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How To Use Leave-In Conditioner Based On Your Hair Type

A must-have in any healthy hair care routine.
January 19, 2021

Leave-in conditioner has become a staple product in our healthy hair care arsenals. It’s normal to follow up your go-to shampoo and standard conditioner with a leave-in, and also to add some leave-in conditioner to your strands between wash days. And if you have curly or coily hair, it’s often a downright must. But if you’re using a leave-in that isn’t really made with your hair type in mind, you could simply be adding product to your tresses with no actual benefit — just weigh down. And no one wants hair products that don’t make their hair any healthier (or better looking). So keep reading to learn more about what type of leave-in conditioner might be best for your strands and get the scoop on our favorite drugstore leave-in conditioners for different hair types.

The Benefits Of Leave-In Conditioner

If you feel like your hair still needs a little extra loving after washing and conditioning, a leave-in hair conditioner can be the key. Leave-in conditioner can benefit just about any hair type, as it can help add moisture and detangle your strands and make it easier to style your hair. The right leave-in conditioner can also help boost shine and protect color-treated hair from fast fading.

How Do You Pick A Leave-In Conditioner?

When it comes to shopping for a leave-in conditioner, there are a few factors to keep in mind. First, look for one that’s formulated to address your specific hair care concerns, including bleaching damage, split ends, and dryness. You also want to consider your hair type and porosity (your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture). No matter your hair type — whether you have curls, coils, straight strands or waves — your porosity will play a huge part in the products you use. In case you’re not sure how it works, let me give you a breakdown.

High porosity hair can be characterized by an open hair cuticle that can easily absorb moisture. But because the cuticle remains open, it can also lose that moisture very quickly, leading to dry strands. Using the LOC method can help keep high porosity hair hydrated. After your leave-in conditioner, seal the hair with oil, then finish with cream.

When you have low porosity hair, as you may have already guessed, your hair cuticle stays closed so moisture and other products never get fully absorbed. Most people with low porosity hair need to apply heat (via steam or a deep conditioning cap) before they can add moisturizer. The upside to having low porosity hair is that once moisture gets in, it’s easy to keep it in. But its hydrating repelling properties typically mean that your hair is often dry. The LCO method (leave-in, cream, oil) can help hydrate low porosity hair types. 

If you have what is often referred to as “normal” porosity hair (though normal is relative, right?) your hair shaft opens to let moisture in and closes to keep it there. As long as you’re maintaining a healthy hair care routine you should be able to keep your tresses soft, shiny and styled.

How To Choose Leave-In Conditioner Based On Hair Type

Keeping in mind your hair’s porosity, you also want to think about how a leave-in conditioner matches your type of hair. Check out the hair types below for some drugstore leave-in conditioner recommendations that can work for you.

If You Have Straight Hair 

Straight hair can range from fine to coarse in texture and either be thick or thin. And these hair types look amazing when sleek, smooth and frizz-free. Try using the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths No Haircut Cream Leave In Conditioner. It has a blend of castor oil for eliminating frizz and sealing split ends and vitamins B3 and B5 to help your hair grow longer and healthier. It also includes 450-degree heat protection, so it’s best to apply it before picking up your hot tools. Comb through your hair before and after using the product to make sure you won’t have to deal with any tangles or knots later on. 

Editor’s Tip: It’s best to apply this leave-in conditioner to damp hair so that the product can be properly absorbed into your stands. 

If You Have Curly Hair 

Curly hair types are more prone to dryness, frizz, and breakage due to their fragile hair pattern, so to keep your curls healthy and strong use a leave-in conditioner frequently throughout the week — especially if you style it with heat every day. The L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Non-Stop Dreamy Curls Leave-In Conditioner locks in moisture while defining your curls without a greasy or crunchy feel. If your focus is length retention, the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Super Curls Cream Leave-In will nourish your curls daily and promote hair growth. 

Editor’s Tip: Applying a leave-in conditioner at night will help you get soft and healthy-looking hair the next morning. Try applying some in the evening and then wrapping your hair properly before going to bed.

If You Have Wavy Hair 

Somewhere between straight and curly hair, wavy hair is most prone to frizziness and falling flat, so you’ll want to look for ways you can add volume and also keep it smooth. We love the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Protein Recharge Treatment for its multitasking abilities. It works to increase the strength and flexibility of your strands with continued use. The protein treatment also helps to prevent five major components of hair damage, including split ends, weakness, rough texture, dull tone, and dehydration. For best results, towel dry your wavy hair first and then apply as much product as you need using your fingers to comb it through your hair.

Editor’s Tip: Try to stay away from using too many products — it can weigh down your hair, causing you to lose volume and definition.

If You Have Coily or Afro-Textured Hair 

Coily and Afro-textured hair are types of curls that are no strangers to shrinkage and breakage because of the small tight zig-zag shaped curls they’re made up of. We recommend using a leave-in conditioner that includes nourishing ingredients that will add moisture to your hair and help keep it soft. If your hair is prone to dryness try using the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Oil-In-Cream during your next wash day routine. Its ultra-lightweight formula won’t weigh down your coils, so they’ll look bouncy. It also includes coconut oil, which offers great slip, making your tight curls easy to detangle and moisturizes so your hair looks nourished. The L’Oréal Paris Dream Lengths Curls Non-Stop Dreamy Curls Leave-In Cream is also perfect for moisturizing curls and coils (and waves) without weighing them down. 

Editor’s Tip: Apply a generous amount of conditioner on damp hair and run a brush through your hair for even distribution. You can also apply to dry hair between washes as a quick way to smooth it out and add much needed moisture. 

Next: Are There Benefits To Using Conditioner Before Shampoo?

Written by: Shalwah Evans, Photo Design: Sarah Duvivier

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