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What is Leave-In Conditioner?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 21, 2024
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Leave-in conditioner is a hair care product that is applied after a person showers, and which is left in the hair until the next washing. Many regular hair conditioners are fairly dense or contain oils, and may be difficult to wash out of the hair to get that squeaky clean feel. Leave-in conditioner tends to rely not on oils, which could make the hair look greasy, but instead use products like glycerin, which can help calm tangled hair or impart a little moisture to dry hair.


There are numerous leave-in conditioners on the market, and judging how effectively they work can be difficult; perhaps knowing why a person's hair may benefit from using a leave-in conditioner will help determine its effectiveness. Hair stylists often say that moisturizing the hair is just as important as moisturizing the skin and leave-in conditioner is a great moisturizer. If a person is looking to get rid of tangled hair, inexpensive leave-in conditioners are probably just as effective as more expensive brands.

Some other hair products have leave-in conditioner built in. People who use hair gel, mousse, styling cream, pomade, or wax might find that the light oils or glycerin in these products will add extra moisture to the hair and may protect it slightly from exposure to the sun, or from damage caused by styling. It usually isn't necessary to use a leave-in conditioner when using other styling products.

Purchasing Information

Most beauty supply stores sell a variety of leave-in conditioners, and most stores that sell hair care products sell some version of the product, and it can also be purchased on the Internet, but shipping charges usually apply. There is a wide variance in prices, from about $2 to $3 US Dollars (USD) for basic brands, to over $20 to $50 USD for the same size bottle made by a famous hair designer.

Within this range of products, consumers will find those made specifically for vegans, those with more chemical ingredients, different scents, and different oils. There are plenty of less well-known brands that are relatively inexpensive, generally work well, and which are made of more natural ingredients. The more popular brands, though they may have more chemicals, also tend to work pretty well.

Test it Out

Leave-in conditioners that have lots of oil — and some do — may make the hair feel weighed down or simply leave it looking greasy. It is a good idea to test out a few to see which one seems to provide moisture without making hair look unwashed. Beauty supply stores often sell samples of different brands for a fair price, or even sometimes for free, so consumers can give a product a test before committing to buying one they won't end up using.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By stoneMason — On Dec 19, 2012

@anon120849-- I apply to towel-dried hair because otherwise you will lose some of the product when you dry it with the towel.

After I wash my hair, I let it sit in the towel for five minutes to get rid of the excess water. Then I apply leave-in conditioner and blow-dry.

Some leave-in conditioners can also be applied to dry hair, after you've washed and dried it.

Just read the directions on the label, it should specify whether it is to be used only on towel-dried hair or if it can be used on dry hair as well. My silk leave in conditioner can be used both ways.

By burcinc — On Dec 19, 2012

@ysmina-- No, because leave-in conditioner is not applied to the scalp, only to the ends of hair. Hold your hair as if you're making a pony tail and apply a dime-size product to the ends.

There is no reason to apply it on the scalp because leave-in conditioner is meant to condition the ends of hair to prevent and treat damage. It will moisturize it and also tame fly-aways, but taming fly-aways is not the main purpose of the product.

I use a cream leave-in conditioner every time I wash my hair. I also use regular conditioner in the shower. I'm able to prevent split ends this way.

By ysmina — On Dec 18, 2012

Will leave-in conditioner make my scalp greasy or cause dandruff?

By anon163777 — On Mar 29, 2011

Women with finer hair types tell me they prefer the spray leave-ins while I prefer cream leave-ins on my coarse Asian hair. I've had leave-in sprays but they either provide insufficient conditioning or they require more product per application than a cream.

What's right for you depends on your styling habits (I air dry, don't style), lifestyle (I live in the northern hemisphere with fewer sun hours than say, someone in a Mediterranean country) and hair type (fine, coarse, various curly and wavy types, mature).

By anon120849 — On Oct 22, 2010

Do you apply to wet hair or towel dry hair?

By anon111539 — On Sep 17, 2010

caluwi: some leave-in conditioners are sprays, but some are creams. sprays you just spray and creams you rub in from midlength and down.

anon844571: you put leave in's in after a normal shampoo and conditioner

anon58035: they are bought in drugstores and hair care places.

By anon85708 — On May 21, 2010

The best I have ever found is Influx 33. A cosmetologist turned me on to this years ago. Leaves No More Tears in the dust! Doesn't weigh the hair down. I can even skip conditioner. We love this product and it is pretty inexpensive. If there is one that works as good, we sure haven't found it! We use it as a spray after shampooing.

By anon84471 — On May 15, 2010

do you put it in after normal shampoo and conditioner in the shower? or just after shampoo in the shower?

By anon75991 — On Apr 08, 2010

I prefer a cream leave-in as opposed to spray in. The cream leave-in gives my hair body, thickness while keeping it healthy looking. I shampoo 1-2, but use the leave-in daily, I just rinse it out each morning and reapply. When my hair looks like it needs a wash then I do it. I have fine straight hair and this is way better than the tons of products I used to use.

By anon58035 — On Dec 29, 2009

Where can you buy them? The same place where you buy your normal shampoo and conditioner? Because I haven't seen any.

By caluwi — On Aug 14, 2009

Are most leave-in conditioners designed to be sprayed in or worked through the hair like you would a regular conditioner? I've never used leave-in conditioner, because I'm always afraid that it will make my hair look oily, but a light, spray-in treatment that just tamed flyaways would be nice.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia...
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