How to Use Leave in Conditioner The Right Way: 5 Simple Steps

There are many benefits to using leave in conditioners.

They keep your hair moisturized, prevent it from breaking, and infuse it with ingredients to keep it healthy. 

But your hair will miss out on these benefits not only when you do not use leave-in conditioners, but also when you do not use them the right way.

This post will show you how to use leave in conditioner correctly.

It will point out common mistakes people make when using leave-in conditioners and how you can avoid them.

To be able to use leave-in conditioners correctly, you must first be able to differentiate it from other types of conditioners.

So let’s start by seeing how leave-in conditioners differ from other types of conditioners.

What is a leave in conditioner?

First, a conditioner is a creamy hair formula prepared to moisturize the hair.

It usually contains oils and emollients that promote smoothness between hair strands. Conditioners are typically used after shampoos to reduce dryness that may have been caused by the shampoo.

Now, conditioners are classified based on how they are to be used.

A leave-in conditioner is one of such classifications.

A leave-in conditioner is a moisturizing hair product that you apply to your hair without having to wash it off.

As the name implies, it is meant to be left in the hair.

It is different from other types of conditioners like deep conditioners and instant conditioners. Let’s help you get the difference:

  • Deep Conditioners: A deep conditioner is designed to deeply moisturize the hair. It is usually thicker than other types of conditioners. When you apply a deep conditioner to your hair, you leave it in for about 30 minutes and then wash it off. You may apply steam heat to your hair when you use deep conditioners to get their full benefits.  
  • Hair Masks: Hair masks are often confused for deep conditioners but there are differences. Hair masks are designed to conceal (mask up) hair damage or weakness. You apply them to your hair for about 20 minutes before washing it off. That’s similar to how you use a deep conditioner but their function is what differs. A deep conditioner deeply moisturizes the hair while a hair mask replenishes hair, improves hair structure, and leaves the hair shiny.
  • Instant Conditioners: Also called rinse-out conditioners, an instant conditioner is used for detangling hair after washing. It is the regular conditioner that you should apply to your hair after shampooing. An instant conditioner is applied to the hair for a minute or two and then rinsed out. It helps smoothen out hair ends.
 Leave in ConditionerOther Types of Conditioners
ThicknessLightweight hair productUsually thick
BenefitsMajorly for moisturizing hair regularly.Could be for restoring shine, providing nutrients to the hair, or treating damaged hair.
ApplicationApplied to hair and left in. Leave in conditioners may be applied to the hair before styling for easier and smoother styling.Applied to hair for a specific amount of time and then rinsed out
FrequencyCan be used dailyUsed weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly, depending on the hair’s needs.

A leave-in conditioner is the only type of conditioner that you do not have to rinse out after applying to your hair.

Leave in conditioners are beneficial for all hair types – fine, thick, curly, natural, relaxed, or color-treated.

Now that you’ve gotten that, let’s take you through the correct steps of using a leave-in conditioner.

How to Use Leave in Conditioner for Natural Hair

How to use leave in conditioner for hair velacurls
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Natural hair needs moisture as often as possible and using leave-in conditioners is an easy way of providing it with extra moisture.

Many naturalists have found leave-in conditioners to help soften the hair and make it easier to manage.

You may use leave in conditioners for your hair daily. The outlined steps here are for using leave in conditioners after washing your hair.

Here’s how to use leave in conditioner for natural hair:

1.    Rinse out shampoo thoroughly

After washing your hair clean with a shampoo, you should rinse it out thoroughly with clean water.

You want to prevent shampoo remains from mixing with a conditioner you are going to be leaving in your hair.

2.    Use your instant conditioner (optional)

This step is optional.

You may choose to use a regular instant conditioner first if you use a type that complements your shampoo.

If you choose to do that, detangle your hair after applying the instant conditioner and rinse it off thoroughly with clean water.

3.    Dry your hair

Not the ‘plug the blow dryer’ kind of dry. Or sitting under a hooded dryer.

Just use an absorbent cloth or towel to gently pat your hair. You should not rub it roughly to prevent damaging your wet hair strands, only gently to absorb dripping water.

One common mistake that people make with using leave in conditioners is to apply their hair when the hair is dripping wet. Such excess water prevents the conditioner from getting absorbed in their hair as it should.

Instead, it just stays on the surface and would leave as the water dries naturally.

So ensure that your hair is damp and no longer dripping excess water before you apply a leave in conditioner.

4.    Apply the leave in conditioner

Now you can grab your tub of leave-in conditioner, take a scoop with your fingers, and apply it to your hair.

Natural hair is usually thick, so you’ll need to apply a fair amount of conditioner.

If you have very full hair, you should section your hair into smaller sections; sections small enough for you to thoroughly apply the leave in conditioner.

As you apply the conditioner, you should focus on your hair ends since that part of your hair doesn’t get as much moisture as the part closer to your scalp (hair roots). Another common mistake that people make is to apply the conditioner mainly to their hair roots. Your hair ends need the leave in conditioner more.

If you did not use an instant conditioner earlier, this is the part where you detangle your hair.

Start by using your fingers. Then use a brush or wide-toothed comb to detangle your hair and evenly smoothen the leave in conditioner throughout your hair.

Even if you have previously applied an instant conditioner, you should still use a wide-toothed comb or brush to evenly distribute the leave in conditioner on your hair.

5.    Air dry and style your hair

Once you’ve applied the leave in conditioner to your hair properly, you should leave it in your hair to moisturize it.

Allow your hair to dry naturally and style it whichever way you desire.

Using leave in conditioner makes the hair easier to work with, so you can achieve more styles with your natural hair when you use them for your hair.

How to Use Leave in Conditioners for Relaxed Hair

Relaxed hair is chemically treated using relaxers.

Each time you relax your hair, it loses a reasonable amount of moisture because chemical relaxers dry out the hair.

To keep your hair healthy, you need to replace lost moisture. Using leave-in conditioners is an easy, effective way of doing that. Here’s how you should use leave in conditioner after relaxing your hair:

1.    Apply neutralizing shampoo and rinse out

After each relaxing process, you should wash your hair with a neutralizing shampoo to ensure that there are no relaxer remains.

Most neutralizing shampoos have a color indicator so it’s easy to tell when your hair is relaxer-free.

You should also completely rinse out the shampoo from your hair.

2.    Apply conditioner to detangle

As with natural hair, you can also choose to first apply an instant conditioner.

If you do, ensure that you rinse it out thoroughly after combing through. Use an absorbent cloth to dry out excess water from your hair.

Then apply the leave in conditioner evenly throughout your hair.

Use a wide-toothed comb to comb it through so that the product can spread evenly on your hair.

Since relaxed hair isn’t usually as thick as natural hair, you want to apply as less as possible for a start.

It’s easier for relaxed hair to become weighed down by products so you shouldn’t overload your hair with a lot of conditioner.

3.    Air dry and style

Do not rinse out, just leave the conditioner in your hair and style it protectively.

Aside from using it after relaxing your hair, you should also apply leave in conditioners to your hair regularly to keep it moisturized and healthy.

Benefits of Using Leave in Conditioners

Once you have applied leave in conditioner to your hair correctly following the steps above, what can you expect?

Here are a few specific benefits of leave in conditioners:

  • Moisturized hair strands
  • Healthy, shinier hair
  • Easier hair detangling
  • Improved hair scent (many leave in conditioners have really nice smell)
  • Softer hair and smoother styling

Frequently Asked Questions about Leave in Conditioners

Can I use a leave in conditioner every day?

This depends on your hair type.

If you have fine, light hair, using leave in conditioners daily would weigh your hair down and make it limp.

You’d also be stuck with a lot of product buildup so it is not advisable.

But if you have fairly thick hair, daily leave in conditioning will be great for your hair, giving it the moisture it needs daily.

Do you wash out leave in conditioners?

No, you do not have to. Leave in conditioners are meant to be left in the hair until the next hair wash.

Deep conditioners and instant conditioners are to be washed out.

How long should you leave leave in conditioner in your hair?

You do not have to rinse it off like other conditioner types.

You may leave it in your hair overnight and wash it the next morning, or leave it in until your next washday.

Leave in conditioners are lightweight so they will not leave your hair feeling all greasy.

Still, if you use leave in conditioners daily, you should wash your hair at least once a week.

Do you apply leave in conditioner to wet or dry hair?

Your hair should not be too wet when you apply leave in conditioner after washing. It should just be damp.

Of course, you can apply a leave in conditioner to your hair without washing or wetting it first.

Should you use a conditioner and leave in conditioner?

This is optional.

You may choose to use your regular conditioner before applying a leave-in conditioner or skip it and use a leave-in conditioner directly.

What does a leave-in conditioner do for curly hair?

Because of the curly shape of hair strands, it is harder for natural oils (sebum) to get to all parts of curly hair strands.

So curly hair is very prone to dryness.

Leave in conditioners help to provide needed moisture to curly hair so that it can stay healthy.

Top Leave in Conditioners in the  USA

In no specific order, here are leave in conditioners that you can count on for amazing results:

1.    OUAI Leave in conditioner

This amazing leave in conditioner comes as a spray.

It contains tamarind seed extract and vitamin E, ingredients that will help smoothen and hydrate your hair.

The good thing about this product is that it is excellent for both fine, straight hair and naturally curly hair.

A review of Ouai leave in conditioner on allure mentions that this product is also great for combating frizz. It also contains ingredients that make it suitable as a heat protectant.

If having moisturized, smooth, and frizz-free hair no matter your hair type sounds appealing to you, you might want to give Ouai leave in conditioner a worthy shot!

2.    African Pride Moisturizing Leave-in Cream

This here is specially formulated for curly/kinky hair.

The product boasts of naturalness and the absence of bad hair chemicals like sulfates, parabens, and petrolatum. It contains coconut oil and baobab oil to hydrate your hair and keep it healthy.

It rejuvenates curls, and you can expect your natural curls to look all great and bouncy when you use this leave in conditioner.

3.    Shea Moisture Leave in Conditioner

Shea moisture leave-in conditioner is made with Jamaican black castor oil, an excellent source of vitamins.

It also contains Shea butter, peppermint, and apple cider vinegar (ACV).

These ingredients contain nutrients that will moisturize your hair, improve its health, and prevent hair breakage. It is an excellent leave in conditioner, especially for natural, thick hair.

A few reviews from amazon complain that there’s a newer, less effective version of the product but you’ll find nice reviews of great results for naturally curly hair.

4.    Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosarco Milk Leave In Conditioning Spray

If your hair is frizzy or dry, here’s a go-to leave in conditioner.

This milk leave in spray helps to tame frizz and is known for its hair-softening effects.

It will make your hair much easier to detangle and prevent it from damage. You can also count on it to protect your hair during bad weather.

This product is lightweight, so it’s excellent for fine, chemically relaxed, or color-treated hair.

5.    Daily Dose Miracle Moisture Spray Leave-In Hair Conditioner Detangler

This leave in conditioner leaves the hair smooth and soft without weighing it down and leaving product buildup.

It contains ingredients that enable it to strengthen and repair hair. Daily dose leave in conditioner is great for all hair types.

Since it comes as a spray, you can easily control the quantity you apply to suit your hair needs.

It is also an excellent detangler, so it can help you smoothen out your tangled hair ends without much stress.


Whether your hair is natural or relaxed, many factors could suck up its moisture.

Using a  leave in conditioner is an easy, effective way of replacing lost moisture to your hair.

Ensure that you get the right leave in conditioner for your hair, apply it the right way as discussed above, and you can be sure to get amazing hair results.

Hey, hair lover, this post may contain affiliate links. So if you buy a product through a link in the post, I’ll earn some commission at no extra cost to you.

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