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Everything You Need to Know About Leave-In Conditioner

There are a number of hair products we put into our hair, no questions asked. Whether our stylist told us to do so or a friend highly recommended it, we apply the product and never really question why or what it is. But that ends today. And it starts with leave-in conditioner. We have many questions (as we’re sure you do too) about the sought-after product: What is leave-in conditioner?; who can use it?; how does it benefit our hair?; the list goes on. Thankfully, some experts were kind enough to provide all the info we were looking for. Living Proof Test Salon Stylist Molly Leahy and haircare expert Michele Pritchard dished on the tantalizing hair product. All your questions will be answered below, so keep scrolling!

What Is Leave-In Conditioner?

The product has been around for quite some time, but what exactly is it? Obviously, it’s meant to be left in the hair, hence the name. And that’s one of the biggest differences between a leave-in and a regular conditioner. Molly notes that they’re a hair treatment that “offers additional conditioning and moisturizing benefits that can help dry and damaged hair lay smoother and be easier to style.” Michele notes that it is often a spray “you mist into hair after getting out of the shower onto towel-dried hair. It will help detangle, soften, and protect your hair, and will give hair more manageability and shine.”

Can Every Hair Type Use the Product?

Not all hair products are made for every hair type. That’s just the way the shampoo rinses. Both Molly and Michele are quick to note that leave-in conditioner works for all hair types. From 1A to 4C, there is a leave-in for your fine strands and coily curls. That is all to say that not every leave-in product works for every hair type. “There are some that are better for thicker or frizzier hair and some that will be lighter for finer hair,” Michelle says. “Make sure to read the packaging to find the best one for your own hair type.” Molly points out that this is especially important for those with fine hair. “Fine, thin hair types should be a little more conservative with their application as it could weigh their hair down if they use too much,” she says.

Molly also notes that there is one hair type in particular that will benefit the most from this product—dry and damaged strands. “Because leave-in conditioners are meant to add moisture and conditioning, dry and damaged hair types will see the most noticeable benefits,” she calls out. So if your strands are damaged, opt for a leave-in conditioner ASAP.

How Do You Use Leave-In Conditioner Correctly?

When it comes to using leave-in conditioner, it’s fairly simple. But, there is plenty of room for error. Molly and Michele broke down the right way to use the product to get the most out of it in just three easy steps.

Step 1: Towel Dry Your Hair

The biggest mistake people make when applying this product is spritzing it on dripping wet strands. That won’t do you any good, nor will it allow the product to work its magic. “This will ensure you coat the hair more evenly and the spray stays on all strands and does not drip out,” Michele says. So gently towel dry your hair. Once it’s damp, move on to the next step in the process.

Step 2: Apply to Damp Strands

Now that your hair is a bit drier post-shower, it’s time to apply the product. Molly shares that you’ll want to mainly apply it to your mids to ends. It will differ for some depending on their hair type. “Some hair types that are particularly coarse or dry may be able to go up closer towards the roots with leave-in conditioner,” Molly shares. “It should mainly be applied to your ends or anywhere with the most dryness/damage.”

Step 3: Go About Your Day

And that’s it! Once the leave-in is applied, you can let your strands soak it up and allow it to fully work its magic. The product should last you to your next wash day. You can apply it once a week or more, depending on your hair type and its needs. Michele recommends you “get in a habit of spraying it in after every time you shower. Then the leave-in conditioner benefits last until you shampoo again and will help hair get healthier and healthier over time.”

Additionally, Molly points out that the leave-in counterpart does not replace the actual conditioner. “They are meant as an additional source of moisture,” she emphasizes. If you thought you could replace conditioner with a leave-in, you’re sorely mistaken.

Leave-In Conditioner Benefits

What does this product actually do for your strands? What are the most notable leave-in conditioner benefits? We’re glad you’re curious because so were we. Michele and Molly listed out all the best benefits this product has to offer:

  • Gives dry hair more moisture.
  • Lays the cuticle of the hair down smoother so it is less prone to be affected by physical damage (i.e. brushing, running hands through it).
  • Helps prevent new split ends from forming if used on a regular basis.
  • Strengthens damaged hair depending on the formula.
  • Can help prevent some frizz.
  • Detangles hair.
  • Adds shine.
  • Softens hair and gives it more manageability.
  • May double as a heat protectant.

The list of leave-in conditioner benefits goes on and on, but we’ll leave it at that for now.

Best Leave-In Conditioners for Every Hair Type

Now that you know virtually everything there is to know about this product, time to find the right one for you. Based on your hair type, we (along with the experts) know the best leave-in spray for you. We do have to tell you that there are affiliate links below, meaning we’ll make a small share of the sale from any purchase you make. Now that that’s out of the way, find the best leave-in conditioner for you!

1. Best Leave-In Conditioner for Fine Hair: Amika The Wizard Detangling Hair Primer

Michele specifically mentions this product for those with fine to medium hair. We love this one as well, especially given how well it gently detangles our fine strands. It also doubles as a heat protectant, so it’s a win-win.

Amika The Wizard Detangling Hair Primer
(via Sephora)

2. Best Leave-In Conditioner for Thick Hair: IGK Good Behavior

Medium to thick hair will really benefit from this spray recommended by Michele. This multi-tasking product detangles, protects against heat, controls frizz, and enhances shine. What more could you ask for?

IGK Good Behavior Leave-In Conditioner
(via IGK Hair)

3. Best Leave-In Conditioner for Color-Treated Hair: Pureology Color Fanatic Multi-Tasking Leave-In Spray

Those with color-treated hair will get a ton out of this leave-in spray. Michele recommends it because of the 21 (yes, 21) benefits it offers your strands. From nourishing and moisturizing to smoothing and shining, this product is a serious strand savior.

Pureology Color Fanatic Multi-Tasking Leave-In Spray
(via Pureology)

4. Best Leave-In Conditioner for Damaged Hair: Living Proof Restore Repair Leave-In

Molly is a huge fan of the Living Proof Restore Repair Leave-In, especially for those with damaged tresses and split ends galore. “It can prevent up to 93% of new split ends typically caused by styling and can make hair 15 times stronger after just one use,” she raves. “It is lightweight enough that finer hair types can use it but also conditioning enough that it will make damaged ends feel smoother. I’ve been using it for the past five years and it is still my favorite!”

Living Proof Restore Repair Leave-In
(via Living Proof)

5. Best Leave-In Conditioner for Curly Hair: Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner

Ouidad doesn’t just claim to be the curl experts, they are the curl experts. And this leave-in treatment proves just that. It’s lightweight enough to create a balanced, breathable foundation for your curls, but heavy-duty enough to give them the moisture they crave.

Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner
(via Ouidad)

Want to get the most out of your leave-in of choice? Find out how to HERE!

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