Best leave-in conditioner for curly hair

Hair Products

Curly hair can shrink up to 30% of its length when dry and fully coiled. Using products designed for your hair type will help maximize shrinkage and define curls.

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Which leave-in conditioners for curly hair are best?

Curly hair is a finicky beast. Different curl types need different products, and even when you find the right one, your hair may only like it some of the time. 

If there’s one thing all curl types need, it’s moisture. If you’re experiencing dry and frizzy hair, it’s probably because your hair isn’t getting enough. Just using a rinse-out conditioner doesn’t tend to work for curls. Curls are too textured for every strand to get the renewing benefits, leaving you with dry and brittle ends. 

Leave-in conditioners add much-needed moisture and nutrients to your hair. They lock in the benefits and prime your follicles for styling and treatment. Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Leave-In Conditioner is the best leave-in conditioner for curly hair on the market.

What to know before you buy a leave-in conditioner for curly hair

Your curls

Do you have wavy hair or kinky? In technical terms, do you have type 2B or 4C curls? Your curl type has a big impact on which hair care products are right for you. While many leave-in conditioners for curls cater to all types, some are meant for a specific range. If you’re not sure what your curl type is, you can take a quiz online or ask your local stylist. 

It’s also important to consider the thickness of your hair. Thicker curls will require heavier creams, while the same products will pull out curls or leave residue on thinner hair. 

How to apply a leave-in conditioner

Most eave-in conditioners are designed for you to use after you wash and condition your hair. If you do want to apply it outside of your usual shower routine, you should at least make sure your hair is wet first. Combing conditioner through dry curly hair leads to frizzy, sticky strands. 

Comb the conditioner through your wet hair to the ends with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb. This ensures every strand is treated. 

While most curl types need both a regular conditioner and a leave-in to stay hydrated, thinner curls may be overwhelmed and weighed down by both products. If you experience this, try taking your standard conditioner out of your wash routine first. 

Is it compatible with your current products?

Consider the products you’re already using before buying a leave-in. If you’re using a clarifying shampoo, a deeply moisturizing leave-in conditioner will help you restore balance to your curls. The type of towel you use will also affect how well the conditioner works. Microfiber towels and t-shirts are the gentlest on curly hair and prevent breakage. 

What to look for in a quality leave-in conditioner for curly hair

Protective qualities

Almost all leave-in conditioners have benefits for your hair besides moisture. Some are designed to restore damaged hair, while others protect against heat or dye treatments. Consider your hair’s history, as well as any plans to color or heat-treat, before choosing a new product. 

The ingredients

Some ingredients in hair care products can hinder your hair’s health more than help. Alcohol-based ingredients will leave your hair dry and frizzy. Sulfates strip your hair of natural oils and cause the same problem. However, many excellent additives can work wonders. Butters, such as shea and almond, are great for moisturizing. Vitamin E and keratin strengthen and restore hair. 

Leave-in cream or spray?

Leave-in conditioners usually come in either spray bottles or pots of cream. Both work well, but their effectiveness depends on your hair type. Spray conditioners are usually lightweight and convenient, but cream penetrates deeper and can smooth every follicle as you comb it through to the ends. 

How much you can expect to spend on leave-in conditioner for curly hair

Some drugstore leave-ins cost under $15, while specialized or well-known brands can be $35 or more per bottle or pot. 

Leave-in conditioner for curly hair FAQ

How often should you use a leave-in conditioner?

A. You should use at least a little bit every time you wash your hair. If you experience residue or a greasy texture on your hair, try using less or applying after every other wash. 

What are the best ingredients for curly hair?

A. Curly hair needs a balance of protein (strength) and moisture to stay healthy. Argan oil supplies both of these qualities in one good-smelling package. Silk is also a great source of protein and protects against heat.

Is it possible to have multiple curl types?

A. It’s common for people with curly hair to have more than one type of curl on their head. This makes it slightly more difficult to manage, but products that treat all curls can take care of it. 

What’s the best leave-in conditioner for curly hair to buy?

Top leave-in conditioner for curly hair 

Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Leave-In Conditioner

Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Leave-In Conditioner

What you need to know: This natural and good smelling conditioner deeply hydrates and strengthens hair. 

What you’ll love: It makes curls soft and shiny, has organic ingredients and is great for type 4 curls. 

What you should consider: Using too much of it can leave your hair oily. It’s too heavy for finer curls. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top leave-in conditioner for curly hair for the money

Shea Moisture Strengthen and Restore Leave-In

Shea Moisture Strengthen and Restore Leave-In

What you need to know: This thick, quality moisturizer strengthens hair and restores moisture. It protects against breakage and detangles.

What you’ll love: This product restores life to chemically treated and heat-damaged hair with natural ingredients. 

What you should consider: It’s too heavy for fine curls and using too much can make your hair greasy. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Living proof No Frizz Leave-In Conditioner

Living proof No Frizz Leave-In Conditioner

What you need to know: This color-safe cream blocks humidity to keep your hair smooth and frizz-free. 

What you’ll love: It smells great and helps detangle hair. A little goes a long way. 

What you should consider: It’s expensive and doesn’t work well on thin hair. 

Where to buy: Amazon


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Anabelle Weissinger writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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