Hair masks and heat protectants get all the attention when it comes to curly haircare. But the real MVP and underdog is the humble leave-in conditioner. It will refresh, detangle, and protect your curls. If you want sleek, shiny and frizz-free locks, the best leave-in conditioner for curly hair will do the trick. Here are our top picks for va-va-voom curls.
A Buying Guide for Leave-in Conditioners for Curly Hair
Does a leave in conditioner help curly hair?
Every hair type can benefit from using a leave-in conditioner. A leave-in conditioner does not need to be rinsed out and usually contain silicones to detangle and protect the strands from the elements.
Unlike serums, leave-in conditioners are water-based products that moisturize the mane. They can come in spray, butter, mousse, milk, and cream forms.
What are the benefits of a leave-in conditioner?
A leave-in conditioner is like a drink of water for your strands. Curly hair can feel dry and brittle and needs all the moisture it can get to stay healthy. A leave-in conditioner can enhance the benefits of your in-shower conditioner. Plus, it doesn’t need to be rinsed out and you can top up anytime throughout the day.
Gets rid of tangles
Your natural curls can be a bird’s nest of knots and tangles and combing them out is a pain. A leave-in conditioner adds lots of slip, making detangling a breeze.
Curly or natural locks are vulnerable to frizzing up at the slightest change in humidity. The culprit can also be lack of moisture. Make sure you condition your strands regularly to prevent frizzies.
Tames split ends
Frayed ends are a bane for all hair types and is a sign of damaged hair. Your strands need hydration and elasticity so it can withstand breakage. A leave-in conditioner seals the cuticle so the mane looks healthy.
Protects from heat
A leave-in conditioner can also moonlight as a heat protectant before heat styling. Because the coat the strands in a film, they act as a barrier between the heat source and your cuticle.
Shields strands from environmental damage
Extreme temperatures, chlorine and sun exposure are just some of the things that damage your mane. Yes, just by living your life, you are putting your tresses under stress. A leave-in conditioner protects your mane from everyday wear and tear and keep it looking its best through rain or shine.
Keeps your color vivid and shiny
Refresh colored locks with a dollop of leave-in conditioner. It smoothens the cuticle and protects it from UV rays that fade dyes. Environmental damage can also contribute to a dull look. Applying leave-in conditioner seals in your color and makes it vibrant for longer.
How do I choose the best leave-in conditioner?
There are plenty of leave-in conditioners to choose from with different ingredients. What they have in common are ingredients like silicone and glycerin. These add slip and attract water and are responsible for coating the strands.
A leave-in conditioner may also be infused with oils, extracts, and vitamins. Try to avoid products with alcohol and dyes because they tend to be drying, which isn’t what you want in a conditioner.
The best leave-in conditioner will fit your hair type. Use a lightweight or volumizing leave-in conditioner in a spray or foam form for fine hair that gets weighed down easily. If you have dry or damaged hair, look for an emollient formula that’s rich in hydration.
There are also color-safe and sulfate-free leave-in conditioners available for colored hair. Curly hair types do well with leave-in conditioners that have plenty of natural oils.
Check if your hair is low, medium or high porosity. To do this, place a strand of hair in a glass of water. If your hair floats, it’s low porosity. If it sinks toward the middle, it has medium porosity. If it sinks all the way to the bottom, it’s high porosity.
Porosity is an indicator of your hair’s health.
- Low porosity
Low porosity hair tends to be heavy or oily. It’s too closed off and doesn’t absorb water or oils well. This hair type is prone to buildup and the sealed cuticle takes a long time to dry. Low porosity hair needs to stay away from heavy leave-in conditioners. Lightweight sprays are best.
- Medium porosity
Medium porosity hair absorbs water well enough and it has a healthy cuticle. It will drink up moisture easily and stay hydrated. These hair types can tolerate a richer leave-in conditioner but it shouldn’t be too heavy because it can still weigh these locks down.
- High porosity
High porosity hair has an open cuticle that absorbs water too readily. Though it absorbs water well, it also releases it very quickly. It is vulnerable to tangles, dryness and dullness. Look for a leave-in conditioner that’s rich in nutrients and humectants to lock in water in the cuticle.
The 5 Best Leave-in Conditioners for Curly Hair
Marc Anthony Strictly Curls Curl Envy Leave-in Conditioner
Curly-haired gals with perpetually parched strands will love this conditioner. It’s filled with shea butter, avocado oil, and vitamin E to moisturize locks and keep frizz at bay. And it’s sulfate-free, perfect for maintaining a platinum blonde hue or balayage.
Your brush will glide through after applying this as it’s an excellent detangler. It keeps hair touchably soft and smooth while repairing breakage and split ends.
The leave-in conditoner helps make your curly tendrils springy and defined. Vitamin E replenishes lost nutrients for healthy hair that is stronger from the inside.
For the downside, the spray stops working after a few uses, according to some customers. Spraying conditioner straight into the hair does not distribute product evenly. Do not expect a fine mist. The conditioner is also not advertised as volumizing and is definitely too heavy for fine hair.
- Contains shea butter, avocado oil and vitamin E
- Detangles hair very well
- Smoothens and softens
- Moisturizes and replenishes
- The spray stops working
- Uneven product distribution
- Not volumizing and not for fine hair
MIZANI 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner
This is one of the best leave-in conditioners for low porosity curly hair. It’s non-greasy and weightless and is safe to use on colored hair. It also works as a heat protectant and moisturizes parched locks.
The Mizani 25 Miracle Milk can be used on straight, wavy, curly or coiled hair. It is so called because of its 25 benefits.
The ingredient list includes fennel oil and coconut oil. Coconut oil enhances shine and softens while fennel oil fortifies and prevents breakage.
This is suitable for all types of curl patterns and textures. It controls frizzies and flyaways and protects hair from environmental stressors.
It’s made without drying alcohols so your hair can hold on to water better. The conditioner spreads easily and the spray helps with application. It’s a white-colored liquid so you need to rub it in to get rid of the residue.
The fragrance is a bit strong, so it’s not good if you’re sensitive to smell.
- Best for curly hair that’s low porosity
- Lightweight and non-greasy
- Color-safe and alcohol-free
- Contains fennel oil and coconut oil
- Protects and softens hair
- The product is white so it needs to be rubbed in well to remove the tint
- Has a strong fragrance
DevaCurl Leave-In Moisturizing Decadence
Keep your curls happy with a leave-in conditioner like the DevaCurl Leave-In Moisturizing Decadence. It’s a potent moisture-boosting lotion that defines curls without weighing them down. Limp locks are not the best look, so a light leave-in conditioner is the best one to reach for.
Curly locks have particular needs and DevaCurl caters to this needs with this nourishing formula featuring pequi oil and chufa milk. These ingredients tamp down frizzies and keep curls soft and touchable.
What’s more, it’s dermatologist-tested and certified non-irritating, so it’s great if you tend to break out when using hair products or have a sensitive scalp. The conditioner is also sulfate-free so it’s suitable for colored locks. It has a light floral scent to make your post-shower ritual more decadent.
However, users have noted that it doesn’t help detangle the strands. It also seemed to dry out some people’s mane over time.
- Gives curls definition without the weight
- Contains pequi oil, chufa milk and quinoa
- Softens strands
- Dermatologist-tested and non-irritating
- Sulfate-free and suitable for colored locks
- Does not detangle well
- Some users say it dries their hair out
Maui Moisture Nourish & Moisture Leave-In Conditioner
Maui Moisture is a new kid on the block but they’ve been making a mark with their Hawaii-inspired, eco-friendly products. Their line uses aloe vera juice as a foundational ingredient instead of water, so you reap more benefits.
This leave-in conditioner is sulfate-free, silicone-free and vegan, which is ideal for eco-conscious shoppers and curly haired gals.
It’s a combing cream meant to make detangling hair a piece of cake. It banishes frizz and gives curls definition so they look bouncy and healthy.
Made with nourishing ingredients, the cream quenches thirsty curls, waves, and coils. It contains pure coconut water and coconut milk for all-natural hydration and moisture.
The medley of ingredients also seals split ends and prevents further breakage. The mango scent makes application delightful.
This leave-in conditioner is best suited for medium porosity hair but the brand also has other offerings for low and high porosity hair types.
The product’s biggest flaw is the pump bottle, which breaks easily. However, this may be an issue with the courier. The cream also has a strong scent, which some may find offputting.
- Uses a base of aloe vera juice
- Sulfate-free, silicone-free, and vegan
- Detangles tresses and reduces frizz
- Best for medium porosity locks
- Contains coconut water and coconut milk
- Pump bottle breaks easily
- Strong fragrance
Aunt Jackie’s Quench, Moisture Intensive Leave-in Conditioner
This bestselling leave-in conditioner scores high points for moisture and is one of the best leave-in conditioners for high porosity hair.
It’s a sulfate-free treatment with shea butter and olive oil, heavy-duty quenchers that provide slip and softness. It gives definition without leaving the locks feeling greasy or heavy.
Frizz is reduced and poofiness is minimized with a few squeezes of product. Its detangling and nourishing powers are in part due to silicones and proteins, which are excellent for high porosity hair.
However, it’s also ideal for low porosity locks, according to some users because it doesn’t feel super thick.
This product will help bring out your natural curl pattern and make waves look full of body. It’s a good detangler and has a light and pleasant scent.
If you have long or dense tresses, you will use this up faster because of its liquidy consistency. If your locks are extremely dry, you may need a separate product to really lock in moisture.
- Sulfate-free so it’s suitable for colored locks
- Contains shea butter and olive oil
- Detangles and defines curls
- Reduces frizz and poofiness
- Moisturizes without feeling heavy
- Watery consistency, you need more product for even coverage
- Not for dry hair because it’s not very moisturizing
The top leave-in conditioner for curly hair on this list is the Auntie Jackie’s Quench Moisture Intensive. It makes your mane easier to comb and gives curls definition. It’s also excellent for banishing frizz and poofiness. I like that it gives lightweight moisture and is safe for colored locks. If you have high porosity hair, check this out for smooth, springy curls.
About the AuthorLeah Williams is the founder of Lucky Curl and has been in the hair care and styling industry for the last 15 years. Since then, she has developed incredible expertise and a deep understanding of how to treat and style the most difficult hair types and is passionate about sharing her knowledge with the readers of Lucky Curl.
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