If you have curly or coily hair, a good leave-in conditioner is an absolute must. Especially if your natural texture is on the drier side, a leave-in is not so much optional as it is highly necessary. I like to keep a few on hand and rotate between them, but I decided it would be a good idea to call in an expert to weigh in on what to look for in a leave-in. Natural hair expert and founder of Juices & Botanics Haircare, Whitney Eaddy, provided me with a wealth of knowledge.
"People with tighter curl patterns should look for a water-based, hydrating leave-in conditioner that offers nourishment, restoration, and protective benefits," says Eaddy. "In my experience, people with tighter curl patterns tend to look for heavier products, but I find that lighter leave-in conditioners really do a better job of penetrating the strands and helping to mitigate dryness. Using products that are infused with nutrients, botanicals, and soft proteins is a great advantage in the hydration process. By infusing the hair with such ingredients and improving the absorption of water and nutrients, natural hair can hold and ultimately retain [more] moisture and length. This approach creates the optimal environment for healthy growth. A pro tip that I swear by is to always use both a liquid and cream leave-in. By layering them you’ll see an improvement in overall health, strength, hydration, and moisture retention."
For Eaddy's top leave-ins and a few of my own favorites, keep scrolling below.
"This powerful formula is like a liquid vitamin for your strands. It strengthens and restores hair with ultra-lightweight moisture from root to tip. Not only does this revitalizing rice protein formula provide a wealth of shine and instant detangling, but also improves hair elasticity, manageability, and luster."—Whitney Eaddy
"This conditioner is lightweight, easy to use, and smells great! Proper detangling of your hair is a must, and this leave-in conditioner will detangle each and every strand. It will also lock in extra moisture with honey and babassu oil providing long-lasting hydration and protecting the hair with a wonderful blend of babassu oil and citrus extracts. It’s a win-win!"—Eaddy
"This milky liquid leave-in is infused with a blend of ultra-nourishing rosehip and argan oil that helps effectively fight frizz, detangles, and restores hair's softness, strength, manageability, and moisture levels, while acting as a barrier against humidity."—Eaddy
"This leave-in serves to seal the hair with lasting hydration and restores the natural moisture balance. It also shields the hair from environmental factors. It's a weightless formula that contains fortifying keratin, alma, and hibiscus. It gives an extra boost of frizz protection and works to improve the health and condition of the hair by filling in the gaps of any cuticle damage to provide vital nourishment and protection for the hair strands. The Quench Cream rejuvenates every strand and promotes healthy hair and length retention."—Eaddy
"This Bamboo & Silk HCO Leave-In Conditioner is a targeted, highly penetrating conditioning treatment that detangles, soothes, and separates strands while also providing intense thermal protection for blowdrying and heat styles."—Eaddy
"This blend of natural oils and honey in this amazing leave-in conditioner for natural hair perfectly seals in moisture before putting the hair into protective styles. It contains avocado, jojoba oil, and biotin. It seals in moisture, detangles, and adds extra hydration while giving soft-curl pattern definition."—Eaddy
I've been using a custom curl cream from Prose for a few weeks now along with a made-for-me shampoo and conditioner from the brand and the results don't lie. My hair has never been softer or more manageable. I like mixing the curl cream with the custom hair oil to make a cocktail of extreme nourishment and hydration for my curls.
This oil-cream formula leaves curls so soft and moisturized all day long. Although most leave-ins aim to just tame frizz, this one also repairs damage with nourishing coconut, olive, and almond oil.
I've never used a Bread Beauty Supply product I don't like, and the brand's Elastic Bounce Leave-In Conditioning Styler is really no different. It features ultra-hydrating ingredients like quinoa protein and mango butter to revitalize your strands and help reduce breakage and dryness.
Luxury haircare brand Oribe is known for its lush formulas and the brand's leave-in conditioner is perfect for tighter curl types. It detangles with ease and contains mango seed butter and cupacu to provide extra hydration and slip for the hair. It can also act as a heat protectant if you'll be heat styling for the day.
If your curls or coils are on the drier side, Moroccanoil's leave-in conditioner is the one for you. It provides up to 72 hours of hydration with ingredients like argan oil, vegetable-based keratin, and a conditioning superfood blend.
Curlsmith's rich oil-cream texture is great for protective styles and adds extra moisture to dry, thick hair. The addition of rose of Jericho (a desert plant that survives up to three years without water), carrot and sesame oil in the formula also help prevent further moisture loss.
Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.
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