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Is Conditioner Meant To Be Left in Your Hair?

Avatar • Jan 13, 2012

By Jc of The Natural Haven

This is a question that I have been asked several times and topped the recent poll with nearly half the votes wanting to know the answer! I must clarify first and say that when you wash your hair, you should rinse out all the conditioner thoroughly (for reasons known as potential itchiness, personal experience here, some science to follow). The question posed here is whether you can then use a little bit of conditioner afterwards as a moisturiser or on a daily basis. The answer to this question is yes you can use conditioner as a moisturiser but with caution.

So there are two main types of conditioner
1. Rinse out conditioners (heavier type that is used after shampooing to add softness — typical ingredients include fatty acids, surfactants and oils)
2. Leave in conditioners (much thinner and lighter, typically contain humectants such as glycerine to help moisturise hair )

Now, leave in conditioners are a no brainer, they are designed to be left in. The heavier rinse out conditioners are a little more tricky. They can be used but be aware

1. Using a silicone heavy conditioner (silicone in one of the first 5 ingredients) is not ideal unless you shampoo your hair. Co‐washing your hair will simply not do.
2. Conditioners which contain protein (hydrolysed protein or amino acids) have been shown to cause irritation and itchiness in some people (contact urticaria is the medical term). (Allergy. 53(11):1078–1082, 1998).
3. Hair conditioner can contribute to build up. This was explained in a very intricate study (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, pg 205–214,1989). The science behind this is that the hair conditioner has positive charges and the shampoo has negative charges. Depending on the amount and type of shampoo, the hair conditioner can either be removed or the shampoo can simply attach to the hair conditioner and cause build up. Naturally if you have been applying hair conditioner to your hair on a daily basis, then you will have much more of the positive charge.

So what precautions can you take if you want to use heavier conditioner as a daily moisturiser?

1. Don’t put the conditioner on your scalp, try as much as possible to target the ends of your hair (leave the scalp and the first 1–2 inches alone).
2. Read the ingredient list and if you are a no shampoo person, avoid silicones in the top 5 list of your conditioner. If you shampoo, then no worries here.
3. Pick a conditioner without proteins.
4. Rinse your hair thoroughly on your wash day.
5. Use a conditioning shampoo on your wash day if you are not anti‐poo.

What is your experience with leaving conditioner in hair? Have you got the itchies or have you had a pleasant experience?

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Jazmin
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Jazmin

ummm I just recently started leaving my Vo5 conditioner in my hair to see what happens, before this i used to leave shea moisture conditioner in, but that was all natural so I’m interested to see what happens.

Zenith
Guest
Zenith

I leave conditioner in my hair all the time (for yrs). Haven’t had a single problem. I also rinse or wash my hair 2–3x/wk, so I guess it doesn’t stay in too long. Lol! I exercise 6–7 dys a wk., so I ha I have used a variety of conditioners (some leave‐in, some not). Wen (or it’s cheaper cousin Hair One) is great for my situation. Sometimes, I leave on a deep conditioner at night, put my hair in two braids, take it down in the morning (dont rinse) and place it in a bun. Later that evening (after exercise),… Read more »

Crystal
Guest

I have never left conditioner in my hair overnight, but I know of many who do without problem.
I think these are good general tips! Depending on the conditioner and on the head, issues can arise. Although, if someone is worried that she will run into problems with buildup, using an apple cider vinegar rinse will certainly help with build up.

Beauty Is Diverse
Guest

I only leave conditioner on for half an hour the longest and hour.

April
Guest

I never really thought of this. I leave conditioner in my hair all the time and sometimes I do get the itchiness. I’ll have to pay more attention to this.

geri
Guest
geri

When the weather cooled off, I began to use Shea Moisture’s Yucca and Baobab Masque and mango butter as a sealant(along my spray mix of aloe, rosemary oil, castor oil and a bit of glycerin,), and I love it! I don’t use it on my scalp, and leave the heaviest application to the ends, and so far, so great.

hiphopmuse
Guest

I’ve used conditioner on my hair as a styling aid with a little bit of olive oil in the winter and my hair loved it. Cheap conditioners (Suave, V05, etc) are usually best for this. I can’t use it every day though, because it causes product buildup for me. I think it works well in a pinch, like if you’re away from home and doing have your normal styling products available.

hiphopmuse
Guest

*don’t, not doing, lol

Rou
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Rou

If all of the ingredients in the conditioner is natural and it isn’t applied to the scalp, it should be okay! If one has very fine, limp hair, I would definitely recommend that she completely wash out her regular conditioner from their hair, so it will not look lifeless. I’ve left regular conditioner in my hair and did not see any ill effects. The only exception to that rule is when I left an Herbal Essence conditioner in my hair one time. That conditioner made my scalp itch like crazy. I had to wash it out the same day. If… Read more »

gina
Guest

I use mane n tail with coconut oil mixed in. Other conditioners don’t work just itch.

Ronnie
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Ronnie

I’d like to get Teri LaFlesh’s opinion on this because leaving conditioner in your hair is the basis of her conditioner only or tightly curly method. I haven’t had any problems with itchiness either and I leave conditioner in all the time. It’s not leave‐in conditioner, either. No issues. As the article says, if you are going to do this you need to wash your hair weekly and not apply conditioner to the scalp.

OnceUponaTime
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OnceUponaTime

Conditioner is just about my only “styling product”. Been doing this for yearrrrs.. well, just over two decades by now. Never had a problem with it. I don’t use silicones if that makes a difference, but that’s just since the last 5 or 6 years. I only shampoo as needed, and I usually go a month or more without shampooing. Maybe I’m an exception? Oh and Gina, Mane n Tail made me itch when I left it in too so I stopped using that brand to leave in.

Ronnie
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Ronnie

I’m sure your hair is very soft from leaving the conditioner in. Have you retained length doing this? Or are you not concerned with length?

CC
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CC

I run conditioner through my hair (esp.ends)after I shampoo and when I’m only conditioner washing. Leaves my hair very soft and manageable, as well as enhances my curls. I learned the hard way that I can’t put conditioner too near my scalp‐ scratching for days. And, I can’t use too much — limpness and -0‐ curl factor.

Currently using Suave but am considering trying the Shea Moisture condition because I already use the hair milk and whip.

CurlyQ
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CurlyQ

I retain length and My hair is silky smooth. I use regular pantene.

Deanna
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Deanna

I skipped shampoo and added conditioner to my wet hair in the shower today, and left a good amount in as if I was giving my hair a moisturizing treatment. I didnt cover it with a cap or anything, just put it in a high wet curly bun and went off to my classes. My hair sucks in moisture so fast but my hair is still wet since 11 am today and it is nearly 7 pm. After I woke up from a nap around 6 pm, my hair has been itching ever since! Does conditioner cause itchiness and dry… Read more »

Cinnimom
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Cinnimom

About 12yrs ago a friend told me about using regular conditioner this way to define natural curls & moisturize so I started. Have tried different brands and different combos of products until I realized what works best for my hair. I only leave regular conditioners in my hair when I wear it natural. 1st tried Pantene for Black Hair and had a bad reaction to it — hair and skin wise. Other products did dry my hair. Now I sometimes use Organics Root Stimulator Olive Oil Shampoo and conditioner. I mix the conditioner with cream moisturizer in my hair. I… Read more »

Laura
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Laura

I used to use leave in conditioners but then I started using natural oils instead. I got Pro Naturals Moroccan Argan oil from “beyas.ca” and it’s been wonderful! No silicones or sulfates and it’s really improved my hair, plus it’s also a heat protectant so I can use it before blow drying 🙂 Really recommend this argan oil, it’s just full of benefits for hair.

Leah simon
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Leah simon

I put conditioner and i rince it off, but i dont know if i have to rince it off or not , how can i know??

RICHELLE
Guest
RICHELLE

Question: What is the best conditioner for dreds? I have been wearing them for over 10 years and they are so dry. I am experiencing a lot of breakage, this could be from the variety of heart medication that I am taking or it could be caused by stress. Help community‐I am open to any and all suggestions.
Thanx

Ronnie
Guest
Ronnie

I wore locs for 13 years so I can answer your question. I loved them, I only cut them because after awhile my fine hair didn’t like the weight of the hair as they grew to waist length. Number one, use plenty of coconut oil on your locs, especially during the warmer months and then use olive oil in the winter. Coconut oil hardens in cold weather and may leave a film on your locs — that’s why it’s best to use it in warm weather. As far as conditioners, Shea Moisture Leave‐In Conditioner, I think, is good conditioner for… Read more »

Rara
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Rara

I had locks for five years down to the middle of my back and had to cut them as well because the length was too heavy for my hair. I agree that tea tree oils and conditioners are very good for locks becuase you do not wash them as often as normal hair and they prevent your scalp from drying out.

Andrea C
Guest

If you are to leave it in it will say leave‐in‐conditioner. If it doesn’t say that wash wash wash it out good than moisturizer it.

Rara
Guest
Rara

In the summertime I wear my hair naturally kinky‐curly. I have been taking Suave moisturizing conditioner and adding about a couple of tablespoons full to a water bottle and spraying it on my hair for years. I usually will add a little oil like once or twice a week to my ends for added moisture. My hair is very healthy and I often have women stop me on the street,in Walmart etc..lol..to ask me what products I use in my hair. I think the Suave works becuase it is light and honestly very cheap (I usually buy it at the… Read more »

NappieNique
Guest
NappieNique

Suave moisturizing conditioner is my secret weapon. I works wonders. I don’t wash it out and people swear I have the best curls out. I havent found anyting close to this product. But yes I leave it in with no problems. I think it has to do with the type of hair you have to decide if you can leave it in or not.

Tara
Guest
Tara

I had BAD BAD BAD experiences leaving conditioner in my hair over night. My hair literally started coming out in clumps, breaking right in the middle of my hair. I learned from that experience never to leave conditioner in my hair. I dont know if it happened because I am transitioning so there is still permed hair mixed within my hair or not but I would definitely like to warn people that leaving a non natural conditioner to the point where its semi dry can definitely damage your hair, especially if transitioning!

Ashlee
Guest
Ashlee

when your in the transitioning stage you have to make sure not to over moisturize your hair, permed hair absorbs water more & to much can cause your hair to break. you have to find a good balance in moisturizing your hair or it can prove damaging

jojo bak
Guest
jojo bak

is it ok not to shampoo my hair at all and just wash it with conditioner?,since shampoo is said to strip your hair?

Kim
Guest
Kim

yup, its called c‐washing. i’m anti‐poo, so i only co wash. i mean, i dont know how it will work for you, but it has done my hair wonders

Siddy
Guest
Siddy

Me to…anti poo…wish i discovered this earlier after 3 years with no results.… Apl

clay
Guest
clay

its ok its called cowashing

Aliza likes natural haircare
Guest

That’s amazing post,thanks for the information.

Ko-ko
Guest
Ko-ko

I leave conditioner in all the time in the summer to get a wavy wash and go look. Doesn’t bother my hair, but I’ll be sure to check my ingredients now to be safer.

Keshonda
Guest

I am anti‐poo & I co wash once a week my hair is much fuller and softer. Sometimes I put conditioner on my dry hair, comb through, let dry and lightly blow it put before flat ironing. I have no problems except my hair doesn’t hold the curl as long .. I am also 5 months post perm and my new growth is a lot more manageable.. Also i only use conditioners with coconut oil in them. Hope this helps

Shawntae Banks
Guest
Shawntae Banks

I did a wash and go this morning, I used Eden’s co wash. I rinsed most of it out with warm water as my hair is low po. I added a leave in of the same brand. I love how I experienced less shrinkage, my hair isnt dull, and my curl pattern really shows well. I guess I should just monitor my hair for any negative effects.

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