The Best Way To Use Leave-In Conditioner For Every Hair Type

Experts break it all down.

Wondering how to use leave-in conditioner? You're not alone: Leave-in conditioners can offer amazing...

If you’re looking for something to really nourish dry, damaged hair, there’s one product you should consider adding to your haircare routine: leave-in conditioner. If you have thick or dry hair, it’s probably already a crucial part of your regimen. But even if your hair is fine, you can learn how to use leave-in conditioner without weighing your strands down.

“Leave-in-conditioner is a lightweight product that provides extra moisture, detangles, and prevents hair damage,” says celebrity hairstylist and featured educator for Cantu Beauty Angela Stevens. “Unlike normal conditioner, leave-in-conditioner does not need to be rinsed out and is suitable for all hair types, particularly dry, color-treated, or curly hair.”

“It’s intended to be used after you get out of the shower, but before you dry and/or style your hair to provide additional detangling, moisturizing, and heat-protecting properties,” adds braid stylist and lead stylist at BEAUTYBEEZ Geneva Fowler.

How To Use Leave-In Conditioner

Application varies from product to product (make sure you follow the instructions on the label), but is generally straightforward. Once you towel dry your hair, you’ll want to work in the product. Next, you typically comb or brush your hair to evenly distribute it throughout. Then, you can either air-dry or style your hair as usual. There’s no need to rinse it out.

Leave-in conditioner isn’t meant to replace the regular conditioner you use in the shower. Instead, think of it as an extra boost of hydration to help keep your mane in optimal shape. They come in many different formulas — from creams to sprays — but it’s most important to look closely at the ingredients label. “Depending on the benefits you are looking for, there are plenty of different ingredients that you should look for in a good leave-in conditioner,” says Fowler. “Some ingredients that I always like to look for are shea butter, almond oil, jojoba oil, aloe vera, sunflower oil, and grape seed extract.”

Every type of hair — thin, coarse, short, long, curly, etc. — can benefit from a leave-in conditioner. And luckily, there’s a great option for every hair type. Below, Fowler and Stevens share their picks.

Type 2-3 Curly Hair

Stevens says type 2-3 curls tend to be more resistant to styling and will frizz easily. For those reasons, she says to look for a thick, frizz-reducing conditioner to help define your curls. You’ll also want to look for products that provide intense moisture and are formulated for coarse hair.

Fowler recommends something like Kinky-Curly Knot Today Leave-In. She says it’s lightweight and will glide right on your curls to really make them really “pop.”

Type 4 Curly Hair

Type 4 hair tends to get dry more quickly, making it very fragile. It’s super important to keep those coils moisturized. Fowler says to look for a leave-in conditioner that not only hydrates but also strengthens curls’ elasticity to minimize breakage and shrinkage.

Stevens agrees and adds that her pick is the Cantu Leave-In Conditioning Cream, which she says deeply penetrates hair with pure shea butter and other oils to keep natural hair moisturized.

Thin Or Fine Hair

Stevens says to find lightweight and hydrating leave-in-conditioners that will strengthen strands and prevent breakage in fine hair. She adds that you’ll only want to apply product towards the ends to prevent the hair from getting too greasy and weighed down.

Fowler recommends a spray like Pravana’s Intense Therapy Leave-In because it will help detangle, moisturize, and build strength.

Damaged Hair

Fowler says that damaged hair needs a product that will repair breakage and prevent further damage. She recommends looking for leave-in conditioners that have nourishing ingredients like amino acids, green tea leaf extract, and argan oil to help treat and protect your strands.

Her pick is the It’s A 10 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner; she says it’s restorative and shields hair from environmental damage.

Wavy Hair

Fowler says that because wavy hair is susceptible to frizz and split ends, you want to look for a leave-in conditioner that smooths and is protective. Her pick is the Biosilk’s Silk Therapy Original because it’s replenishing, frizz-fighting, and will really help define your waves.

Stevens suggests looking for a leave-in conditioner that’s lightweight and includes nourishing and hydrating ingredients like vitamin E and shea butter. (Her personal pick is the Cantu Avocado Hydrating Conditioner).

Very Short Hair

If you have a super short pixie cut, both Fowler and Stevens say it’s important to find a leave-in conditioner that won’t weigh hair down. Stevens says to opt for replenishing leave-in conditioners and apply a minimal amount from mid-strands to tips.

Fowler recommends something like the Uncle Funky’s Daughter Midnite Train Leave-In Conditioner.

Color-Treated Hair

Fowler says that color-treated hair needs a leave-in conditioner that is strengthening but also sulfate-free.

Her pick is the Amika Vault Leave-In Conditioner for Color-Treated Hair which detangles, softens, and keeps color vibrant with its UV filters and antioxidants.

Thick Hair

For thick, curly, or coarse hair, you’ll want to make sure you find a leave-in conditioner that adds moisture, shine, and smoothness. Stevens says something like the Cantu Avocado Leave-In Conditioner Cream is specifically made for this textured hair.