Sometimes a quick shampoo and condition in the shower just isn’t enough.
Maybe you’ve spent the last week lying in the sunshine. Or perhaps you got a little bleach-happy with a new look. Or it could just be that, like the rest of us, your hair needs a little extra TLC every so often. Enter: the best leave-in conditioners.
Designed, as the name suggests, to be applied liberally and left on to work their magic, the best leave-in conditioners work hard to rejuvenate your locks from within making them smoother, sleeker and all-together easier to tame. Use one regularly and you’ll kick yourself for not starting this new-and-improved haircare routine sooner.
But where to start with selecting your weapon of choice?
Andrew Barton, Celebrity Hair Stylist and Creative and Communications Director at Headmasters, says: “When it comes to leave-in conditioners, the key thing that I would advise is that it’s more about the texture of the product than the ingredients. There are thicker heavier formulas and thinner more lightweight formulas. If you have finer hair, look for something more milky and lightweight.
Frizzy, dry, more textured hair needs something heavier to provide deep moisture. Leave-in conditioners work by retracting moisture in the atmosphere so are great to help your blow-dry last a bit longer and also to help seal any split ends.”
Luke Benson, ALFAPARF Milano Creative Ambassador and Celebrity Hairstylist, echoes this: “When looking for a leave-in conditioner, I’d always recommend something that has heat protection properties and something light so that it doesn’t weigh the hair down.
“Always choose professional products and avoid cheap products that contain silicones and plastics. While they might make the hair feel lovely initially, they do nothing to help maintain or strengthen the condition of the hair. The plastics act like a top coat of nail varnish: they make the hair feel smooth but do nothing more."
Read on for all of our favourite products.
OLAPLEX No 6 Bond Smoother
It used to be that you could only find Olaplex's No.6 Bond Smoother in hair salons or bought via professional suppliers. So the arrival of this leave-in conditioner to online retailers was most definitely a welcomed treat. Much like everything Olaplex produces, the No. 6 Bond Smoother is incredible for restoring dry, damaged hair and bringing it back to life.
This bond smoother is designed to be brushed through and left to work its magic, applied immediately after towel drying your washed hair. You'll notice a smooth difference to begin with, but the real difference comes after a few weeks of usage, when your hair feels softer, silkier and easier to brush. It's a game changer of a product.
Buy now £26.00, lookfantastic
Fudge Professional Leave In Conditioner
Fudge Professional is one of the best budget-friendly hair brands out there for delivering a powerful dose of nutrients. This spray treatment is an effortless-to-apply leave-in conditioner without any of the fuss of washing your hands after application.
Ideal for softening and smoothing tangled, dull and dry hair, Fudge's One Shot conditioning treatment is formulated with guarana (a plant that's rich in caffeine) and hydrolysed wheat proteins, which protect your hair against heat and environmental stressors. The lasting result? Locks that are stronger, calmer and more-together than ever before. Hair goals and life goals, too.
Buy now £12.95, Beauty Bay
Garnier Ultimate Blends Hair Food Banana 3-in-1 Dry Hair Mask Treatment
Garnier's Hair Food comes in a few different aromas and they all smell good enough to eat. While they don't (we'd assume) taste quite as good as they smell, they're certainly stuffed with enough natural ingredients to make you second guess yourself mid-application.
The banana-flavoured hair mask can be used in a few different ways, depending on just how much moisture your hair requires. Use it as a normal conditioner and wash out after a few moments or apply post-conditioning and leave on, when its vegan formula will melt into your lengths and hydrate from the inside. If you struggle with breakage, this is one of the best products to use.
Buy now £3.49, Boots
Balmain Hair Leave-In Conditioning Spray
Balmain Hair's Leave-In Conditioning Spray takes a little from column A and a little from column B, hitting the perfect midpoint between a conditioning spray and a conditioning treatment. This water-like spray might look pretty thin but, once it's absorbed into your hair, it doesn't take long to gently condition and nourish while adding a little extra volume.
This French brand is much loved among Parisian runway stylists, if you needed any extra proof before purchasing. If it's good enough for Fashion Week, it's good enough for us.
Buy now £27.00, Net-a-porter
Christophe Robin Hydrating Leave-in Creme with Aloe Vera
Christophe Robin's whole Hydrating line smells delicious, from the leave-in cream to the conditioning mist. Both come with a fresh Aloe Vera scent that's reminiscent of the final touches your hairdresser flourishes before you step outside after a treatment.
The hydrating cream in particular delivers a healthy boost of all things good to tired hair, leaving a silky smooth finish and locks that somehow appear a little longer. Nurturing antioxidants provide a shield against environmental pollutants and heat damage, while reducing the appearance of split ends at the same time. Looking for a little extra smoothness? This is the leave-in conditioner for you.
Buy now £32.00, lookfantastic
Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Strength + Moisture Leave In Mask
If brushing your hair is your least favoured (or most feared) part of your haircare routine, Briogeo's Don't Despair, Repair! Strength + Moisture Leave In Mask is the secret weapon to transforming your locks into something far more manageable.
This leave-in conditioning mask smells amazing and works wonders to transform dry, bedraggled hair into something you'll want to snap a few photos of. Rather than coating the hair with silicones (which give the illusion of healthy locks), this treatment makes good use of micro-encapsulated argan oil, biotin and algae extract, healing the hair while helping it along.
Buy now £23.95, Beauty Bay
Aveda Botanical Repair Strengthening Leave-In Treatment
Aveda’s Botanical Repair Leave in Treatment excels the most on anyone who isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Well, their hair more so than their hands, but this leave-in conditioner isn’t put off by water or heat and works its magic anyway to keep hair feeling fresh and clean.
You’ll love this treatment particularly if you’re a swimmer or spend a lot of time in the water. Its dense, thickening formula protects hair at all costs, strengthening from the inside with a mix of strengthening, reparative qualities and a delicious, floral scent to match.
Be warned: this product doesn’t hold back with conditioning so, if you’re just looking for a light dose of nourishment, it’s probably not for you. But if you’re on the hunt for a dictionary definition “deep conditioning”, you’ll love this formula.
Buy now £22.40, lookfantastic
Andrew Fitzsimons Repair Leave-in Conditioner
Khloe Kardashian’s hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons launched his own brand only mere months ago and it's already become a popular choice. His Repair Leave-in Conditioner is suitable for all hair types and offers heat protection, a shine boost, UV protection and bonding technology all wrapped up into one.
Formulated with strengthening ceramides and castor oil, this soothing formula is ideal for all kinds of nourishment, regardless of whether you're trying to focus on anti-frizz and taming flyaways or adding moisture to dehydrated locks. If you were a fan of Fitzsimons' Primark range, you'll fall in love with this one.
Buy now £11.00, Boots
Neal & Wolf Silk Smoothing Blow Dry Balm
Neal & Wolf’s Silk Smoothing Blow Dry Balm works a little differently to your usual leave-in conditioning treatment. If you’ve ever wondered exactly how stylists flawlessly produce such hard-to-replicate, incredibly sleek hair, this is it. Unlike other leave-in products, designed to be used on damp hair, you’ll want to reserve this balm for the very final step of your routine, just before you add some heat and style it.
That’s mostly due to its hydrating wheat protein complex, which provides moisture, balance and manageability to all kinds of styling. Apply and then style with a large round brush and you’ll never leave it off your routine again.
Buy now £14.74, Amazon
OUAI Leave In Conditioner
Whether you’re confident with your hair brands or have dithered over how to correctly pronounce OUAI (it’s “way”, for the record), you’ll want to add this nourishing product to your weekly routine if you’re looking for quick results. Hadid-approved hair stylist Jen Atkins’ label is one of the leaders of the haircare world and, with its understated packaging, the leave-in conditioner is one of the sleekest products from its list.
Enriched with luxurious moisturising ingredients like Tamarind Seed Extract, Panthenol and Vitamin E, this conditioning spray hydrates the hair to reduce the appearance of frizz and dryness while reinforcing the hair structure at the same time.
Buy now £24.00, lookfantastic
Windle London Invisible Day & Night Spray
Windle’s Invisible Day & Night Spray is so light you’ll spray it and second guess yourself before its soft, salon-fresh smell hits your nose. This seriously hydrating spray is one of the best for instantly rejuvenating hair without weighing it down.
Its award-winning formula comes pumped with everything from Monoi Oil and Crambe Abyssinica Oil to Aloe Vera, protecting hair from friction and helping to prevent hair loss and damage. Expect calm, frizz-free hair, a soft, moisturised scalp and impressively smooth locks to round it off. The best part? Its inbuilt UV protection: it’s a great holiday staple product, too.
Buy now £18.00, Windle London
Monat Damage Repair Bond-Fortifying Hair Leave-in Crème
Monat's Damage Repair Leave-in Crème is so thick and creamy you just know it's going to be effective before you've slathered it all over your head. This rich treatment is one you'll want to pair with a good book and a glass of wine on self-care Saturday nights as it nourishes, strengthens and hydrates your hair.
As well as doing good, this is a leave-in conditioner that smells good, with a subtle scent of neroli and orange flowers. Use once a week and expect significantly reduced breakage and frizz as well as high shine and stronger roots.
Buy now £38.00, Monat
There’s a good reason why Olaplex almost always tops the charts in the haircare world and that’s because it’s a virtually unbeatable brand. The OLAPLEX No 6 Bond Smoother ticks all the boxes when it comes to leave-in conditioning treatments.