My flyaways annoyed me to no end. It seemed that no matter how much hair spray or smoothing product I'd put on my hair, they'd pop back up again an hour later. They were always out of control, sticking up in all the wrong places. One time, the little strands of hair even blocked my friend's face in a photo. I know, I know. It was getting out of hand, but it seemed like I was out of options!
For the most part, my hair is pretty healthy. I don't dye it, and I use heat tools and my hair dryer very sparingly. Sure, I've got split ends that need to be trimmed, but who doesn't? My biggest hair gripe was the dang flyaways.
When I got tired of failing to smooth my hair with hair spray, I decided to venture out and try a new product: leave-in conditioner. I always thought leave-in conditioners were for dried-out and damaged hair only. I pictured them as greasy, too creamy, and too heavy for my stick-straight hair, which already needed a bit of help in the volume department. Boy, was I wrong.
After trying leave-in conditioner on my damp hair and air-drying it, I noticed the frizzy flyaways were tamed a bit more. Sure, a few popped up here and there, but it was still a big difference pre-product. And the best part? It stayed that way throughout the day and for a few days after. Now, I apply the product every time I wash my hair (a couple of times a week), and I think it's really helping nourish my hair and controlling the unruly strands.
If flyaways aren't your hair problem, a leave-in conditioner can help solve a lot of other ones, too. There are formulas for different hair needs, so choose one that fits yours exactly. I needed something lightweight, but you might need something thicker and creamier if your hair is very dry. Or you might need a product that offers thermal protection from heat tools if you use them a lot.
What to Look For in a Leave-In Conditioner
If you have flyaways, split ends, or tangled strands, your hair may be damaged from everyday wear and tear or environmental aggressors. According to Brandie Devillier, platform educator at the Aveda Arts & Sciences Institute and certified color educator at Elevate Hair, finding the right products to use on your hair can provide quick and easy fixes for the biggest concerns. "Depending on what type of damage is going on, there are different ways to help," Devillier says. "Damage can happen from a variety of sources. For example, the sun, hard water, too much heat, over-processed chemicals in color, tight braids or ponytails, and yes, even brushing can cause damage." Devillier's solution starts with a trip to the hair salon for recommendations on hair treatments from a trusted stylist.
To ensure the health of your hair, leave-in hair conditioners used alone or in tandem with other treatments, like acidic-based masks, will help close the hair strand and prevent any further damage, combat frizz, and strengthen the hair (say bye-bye to those pesky flyaways). Take a look at some of the leave-in conditioners I've tried for my flyaways and others for different hair needs.
Best Overall Leave-In Conditioner: Olaplex No.6 Bond Smoother Reparative Styling Creme
Pros: Strengthens and hydrates strands.
Say goodbye to frizz and dryness with this leave-in cream. It works on all hair types, even if your hair is colored or chemically treated. If you're particular about what's in your products, you'll be happy to find out that it's free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and oil.
Customer review: "I have been using the Olaplex line for over two years now, and my hair has seen a tremendous change. I decided to give this a try after reading some great reviews. I highly recommend it. Great for blowouts."
Best With Fragrance: Ouai Leave-In Conditioner
Pros: Quickly detangles and protects the hair.
Cons: Strongly fragranced.
I love Ouai's Leave-In Conditioner because it's a lightweight spray that really fights my frizz and flyaways. I find it makes my hair ultra-shiny, too. It also hydrates, detangles, and protects against heat.
Customer review: "This leave-in conditioner is awesome. I am leaving this review just after ordering my fourth bottle (a lot of OUAI's products have refill pouches for purchase, but this one does not). I have thick wavy hair that is pretty fine. This leave-in conditioner moisturizes, eliminates the frizz, and detangles my hair very easily, without weighing it down."
Best Frizz Fighting: Living Proof No Frizz Leave-In Conditioner
Pros: Lightweight and non-greasy, great for color-treated hair.
Cons: Glycolic acid may not be suitable for sensitive scalps.
This one from Living Proof has nourishing ingredients and glycolic acid to make your hair smoother and softer. It also blocks against humidity.
Customer review: "This is the best leave-in conditioner I have ever tried! My color-treated hair tends to be frizzy, and this conditioner smoothed it out completely when I used the blow dryer. When I use the leave-in conditioner after washing my hair and just let my hair air-dry, my hair is full of volume but not frizzy. Highly recommend!"
Best for Wavy & Curly Hair: Adwoa Beauty Baomint Leave-In Conditioning Styler
Pros: Prevents frizziness, great for curly and coily hair types.
Cons: Strongly fragranced.
The consistency of this conditioner is on the thicker and creamier side. It works well on all hair types but is especially great for curly and wavy hair. Ingredients include lavender and rosemary leaf oils and nettle extract.
Customer review: "This has been life-changing for my hair. I use it at the end of wash day or during braid outs, and it always leaves my hair with a nice, healthy sheen and curl definition. Not to mention it smells really nice. The product also lasts a long time, even with regular use. Will definitely repurchase!"
Best for Bleached Hair: K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask
Pros: Patented peptide technology works to repair damage from bleach, color, and other chemical services, restores strength to the hair.
This stylist-loved leave-in treatment from K18 uses patented peptide technology to reverse and repair damage done by bleach, color, or other chemical services like relaxing. It helps restore strength, bounce, and shine to otherwise dull strands.
Customer review: "...I thought my hair was a lost cause, but K18 came to the rescue. If you want hair that makes you feel like a rock star every day, K18 is your backstage pass to hair heaven. It's like a hair rehab program, but way more fun. Love it."
Best Drugstore: SheaMoisture Strengthen & Restore Leave-In Conditioner
Pros: Strengthening and softening, budget-friendly, includes nutrient-rich ingredients that deeply hydrate the hair.
Cons: Limited slip on some hair types.
This super-rich leave-in conditioner is so powerful at repairing, strengthening, and moisturizing hair. But you'll be happy to know it doesn't leave a greasy finish or residue. Ingredients include raw shea butter, black castor oil, peppermint, and omegas.
Customer review: "I have been using this for about five years now, and I still love it! I have frizzy, curly hair that tangles very easily. After my shampoo, I use this as my leave-in conditioner, and it makes my hair easy to comb through. This is absolutely all my hair needs to keep it controlled all day without the frizz. It is not heavy or oily but just perfect for my hair."
Best for Hair Growth: Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner
Pros: Prevents knots and breakage, great for curly and coily hair types.
For wavy, tight, and coily hair, this conditioner locks in hydration, promotes hair health, and softens your curls. It has beneficial botanical extracts like arnica and prickly pear, plus antioxidants like green tea and vitamin B5.
Customer review: "This leave-in conditioner is fabulous! I use it every day between washings. It has boosted the moisture in my hair, so now it is the healthiest it's been in years."
Best for Fine Hair: Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosarco Milk Leave-In Conditioner
Pros: Keeps hair looking and feeling smooth, eliminates flyaways and frizz.
Cons: Strongly fragranced.
As this conditioner's name suggests, you'll say goodbye to frizz if you try this. Rosehip oil in the formula protects hair from radical damage and reduces frizz, while argan oil conditions and coconut oil lock in moisture. It's good for both straight and curly hair types.
Customer review: "This is my third bottle. I have a mix of wavy and straight bleached hair. This is the only one that tames my hair. I use it right after I shower. Doesn't make my hair greasy or weigh it down. Smells fresh. Little goes a long way."
Best for Dry Hair: Innersense Sweet Spirit Leave-In Conditioner
Pros: Good for all hair types, detangles, infused with emollient oils to deeply hydrate.
Cons: Semi-runny formula.
While it's best to use this conditioner on damp hair, you can still use it on dry hair to give it a little more oomph or to restyle. The lightweight formula detangles and moisturizes.
Customer review: "This lightweight spray is really nice for dry climates. It gives my hair a healthy-looking shine and feels really nice. Do make sure to shake the bottle hard! And I only use one pump. If I use more, my hair starts to get greasy. I use this on wet and dry hair, and it leaves me soft and shiny."
Best for 4c Hair: Verb Curl Leave-In Conditioner
Pros: Defines and softens curls, detangles, hydrates.
Cons: Semi-greasy finish on certain hair types.
Another option for curly hair types, this one not only strengthens and softens hair but also adds shine. The lotion-like formula contains nourishing ingredients like sunflower-seed extract, coconut oil, and shea butter.
Customer review: "I absolutely Love this Verb Leave-In Conditioner. It leaves my curls soft and bouncy. I love that my hair is manageable and easy to comb. After using it for a few weeks, it has left my hair looking very healthy. This is an amazing leave-in conditioner. It smells wonderful too. I highly recommend it. Your curls will love it."
Best for Damaged Hair: It's a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product
Pros: Promotes shiny and healthy hair, tames frizz, can act as a heat protectant.
Cons: Leaves a residue on the hair.
Repair your damaged hair and protect against future split ends with this product. It also works to protect against heat. Use it on wet or dry hair as a styling cream.
Customer review: "I have been using this product for years! I have thick wavy hair, and it really helps me detangle before I brush my hair out. Plus, it smells AMAZING! What's not to love about this product? I would say it's definitely a 10!"
Best Spray On Application: Rahua Hydration Detangler + UV Barrier
Pros: Formulated with clean ingredients, detangles and prevents breakage, contains ingredients that shield against UV damage.
Cons: Not moisturizing enough for tighter curl types.
The cool thing about this treatment is that it has UV protection thanks to oil made from an Amazonian fruit rich in vitamins and antioxidants. It also detangles and prevents breakage.
Customer review: "I use this product as a compliment to their shampoo and conditioner, alongside the Reverie Milk, and love it! Since switching to clean hair care, I found I needed all the extra moisture to prevent dry extra frizzy hair. This product helps!"
Best for Natural Hair: DevaCurl B'Leave-In Miracle Curl Plumper
Pros: Ultra-moisturizing, provides body and definition to curls.
Cons: May weigh down hair.
If your curls need moisture and volume, this curl-plumping primer and gelée can help. It can act as a base "primer" for any other gel products you might want to use to give your curls definition and hydration.
Customer review: "This is a leave-in conditioner I have been using for a while now. [It] leaves my hair feeling great and no build-up. Finally a curly hair line of products that make my hair feel great and look great. I would highly recommend this line."
Best Heat Protection: Aveda Nutriplenish Leave-In Conditioner
Pros: Protects hair from thermal stress, hydrates the hair, protects against UV damage.
Cons: Potentially drying.
You'll get powerful thermal protection from this conditioner—up to 450ºF, to be exact. Additionally, it works to hydrate your hair while guarding against damaging UV rays.
Customer review: "I love this conditioner. The smell is amazing, and it leaves my hair feeling nourished and shiny. I love to use it before blow drying and straightening my hair for extra shine and smoothness, but [I] also use it on days when I don't style my hair to make it feel less bristle."
Best Luxury: Oribe Priming Lotion Leave-In Conditioner Detangler
Pros: Controls frizz while maintaining curls, great preparation step for heat styling, highly moisturizing.
Use this conditioning lotion on curly hair to prep it before heat styling. It has ingredients like olive, avocado, and jojoba oils to moisturize, soften, and protect from even more dryness.
Customer review: "I bought this a few weeks ago to give it a try. This stuff leaves your hair feeling soft and healthy. This will definitely be in my normal routine going forward for my colored hair."
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.