Leave-In Conditioner Guide: How to Use, Benefits & Pro Tips

leave in conditioner guide - how to use a leave in conditioner

Leave-in conditioner is an essential part of every hair-care routine. This hydrating product is applied after you wash, condition and towel-dry your hair but before styling. While leave-in conditioner is a favorite for people with curly and coily hair, it actually works on ALL hair types-- and if you pick the right product, it can make your tresses smoother, shinier and more vibrant.

If you’re wishing for silky-smooth, soft and manageable hair that’s healthy from within, read on to discover everything you need to know about leave-in conditioner.

What is Leave-In Conditioner?

AIIR Amethyst Hair + Energy Refresher is Leave-in conditioner is a moisturizing conditioner that doesn’t need to be rinsed out of your hair. It nourishes and heals each strand from the inside out, strengthens weak hair, repairs damage, reduces friction, improves elasticity, infuses moisture, boosts shine, and makes your hair easier to comb and style.

Applying leave-in conditioner is an added step between cleansing and styling your hair. While it might seem redundant to apply leave-in conditioner to damp hair after using a regular conditioner in the shower, your hair will LOVE the extra hydration! If you use leave-in conditioner consistently after washing your hair, you may notice that your hair feels healthier, smoother and less damaged overall.

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leave in conditioner infused with pumpkin for antioxidants

What Does Leave-In Conditioner Do For Your Hair?

Leave-in conditioner hydrates, nourishes, heals, strengthens and smooths your hair. It repairs existing damage while also protecting your delicate strands from future damage. The result is sleeker, shinier and more manageable hair.

Every hair type can benefit from leave-in conditioner, but this product is especially helpful for dry, curly, frizzy or damaged hair. It’s also a non-negotiable if you color treat your hair.

But even if your hair is already healthy, using a leave-in conditioner regularly helps you protect your hair’s future health and beauty. Our hair goes through a lot on a daily basis— weather and temperature extremes, hot styling tools, abrasive towels and pillows, combing, brushing, and being pulled back with hair elastics. This damage adds up over time, often leading to dryness, breakage and frizz. That’s why SO many hair wellness tips center on minimizing damage to your hair!

However, we can’t eliminate every source of potential damage to hair. That’s where leave-in conditioner comes in. It infuses your hair with extra moisture and nourishing ingredients to support healthy, shiny tresses. Leave-in conditioner also shields your hair from some of the damage experienced on a daily basis by reducing friction, improving elasticity and strengthening weak hair.

Think of it this way— most of us apply lotion after showering and use a moisturizing product after washing our faces. Leave-in conditioner fulfills the same purpose, but for hair!

leave in conditioner benefits for your hair

What is the Difference Between Leave-In Conditioner and Other Moisturizing Hair Products?

When it comes to moisturizing your mane, there are a LOT of products to choose from. If your hair needs major hydration (like, yesterday), it’s tempting to load up on every conditioner, cream, oil and serum out there.

But it’s important to keep in mind that each product is designed for a specific purpose and hair type. Here’s the low-down on the different types of moisturizing products for your hair:

Leave-In Conditioner vs. Regular Conditioner

Conditioner is an essential step in maintaining healthy, glossy hair— but what is the difference between leave-in conditioner and regular conditioner? In general, classic conditioner is applied to wet hair after shampooing, then rinsed out of the hair after 2-5 minutes.

Leave-in conditioner is applied to damp hair after washing, using regular conditioner and towel-drying. It can also be used to smooth and refresh second- or third-day hair.

As the name suggests, leave-in conditioner does not need to be washed out. It’s usually lighter than standard conditioner, so it won’t weigh down your hair or make it greasy.

While regular conditioner is rich and creamy, leave-in conditioners come in a variety of forms, including sprays, lotions and creams. Leave-in conditioner sprays are generally lightweight and work well for all hair types and textures.

Leave-In Conditioner vs. Curl Cream

Providing adequate moisture is essential to keeping curls healthy, defined and beautiful. Both leave-in conditioner and curl cream are great products to use for curly hair, as curls tend to be dry.

Leave-in conditioner hydrates and nourishes curls, while curl creams and gels give your hair a bit more shape and hold.

For optimal results, spray a lightweight leave-in conditioner all over your hair, then follow it up with a defining cream that’s made for your curl type.

Leave-In Conditioner vs. Serum

If your hair tends to be frizzy, you may be wondering which is better— leave-in conditioner or serum?

Leave-in conditioner is a water-based moisturizer that softens the hair, infuses hydration and makes detangling easier. Serums are heavier oil-based products used to enhance ultra-sleek straight styles or add moisture to curls.

If you choose to apply a serum to your hair, make sure to put it on after your leave-in conditioner and avoid the root area. 

Leave-In Conditioner vs. Hair Oil

While both leave-in conditioner and hair oil boost the moisture in your hair, hair oil is a much heavier product that’s usually recommended for dry and/or curly hair. Leave-in conditioner penetrates the hair’s cuticle to boost moisture and heal damage, while hair oil flattens the hair’s cuticle for a super-shiny finish.

It’s best to apply hair oil after your other styling products, including leave-in conditioner, because hair oil forms a barrier that can prevent other products from being absorbed into your hair.

Leave-In Conditioner vs. Hair Mask

Leave-in conditioners and hair masks both deserve a place in your hair-care (and self-care) routine. Leave-in conditioners are designed to be used after every wash to restore moisture, heal damage and improve manageability. Hair masks are designed for deep hydration and should be used about once a week.

While leave-in conditioner does not need to be rinsed out of your hair, hair masks do need to be rinsed out (and you may need to shampoo your hair after doing a hair mask).

For best results, use leave-in conditioner every time you wash your hair (plus in-between washes, if desired) and treat yourself to a hair mask or deep conditioning treatment regularly.

How Do I Use Leave-In Conditioner?

Leave-in conditioner can be applied to both freshly washed and dry hair.

To apply leave-in conditioner after washing your hair, simply spray the product all over your towel-dried tresses from ends to roots, avoiding your scalp. Blow dry or air dry your hair and style as usual.

To apply leave-in conditioner to dry hair, mist leave-in conditioner all over while avoiding the scalp area. Allow the product to air dry for gradual results, or blow dry the product into your hair with a large round brush for an instant refresh. (This is perfect if your hair tends to get dry and frizzy in-between blowouts!)

girl with leave in conditioner in her hair

Where to Apply Leave-In Conditioner?

Leave-in conditioner is lighter than regular conditioner, so it can be applied all over your hair. For best results, start at the tips of your hair and work your way up to the roots. Avoid spraying leave-in conditioner directly on your scalp, as this can lead to product build-up.

If you have naturally oily hair, you might be wondering whether leave-in conditioner is right for you. The answer is YES! Oily hair can benefit from healthy hydration and nutrients, as well as the protection that leave-in conditioner gives to fragile hair. Just make sure to choose a lightweight leave-in conditioner and apply the product on your mid-shafts to ends, avoiding the root area.

Leave-in conditioner hydrates, nourishes, heals, strengthens and smooths your hair. It repairs existing damage while also protecting your delicate strands from future damage. The result is sleeker, shinier and more manageable hair.

Every hair type can benefit from leave-in conditioner, but this product is especially helpful for dry, curly, frizzy or damaged hair. It’s also a non-negotiable if you color treat your hair.

But even if your hair is already healthy, using a leave-in conditioner regularly helps you protect your hair’s future health and beauty. Our hair goes through a lot on a daily basis— weather and temperature extremes, hot styling tools, abrasive towels and pillows, combing, brushing, and being pulled back with hair elastics. This damage adds up over time, often leading to dryness, breakage and frizz. That’s why SO many hair wellness tips center on minimizing damage to your hair!

However, we can’t eliminate every source of potential damage to hair. That’s where leave-in conditioner comes in. It infuses your hair with extra moisture and nourishing ingredients to support healthy, shiny tresses. Leave-in conditioner also shields your hair from some of the damage experienced on a daily basis by reducing friction, improving elasticity and strengthening weak hair.

Think of it this way— most of us apply lotion after showering and use a moisturizing product after washing our faces. Leave-in conditioner fulfills the same purpose, but for hair!

the benefits of a leave in conditioner

Is Leave-In Conditioner Good For All Hair Types?

While leave-in conditioner is a non-negotiable for curly and coily hair, it has amazing benefits for ALL hair types! This multi-purpose product belongs in every hair-care and styling routine.

The key is to select the best leave-in conditioner for YOUR hair and apply it mindfully for optimum results. Read on to find out how to use leave-in conditioner for your hair type:

Leave-In Conditioner for Curly Hair

Moisture is essential for healthy, happy curls. Be sure to always use a nourishing conditioner in the shower and follow it up with a leave-in conditioner.

Curly hair can handle heavier products, but you may want to opt for a lighter leave-in conditioner if you plan to layer it with oils, serums or curl creams. Use a generous amount of leave-in conditioner and spray it all over your hair, from tips to roots.

leave in conditioner for curly hair

Leave-In Conditioner for Wavy Hair

Wavy hair needs hydration and definition, but heavy curl products can actually weigh down your waves. Go for a lightweight, non-greasy leave-in conditioner. Spray it all over your waves, working from the bottom up, after every time you wash your hair.

If your waves are extra-dry, you may want to use a hydrating hair oil or styling cream after applying leave-in conditioner. Just remember to start with a small amount of product and add more as needed.

Leave-In Conditioner for Frizzy, Dry or Damaged Hair

If your hair is frizzy, dry or damaged, leave-in conditioner is essential for healing your strands while guarding against future damage. Try applying leave-in conditioner every day before styling your hair. If you use other moisturizing products (such as hair oil, serum or cream), make sure to apply these products after your leave-in conditioner for best results. And don’t skip your weekly hair mask!

Leave-In Conditioner for Color-Treated Hair

Leave-in conditioner is a MUST for color-treated hair— whether your hair is super-healthy or already showing signs of damage. Bleaching, coloring or highlighting hair strips away natural oils and can weaken the hair, so it’s important to counteract this damage by adding back moisture regularly.

Using leave-in conditioner after EVERY shampoo prevents dryness, frizz and broken ends while extending the vibrancy of your color. Make sure to spray the product from tips to roots.

PRO TIP: Does your color-treated hair look dull or dry in-between blowouts? Refresh your style and boost shine by applying leave-in conditioner all over and blow drying it into your hair.

leave in conditioner for color treated hair

Leave-In Conditioner for Fine Hair

Many fine-haired folks shy away from moisturizing products, but leave-in conditioner is actually really good for fine hair! It gives your hair strength and shine without weighing it down. Make sure to choose a lightweight product that works on fine hair (heavy leave-ins designed for curls could make fine hair greasy).

You want a leave-in conditioner that boosts your hair’s health and enhances shine without squashing your natural volume. If your hair is on the oily side, apply leave-in conditioner from your ear level down and skip the roots.

Can Leave-In Conditioner Replace Conditioner?

Leave-in conditioner is not a substitute for your normal rinse-out conditioner. You need both products to achieve your healthiest, shiniest, softest hair. Leave-in conditioner and wash-out conditioner work as a team to hydrate your strands, reduce friction and seal the hair’s cuticle for beautiful glossy shine!

“Regular” or rinse-out conditioner is essential for restoring the moisture that’s lost when you wash your hair. It also smooths the cuticle of the hair follicles (hello, softness and shine) and prevents your hair from absorbing too much water in the shower.

Leave-in conditioner nourishes and moisturizes hair for a sleek, silky-smooth finish. It’s absorbed into the strands and doesn’t need to be washed out, so it delivers lasting protection against heat, pollution and the stresses your hair experiences on a daily basis. It heals damage while strengthening and shielding your hair from future damage.

If you’re wondering, “Can I use a regular conditioner as a leave-in conditioner?” the answer is probably no. Classic conditioners are rich, heavy moisturizing products that are designed to be applied to wet hair and then rinsed out. If you leave regular conditioner on your hair, it could make your hair greasy, limp and heavy. However, if you have coily hair that is also extremely dry, you may find that you can leave regular conditioner in your hair with no negative effects.

For best results, use both rinse-out and leave-in conditioner every time you wash your hair.

Does Leave-In Conditioner Help Hair Grow?

As a reparative and protective hair product, leave-in conditioner can help hair grow. Fast and healthy hair growth comes down to two factors: stimulating your scalp to grow more hair and protecting the hair you already have to guard against breakage. Leave-in conditioner works to heal and protect your strands, allowing your hair to grow longer and healthier.

Look for a high-quality leave-in conditioner with natural hydrating ingredients (such as coconut oil) to infuse your hair with the essential fatty acids it needs for healthy growth. Make sure to apply leave-in conditioner consistently after every time you wash your hair. This will help to strengthen your hair, seal the ends, and reduce friction and breakage.

PRO TIP: If you’re hoping to grow out your hair, remember to include a weekly hair mask and clarifying treatment in your self-care regimen!

coconut oil to moisturize dry hair
quinoa in leave in conditioner for more shine

Will Leave-In Conditioner Weigh My Hair Down?

Leave-in conditioner will not weigh your hair down, as long as you choose the right product for your hair type. Unlike regular conditioner, leave-in conditioner is designed to stay in the hair without being washed out. It absorbs quickly into hair, leaving your locks smooth, hydrated and luscious.

If you have fine, oily and/or thin hair, choose a lightweight leave-in conditioner that will make your hair touchably soft (not heavy or greasy). Also, be sure to apply your leave-in conditioner before any other styling products! Leave-in conditioner acts as a base for other products, allowing them to work their magic without leaving a film on your hair.

Can You Use Leave-In Conditioner Every Day?

How often you should use leave-in conditioner depends on your hair type, texture and specific goals (such as healing damaged hair, growing your hair out or boosting shine). As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to apply a leave-in conditioner after every time you wash your hair— whether that’s every day, every week or somewhere in between. Make leave-in conditioner a part of your hair-cleansing routine to support healthy, strong and vibrant hair.

If your hair is extra-dry or damaged, then it’s probably crying out for more hydration. In this case, it’s a good idea to use leave-in conditioner every day, even on days when you don’t wash your hair. Simply spray the product all over dry or freshly-washed hair, and blow-dry it into your hair or allow it to air dry.

On the other hand, if your hair is oily and tends to get greasy, you may see the best results from using leave-in conditioner after every other shampoo. This will deliver needed moisture and nutrients without overdoing it. Experiment with timing and frequency until you find the best routine for YOUR hair.

How Do You Fix Dry Hair?

Dryness (and its sidekick, frizz) can be a problem for all hair types. The good news is that you don’t have to live with dull, brittle, straw-like hair forever! With just a few products and some mindful changes to your self-care routine, you’ll be on your way to softer, silkier hair in no time. Follow these steps to fix dry or damaged hair fast:

Understand the problem

Dry hair occurs when your hair doesn’t get or keep adequate moisture. The scalp naturally produces oils that hydrate and protect the hair. However, sometimes these oils are unable to reach the ends of your hair (especially if your hair is long and/or curly).

Many things can strip away your hair’s natural oils, leaving it dull, dry and prone to breakage. These include hot or dry temperatures, exposure to chlorine, over-washing your hair, using harsh or damaging products, styling your hair with heat tools and chemically treating your hair. Fixing dry hair requires a two-step plan: protecting your strands from further damage and adding moisture back into the hair.

Get regular trims

If your ends are dry and scraggly, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your stylist. Removing broken ends will help your hair feel healthier and grow faster.

Shampoo mindfully

Regularly cleansing your hair is important, but over-washing can dry it out. Shampoo your hair every 2-7 days, depending on your hair type and texture. (Fine and/or oily hair requires more frequent washes, while wavy, curly or dry hair can be washed less often.)

When you do wash your hair, apply a nourishing oil treatment before getting in the shower. Use a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner designed for dry hair, and be sure to apply conditioner generously from mid-shafts to ends. Steer clear of scorching-hot water. Instead, wash your hair with lukewarm water and do a cool rinse to flatten the cuticle and boost shine.

Be gentle

We often don’t realize how much wear-and-tear our hair endures on a daily basis. Rough towel-drying, harsh combing and brushing, being pulled back into tight ponytails, friction with pillow cases and other stressors can all contribute to dryness and breakage. To restore your hair’s health, look for simple ways to be kind to your mane.

Here are a few easy hair wellness tips to get you started:

  • Use a soft cotton t-shirt or microfiber towel to pat your hair dry instead of rubbing your hair with a terry cloth towel.
  • Comb your hair in the shower after applying conditioner. Use a wide tooth comb or wet brush instead of a regular hair brush.
  • Style your hair in a low, loose ponytail or braid for your workout, rather than a super-tight high ponytail.
  • Use scrunchies or soft coated hair elastics to pull your hair back.
  • Wear a hat to shield delicate hair from the drying effects of the sun and wind.
  • Avoid using harsh styling products or chemicals on your hair. Instead, use moisturizing products with pure natural ingredients. Look for serums, creams and whipped pomades.
  • Sleep on a silk or satin pillowcase to reduce friction and breakage.
  • Apply a few drops of argan oil to the ends of your hair every day.

Hold off on heat styling

Blow dryers and hot styling tools can dry out hair very quickly. If your hair is dry, cut back on blow drying and heat styling. Instead, embrace air drying and protective styles like braids. If you do choose to heat style, use high-quality ionic tools and always apply a leave-in conditioner and a heat protectant beforehand!

Skip chemical services (at least for a while)

Coloring, bleaching, perming, or relaxing your hair can damage the hair’s protective cuticle (outer layers). When the cuticle is rough and open, your hair loses moisture more quickly and may look lifeless and dull. For this reason, it may help to take a break from these services while you work on restoring your hair’s natural health and vibrancy.

Replenish moisture

Once a week, give yourself a hair mask or deep-conditioning treatment. You can purchase a commercial mask at your favorite beauty store, or simply apply coconut oil from your roots to tips. Allow the repairing treatment to penetrate your hair, then rinse it out thoroughly and wash your hair as usual.

Apply leave-in conditioner every day

Consistently applying leave-in conditioner is one of the best ways to moisturize dry hair while preventing future damage. You can use leave-in conditioner on freshly-washed or dry hair to infuse hydration and protect your strands. Make sure to spray it from tips to roots before applying any other styling products.

Practice good nutrition and self-care

It’s essential to eat enough food, and a wide variety of foods, to support healthy and radiant hair. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, algae and seafood) and antioxidants from colorful fruits and vegetables are especially important for hair health. Taking a hair growth vitamin may also be helpful to fill in any gaps in your diet (as always, be sure to check with your health care provider first).

Sometimes dry, parched hair can be a sign of a larger problem beneath the surface. If you have chronically dry hair that doesn’t improve with changes to your hair care routine, it’s recommended to speak with your doctor or dermatologist. Taking care of your health from the inside out is the best way to support glossy, nourished and healthy hair.

leave in conditioner benefits
clean hair products

Is Leave-In Conditioner Good or Bad For Your Hair?

Leave-in conditioner is really good for your hair. If used consistently and correctly, leave-in conditioner delivers smoother, stronger and healthier strands. It repairs damage, quenches dehydrated hair, improves elasticity and makes your hair easier to comb and style.

Make sure to choose a high-quality leave-in conditioner that’s right for your hair type. Apply the product from tips to roots for normal to dry hair, and from tips to mid-shafts for oily hair. Avoid spraying leave-in conditioner directly on the skin of your scalp, which can cause buildup.

If your hair is dry, experiment with using leave-in conditioner every day (even on non-wash days). If your hair is limp or oily, start by applying leave-in conditioner once or twice a week and increase as needed until you find the right frequency for your hair. If your hair is basically healthy and “normal” (neither dry nor oily), simply use leave-in conditioner after washing your hair and anytime you need a boost of refreshing moisture.

PRO TIP: Moisturizing and styling products can build up on your hair and scalp over time. Remove buildup and purify your hair with a regular clarifying treatment or apple cider vinegar rinse. This promotes healthy hair growth and boosts shine as well!

The Best Leave-In Conditioner for Hair

What Is The Best Leave-In Conditioner?

AIIR Sapphire Leave-In Conditioner is the best leave-in conditioner. This shine-boosting conditioning spray delivers sleek, hydrated, silky-soft hair while guarding against potential damage. Great for all hair types, it’s the perfect nourishing (yet lightweight) leave-in conditioner to upgrade your hair care routine.

Whether your mane is dry and frizzy, or you simply want to improve your hair’s vibrancy and prevent damage, consistently using leave-in conditioner can make a big difference. Apply it to freshly-washed and towel-dried hair for deep moisturizing, or spray it all over to refresh and re-hydrate dry hair.

AIIR Sapphire Leave-In Conditioner uses the purest natural ingredients, including coconut oil to hydrate and strengthen hair. Inspired by the belief that caring for your hair should be a joyful self-love ritual, not just another chore, this uplifting spray is infused with real sapphire to restore balance and peace of mind.

As a holistic and vegan product, AIIR Sapphire Leave-In Conditioner is free of all sulfates, parabens, phthalates, animal-derived ingredients and gluten. All ingredients are sustainably and responsibly sourced and child labor free-- so you can feel good about using a product that supports gorgeous hair and aligns with your values.

AIIR Sapphire Leave-In Conditioner is the best leave-in conditioner for healthy, shiny and beautiful hair and a centered and balanced life.

SAPPHIRE LEAVE IN CONDITIONER
SAPPHIRE LEAVE IN CONDITIONER

SAPPHIRE LEAVE IN CONDITIONER

$30.00