What You Need to Know About Leave-In Conditioner

If you’re having problems with dry hair or if you’ve just recently let your hair grow a bit longer, you may be unclear on the differences between a leave-in conditioner and a rinse-out conditioner. Most people know what the latter is and usually think of it as just “conditioner” but leave-in conditioners are quite important and useful products in their own right.

So, what is a leave-in conditioner and what are some of the main questions around it – how to apply leave-in conditioner, can you put leave-in conditioner on dry hair, and so on? We’ll delve into all of them here.

What does the leave-in conditioner do?

As its name implies, a leave-in conditioner is a conditioner that you don’t rinse out after a couple of minutes like you would with a “normal” conditioner but it’s meant to be left on your hair until your next wash. Leave-in conditioners can come in several different forms – a spray, a liquid or a thick cream.

However, all those serve the same function so we won’t bother differentiating between them – all leave-in conditioners aim to moisturize, nourish, and protect your hair for long after it has dried off. They are meant mostly for people with extra dry or damaged hair that need more than what a rinse-out conditioner provides.

This doesn’t mean that leave-in conditioners are better or that they should be used instead of a rinse-out conditioner. On the contrary – they are something you should use after a rinse-out conditioner to add to its effect.

How to use a leave-in conditioner?

When it comes to how and when to use a leave-in conditioner, the answer is pretty simple – after every wash and towel-drying of your hair just spread the recommended amount that’s mentioned on the bottle with your fingers and leave it there as you go about your day. There are no extra tools to use, you don’t need to do anything else to the conditioner or to your hair – just spread it evenly after each wash and that’s it.

How often should you use a leave-in conditioner?

Once after every wash is the advisable amount. You don’t need to skip applications and only use the leave-in conditioner after every other wash and you definitely shouldn’t need to apply it more than once between washes.

If you feel that the effect of the conditioner is insufficient even in combination with a rinse-out conditioner then first check if you’re applying the correct dose, then consider whether you’ve got a good product on your hands and if neither of those is the problem – consult with your hairdresser for help.

What are the benefits of leave-in conditioners?

The benefits of a leave-in conditioner are similar to the pros of a rinse-out conditioner plus a couple of extra added positives:

  • It helps moisturize dry hair. This is the main purpose of both leave-in and rinse-out conditioners – to moisturize and nourish our hair so that it can grow in a stable and healthy manner. Proper hydration is one of the most important things we can do about our hair and it’s what most people with hair and scalp problems miss.
  • Protects against heat and direct sunlight. A major benefit of leave-in conditioners is that they help protect our hair from heat and powerful sunlight. That’s because the conditioner stays on our hair for longer and offers great help against heat blowers and other heat-based devices.
  • It creates a barrier against other environmental damage. The sun’s rays and heat aren’t the only environmental factor leave-in conditioners help with. Chlorinated or salt-water pools can also be damaging for our hair without a leave-in conditioner, and extremely cold weather can be as harmful as strong heat. By creating a surface coating on our hair, leave-in conditioners help against all those environmental risk factors.
  • Detangles knotted hair and helps to comb it. Everyone who’s ever used either a rinse-out or a leave-in conditioner knows how much easier it is to comb a conditioned hair than just shampoo-washed hair. This is vital as combing entangled hairs with no conditioner can be very damaging for our hair strands.
  • Deals with frizz. Similarly, leave-in conditioners are great for dry and frizzy hair. It makes our hair softer and provides long-term protection against frizz, especially if it’s used after a rinse-out conditioner with humectants.
  • It makes the hair more manageable and suitable for styling. Regardless of what type of styling you intend to go through, applying a leave-in conditioner beforehand is often one of the best things you can do for your hair.
  • Adds luster to colored hair. Hair that goes through regular color-treatments and/or bleaches needs a lot of help to stay vitalized and leave-in conditioner can assist with that. It’s not a sufficient tool in and of itself when your hair is in an especially disastrous condition but it can help quite a bit for the revitalization of an exhausted color-treated hair together with other nourishing products.

What are the main differences between a leave-in and a rinse-out conditioner?

While they are quite similar and work toward a common goal, leave-in and rinse-out conditioners are different products that need to be used differently and for different purposes. So, here’s a quick run-down of the main differences between the two conditioner types:

  1. They are used differently. Rinse-out conditioners are applied immediately after rinsing out the shampoo, they are left on our hair for a couple of minutes only, and are rinsed out afterward as well.
    Leave-in conditioners are applied after towel-drying your hair and are left on it until your next wash.
  2. They serve similar but different purposes. Rinse-out conditioners are meant to repair the damage done by harsh shampoos and add softness and moisture to dry and/or damaged hair. They have the added benefits of detangling our hair and making it more manageable and workable but that’s not their main goal. Leave-in conditioners, on the other hand, are used to provide lasting protection and hydration to our hair after the shower and before hair treatments or exposure to a harsher environment. They have the added benefit of softening and repairing damaged hair immediately but their main goal is providing lasting protection against further harm.
  3. They have different ingredients. Rinse-out conditioners include a lot of fatty acids, alcohols, proteins, surfactants, plant oils, and silicone.
    Leave-in conditioners contain more humectants, volatile silicones, and often glycerin. The humectants are the key ingredient here as they help attract more moisture to the hair.
  4. They have a different consistency. Rinse-out conditioners are heavier and thicker – they are creamier.
    Leave-in conditioners, on the other hand, are more watery and quite lighter.
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