Rinse-out conditioners are essential hydrators that soften and smooth hair after cleansing, but the best leave-in conditioners go one step further. They linger, sink into hair follicles, and make a noticeable difference in how hydrated your hair looks. Plus, leave-ins offer a variety of extra benefits when it comes to UV protection and hair-type-specific styling help.
Leave-in conditioners are also absolute miracle workers for the time-starved among us who don’t have the extra 15 minutes to wait around in the shower for an intensive hair mask to work its magic — but want to replicate some of the smoothing, deep-conditioning, shine-inducing results of using a mask, nonetheless.
Dimitris Giannetos, a Los Angeles-based hairstylist who regularly works with Camila Cabello and Jasmine Tookes, tells Allure that he loves using leave-in conditioners when styling clients. “Think of a leave-in conditioner as a balm that kind of does it all,” says Giannetos. “It can tame flyaways and add shine — even if the hair is a bit dry or damaged.”
When you’re shopping for leave-in conditioners, cosmetic chemist Ginger King suggests looking for ingredients like oils, fatty alcohols, and triglycerides that will “smooth the cuticles and keep the hair in place.” For detangling in particular, King also notes that quaternium compounds work well, such as quaternium 4, 7, and 11 (look out for ingredient names that start with quaternium or polyquaternium).
With all these criteria in mind, we asked hairstylists to share their picks for the best leave-in conditioners to fulfill your hair hydration needs, and we added a couple of our own favorites, too.
Our Top Picks:
- Best Overall: SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Leave-In Conditioner, $13
- Best Drugstore Leave-In Spray: It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner, $21
- Best for Damaged Hair: Olaplex No.6 Bond Smoother, $30
- Best for Thin Hair: Sachajuan Leave In Conditioner, $36
- Best Scent: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Joia Milky Leave-In Conditioner, $28
- Best Shine Booster: Moroccanoil All-in-One Leave-In Conditioner, $30
- Best for Dry Hair: Amika Hydro Rush Intense Moisture Leave-In Conditioner, $28
- Allure Best of Beauty Winner: LolaVie Perfecting Leave-In, $29
- Best for Damaged Hair: Color Wow Dream Cocktail Kale-Infused Strengthening Leave-In Treatment, $26
All products featured on Allure are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.