Gone are the days of bathroom cabinets filled with hair gels; there’s something decidedly dated about them. Maybe that’s because everyone today is obsessed with hydration — and we’re not just talking skin, but hair and scalp.
Enter leave-in conditioners. They not only nourish and detangle your locks, but can provide all-day hold for hairstyles and much more. Emphasis on more, because the test of a great leave-in conditioner is that it goes beyond, well, conditioning.
For curly hair, look for products that help define curl and coil patterns. For thin hair, find ones with lightweight, oil-free formulations (yes, they exist), so they don’t weigh down your mane. And across the board, look for added benefits like UV protection, color-fade protection, and heat-styling protection.
To take the guesswork out of it, we nerded out on leave-in conditioners and rounded up the best out there right now.
The Beauty Insider's Pick
Oribe Canales' namesake line of hair products is a favorite among beauty and fashion insiders. His Creme for Style gives you a firm but flexible hold while moisturizing your mane (bonus: it also provides UV protection). Apply to either wet or dry hair and style.
The Costs-Less-Than-Takeout Pick
John Frieda’s Secret Weapon Touch-Up Creme is an OG in the hairstyling game, and there’s a reason why it’s been around for decades. Though advertised as a product to manage frizz and flyaways, beauty insiders love it as an all-around styling cream. Apply a tiny amount to the tips of the hair and finger-comb into your desired style. Pro tip: apply during and after sun exposure to replace oils lost to heat.
For Curls & Coils
Tracee Ellis Ross has blessed us with many things — from her activism to her comedic style, just to name a few — and now she’s given us PATTERN, a line of hair products to make the most of your curls and coils. Her leave-in conditioner locks in moisture, amplifies curl patterns, and provides a light hold. Best of all, PATTERN helps support organizations dedicated to women and people of color.
For Color-Fade Protection
Philip B’s leave-in conditioner does a great job of nourishing hair while providing the hold your hairstyle needs. It’s also an excellent choice if you’ve dyed your hair, as it prevents your color(s) from fading.
The Old Faithful
OUAI’s leave-in conditioner is formulated with amino acids, tamarind seed, and vitamin E, which means you’re not just getting a product that doubles as as a hairstyling agent, but actually does what a conditioner is suppose to: hydrate and nourish your locks.
For Thin Hair
Those of you with thin hair have probably ruled conditioners out, thinking they’ll weigh your hair down and make it appear even thinner. That’s not the case with this one by SACHAJUAN. Its super-light, oil-free formulation means you’ll get the moisturizing and styling benefits of a leave-in conditioner without the extra baggage.
Highsnobiety has affiliate marketing partnerships, which means we may receive a commission from your purchase.