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Are You Applying Leave-In Conditioner All Wrong?

photo of woman with curly hair and mizani 25 miracle milk

The hype over leave-in conditioner has exploded over the past few years—and we can totally understand why! While your regular rinse-out conditioner is important, leave-in formulas  help to give your strands extra nourishment and protection post-shower. 

If you’ve been using a leave-in conditioner for years, applying the product may seem like a no-brainer—but could you be doing it all wrong? Whether you’re dealing with dry, damaged, or color-treated ash blonde hair, keep scrolling for our step-by-step guide on how to use a leave-in conditioner like a pro. 

Shop The Best Leave-In Conditioners

Find the perfect leave-in conditioner for your hair type.  

If you’re looking to invest in a leave-in conditioner, you should be sure to find one that addresses your specific hair needs. Luckily, there’s a leave-in conditioner formula for just about any hair type and concern! 

Wondering which leave-in conditioner is best for you? See below for 14 of our top picks. 

The Best Leave-In Conditioners For Every Hair Type And Concern

Good hair day by @marcellaoksjo.

If you have fine hair: 

Redken One United Multi-Benefit Hair Treatment Spray

When you have fine hair, the last thing you want is a leave-in conditioner formula that’s on the heavier side. After all, you’re likely already struggling with flat strands. Redken One United Multi-Benefit Hair Treatment Spray provides 25 benefits including lightweight conditioning, detangle, reducing dryness, and strengthening hair. 

Redken One United Multi-Benefit Hair Treatment Spray, $24.00 MSRP

Good hair day by @malkonyanhair.

If you have thick hair:

Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Essence Absolue Hair Oil-In-Cream

Dealing with plentiful locks? Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Essence Absolue Hair Oil-In-Cream is formulated with camellia oil to help nourish and tame coarse, thick hair

Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Essence Absolue Hair Oil-In-Cream, $46.00 MSRP

Good hair day by @thefaithfulblonde.

If you’re dealing with frizz:

Redken Frizz Dismiss Rebel Tame Leave-In Hair Treatment

If you can’t remember a day when frizzy hair didn’t ruin your polished blowout, Redken Frizz Dismiss Rebel Tame Heat Protective Leave-In Cream will be your go-to.  This multi-benefit smoothing cream provides frizz control while hydrating, detangling, and protecting hair from heat up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Redken Frizz Dismiss Rebel Tame Leave-In Hair Treatment, $24.00 MSRP

Good hair day by @hairbyelm.

If you have color-treated hair:

Matrix Total Results Keep Me Vivid Color Velvetizer Protectant Balm

It can be challenging (and expensive) to prevent high-maintenance hues from fading—particularly if you love to heat style your hair. Matrix Total Results Keep Me Vivid Color Velvetizer Protectant Balm has a color-protecting UV filter and heat protecting qualities to prep your hair before air-dry or blow-dry styling. 

Matrix Total Results Keep Me Vivid Color Velvetizer Protectant Balm, $18.00 MSRP

Pureology Strength Cure Best Blonde Miracle Filler

As much as we love blonde hair, we don’t love sacrificing healthy hair to achieve it. If your strands are looking and feeling lackluster after one too many bleach sessions, opt for the Pureology Strength Cure Best Blonde Miracle Filler. The product fills gaps in fragile, porous hair, leaving high-lifted or highlighted blondes soft and shiny again. 

Pureology Strength Cure Best Blonde Miracle Filler Treatment, $27.00 MSRP

Good hair day by @hairbyhaileyy.

If you’re dealing with damage:

Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Split Ends Hair Treatment

Looking to break up with split ends once and for all? The award-winning Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Split Ends Hair Treatment for damaged hair and split ends repairs, strengthens and protects hair shine. It fortifies hair to reduce breakage, split ends, and mechanical damage to hair from brushing.

Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Split Ends Hair Treatment, $21.00 MSRP

Biolage Keratindose Pro-Keratin Renewal Strengthening Spray

Who doesn’t want glossy, Pinterest-worthy hair? Unfortunately, if your strands are damaged or over-processed, you might be severely lacking in the shine department. Biolage Keratindose Pro-Keratin Renewal Strengthening Spray is formulated to care for over-processed, weak, or fragile hair and restore its shine and manageability. 

Biolage Advanced KeratinDose Pro-Keratin Renewal Strengthening Spray, $23.00 MSRP

L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Inforcer Anti-Breakage Cream

Dealing with breakage-prone strands is no fun, but a leave-in product like the L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Inforcer Anti-Breakage Cream can help to instantly strengthen your fragile strands. Infused with vitamin B6 and biotin, this formula provides instant detangling and helps smooth strands for stronger hair that’s easier to brush and style. 

L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Inforcer Anti-Breakage Cream, available in salon

Good hair day by @hairartistrybycaitlin.

If you have dry hair:

Biolage Hydrasource Daily Leave-In Tonic

A salon-quality leave-in conditioner is like a breath of fresh air for dry, dehydrated strands. Biolage Hydrasource Daily Leave-In Tonic helps optimize moisture balance in dry hair. It instantly moisturizes, renews shine, and helps protect hair from environmental aggressors. 

Biolage Hydrasource Daily Leave-In Tonic, $20.00 MSRP

Redken All Soft Mega Hydramelt Moisturizing Hair Lotion

If your hair feels dry beyond repair, don’t worry! The Redken All Soft Mega Hydramelt Moisturizing Hair Lotion is specifically formulated for severely dry, coarse hair. This lightweight formula provides increased softness, manageability, control, and shine

Redken All Soft Mega Hydramelt Moisturizing Hair Lotion, $24.00 MSRP

Good hair day by @zaina_gohou.

If you have curly hair:

Kérastase Discipline Oleo-Curl Hair Cream

Managing curly hair is no easy task, but a quality leave-in conditioner can make all the difference in the look and feel of your ringlets. Kérastase Discipline Oleo-Curl Hair Cream provides definition, smoothness, and suppleness for unruly curly hair. 

Kérastase Discipline Oleo-Curl Hair Cream, $37.00 MSRP

Redken Curvaceous Conditioner

The Redken Curvaceous Conditioner doubles as a leave-in and rinse out conditioner for curly and wavy hair. The formula quenches thirsty strands with intense moisture and weightless conditioning. 

Redken Curvaceous Conditioner, $20.00 MSRP

For all hair types: 

Matrix Total Results Miracle Creator Repairing Nourishing Leave-In Conditioner

Looking for a leave-in conditioner that’s fit for everyone? We recommend the Matrix Total Results Miracle Creator Repairing Nourishing Leave-In Conditioner. This formula has 20 beautifying benefits for your hair including adding moisture, detangling, and minimizing damage. 

Matrix Total Results Miracle Creator Repairing Nourishing Leave-in Conditioner, $17.00 MSRP

Mizani 25 Miracle Milk 

This lightweight, multi-tasking formula is a fan favorite for a reason! The product boasts 25 benefits that are essential for any head of hair, including priming hair for styling, adding shine, helping prevent split ends, and helping prevent heat damage. 

Mizani 25 Miracle Milk, $30.00 MSRP

Begin with freshly shampooed hair. 

Before you apply your leave-in conditioner, begin your hair care routine as you normally would by cleansing your mane with your regular shampoo and conditioner routine. For best results, we recommend using a system specifically formulated for your hair type. 

Apply leave-in conditioner. 

Whether you’re using a cream, spray, or mist formula, apply a generous amount of leave-in conditioner evenly throughout towel dried hair. Since your mid-lengths and ends tend to need the most care, focus the most on those areas when applying the product. Since leave-in conditioner can leave your roots looking greasy, we recommend avoiding applying it to the top of your head. 

If you're not exactly sure how much leave-in conditioner your strands need, make an appointment with a hair care professional to learn what's best for your hair. 

Comb your hair. 

To ensure you’ve evenly distributed your leave-in conditioner throughout your entire mane, comb the product through your hair using a wide tooth comb. 

Pro tip: Since wet or damp hair can be more prone to damage, don’t use a regular bristle brush until your strands are completely dry. Once the leave-in conditioner is fully applied, you’re ready to begin styling as usual. 

Interested in more personalized product picks? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.