Before you take any of my beauty recommendations to heart (I’ve been a beauty journalist for over eight years, so I have bucketloads), there’s something you ought to know about me. For starters, I’m really lazy when it comes to beauty. Whether I’m doing my skincare routine, applying my makeup or styling my hair, I want the whole ordeal to take minimal time and effort. If any product takes longer than necessary to do what it promises, I’m out.
And my inherent beauty laziness becomes a bit of an issue when it comes to caring for my long hair. There is, I have discovered, nothing low-maintenance about having long hair. It takes a whole lot of time and energy to wash, style, and frankly, do anything with. But sadly, the truth is I’m not prepared to part with my lengths just as much as I’m not prepared to put any real time into caring for them—and so I find myself in a catch-22.
But actually, I have it easy in comparison to others. You see, my hair is straight. My friends who have curls and coils are always reminding me that wash day could be a whole lot worse. After all, it’s a whole lot quicker to wash and style straight hair than it is curly hair.
But I think there’s a product that helps us all out. It helps replenish curly styles with moisture for easier styling while reducing wash time for all, and it’s been staring us in the face for some time. Yep, I’m talking about leave-in conditioner.
While my curly-haired friends have used leave-in conditioner to help nourish and hydrate their curls for almost their whole lives, it has never really occurred to me that replacing my usual conditioner with a leave-in treatment could save me a whole lot of shower time. So for the past six months or so, I’ve more or less exclusively used leave-in conditioner as my post-shampoo treatment. And I’ve gotten more compliments on my hair than ever before (despite the fact I haven’t had it cut for months). Not only does it save time in the shower, but using a leave-in conditioner can help increase manageability, boost shine, and restore moisture to prevent breakage. Oh, and it saves water. Here are the 13 best leave-in conditioners for a more low-maintenance hair routine.
This is the product that started my leave-in conditioner journey. It’s a big bottle (the size of a normal conditioner bottle), and you need hardly any product to provide ample nourishment, so it lasts ages. With nourishing rice cream and super-softening oat milk, it leaves my long, bleach-damaged hair shiny, glossy and healthy-looking.
Most leave-in conditioners come in a spray bottle like this one to make things easier and less messy. Not only does this product look great on the shelf, but it means serious business. Infused with honey to hold hydration, strengthen, soften, and fend off further damage, it’s an absolute game changer.
If you struggle to get a comb or brush through your hair after washing, this product will sort you out. Many of my curly-haired friends absolutely adore this leave-in conditioner for its intense hydrating properties.
Ideal for those that battle breakage and snapping, this product utilises a hydrolysed elastin to strengthen hair by delivering more “stretch” to prevent breakage. If you’re familiar with Philip Kingsley’s iconic Elasticizer, just consider this your everyday fix.
I’ve never met a JVN product I haven’t liked, and this leave-in conditioner is up there with the best. I barely go anywhere without a bottle of this with me. It can be used on wet hair to detangle and strengthen, or when your hair needs a hydration boost, you can mist it onto dry hair to smooth things out and increase shine.
Some leave-in conditioners can result in hair feeling undesirably coated, but this product isn’t one of those. It’s hardworking for sure, but with nourishing macadamia oil and hydrolyzed rhodophycea extract, it does all of that hard work without overloading strands with weighty moisturisers.
Curly girls, this one’s for you. I have countless curly-haired friends that simply adore this product. Formulated with avocado oil, kiwi, sunflower oil, chia seeds, spinach and cocoa seed butter, it’s next-level moisturising to deliver long-lasting nourishment to curls. Just spray over damp hair after washing, and let this super-conditioning spritz do its thing.
This stuff is one of my absolute favourite leave-in conditioners out there. The formula is suitably conditioning, detangling, smoothing, and strengthening, (I can definitely see it working for all textures), but the thing that really sets this above the rest is the mouth-watering smell. With a scent reminiscent of salted caramel, tropical fruit and beaming sun rays, your hair will smell like paradise all day long.
This product has replaced conditioner in my overnight bag. Now, whenever I go away, instead of lugging a bulky conditioner around with me in a wash bag, I just pack a travel-size bottle of this—and my hair has never looked better. It delivers heat protection (which is ideal when I have to use hotel-room hair dryers that feel like they’re about to combust) and makes hair feel stronger, smoother, glossier and well nourished. And if you’ve ever had the joy of smelling the clean, skin-like scent of Ouai haircare, you’ll know what a huge selling point it is for this leave-in spray.
Sitting somewhere between a cream and a serum, this leave-in conditioner can be worked through ends to strengthen, nourish and detangle dry strands. With coconut, avocado, rice protein, and moringa-seed oil, it leaves hair feeling silky smooth while fortifying strands to protect against breakage and brittleness.
Not only does this spray look exceptional on the shelf, but it smells divine (like zesty, lemony tea) and leaves hair feeling (and looking) unbelievable good—it’s a triple threat. Formulated with Virtue’s iconic Alpha Keratin 60ku complex, it strengthens and conditions strands expertly. A top tip? Keep this mist on hand for refreshing second- and third-day curls—it will help restore definition and bounce.
You work this cream through mid-lengths and ends just like you would a normal conditioner—you just don’t rinse. With cherry-blossom extract, sweet almond oil and moringa oil, this super-softening formula does it all: strengthens, softens, detangles, smooths, protects against heat and leaves hair smelling deliciously good.
This leave-in conditioner not only smells incredible, but makes light work of detangling long knot-prone hair. My post-wash routine is at least 10 minutes shorter (thanks to less time spent detangling) when this features.