiff hair, but in low humidity, hair can get dried out. There are few moisturizers and repairing ingredients, but the formula is volumizing. This conditioner helped us give a soft and glossy finish to tangle-free hair, so if you're not worried about moisture loss, it's a balanced and reliable option.
This ranked slightly above average in our ingredient test. With "Volume and Repair" in its name, the ingredients delivered as promised, but due to the little amount of moisturizing ingredients in the formula, we were unable to give it a high score.
Minon's Medicated Conditioner is formulated for sensitive and dry skin. With multiple moisturizing ingredients, we found that the hair was smooth and lustrous after use. This conditioner made our hair both visually and physically shiny and soft, leaving it exceptionally tangle-free.
This worked well in keeping the hair fluffy and voluminous, so we would recommend this to those with thinning, flat, or fine hair.
This ranked above average in our ingredient test and there were no particular problems with it, but there were some ingredients that we were a bit unsure of regarding irritation to the scalp, so we would recommend using this only on the hair.
Oshima Tsubaki's Premium Conditioner features camellia oil and three other ingredients derived from the camellia tree. There was no problem with its finish and its ingredients, but the detangling was not the best.
Our hair bundles were well moisturized even after 6 hours, so we would expect a long-lasting moisturizing effect. The score was not the highest as the hair ends became slightly dry afterward, but it was overall very moisturizing and long-lasting.
Because of the camellia-based ingredients, this got a relatively high score in our ingredients test. This conditioner is also great for post-color care as citric acid is blended into the formula, so if you're looking for a conditioner that helps with color retention, this might be worth checking out.
Muji's Aging Care Conditioner offers long-lasting moisturization and creates soft and smooth hair. The hair ends only dried out slightly, but it didn't do so well in our finger test. You'll also need to have your own refillable container to pour it into.
With a silky soft luster, we had no complaints about the finish. We also gave this conditioner full marks for it's ingredients as we found absolutely no problems with it. With moisturizing and damage care ingredients, this conditioner was almost as good as a hair treatment.
The only unfortunate thing was that the hair didn't detangle very well. Even with conditioning ingredients blended in, this result brought down its score to below average in the feel test.
Kao's Segreta focuses on volumizing thinning hair.
This product kept our hair bundle looking great, like a new calligraphy brush. The hairs had a glossy feel and smooth appearance, although there was a tiny bit of frizzle toward the tips.
The main ingredients of silicone and conditioners meant it also passed our feel test. But we wanted some more moisturizers and repairing ingredients, and some of those conditioners can be irritating on those with sensitive scalps. Overall, this led to an average score.
Kao's Curel Conditioner is medicated and made for those with a dry, sensitive scalp. Our damaged hair bundle was slightly glossy, moist and smooth after use, but unfortunately, it didn't help control flyaways.
It contains anti-inflammatory ingredients, but also contains ones you don't want to apply directly to the scalp. It was also lacking in moisturizing and nourishing ingredients, which earned it only an average score.
We put each product through a series of tests to check for the following:
How smooth and tangle-free they left hair
Then we gave them a score from 0.5 to 5 and ranked them.
Please note that the products listed in the ranking were not chosen by our expert, but independently scored after our editorial staff tested them. In addition, we do not guarantee you will see the exact results we did. Please read the product descriptions carefully before choosing.
Many people are looking for damage care in their conditioners, so we checked that first. We got bundles of hair that had been bleached, and then we subjected the bundles to a curling iron, hair dryer and comb.
After they all went through the same level of harsh treatment, we wet the bundles and applied conditioner, making sure to comb it through. We let it set in for six minutes, rinsed it out with lukewarm water, and dried the bundles under hot air at a constant temperature and wind speed.
Finally, the bundles were left in a room with a humidity of 30 percent or less for a period of six hours. After this final step, our editorial staff looked at the bundles to check whether the hair stayed together or had lots of flyaways and frizz, and how glossy it was. Then we scored them.
Next, we checked detangling. Could we run our fingers through the hair easily? Would combing it find knots?
To do this, we didn't actually rely on our fingers, but a machine that tests the level of friction as the hair passes through a comb. Our editorial staff tested them to get a baseline before using the conditioners, and then again after.
Aki Saito, a hair diagnostician and our expert for this article, checked the ingredients thoroughly and evaluated each conditioner. We asked her to focus on the following points:
Compared to hair masks and treatments, most conditioners have less moisturizing and repairing ingredients, and simpler formulas. So I wanted to highlight the ones to look for, which I considered in my evaluation. Here are some good ingredients for repair and moisturizing.
Ingredients I particularly paid attention to:
Some of us never read the usage instructions on a conditioner bottle, and just use it the way we've always done. But the back of the bottle will tell you how much product you actually need. This depends on the ingredients and of course varies, so you really should check.
Also, a lot of people think you should leave it in for a while. In fact, conditioner coats the hair immediately, so just rinse it right away. However, don't rinse it so there's no slippery feeling left at all. You should stop before your hair feels totally squeaky-clean.
And if the conditioner gets on your skin, some ingredients could cause irritation if they remain there. So do rinse your scalp thoroughly!
If the amount you should use isn't listed on the bottle, I recommend judging by the number of pumps. Use a half pump amount for short hair, a full pump for medium-length, and two or three pumps for long hair.
Those with severely damaged hair should consider using treatment before conditioner. If you bleach your hair or have UV damage, treatment will repair it first and the conditioner will protect it afterward.
Another tip: it's easier to apply conditioner to long hair by putting the product in a sink or basin filled with hot water and stirring it around. Immerse your hair in the conditioned water. This will allow the product to coat your hair evenly.
Now that you know which conditioner is best for you, and you know how to use it correctly, you're ready to up your game with some treatments! Check out these products to help with your damaged hair.
No. 1: Angfa | Scalp D Pack Medicated Conditioner
No. 2: Kao | Merit the Conditioner
No. 3: Demi Cosmetics Nicca Chemical | Milleum Conditioner
No. 4: Shiseido | Ma Cherie Air Feel Conditioner
No. 5: Kracie | Dear Beaute Oil-In Conditioner Volume & Repair
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