A Guide to Using Leave-in Conditioners

Should you use leave-in conditioners? If you asked me this question four months ago the answer would be yes. My hair regime used to be: lather… rinse… repeat, condition in the shower, add Infusium 23 to my wet hair and torture it for two hours under the dryer and then top it off with with some carrot hair oil.

These days my regime is a bit different, I have tweaked it to the point where I unintentionally left out my leave-in conditioner and guess what? My hair doesn’t miss it! Most of the things that I was told that my hair really needed are things that my hair does quite fine without.

The Role of Leave-in Conditioners

Leave-in conditioners are supposed to soften, smooth and repair hair shaft damage (it does so by smoothing over cracks in the hair shaft). It cannot repair split ends.  I am instantly suspicious of any product that purports to repair split ends, surprisingly many hair product marketers do make that claim.  Fact: SPLIT ENDS CAN NOT BE REPAIRED. They can be cut off so that they do not split up to the hair root but once they split repairing them is impossible. Get them while the split is still small and do not waste your money of products that claim to repair splits ends.

Many persons swear by their leave-ins, in fact, some of them make very good moisturizers and can keep hair soft and moisturized for the week. My advice to anyone who wants to use leave-in conditioners is to look at the ingredients on the bottles. Read the ingredients on all your product labels but be wary of anything that will be sitting on your hair for days. If the ingredients are carcinogenic (cause cancer) then you need to tread softly. If the ingredients contain alcohol, do not use it for your hair. Alcohol in any form dries out hair and leaves it stiff and straw like.

Do not use the leave-in conditioner if it has on the ingredients list “contains other ingredients”. Your hair is close to your brain, do not take a chance on what the other ingredients might be. You will be surprise at how nasty some hair product ingredients can be.

A friend of mine makes her own homemade leave-in conditioner by buying a sulphate, silicone  free conditioner  and adding vegetable glycerine to the hair recipe along with coconut oil. She puts this in a spray bottle and dilutes it with almost half the bottle filled with filtered water. She has used it for years and it works for her.

I like to think that if you deep condition your hair properly then using the leave-in conditioner is conditioning overkill. However, if you use an ordinary conditioner which just coats the hair, then a good leave-in conditioner will be a great solution to soften, smooth and repair your hair.


  • Miossoty said:

    How does one deep condition “properly”?

    • Brenda said:

      Hey Miossoty,
      To deep condition properly, the conditioner has to enter your hair cuticle, this is usually achieved with heat. If it does not penetrate the hair shaft it is not deep conditioning- just regular conditioning, which is fine but may not give the results you may want in the long run especially if your hair is prone to dryness. Read some more tips here.

  • nduta ng'ang'a said:

    Thanks Brenda for this eye opening piece on leave ins. I will try give the leave in a miss and see the results

  • nduta ng'ang'a said:

    Hi Brenda, this past week I deep conditioned my hair and instead of using my commercial leave-in product, I mixed aloe vera gel and my staple Extra virgin coconut and some distilled water in a spritz bottle and for the whole week my hair feels soft and smooth.

  • Moneeka said:

    I used infusium 23 back in the day and I just decided to revisit it. What are your views on it now?

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Moneeka, I use exactly four products now. Nothing more or less and my hair seems to be doing okay without anything else. To tell you the truth, when I used any leave-in conditioner, I was just following what my sister did. However, if you feel that you need that extra conditioning, I guess it would be fine. My friend was complaining to me the other day that it doesn’t feel the same way anymore. Maybe they tweaked the formula a bit.

  • caroll said:


    I appreciate your information. Your hair is pretty, I have short natural hair. Reading your info was inspiring but I AM not sure of a regimen to suit a short gray afro its thinning mostly on the top. Could you assist a Senior by emailing me with a low maintenance, economic regimen info. I would love to grow it out. Thanks for caring and sharing. Peace.

  • susan said:

    for how long can we keep in da leav in conditioner?? n wen can it washed? aftr shampoo does it require conditioning again? can u plz suggest me some gud shampoo n conditioner

  • Mimi said:

    What’s the difference between a leave-in conditioner and a normal one?

  • Jamaican girly said:

    Any suggestions for a homemade leave in conditioner?

  • mable carbin said:

    HI. Whice leave in conditioners would you reccomand, if any.

  • ron said:

    Hi bren, I used to have long hair but lackof care took it away from me now my hair struggles to sit. On my shoulders , its fine nd thin and has no body or bounce, ihave heard that ineed to retouch 1ce in. 4-6mnths and use olive hair mayonaise 1ce in 2week and wash. With pantene pro v every week…what’s your take

  • Vienna Closer said:

    I use Naturalista Cosmetics Juicy Hair Leave-In Conditioner and I swear by it. It gives my kinky hair moisture and helps it recover from the washing process. To each is own.

    • tash7 said:

      I’m with you on this one. I absolutely CANNOT go without my leave in

  • jumoke said:

    What’s your take on onion rinses

  • Tajuana Hughes said:

    After carefully reading this Blog i want to say that there are some things in this blog about conditioners I feel is true I Use deep conditioners and after i rise i use a moisturizing lotions and detangle on my hair when wet and or dry Hair . I find that is a process that eliminates breakage for 4c texture hair type .

  • whitemz said:

    Saw the commercials for the Shielo Hair line, but was pretty skeptical. Decided to try the leave-in protectant – because since i grew my hair really long, I got the WORST SPLIT ENDS. Well – thank GOD I tried the shielo leave in protectant because even with my super long hair – I barely have any split ends!! You will see fewer split/broken ends. Not sure if the repair is really permanent or just improves appearance. Definitely worth the price as you only use a small amount each time.

  • Nene said:

    I’m just starting my natural look and I need some advice on how to keep it from drying and getting back thicker. My hair is super thin and I hate putting it down so what all can I use to wash it and keep it from drying out.

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