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Dry hair, breakage, damage—these things happen. Those beautiful curls, coils, and waves are certainly particular, and finding the right care and styling products is the first step to curl appreciation. As such, we're taught to mask, condition, and stay away from heat tools.
Though, one of the best ways to keep things hydrated is to invest in a product you won't have to wash out. Enter: leave-in conditioners. The smoothing, protecting, and moisture-infusing creams, milks, and serums that do your hair good.
Read on for the best leave-in conditioners for curly hair on the market below.
Best Overall: Davines All In One Milk Lotion
Packed with rich roucou oil, amino acids, and ellagic acid, this cream encourages hair growth, protects strands from UV radiation, and fights off free radicals. Spray the formula 10 to 15 times on the roots and ends of your hair after shampooing to keep them soft, hydrated, and strong.
Best Budget: TGIN Green Tea Super Moist Leave-in Conditioner
This blend of green tea, shea butter, and argan oil feels like an indulgence for your sense just as much as it is for your curls. Not only will this work wonders for stubborn knots and split ends, but it also penetrates the scalp to prevent damage and keep frizz at bay. Its lightweight formula will leave your hair feeling smooth, hydrated, and enhance shine tenfold.
Best Volumizing: DevaCurl B'Leave-In Miracle Curl Plumper
Use this lightweight gel to add shine, volume, and plumpness to your curls. The formula boasts a conditioning mix of wheat protein, lemongrass, and chamomile—the perfect trio to hydrate and protect your hair.
Best Friction Control: Living Proof No Frizz Leave-In Conditioner
Living Proof's formula conditions the hair to protect against frizz and block humidity from taking its toll. Apply it on dry, parched hair and ends after your shower and let it do its magic.
Best Drugstore: SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Leave-In Conditioner
Formulated with Jamaican black castor oil and certified organic shea butter to nourish, moisturize, and support your hair's elasticity against breakage, this leave-in conditioner is chock-full of reparative omegas for healthy hair growth. It'll mend your ends, stimulate your scalp (thanks to invigorating peppermint), and detangle without ripping your precious hair out.
Best Cream: Moroccanoil Curl Defining Cream
Use this argan oil–infused styling and conditioning formula for soft, bouncy curls (never crunchy). It'll smooth, hydrate, and style your hair all in one sweet-smelling product.
Best Spray: Vernon François Leave-In Conditioner
Lupita Nyong'o's long-time hairstylist, Vernon François, developed a comprehensive line of products for every curl. This non-sticky spray defines curls without making them feel heavy while smoothing the hair. You can thank the formula for that, which contains African tulip tree extract and amino acids that nourish and strengthen.
Best Natural: Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Leave-in Defining Crème
Nourish your curls with Briogeio’s naturally derived formula, which is free of harsh parabens, artificial dyes, and sulfates. It's packed with powerful ingredients like amino acids, avocado oil, and quinoa extract, that leaves curls frizz-free, defined, and hydrated.
Best Hydrating: Pattern Leave-In Conditioner
Perfect for curls that need extra hydration, this lightweight formula is made up of nourishing oils and honey. Featuring floral notes like neroli, rose, and patchouli, this product will wake up dry strands while providing soft curl definition. Use it as a post shampoo pick-me-up, or before putting hair into protective hairstyles to lock in moisture.
Best Reparative: Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave In Conditioner
Your curls can get overworked from day to day detangling and styling, but this hydrating leave in conditioner is clinically proven to bring hair back to life. It repairs damaged hair, encourages growth, and prevents breakage, so you can get the most out of your curls. The organic blueberry bliss extract makes it smell amazing, and we especially love that this product is lightweight enough for daily use.
For super soft, bouncy curls, and overall protection, our fave is the Davines All In One Milk Lotion. We’re also really loving the super hydrating ingredients in the SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Leave-In Conditioner. With black castor oil, a slew of omegas, and certified organic shea butter, it’s exactly the cocktail your curly strands need. Need something more lightweight? The Vernon François Leave-In Conditioner is infused with amino acids to strengthen hair (all in a handy spray bottle) and the Pattern Leave-In Conditioner feels weightless, even though it packs a serious punch.
What to Look for in a Leave-In Conditioner For Curly Hair
Because curly hair can be more prone to dryness, moisturizing ingredients should be a priority for the products you use. Be on the lookout for oils like argan, grape seed, coconut, and similar emollients. Also, it’s best to keep away from products that include sulfates, which can further dehydrate your hair.
Nowadays, it all comes down to personal preference. It used to be that creamier, thicker textures meant a more moisturizing formula, but this “rule” has changed as formulas and technologies have evolved. Even the lightest formulas can contain some pretty supercharged ingredients—which means you ultimately get to choose based on your lifestyle and hair routine.