The Best Leave-In Conditioners for Your Hair Type

Lauren Caruso
The Best Leave-In Conditioners for Your Hair Type
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Photo: Getty Images

When I was at the cusp of puberty my sophomore year of high school (I was a late bloomer, OK?), my hair went though what could only be called a hellish, cursed metamorphosis—and it happened overnight. In my possibly unreliable memory, I went to bed with luscious, virgin hair that was equal parts silky and shiny—it was the long, wavy brown kind you’d see glistening in slow motion in shampoo commercials—and then I woke up with my mom’s hair. I’m not totally sure how I can describe my mom’s hair without offending anyone, namely her, but it’s not exactly the object of envy: It’s naturally frizzy and unmanageable, but because it’s thick, she can douse her hair in leave-in-conditioner and walk out the door with perfect hair, and her coworkers are none the wiser. I followed suit, spritzing Pantene’s original leave-in formula all over my head just like she does, and I ended up looking like a wet dog. If only the slicked-back look was in then.

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Now, after a decade and a half of testing every formula out there, I’ve finally found a combination of products that work with my majorly damaged, flat-on-the-top-but-frizzy-on-the-bottom hair—but there’s no universal cult-favorite leave-in conditioner for a reason: While thin, limp hair often recoils at the sight of moisture, those with thick hair need a super-hydrating formula to curb its propensity for dryness. And if you’re hair is damaged? Forget it. To take out the guesswork (and to be sure nobody else has to look like a wet dog, ever), we broke down the 15 best leave-in conditioners for every hair type.

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Best For: Damaged Hair
Best For: Damaged Hair

If your hair is wrecked from heat styling, apply a dime-sized blob from mid-lengths to end, focusing on the areas with the most damage—most likely, any face-framing pieces.

IGK Mistress Hydrating Hair Balm, available on Amazon

Photo: Sephora
Best For: Damaged Hair
Best For: Damaged Hair

Klorane Leave-In Cream With Papyrus Milk, available on Amazon

Photo: Dermstore
Best For: Damaged Hair
Best For: Damaged Hair

Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Leave-In Conditioner, available on Amazon

Photo: Carol's Daughter
Best For: Thick, Curly Hair
Best For: Thick, Curly Hair

If you have thick or textured hair that needs majorly moisturizing, look for ingredients like castor, argan, and rosehip oils.

SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Grow Leave-In Conditioner, available on Amazon

Photo: SheaMoisture
Best For: Thick, Curly Hair
Best For: Thick, Curly Hair

Briogeo Rosarco Milk™ Reparative Leave-In Conditioning Spray, $20; at Sephora

Photo: Sephora
Best For: Thick, Curly Hair
Best For: Thick, Curly Hair

Qhemet Biologics Moringa Tree Conditioning Ghee, $22; at Sephora

Photo: Sephora
Best For: Normal Hair
Best For: Normal Hair

Even normal, healthy hair can use a boost. Look for leave-in sprays or finishing creams, which lend shine without weighing hair down.

It's a 10 Miracle Leave-In Plus KERATIN Product with Bonus Deep Conditioner, $17.96; at Walmart

Best For: Normal Hair
Best For: Normal Hair

Sachajuan Leave In Conditioner, $31; at Sephora

Photo: Sephora
Best For: Normal Hair
Best For: Normal Hair

Rahua Finishing Treatment, available on Amazon

Photo: LeVert Beauty
Best For: Fine Hair
Best For: Fine Hair

Leave-in conditioner might sound like kryptonite for anyone with fine hair; start with a pinch of product and build up as needed to keep hair from falling flat.

Oribe Supershine Light Moisturizing Cream, available on Amazon

Photo: Blue Mercury
Best For: Fine Hair
Best For: Fine Hair

Pacifica Hairvana Leave-On Detangling Conditioner, $14; at Ulta

Photo: Ulta
Best For: Fine Hair
Best For: Fine Hair

Aussie Hair Insurance Leave-In Conditioner, $3.43; at Aussie

Photo: Aussie
Best For: Fine, Curly Hair
Best For: Fine, Curly Hair

Not all curly hair is thick, too. If your spirals are thin, look for a formula with cirtus oils, which tend to be lighter.

Intelligent Nutrients Leave-in Conditioner, available on Amazon

Photo: Credo Beauty
Best For: Fine, Curly Hair
Best For: Fine, Curly Hair

Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner, $26; at Ulta

Photo: Ulta

Healthy Sexy Hair Soy Tri-Wheat Leave in Conditioner, available on Amazon

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  • Best For: Damaged Hair
  • Best For: Damaged Hair
  • Best For: Damaged Hair
  • Best For: Thick, Curly Hair
  • Best For: Thick, Curly Hair
  • Best For: Thick, Curly Hair
  • Best For: Normal Hair
  • Best For: Normal Hair
  • Best For: Normal Hair
  • Best For: Fine Hair
  • Best For: Fine Hair
  • Best For: Fine Hair
  • Best For: Fine, Curly Hair
  • Best For: Fine, Curly Hair

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