Finally, A Leave-In Conditioner for Every Hair Type

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

With all the hairstyling options at our disposal these days, it’s easy to forget about the humble leave-in conditioner. But the truth is they’re one of the best ways to detangle, add moisture and smooth the hair with minimal effort—a practice we whole-heartedly believe in. 

The thing is though, not all leave-in conditioners are created equal. If you use something too rich, you’ll weigh your hair down. If it’s too light, it won’t really make a difference. Scent, texture, and ingredients also come into play—but if you do your research, your perfect match is definitely out there. That’s where we come in.

From curly to dry, we’ve compiled the best leave-in conditioners for every single hair type. 

Best Overall: Christophe Robin Hydrating Leave-In Mist With Aloe Vera

Best Overall: Christophe Robin Hydrating Leave-In Mist With Aloe Vera
 Courtesy of Sephora
What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Detangles

  • Won't irritate the scalp

What We Don't Like
  • Strong smell

Who else recommends it? Vogue, CNN, and The Strategist all picked Christophe Robin Hydrating Leave-In Mist With Aloe Vera.

French favorite Christophe Robin rarely gets it wrong (the brand’s iconic Salt Scrub is amazing) and this lightweight mist is no exception. Silicone-free and formulated using ingredients of 98% natural origin, it hydrates and detangles hair without weighing it down. It’s free from parabens, silicones, oxidants, and phthalates too, making it great for anyone prone to scalp irritation.

Hair Type: Dry, dull | Size: 5 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Budget: Garnier Intensely Smooth Leave-In Conditioning Cream

Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Intensely Smooth Leave-In Conditioning Cream
Courtesy of Target
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Adds shine

  • Holds up in humidity

What We Don't Like
  • Bottle can be hard to squeeze

Thick, dry, or frizzy hair types will go weak at the knees for this rich, buttery formula from Garnier. Loaded with citrus protein, vitamins, and argan oil, it delivers moisture and shine. It works great in hot, humid weather too. Comb it through damp hair before styling as normal.

Hair Type: Dry | Size: 10.2 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Drugstore: Marc Anthony Super Fast Leave-In Conditioner

Marc Anthony Strengthening Grow Long Super Fast Leave-In Conditioner
 Courtesy of Ulta
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Prevents breakage

  • Paraben-free

What We Don't Like
  • Spray dispenser doesn't work well

This wallet-friendly buy is full of caffeine and ginseng, and the brand claims it can help prevent hair breakage and may even encourage growth. Try it on damp hair after shampooing or to rehydrate dry strands from the mid-lengths through to the ends.

Hair Type: All | Size: 8.4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Dry Hair: Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosarco Milk Leave-In Conditioner

Briogeo Farewell Frizz™ Rosarco Milk Leave-In Conditioner
 Courtesy of Space NK
What We Like
  • Seals the cuticle

  • Lightweight

  • Detangles

What We Don't Like
  • Results aren't drastic

Dry hair needs all the moisture it can get. This pick from Briogeo contains a unique blend of oils (rosehip, coconut, and argan oil) to seal the cuticle and lock all the good stuff in. Associated frizz and flyaways will be tamed and the hair will feel softer. Who doesn’t want that? 

Hair Type: Dry, frizzy, damaged | Size: 1.75 oz or 5 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Damaged Hair: Vernon François Leave-In Conditioner

Vernon François Leave-In Conditioner
 Courtesy of Amazon
What We Like
  • Adds shine

  • Strengthens hair

  • Smells good

What We Don't Like
  • Can leave a greasy residue

If you’re prone to breakage or split ends, Vernon François’s keratin-packed mist can help. The formula detangles, adds shine and strengthens weak, brittle, or colored hair without feeling heavy. Plus, it smells incredible. It works equally well on damp and dry hair.

Hair Type: All | Size: 6.8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Color-Treated Hair: R+Co Sun Catcher Power C Boosting Leave-In Conditioner

R+Co Sun Catcher Power C Boosting Leave-In Conditioner
 Courtesy of Dermstore
What We Like
  • Protects hair from environmental stressors

  • Safe for color-treated hair

  • Detangles

What We Don't Like
  • Small amount

Vitamin C, collagen, and hyaluronic acid might sound straight out of a face serum, but this trio actually works together here to protect the hair. According to the brand, the formula can help shield color-treated hair from the environment (think pollution, UV rays, chlorine, and the like) that can contribute to fading. Try it over the summer months to preserve fresh highlights, or under salt spray for undone waves.

Hair Type: All | Size: 4.2 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Fine Hair: Drunk Elephant Wild Marula Tangle Spray

Drunk Elephant Wild Marula Tangle Spray
 Courtesy of Sephora
What We Like
  • Detangles

  • Provides heat protection

  • Volumizes

What We Don't Like
  • Small amount

Crowd favorite Drunk Elephant recently moved into hair care and the results have been pretty damn special. This leave-in mist contains nourishing plant oils—like sacha inchi seed, pracaxi seed, marula, and argan—to soften knots and protect against high temperatures. Thin hair types will also benefit from its volumizing perks and the absence of silicone.

Hair Type: All | Size: 4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Curly Hair: Oribe Priming Lotion Leave-In Conditioning Detangler

Oribe Priming Lotion Leave-In Conditioning Detangler
Courtesy of Dermstore 
What We Like
  • Detangles

  • Defines curls

  • Smells good

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Formulated specifically for curls, this lotion is super lush (it is Oribe, after all). Avocado, olive, and jojoba supremely moisturize while murumuru, mango, and cocoa seed butters soften unruly waves and bends. Slather it through damp hair after washing and before detangling with a wide-tooth comb. Expect smoother, more defined curls (plus that signature Oribe floral fragrance).

Hair Type: Curly | Size: 8.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Relaxed Hair: SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Leave-In Conditioner

Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Leave-In Conditioner
 Courtesy of Amazon
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Prevents breakage

  • Detangles

What We Don't Like
  • Unhygienic container

This rich cream is rich in Jamaican black castor oil and shea butter and can help nourish, support elasticity, and resist breakage when detangling. Designed specifically for curly or kinky hair that’s been heat-styled, it will add back moisture and restore softness.

Hair Type: Damaged, kinky, curly, wavy | Size: 16 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Natural Hair: Pattern Beauty Leave-In Conditioner

Pattern Beauty Leave-In Conditioner
 Courtesy of Ulta
What We Like
  • Defines curls

  • Safe for color-treated hair

  • Recyclable packaging

What We Don't Like
  • May weigh down fine hair

Anything Tracee Ellis Ross touches turns to gold, and this delicious leave-in treatment is no different. Curly or coiled hair is more porous by nature, so the more nourishing ingredient, the better. This is full of oils (like jojoba, castor seed, and avocado) and honey to seal in moisture while giving curls serious bounce and definition. Apply to soaking wet hair at the beginning of the drying process.

Hair Type: Curly, coily, textured | Size: 3 fl. oz, 9.8 fl. oz, or 25 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Wavy Hair: Verb Curl Leave-In Conditioner

Verb Curl Leave-In Conditioner
 Courtesy of Amazon
What We Like
  • Prevents breakage

  • Lightweight

  • Safe for color-treated hair

What We Don't Like
  • Not as hydrating as other options

Creamy formulas can often feel too much, but not this one from Verb. Instead, it’s light but seriously nourishing, thanks to coconut, shea butter, and sunflower seed oil. Designed for curly and wavy hair, it’s best applied to damp strands before styling. Thinner hair types should apply from the mid-lengths to ends only.

Hair Type: Curly, fine, coily, thick, wavy | Size: 6 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Scent: Ouai Leave-In Conditioner

Ouai Leave-In Conditioner
 Courtesy of Ulta
What We Like
  • Detangles

  • Provides heat protection

  • Smells good

What We Don't Like
  • Strong scent

This light, milky spray can ease out knots and leave hair feeling soft and contains a blend of tamarind seed extract, hydrolyzed proteins, and panthenol. It also offers heat protection, so it's great for those who commit to a stringent hair washing and blow-drying routine. But the best part is the scent. It draws on the brand’s North Bondi fragrance: a soft, light white floral that encapsulates the Australian coastal paradise perfectly. Think fresh bergamot, violet, and warm white musk. Your hair will smell sweet and salty (without the crunch).

Hair Type: All | Size: 1.5 fl. oz or 4.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Luxury: Balmain Leave-In Conditioning Spray

Balmain Leave-In Conditioning Spray
 Courtesy of Net-A-Porter
What We Like
  • Smells good

  • Adds shine

  • Protects hair from environmental stressors

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

If your bathroom habits are more bougie than basic, Balmain’s luxury iteration is made for you. Aside from smelling like a dream, it delivers on its promise of moisture and shine, smoothing hair thanks to a blend of silk protein and argan oil. It's also formulated with UV filters to help protect your locks from environmental damage. Expect glossy shine and extra swishy-ness.

Hair Type: All | Size: 1.69 fl. oz or 6.76 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

What to Look For in a Leave-In Conditioner

Nourishing and Protective Ingredients

When shopping for a leave-in conditioner, hairstylist Kelly Macedo first recommends looking for a formula that contains nourishing and protective ingredients. ”I would look for some sort of an oil, such as almond, coconut, jojoba, argan, or roucou oil,” she says. “All are super moisturizing and will help to soften the hair shaft.” Another must? An ingredient that will help protect against breakage and damage, such as hydrolyzed protein. Lastly, she recommends a formula containing antioxidants (or antioxidant-rich ingredients) to protect against UV damage, such as sunflower extract, guava, or vitamins A, C, and E. 

The Right Formula for Your Hair Type

Leave-in conditioners aren’t one-size-fits-all, so be sure you’re shopping for the right formula for your specific hair type. If your hair is on the finer side, Macedo recommends opting for products that are lightweight in texture yet still hydrating to ensure your hair won’t be weighed down. When it comes to coarse, thick hair or curly textures, she recommends reaching for something that’s richer. “Curly hair naturally tends to be dryer, so I’d recommend a milkier leave-in with a little thickness to it,” she says.

Free of Silicones and Fillers

When it comes to leave-in conditioners—and all hair care products for that matter—Macedo recommends avoiding formulas that contain silicones, sulfates, parabens, and formaldehyde. 

FAQ
  • How long can you leave in leave-in conditioner?

    Until your next shampoo. Leave-in conditioners work instantly to give hair nourishment and shine, and stay in the hair to promote silky, soft strands until you wash it next. There's no downside to keeping leave-in conditioner in; it simply gives your hair added hydration and a silkier texture.

  • Do leave-in conditioners work for curly hair?

    Yes. In general, curly hair types will want to look for a lightweight formula that won't weigh down curls. Depending on your hair's porosity, you may be able to use a richer, creamier leave-in.

  • Can I use leave-in conditioner every day?

    You can, but you might want to alternate or skip days here and there. Leave-in conditioner contains moisturizing ingredients that can lead to build-up on the hair and scalp and greasy-looking hair over time. If your hair is fine or thin and tends to experience buildup, try using leave-in conditioner once per week or whenever you feel your hair needs extra hydration.

  • What does a leave-in conditioner do?

    Leave-in conditioners give your hair extra hydration while also helping to detangle, control frizz, and in some cases, provide heat protection.

  • How should I apply leave-in conditioner?

    Start with clean, towel-dried hair and smooth a small amount through your mid-lengths and ends. You can always add a bit more product if your hair is extra dry. Brush through with a detangling brush or comb to distribute the product evenly, and then dry and style it as you normally would.

  • How much leave-in conditioner should I use?

    The exact amount of leave-in conditioner you should use depends on your hair type, how often you color or heat-style it, and how much product your hair can take. But in general, start with a small amount and add more if needed. It’s always easier to add product rather than removing excess once it’s already in your hair.

Meet the Expert

Kelly Macedo is a hairstylist and the owner of Interior Hair in Los Feliz, California. Her specialties include precision haircuts with a focus on bangs, face-framing bobs, pixie cuts, lived-in layers, and enhancing her clients’ natural textures.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. The Best Leave-In Conditioner Sprays to Hydrate and Nourish Your Hair. Vogue. https://www.vogue.com/article/best-leave-in-conditioner-sprays

  2. The 22 best leave-in conditioners to fight dryness and frizz, according to experts. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/cnn-underscored/beauty/best-leave-in-conditioners

  3. The Best Leave-In Conditioners, According to Hairstylists. The Strategist. https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-leave-in-conditioners.html

  4. Dunaway S, Odin R, Zhou L, Ji L, Zhang Y, Kadekaro AL. Natural Antioxidants: Multiple Mechanisms to Protect Skin From Solar Radiation. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:392. doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00392

Related Stories