Am sure we’ve all had those tempting moments after washing the hair, wondering whether we can leave conditioner in the hair or not.
Or maybe you just stumbled upon a gem of a conditioner, smelling SO good and making your hair so soft that you did not want to wash it off.
Let’s get to the bottom of things and answer this very simple yet very confusing question:
Can You Leave Conditioner in Your Hair?
Generally, you should not leave a regular conditioner in your hair as it’s made to only stay in your hair for a couple of minutes due to it’s composition.
On the other hand, a leave-in conditioner is usually of a lighter consistency making it safe to leave in hair until the next wash.
Regular conditioners have a heavier composition which means your hair will be weighed down with emollients and other smoothing agents if you leave the conditioner in your hair.
Let’s analyze both of these conditioners to understand why one is a leave-in and the other a rinse-out.
Is It OK To Leave Regular Conditioner in Your Hair?
As summarized previously, it’s not recommended to leave a regular conditioner in your hair. Regular conditioners have a lower PH that is meant to seal the cuticle even after the conditioner has been rinsed out and therefore overusing it may result in brittle hair in the long term.
Of course leaving a regular conditioner in your hair once in a while is unlikely to immediately cause serious damage on hair but continuous use will most likely negatively affect your hair.
Rinse-out/regular conditioners are designed to bring back hydration to hair following the shampoo process which often strips the hair of its natural oils leaving it dry.
These types of conditioners also work to reduce frizz and increase shine making it smoother and hence manageable.
They contain a rich mix of nutrients that work to achieve their function. These include:
- Fatty alcohols
- Hair oils, and
These ingredients among others are combined to moisturize while at the same time making hair softer and smoother. 
The main reason why regular conditioners are not meant to be left in lies in their composition. For one, due to their heavier feel and thicker consistency, leaving them in is likely to cause build-up.
Product build-up in hair leads to a trail of other issues including dryness, flakiness, and scalp irritation.
Additionally, a buildup of hair product on strands and scalp will over time prevent the absorption of moisture and healthy nutrients. This eventually leads to thin, brittle hair that is easy to break.
The heavy consistency of these conditioners also poses a problem when it comes to hair styling. Its heavy nature will usually cause hair to become limp creating difficulty in achieving certain hairstyles
How to Use a Regular Conditioner for best results
Step 1: Shampoo your hair
It’s always good to start off with clean hair before you use your regular conditioner although if you are following the no-poo method, this step can be skipped altogether.
There are several ways you can keep your hair clean without shampoo. The most popular method is to use Apple Cider Vinegar.
Step 2: Dry excess water
Before you apply your regular conditioner, drain off excess water and leave the hair damp. The conditioner will work better when applied on damp hair.
If you are extra like some of us, use a t-shirt and not a towel to dry off excess water. The t-shirt material is gentler on your hair compared to a towel.
Step 3: Apply conditioner from roots to tip
There are no hard and fast rules on how you should apply your conditioner but I find it easiest to start with the roots and work up to the tips.
Another pro tip if you want to ensure you have achieved full coverage is to section your hair. I usually have 4 large sections when am conditioning my hair.
Sectioning the hair will ensure that you work thoroughly on each section.
Step 4: Massage the scalp
Once the whole head is covered in a generous amount of conditioner, proceed to massage your head gently as you rework the conditioner along the hair strands.
Step 5: Gently detangle
At this point you want to start detangling each section gently using a comb or your fingers. The hair is usually very soft and easy to work through but you still need to be careful not to pull it.
Step 6: Cover and leave for 10-15 minutes
Proceed to cover your hair with a shower cap and let the conditioner sit in for about 10-15 minutes.
Step 6: Rinse the hair and air dry
This is the last step when it comes to applying a regular conditioner.
Use cool water to rinse out the conditioner in order to close the cuticles. Take your time and ensure all the conditioner is washed off.
Let your hair air dry before you style it.
A leave-in conditioner can be applied to either wet or dry hair and are created to be left in the hair after application. They are commonly used to detangle hair.
These types of conditioners are commonly made of water or alcohol-based products and will usually have a lighter feel and consistency.
Because of their composition, they are unlikely to form a tight bond with hair or scalp. This reduces the chances of the formation of product buildup.
Additionally, their light feel does not weigh down hair causing it to become limp. This makes it easier to try out a variety of hairstyles.
In a Nutshell, Is it Bad to Leave Conditioner in Your Hair?
- This will depend on the type of conditioner. Due to it’s heavy composition, you should not leave a regular conditioners in your hair. Leave-in conditioners on the other hand are made to be left in the hair as they are light.
- Whilst leaving a rinse-out/regular conditioner in your hair once in a while may not be immediately harmful to your hair, continuous use will most likely negatively affect your hair growth.
BTW, did you know hair porosity plays a key role in hair growth? Take this simple hair porosity test to determine if your hair is HIGH, LOW or NORMAL porosity.