If your hair isn’t cooperating lately, there’s a good chance it just really wants a quality leave-in conditioner. Leave-in conditioners may sound extra, (especially if you’re already using a rinse-out one), but that’s because they are, and in the best way possible. Consider everything your hair endures once you step out of the shower: rough towels, rough pillows, combing, brushing, heat-styling, twirling, tying, possible bleaching — it’s the perfect recipe for dryness and damage, and leave-in conditioners are one of the easiest ways to shield your hair from it all. Here, 12 helpful leave-in conditioners that will leave your hair smoother, shinier, healthier, and happier in the long run.
The One That Won’t Weigh Waves Down
The One That Prevents Hat Hair
Ever wish you could evenly spritz coconut oil into your hair instead of smoothing, rubbing, or slathering it on? This natural leave-in spray is the perfect way to lightly distribute the moisturizing and repairing benefits of coconut oil without weighing hair down in the process. Bonus: It also contains rose hip oil to protect from UV damage if big hats aren’t your thing.
The Cult Classic
This leave-in ascended to cult-favorite status thanks to its ability to do a million things (smooth, detangle, add shine, color protect, heat protect) in very convenient spray form. Great for on the go, this conditioner can be spritzed on damp or dry hair to quickly deliver benefits, especially in dire times of need. Case in point: Multiple cool surfer girls credit it for saving their hair from sun, wind, and salt damage once they’re back on land.
The One That Cares About Your Scalp, Too
I’m very pro-scalp when it comes to healthy hair-care routines, and this leave-in conditioner aligns with that sentiment. If your hair is struggling, there’s a good chance your scalp is too. Tea tree oil and rosemary and peppermint extracts make this tonic a tingly treat for your head that also tames painful tangles and encourages hair growth in the process. So many wins for all involved.
The Stylish One
If additional product translates to “greasy grease” on your hair, try Sachajuan’s spray. It’s extremely lightweight, making it a great option for fine to very fine hair that needs some help in the breakage, manageability, or color-retention department. And rest assured; the chic packaging comes with an equally chic, unisex scent that’s usually reserved for very expensive candles.
The Milky One
As weird as “hair milk” sounds, this one contains shine-boosting roucou oil (a plant oil some say is even better than argan oil), and hair loves it. If a silky, commercial slo-mo hair shake situation is what you seek, regular use of this smoothing leave-in spray will help get you there.
The One Looking Out for Really Curly Curls
Anyone with curly hair will tell you that a leave-in conditioner is nonnegotiable. This rich blend is loaded with ample moisturizers, including perennial favorite shea butter, so tighter curl patterns, thicker textures, and heat-styled hair can fight frizz and breakage — without having to go through an entire bottle of product in one use.
The One That Handles Blowouts Well
Leave-in conditioners get a lot of credit for hydrating and repairing, but they’re also great for styling. This fancy cream doubles as a glossy heat protectant and disguiser of split ends, making it the perfect prep for an at-home blowout that could use some finessing.
The One That Handles Air-Drying Well
The $5 One
Gwen Stefani has had this product in her hair every day of her platinum life. Technically, it’s called a “combing creme” but it’s more like a “smooth and super soft hair cream.” Her hairstylist, Danilo, uses it as a styling and conditioning cream, dabbing a little on each strand before he curls it.
The Salon-Experience in a Spray
Spritz this multitasking conditioner through damp hair and proceed to heat-style to your heart’s desire. Once you unplug, you’ll end up with that touchable softness, high shine, and most important, that expensive smell you expect to carry with you every time you step out of the salon.
The Nice and Nurturing One
Excellent news: Carol Daughter’s Almond Milk hair mask (pure, nourishing goodness in a tub) has a leave-in sibling that comes in a convenient spray form. This lighter-weight blend of almond, grape seed, jojoba oil, and cocoa seed butter is a great thing to have handy this summer to protect overprocessed or tangle-prone hair from seasonal drying things like chlorine, sunshine, and salty beachy breezes.
This article was originally published August 14, 2018. It has been updated throughout. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.