InStyle January 19, 2023



These 13 Best Leave-In-Conditioners of 2023 Will Leave Your Hair Smooth and Hydrated


We like R+Co Waterfall Moisture and Shine Lotion because of its buildable formula for all hair types.

Leave-in conditioners are much like that daily espresso pick-me-up, but for your hair — they can add a boost of hydration, heat protection, and volumizing benefits to hair—bringing it back to life. However, a simple internet search on leave-in products can lead you to thousands of different choices with different benefits and ingredients to boot, making it hard to find the one that is just right!

Totally feel you, Goldilocks. To help uncomplicate the selection process, we found hairstylist-approved leave-in conditioners for all hair types, plus tips on how to use a leave-in conditioner, if it's your first time. Spoiler alert: R+Co Waterfall Moisture and Shine Lotion took the best overall slot, because of its buildable, moisturizing formula.

Here are the best leave-in conditioners for every hair type, texture, or formula preference.

Best Overall

R+Co Waterfall Moisture and Shine Lotion

What We Love: It hydrates strands, and just a little bit of product goes a long way.
What We Don't Love: It is a lotion-y product and not as easy to apply as a spray leave-in conditioner.

Like the name illustrates, this cream deposits a waterfall of moisture onto the hair to cut frizz, thanks to Babassu oil, vegetable proteins, and witch hazel. "This lightweight yet moisturizing leave-in conditioner is great for all hair types," says Chicago-based hairstylist, Krysta Rojas. It doesn't weigh the hair down and helps to hydrate and even out the porosity of the hair—aka your hair's ability to absorb and retain moisture, she explains.

Price at time of publish: $34

Hair Type: All|Size: 5.0 fl. oz.|Formula: Lotion

Best Value

It's a 10 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner

What We Love: It is safe to use on all hair types, and nourishes hair with silk amino acids and green tea and sunflower extracts.

What We Don't Love: It has a strong scent, which can be off-putting to those who are sensitive to fragrances.

"This leave-in conditioner is one of my all-time favorite products," says Gina Rivera, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Phenix Salon Suites. This spray conditioner can do it all: repairs damage, adds shine, detangles, prevent split ends, and protects against heat.

And because you'll be reaching for this all the time: "I love that this product is available in small and large sizes and leave strands feeling soft," Rivera says.

Price at time of publish: $15

Hair Type: All|Size: 4.0 fl. oz.|Formula: Spray/Liquid

Best Splurge

Rahua Leave-in Treatment

What We Love: It shields hair from pollutants, split ends, and breakage.

What We Don't Love: It can weigh down the hair if too much product is applied.

"Rahua's leave-in treatment is not only luxurious, but it is also made with only the finest ingredients," says Lindsay Loo, a master color expert with Wella Professionals. Like it's key ingredient, Rahua oil, which shores up weak strands and helps push color pigments deeper into the hair shaft to prolong your dye job. "Even better is that this treatment also helps to protect hair from the effects of stress, like split ends."

Price at time of publish: $46

Hair Type: All|Size: 2 fl. oz.|Formula: Cream

Best for Fine Hair

Goldwell Kerasilk Repower Weightless Volume Foam Conditioner

What We Love: It conditions and volumizes fine hair from root to tip.

What We Don't Love: Its foam-mousse-like texture can be difficult to apply.

The whipped texture of this leave-in is ideal for fine or thin hair types as it won't weigh it down like a heavy cream. "You can apply this product to very fine hair – from your roots through your ends," says Jessica Walker, veteran hairstylist, and owner of the J. Walker Salon Group. "It adds volume and protection from the sun, which is very important when you have fine hair. Plus, for anyone who has highlights, rest assured that this product maintains moisture and keeps hair feeling as full as possible."

Price at time of publish: $23

Hair Type: Fine|Size: 4.5 oz.|Formula: Foam/Liquid

Best for Curly Hair

Moroccanoil All-in-One Leave-In Conditioner

What We Love: It detangles curly hair and hydrates with nourishing argan oil.
What We Don't Love: The lighter-weight spray may not tame frizz as well as other leave-in conditioners.

A blend of natural oils, such as argan and sunflower seed, deposit a dose of hydration to strands and seals in moisture. Then, a plant-based keratin increases strength and elasticity to prevent breakage. "This leave-in conditioner is great for curly hair," Rivera tells InStyle. "It conditions and makes the hair feel soft while helping maintain its natural bounce."

Price at time of publish: $14

Hair Type: Straight, Wavy, Curly, and Coily|Size: 54 fl. oz.|Formula: Foam/Liquid

Best for Wavy Hair

Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner

What We Love: It is lightweight, buildable, and safe to use daily.
What We Don't Love: It may not give curly hair much definition.

"I love to use this on my clients with wavy hair," says Atlanta-based hair stylist, Keka Heron, "because it helps to balance oils and dryness in hair and locks in moisture. This lightweight formula is intended to build a base of hydration for waves and curls to layer other products upon with feeling overly greasy or heavy.

Price at time of publish: $21

Hair Type: Wavy and Curly|Size: 8.5 fl. oz.|Formula: Cream

Best for Damaged/Processed Hair

Joico K-PAK Reconstructor Deep-Penetrating Treatment

What We Love: It rebuilds the integrity of the hair and improves hair strength.

What We Don't Love: It has a watery texture that may be too thin for some.

"When your hair is in need of intense repair, this is my leave-in of choice," Heron tells InStyle. When hair is damaged—by heat tools, highlights, or regular washing and brushing—it break its bonds, the connections that keep hair strong. This formula helps to repair damage by replacing lost proteins, and in turn, doubling hair strength. "I have used it for years and it has never failed me," Heron says.

Price at time of publish: $27

Hair Type: Processed, Damaged, Fine, Naturally-Textured|Size: 8.5 fl. oz.|Formula: Cream

Best for Naturally-Textured/Coily Hair

Carol's Daughter Hair Milk 4-in-1 Combing Creme

What We Like: It is jam-packed with deeply nourishing agave nectar, cocoa butter, and shea butter ingredients.

What We Don't Like: It can leave the hair feeling stiff if too much is applied.

"The shea butter and soybean oil inside this cream-based leave-in are awesome at providing additional moisture and strength to curls and coils," Heron says. It's a thicker detangler ideal for natural hair textures to comb through curls and coils and provide structure while maintaining volume and bounce. "It also leaves the hair soft, manageable, and frizz-free," Heron assures.

Price at time of publish: $12

Hair Type: Curls, Coils, and Waves|Size: 8 fl. oz.|Formula: Cream

Best for Split Ends

Kerastase Blond Absolu Cicanut Serum Unisex

What We Love: It deeply moisturizes bleached and over-sensitized hair.

What We Don't Love: The product has a strong floral lemony scent.

A mask that works while you snooze and doesn't need to be rinsed in the morning? Sign us up! This lightweight serum restores the hair fiber overnight," says New York City-based master stylist and colorist, Paul Labrecque, by depositing hyaluronic acid and edelweiss flower deep into the hair's cortex to repair the damage done by lightening treatments. "It also recovers sensitized and bleached hair delivers deep and long-lasting hair hydration, and fights frizz."

Price at time of publish: $59

Hair Type: Bleached/Processed|Size: 3.04 oz.|Formula: Serum

Best for Heat/UV Protection

Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat & UV Protective Primer

What We Love: It helps shield hair from heat and UV damage.

What We Don't Love: It is not as volumizing as other leave-in conditioners.

This handy formula cuts your morning styling routine in half. Spritz on damp or dry hair to de-frizz, detangle, provide moisture, and protect again heat damage in one compact bottle. "This leave-in conditioner also helps shield hair from the sun, and prevent dryness and color fading," says Raven Hurtado, hairstylist at the Chicago-based Maxine Salon.

Price at time of publish: $32

Hair Type: Straight, Wavy, and Curly|Size: 8.5. fl. oz.|Formula: Spray/Liquid

Best for Thick, Oily Hair

Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosarco Milk Leave-In Conditioning Spray

What We Love: It does not cause build-up or weigh the hair down.

What We Don't Love: Applying too much product can cause the hair to feel sticky.

"This is one of the best leave-in products for thick and oily hair," says professional hair stylist, Monica Davis. "It contains fatty acids extracted from rosehip and argan oil for more effective cuticle hydration."

The cuticle layer—or styling layer— of your hair is responsible for how your strands look, feel, and perform. However, it is also in charge of allowing moisture to pass through and stay there. Ensuring that moisturizing ingredients can reach their destination to keep strands hydrating and healthy is essential. Plus, due to its lightweight structure, this product also doesn't build up on your hair or weigh it down, Davis says.

Price at time of publish: $25

Hair Type: All|Size: 5 fl. oz.|Formula: Spray/Liquid

Best Detangling

Biolage Hydra Source Detangling Solution

What We Love: It contains plant-based ingredients and detangles hair quickly.

What We Don't Love: If too much product is applied, it can leave the hair feeling oily and limp.

"This is a great conditioning product that can be rinsed out, like a deep conditioner in the shower, or left in," Rivera explains. If you're looking to tame frizz, static, or flyaways, we suggest emulsifying a dime size amount of this product in your hand, and working it from roots to ends on damp hair. "It is also perfect for those with hard-to-clear tangles," Rivera says.

Price at time of publish: $38

Hair Type: Dry and Color-Treated|Size: 33.08 oz.|Formula: Liquid

Best Clean

Aveda Nutriplenish Leave-in Conditioner

What We Love: It contains 98 percent natural ingredients and provides UV protection.

What We Don't Love: It doesn't control frizz as well as other leave-ins.

"This detangling leave-in treatment contains 98 percent natural ingredients," Keka explains. Meaning it is chock full of plant-based ingredients, such as pomegranate oil, coconut oil, and mango butter.

"It provides manageability for styling, and protects the hair from UV rays and thermal protection for up to 450 degrees." So no matter whether it's the sun or a flat iron—your strands will stay protected.

Price at time of publish: $40

Hair Type: Fine, Medium, Thick, and Highly-Textured |Size: 6.7 oz.|Formula: Spray

What To Keep In Mind

Hair Type

Hair type is crucial when selecting a leave-in conditioner, because every hair texture has its own set of needs, explains Amy Hazen, veteran hairstylist, and owner of Hazen Hair Studio.

"For example, a lightweight leave-in conditioner might be great on fine hair or tangles on younger children, but a client with color-treated hair might need a leave-in conditioner that preserves color." Thicker hair types, like curls and coils, often require more moisture, so a thicker cream or ultra moisturizing formula should do the job.


While leave-in conditioning products are available in differently sized bottles, sprays, and jars, the size and length of your hair before purchasing a leave-in conditioner is equally worth considering, as it determines how much product you will actually use, according to Hazen. "A client with shoulder-length hair will typically use much less product than a client with long hair," she says. "However, hair density also should be taken into consideration, as a cream may be a better option for clients with thicker or longer hair." If you use a large dollop of leave-in conditioner daily, then a value-sized container or more budget-kind product may be necessary for your needs.


Product formula is equally important when selecting a leave-in conditioner, as each product contains different ingredients that can be beneficial to particular hair types and textures. "If you are a client who prefers a more natural look and avoids coloring processes, then you may opt for a lightweight leave-in conditioner product," Hazen says. "On the other hand, if you are a color client, you may need a more intense leave-in conditioner to protect your hair from damage due to heat styling and the dyeing process."

Your Questions, Answered

Why do you need a leave-in conditioner?

Hazen says that a leave-in conditioner is one product no hair care routine should be without, especially since these products are chock full of hair-boosting ingredients all hair types can benefit from. All hair types can benefit from a hit of moisture—yes, even straight or oily hair—the key is in finding a formula that works with your hair type and texture to achieve your styling goals.

"Leave-in conditioner is probably the important product you will purchase during any salon visit," Hazen tells InStyle. "After all, it keeps your hair strong, healthy, and protected through all your favorite activities—working out, swimming, or just sitting outside soaking up the sunshine."

How do you use a leave-in conditioner?

While liquid/spray and cream leave-in conditioner products can be equally beneficial in hydrating hair, they are applied a bit differently. "Sprays are a nice, lightweight way to detangle your hair, and they comb through easily, especially with curly clients," Hazen explains. "When applying creams, it's best to use a dime-size amount of product first, and, then, apply the product to the bottom of the hair, while working up, and using the remainder that is left around the hairline."

Leave-in conditioners are often used on damp, freshly washed strands. However, some formulas can be applied on dry hair to revive moisture and style another day. Sprays are often a great pick if you're looking for a product that can pull double duty on wet and dry hair.