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Your hair goes through a lot on a daily basis — between dry winter air, heat styling and indoor heating, your strands may be feeling (or even looking) dehydrated. The conditioner that you use in the shower might have nourishing benefits, but your strands require a bit more of a boost in order to bounce back. If your dry hair needs to be quenched, consider leave-in conditioners the ultimate hydrating cocktail.
"Leave-in conditioners allow you to continue nourishing your hair past your in-shower conditioner," celebrity hairstylist Clariss Rubenstein told Shop TODAY. "It can hydrate or moisturize your hair, absorb dryness, add shine and minimize frizz."
Dry hair can come about from a myriad of reasons. Color-treated and chemical-treated hair can become damaged, but curlier textures might also find itself deprived of moisture, as curl shapes can make it difficult for natural oils to make it all the way down the shaft. Thus, these hair types can benefit from a leave-in conditioner. Those that might not benefit are fine, oil-prone textures, according to Xavier Velasquez, celebrity stylist at the Serge Normant at John Frieda Salon in New York City.
What are the benefits of leave-in conditioner?
Aside from its hydrating benefits, Velasquez says leave-in conditioners "also give the hair 'slip,' which creates less friction when you brush and detangle." Some even are formulated with heat-protectant, Velasquez added.
Products with detangling characteristics can also make hair easier to manage, and thus easier to style with a blow dryer or flat iron.
Leave-in conditioners don't all look the same — they come in the form of liquids, creams or sprays. Regardless of the form you choose, it will benefit your locks in more than one way.
"Leave-in conditioners contain a high level of humectants that attract moisture into the hair," Davide Marinelli, founder and creative director of Davide Hair Studio in Manhattan, told Shop TODAY. "They often contain glycerin, which keeps hair hydrated and lubricated, and volatile silicones, which gives your hair shine and smoothness."
To keep hair moisturized between washes, Marinelli says some lightweight leave-in conditioners can make hair easier to manage, but should be applied from the ends to the roots.
What are the best leave-in conditioners?
If you're ready to nip dry hair in the bud, we asked professional stylists for their top picks, and also rounded up a few bestselling leave-in conditioners worth considering.
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Expert-approved leave-in conditioners
Velasquez says It's a 10 is an affordable drug store alternative for anyone looking to try a leave-in conditioner. The nourishing spray helps protect against split ends and breakage and is formulated with key ingredients such as sunflower seed extract, green tea leaf extract and silk amino acids. It can be used on wet hair after a shower or as a styling cream on dry hair in between washes.
Olaplex's hair treatment system has been making waves in hair care. No. 6 is a styling creme that helps eliminate frizz, enhance curls and treat damaged hair. "This is an excellent product for chemically treated hair," Maria Elizabeth, Founder of Salon deZEN, told us. "An additional bonus is that it speeds up blow-dry time while simultaneously eliminating flyaways or frizz." The vegan and cruelty-free formula is free of parabens and sulfates and also comes in recyclable packaging.
Rubenstein called out this lotion from R+Co as a pick she "loves for everyone." The lightweight formula delivers hydration for fine to medium hair types. It can be applied to wet hair before blow-drying or used on dry hair in order to tame flyaways and give moisture to dry ends. "Use more for thicker, dryer hair and less for thinner," Rubenstein says.
Another pick for all hair types according to Rubenstein is this milk lotion from Davines. The citrus-scented formula is a multitasker, helping to detangle, protect hair from heat damage and reduce frizz. It delivers softness and shine with just a few pumps.
For finer hair, Rubenstein recommends this mist from Davines. Aside from the soft feel and shine it gives your locks, it also helps give it some volume without weighing it down.
Bumble and Bumble's Tonic Lotion is formulated with vitamins, herbs and nourishing tea tree oil. It's a great pick for detangling and refreshing dry hair, making it easier to style. Rubenstein says the light spray is also great for your scalp.
Need to nourish curly hair? Rubenstein recommends this detangler. It soothes, softens and gives shine to hair. Plant-derived ingredients account for 98% of the formula, including mango butter, which reduces frizz and gives hair a bit of bounce.
Marinelli recommends this primer from Oribe to help make hair softer and manageable. It's lightweight and seals and protects hair from the cuticle down. It can be used alone or as the first step in your styling routine.
With a 4.8-star rating, this leave-in conditioner is another one of Marinelli's favorites. It detangles, seals and protects hair from both heat and sun damage with just a few sprays.
Bestselling leave-in conditioners
Ouidad’s leave-in conditioner is specially formulated for curls. It acts as a primer, creating a base that makes it easier to style hair without leaving grease or residue behind. More than 60% of Amazon reviewers gave this leave-in conditioner a full five stars, calling it out for its thickness and moisturizing capabilities.
Naturally curly hair will also love this formula from Carol's Daughter, which features ingredients such as almond oil and shea butter. Free of silicones, parabens and mineral oils, it's a good pick for damaged, over-processed hair.
Shea Moisture's leave-in conditioner sets out to repair, nourish, smooth and moisturize. Formulated with peppermint, apple cider vinegar, shea butter and Jamaican black castor oil, it works to heal split ends and and protect hair against future breakage.
This leave-in conditioner from the female-owned brand Briogeo helps tame frizzy, damaged hair with the help of natural ingredients. It's amassed over 700 five-star reviews, with many customers calling out its pleasant scent and visible results.
Living proof's creamy leave-in conditioner smooths hair and helps protect strands from humidity. It nourishes and conditions damp hair with a formula that is free of parabens, silicones and sulfates. Over 560 verified reviewers gave the formula a five-star rating, with one recent reviewer calling it a "game-changer."
For more stories like this, check out:
- 15 healthy hair products to use between salon visits
- The best 20 anti-frizz products, according to experts
- 8 products that revived my curly, damaged hair for good