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Best Leave-In Conditioners

Updated March 2023
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Best of the Best
Milk_shake Leave-In Conditioner
Leave-In Conditioner
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Simple Yet Solid
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A reasonably priced option for detangling hair while also moisturizing.


This leave-in conditioner contains milk protein that helps with the health of your hair and has a great scent. It detangles, so brushing is more manageable and also can help colour-treated hair not to fade. It contains papaya, strawberry, honey, and sunflower extracts.


Some buyers said the scent was overwhelming or that the product made their hair dry.

Best Bang for the Buck
CANTU Shea Butter Leave-In Conditioning Repair Cream, 2 Pack
Shea Butter Leave-In Conditioning Repair Cream, 2 Pack
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Best for Curly Hair
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This affordable hair repair cream makes curly hair soft and moisturized.


Cantu shea-butter cream conditioner helps damaged and dry hair to feel its best. It can be left in the hair overnight to help with extreme dryness. It is intended for curly and wavy hair and has excellent reviews at 4.3 out of 5 stars.


Some buyers expressed disappointment with the product size; it comes in a small container.

Paul Mitchell Original The Conditioner
Paul Mitchell
Original The Conditioner
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A good choice if your hair is dry and prone to frizziness or split ends.


This product deeply moisturizes to soften and nourish dry and frizzy hair types. The bottle is large so it lasts for a long time, and it rinses out of hair easily. Plus, this leave-in conditioner comes from a trusted brand that you know.


A few have said it left their hair greasy.

CHI Keratin Leave-In Conditioner
Keratin Leave-In Conditioner
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A lightweight leave-in conditioner with unbeatable detangling power.


This leave-in conditioner works on fine hair without weighing it down. It softens and boosts shine. It is the best for detangling, and it contains keratin for hair health and also has jojoba and argon oils to keep your hair looking great.


A few say it left their hair crunchy.

Giovanni Direct Leave-In Weightless Moisture Conditioner
Direct Leave-In Weightless Moisture Conditioner
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All-Natural Quality
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Worth considering if you're looking for a natural leave-in conditioner.


Won't weigh your hair down. Softens and smooths hair. Uses natural, organic ingredients and is vegan and cruelty-free. Works for all hair types. Color-safe. Contains vitamin E and aloe vera, among other natural ingredients.


Some have said it dried their hair out instead of moisturizing.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.About BestReviews 

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best leave-in conditioners

Moisture is key for shiny, healthy hair, which is why most of us use a traditional conditioner every time we wash our hair. Sometimes, however, that’s not enough to hydrate your locks, smooth frizz, and boost shine. That’s where a leave-in conditioner comes in.

Because you don’t rinse it out, a leave-in conditioner keeps your hair hydrated all day long – but only if you find the right one. You need to select the formula and ingredients that are most effective for your hair type. With the wide array of leave-in conditioners on the market, sorting through the options can be overwhelming.

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If your hair needs some extra TLC, apply leave-in conditioner before you go to bed. It will hydrate and strengthen your hair overnight, so you wake up with smooth, shiny locks.

What is leave-in conditioner?

As with a traditional conditioner, a leave-in conditioner is a hair care product that you apply to your hair after shampoo. However, you don’t rinse out a leave-in conditioner.

You can use a leave-in conditioner in conjunction with a rinse-out conditioner or on its own, but it should be applied to towel-dried hair and combed through to evenly coat your hair.

Once you’ve worked the conditioner into your hair, style your hair as you normally would.

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Not all leave-in conditioners are meant to be used every day. Check the recommended usage instructions to see if your leave-in conditioner is suitable for daily use.

Benefits of leave-in conditioners

Keeps conditioning

Unlike a traditional conditioner, which you rinse out of your hair, a leave-in conditioner stays in your hair even after it’s dry. This allows it to continue conditioning your hair throughout the day.

Adds moisture

Like a traditional conditioner, the main benefit of a leave-in conditioner is that it provides hydration for your hair. Applying leave-in conditioner to wet or damp hair locks in moisture, which smooths and softens hair.

"Use a wide-tooth comb to work leave-in conditioner through your hair when it’s wet. Hair is most fragile when wet, and a comb is less likely to damage your locks than a brush."

Provides heat protection

If you use a blow dryer, curling iron, or flat iron on your hair, leave-in conditioner guards against damage from heat styling.

Helps detangle

For anyone who has trouble with tangles or knots after showering, a leave-in conditioner provides extra slip that makes it easier to work a comb through your locks.

Preps hair for styling

Because it smooths hair and minimizes frizz, a leave-in conditioner leaves your hair in perfect condition for styling. It can boost the styling power of your favorite gel, mousse, or pomade, too.

What to consider when choosing a leave-in conditioner


Leave-in conditioners are usually scented. The fragrances vary from sweet fruity scents to more herbal, woodsy notes.

However, if you have sensitive skin or particularly dry, damaged hair, it’s a good idea to look for a fragrance-free formula. Chemical fragrances can irritate sensitive skin and strip moisture from damaged hair.

"Avoid applying leave-in conditioner too close to your scalp or roots. It can make your hair look greasy."


Leave-in conditioners usually come in either spray or cream formulas. Both provide the same benefits, but one may work better than the other depending on your hair type.

  • Spray: A spray leave-in conditioner is a water-based formula with a lightweight consistency. Sprays are ideal for fine or thin hair that would be weighed down by heavy creams. With a spray formula, you simply mist the leave-in conditioner over your hair and work it through with a comb.

  • Cream: A cream leave-in conditioner has a heavier, thicker consistency for more moisture. Creams are ideal for dry, thick, coarse, or damaged hair that needs as much hydration as it can get. To use a cream leave-in conditioner, dispense a small amount of the product into your hands, and massage it through your hair with your fingers. Follow up with a comb to make sure the conditioner is evenly distributed.

"If you have extremely fine or oily hair, you may want to skip traditional conditioner all together, and use a spray leave-in conditioner for lightweight moisture. It will hydrate your hair just enough without weighing it down."


Leave-in conditioners typically contain hydrating ingredients that not only moisturize but help draw moisture to your hair.

  • Glycerin is a humectant that attracts and retains moisture.

  • Fatty acids like alpha-linolenic acid and stearic acid boost your hair’s shine, promote hair growth, and soothe dry, irritated scalps.

  • Cationic surfactants like citrate, lactate, and propionate lubricate hair to make it easier to detangle.

  • Proteins like keratin strengthen hair and heal damage and breakage.

  • Plant oils like jojoba oil and olive oil hydrate, smooth, repair damage, and boost shine.

  • Silicones like dimethicone and amodimethicone are lubricants that reduce moisture loss and make hair less porous and prone to frizz. Some silicones build up in the hair, though, so look for a formula that lists them lower down in the ingredients.

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Did you know?
Some leave-in conditioners contain SPF to protect your hair from UV rays, which can fade color and dehydrate your locks.

How much do leave-in conditioners cost?

Leave-in conditioners range in price depending on the formula and the size. In most cases, you’ll pay between $4 and $70.

Spray leave-in conditioners

  • Budget-friendly: A spray leave-in conditioner in a standard eight-ounce bottle usually costs $4 to $15.

  • Mid-range: A spray leave-in conditioner in a 15- to 16-ounce bottle usually costs $12 to $20.

  • Expensive: A spray leave-in conditioner in a 20- to 28-ounce bottle usually costs $18 to $32.

"Want quick, easy waves? Apply leave-in conditioner to your hair and braid it. Leave the braids in place overnight. When you undo them in the morning, you’ll have soft, loose waves."

Cream leave-in conditioners

  • Budget-friendly: A cream leave-in conditioner in a four- to eight-ounce bottle usually costs $5 to $18.

  • Mid-range: A cream leave-in conditioner in a 10- to 16-ounce bottle usually costs $15 to $42.

  • Expensive: A cream leave-in conditioner in a 20- to 34-ounce bottle usually costs $35 to $70.

Tips for using leave-in conditioner

  • For the best results, apply leave-in conditioner to wet hair, so it absorbs more easily.

  • While your hair should be wet, it shouldn’t be dripping. Dry it with a towel after washing to remove excess water.

  • Focus leave-in conditioner on the areas of your hair that are damaged. In most cases, the ends of your hair require the most conditioning.

  • Whether you use a spray or cream leave-in conditioner, it’s a good idea to work it through your hair with a comb to make sure it’s evenly distributed.

  • Once you’ve applied your leave-in conditioner, style your hair as you normally would. Leave-in conditioner works as a heat protectant, so you don’t need to use a second product if you plan to heat style your hair.

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Leave-in conditioners can revive your curls in between washes. Dilute the conditioner with a little water, and scrunch it into your hair to define the curls.


Q. Can I use a traditional rinse-out conditioner and leave-in conditioner?

A. Yes. Leave-in conditioner is meant to provide additional moisture and protection, so it’s designed to be used in conjunction with traditional conditioner. Wash your hair with your favorite shampoo, and follow up with your usual rinse-out conditioner. Apply leave-in conditioner while your hair is still wet to add extra hydration. Leave-in conditioner also coats your hair to protect it from heat and environmental factors.

Q. Can leave-in conditioner be used on dry hair?

A. While most leave-in conditioners should be used on damp hair for better absorption, some can also be used as daily moisturizers. With these leave-in conditioners, you can apply a small amount to the ends of dry hair to hydrate and smooth. Be careful not to use too much leave-in conditioner on dry hair, though; it may leave your hair looking greasy.

Q. Can leave-in conditioner help with hair growth?

A. Leave-in conditioner won’t give you longer locks overnight, but if used with other hair products, it can help with hair growth. Most leave-in conditioners contain ingredients that strengthen your hair. As a result, your tresses are less prone to breakage.

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