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Curly Nikki

Can I Use a Rinse-Out Conditioner as a Leave-in?

By January 27th, 202145 Comments
Can I Use a Rinse-Out Conditioner as a Leave-in?

Dark Eyes asks…Is it ok to use a regular conditioner as a leave in conditioner? I have long, thick wavy hair that needs to be weighed down. Any recommendations or ingredients to look for?

The Left Brain responds:
Rinse off and leave-on products are formulated differently for a reason. Almost any oily material will provide conditioning when left on the hair. But a special kind of ingredient is required to ensure that conditioning agents will “stick” to hair during rinsing.

Read More!>>>

Two kinds of conditioning agents:
There are two tricks that chemists use to deposit ingredients on hair. One is called “dilution deposition” which works well for silicones and some oils. In this approach the ingredients “fall out” of solution when rinse water hits the product.

The other approach is called “charge deposition” which requires conditioners known as “quaternary ammonium” compounds or quats for short. Quats are have a positive charge so they are attracted to the negative sites on damaged hair. One issue with quats, though, is that they are typically chloride salts and can be irritating to your skin. Because of this potential irritation issue, some quats that are used in rinse off products should not be used in products that are left in contact with the skin.

Cetrimonium chloride is one such example: it can’t be used at more than 1% in a leave on product. Because the average consumer has no way of knowing which ingredients will be irritating (and at what concentrations the ingredients are used at) there is some risk in leaving a rinse out conditioner in your hair.

The Beauty Brains bottom line
If you choose to experiment with leaving rinse out products in your hair, be mindful that you may experience increased skin irritation.

Conditioners Formulated for Both:
If you’re looking to save money by combining your leave-in and conditioner, or just want something thicker for your hair, don’t leave it up to chance. There are special conditioners formulated to be used as both rinse outs and leave ins.

DevaCurl One Condition 
DevaCare One Condition 
Ouidad Curl Recovery Whipped Curls 
Redken Curvaceous Conditioner

Do you leave in instant conditioners? What’s your experience been?


  • DecemberPumpkin says:

    i sometimes put water in the conditioner but other than that i wash out, wash out conditioner

  • Quianna Taylor says:

    I keep a spray bottle with 3 parts water to 1 part Cream of Nature Deep Conditioner with Moroccan Argan Oil. After I wash my hair and rinse out the conditioner I apply some olive & coconut oil and this spray. I then twist my hair and put on a shower cap and go to sleep. In the morning I take the cap off and let my hair air dry for about an hour. Take out the twists and style as desired. Conventional braid outs never worked for me but this lasts for about a week because the conditioner keeps it from drying out.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have tried leave ins and moisturizers on my hair and they dont do anything. I began using cheap conditioners like ausie moist as leave ins and my hair stays sooo soft and it loves it! I have gotten more growth ths way as well :) . I tried using tresemme naturals as a leave in and it was horrible for me. I guess because of the alcohol in it. I love it as rinse out though. I doctor it p with olive and coconut oil and honey. Awesome!

  • Anonymous says:

    I used to use the Suave Kids grape scented conditioner as a leave-in. That is until they reformulated it and then discontinued it. Thanks Suave.

  • Anonymous says:

    OMG…I love Aubrey's Honeysuckle Rose!!! I've been using it for almost a year! On my last shampoo…I added coconut oil to it…loved it! I'm almost out and it's a 25 min drive to get it…I can't live w/o it! Anyway, I leave it in my hair and it's the best! I also leave in suave coconut cond. Question: I'm natural and a blow dry my hair. It seems everyone here sports their curls…is there anyone here that blow dries their curls after leaving in a rinse out cond? I'm interested in any tips and/or products!!! I'm I'm Atlanta…humidity is a beast here!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    This winter I used Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose conditioner mixed with coconut oil as a leave-in. It was the ONLY thing that left my super-coily 4a hair soft and moisturized all day. Definitely a keeper!!

  • Gwen says:

    I use my VO5 moisture milk with oils for a leave in and styler. It helps to moisten, add shine and helps my coils and kinks pop!!

  • Carla says:

    I love Tresemme Naturals. I will have to try Trader Joe's Nourish Spa next time I'm there. I saw a curly woman use it at the gym a few weeks ago as a leave-in and her hair looked great.

  • Ms sassy says:

    I have diluted a rinse out conditioner with water to create a spray leave in and I never noticed a difference.

  • Jo Somebody says:

    To the multi-posting anonymous – aren't plaits and braids the same thing??!

  • Anonymous says:

    I have yet to find a rinse out conditioner that works well as a leave-in. In my experience, once my hair dries, they dry out my hair. So I stick with using Giovanni leave-in or Sheamoisture hair milk.

  • Anonymous says:

    @EmmaG, I leave the conditioner in until the next time I wash/cowash so yes, that may be 1 week. I use a rinse out condish as a leave in the use a styler depending on what style I'm going for (gel for wash n go, moisturizer for twist'n'curls, etc.). When I use the rinse out or deep condish as a leave in, as Curly hallow says above, I use a very small amount per section and allow it to be absorbed by the hair and I experience no hardening or dryness.

  • CurlyRoo says:

    I've just started using ROs as LIs. My LI of choice is still Giovanni Direct Leave-in but I've also been using V05 Moisture Milks and Tresemme Naturals for more moisture. I find that when I leave in the RO condishes, my hair is moist for a bit longer than just a normal LI.

  • X0CurlyHallow0x says:

    When i first went cg I used to use handfuls of aussie moist and herbal Essenes long term relationship as a leave in but it left my hair mushy and dull and really weak. I think I over conditioned it. Then I used expensive drug store leave ins my hair was define but my hair became dry. I started researching ingrediants and now I use sulfate free shampoo and alternate using dime sized amounts of oyin hair dew and Shea moisture milk and never looked back my hair is in the best condition since I was a child getting my hair greased everynight

  • MiMiShell says:

    That Aussie Moist is the bomb as a leave-in…for me. This week I tired something a lil different (a recipe I read/seen some where); I mixed my conditioner w/water and added some Argan oil and GIRL!!! my hair loves it. It stays moisturized and the curl definition is the greatest. I've tried real leave-ins but as soon as the product drys…so does my hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    My scalp itch like crazy when I use a rinse out as a leave in! Now I use leave in conditioners only.

  • EmmaG says:

    Question to the ladies who use the leavein conditioners— How long do you typically leave it in, 1 week? Also do you put a sealant on top of that or just the leave in and style as usual. I know some of you said to experiment but my hair always comes out brittle. Perhaps you are not having trouble because you use a sealant or oil also?. Is that a step I am missing?.

  • Anonymous says:

    All the time- & I've never had a problem with my skin. Probably because I'm putting it on my hair not my skin. & the lil bit that does touch the skin from my hair rubbing against… It's never caused any harm. I don't have sensitive skin though~

  • Anonymous says:

    Aussie Moist has been my staple for a few years now. To prevent build up, I wash once a week with Treseme Clarifying shampoo, that takes out all of the conditioner residue.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have used rinse off conditoners as a leave in conditioner. However, I did not use as much I just put a small amount on hands rubbed together and put on hair. Or just put very small amount on ends.

  • Anonymous says:

    I absolutely do use rinse out and deep conditioners as leave-ins. An example of this is Curl Junkie Curl Rehab and Curl Junkie Beauticurls. Typical leave-ins are not moisturizing, heavy, slippery enough for my hair. I have not experienced any skin irritation from their use; however, my hair and I laugh at regular leave-ins and get irritated with them.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think that it depends on the product. I could see using a little. When I've tried it before, after a few hours, I get a burning sensation.

    Just experiment.

  • Micheal says:

    I think its okay to use a rinse out as a leave it. I do it all the time. I don't completely rinse out my conditioner in the shower or even at times when I was big on wash and go's I would use the Herbal Essence moisture one as a leave in. I like and it didn't weigh my hair down.

  • Anonymous says:

    I leave-in Aussie Moist and Tresemme Naturals with great results.


  • LishaB says:

    I have been doing the conditioner only method for close to two months and I noticed that my scalp is alot more itchy while my hair/curls are alot more hydrated. Its like a win/lose situation for me. I just recently purchased some tea tree oil to help with my scalp. Hope it works!

  • ChrLvsBks says:

    Yes, I leave in rinse out conditioners often. There have been some that did nothing for my hair. That is why trial and error are important. My favorite right now is Tressemme Naturals. I hope to try other silicone free conditioners in the future. My hair is uber-moisturized. My regimen will be to rinse it totally out every three or so days and apply more.

  • Nak says:

    I've been telling people to use rinse-out as leave-in since I was 19. And every person I recommend it to has thanked me.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is what I get for rushing! Anonymous at 1:27pm yet again….plaits, plaits, plaits, not braids….

  • Anonymous says:

    Anonymouns at 1:27PM here……I forgot to add that I SATURATE my hair with the conditioner and oil mixture (hair only, not the scalp) after I wash with Terressentials Hair Wash (usually lemon), before I twist in the shower. I sometimes do this process with individual plaits (I said braids in the previous post, but it is braids). I wash with the Terressentials with my plaits in, focusing on the scalp, then saturate my plaits with the conditioner/oil and let dry. Works every time for my hair!

  • Anonymous says:

    Absolutely….I use a moisturizing conditioner like Giovanni's 50/50 or Garnier mixed with a little olive oil, then I braid or twist and dry. I then use a little Royal Crown to put in my final twists or braids for a twist out or a braid out. This provides long-lasting moisture and and definition for my 4a hair….finally!

  • Anonymous says:

    I LOVE using Curl Junkie Beauticurls Argan & Olive Oil to detangle clean wet hair in the shower with , then I leave it in under my styler of choice (today that's As I Am Naturally Twist Defining Cream).

  • Anonymous says:

    I use to use rinse out conditioners when I did wash and gos. But now that I just do twist outs I find that leaving in my conditioner (especially the amount I use) weighs my hair down and makes it feel product-y. I prefer the lightness of leave ins.

  • BekkaPoo says:

    Been doing rinse outs as leave ins since the early 1990s and haven't stopped yet. My hair used to live on Tresemme for about a decade until I switched to other brands like Herbal Essences and Garnier Fructis. I have only experienced skin irritation with Mane N Tail when left in, so now if I use it I rinse it out. The other rinse out conditioners I've used as leave ins never gave me any issues with skin irritation.

  • MsMellowsmooth says:

    I ALWAYS use a rinse-out conditioner as my leave-in. Right now Herbal Essences Totally Twisted is my staple because it's more moisturizing than anything else I've tried. Never had any problem with scalp irritation. I'm not comfortable leaving in other Herbal Essences conditioners because most of the others (except 1 or 2 I think) contain sodium hydroxide. I'm sure they're fine for rinsing but I don't want to leave them on my hair.

  • Naphtali says:

    I use rinse conditioners in my hair often. It helps to give me the style I want, the moisture I need to protect my hair. I am a big fan of John Freida conditioners. I have some leave-in conditioners, however, they are liquid when I need a creme consistence.
    Whatever conditioner rinse you use, make sure it more helpful than harmful to your hair

  • Davina916 says:

    I've been using Tresemme Naturals as a leave-in for about a month. So far, so good!

  • Fatima says:

    I only use rinse out conditioners as my leave in: Tresemme Naturals and Garnier Fructis. Neither has silicones or parabens and I get the best hair days with them. Just leave in the conditioner and seal with oil. No issues yet *knocks on wood* and my hair has never been more moisturized!!

  • Alice says:

    When my daughters were young, I always used rinse out conditioners as leave ins. It made their hair very soft and easy to manage. It also seemed to help the health and growth of their hair. Now that I have been natural for about 5 years, I often leave the conditioners in because it does very well with maintaining my curl definition.

  • Erin says:

    I'm married to twist-outs and HE:Hello Hydration is a part of my leave-in (about 3 parts HE:HH to 1 part Kinky Curly Knot Today and a couple of pumps of Organix Coconut Milk serum).

  • Anonymous says:

    I do it all the time… Most leave-ins are water based and don't have any effect on my hair. The heavier ones have some effect but conditioner seems to work the best: my hair is moisturized, not frizzy and "acts" better. Also, if it's ok for people to use conditioner as a substitute for shampoo, then surely it can be a daily moisture.

    Not everything posted on these sites works the same for everyone else for a number of reasons besides hair type. If it works for you, doesn't damage your hair and the results are acceptable – then why not?

  • Anonymous says:

    I have gotten some of my best twistouts from using rinse-out conditioners as leave-ins. It seems to make my hair softer and more defined, and my styles last longer.

  • Lei says:

    I regularly use rinse-outs as leave-ins but that's because i have yet to find a leave-in that does anything for my hair. I think the ones i've tried are too watery..and once my hair dries it just feels dry and even brittle at times. basically i leave out shampoo and i use regular conditioners as co-poos and leave-ins and then use deep conditioners every time i wash my hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    I use rinse out and leave ins on my hair as conditioners are the best source of moisture for my hair. I like that it weighs down my hair and I do not get that much shrinkage.

  • BreatheFashion3c says:

    Honestly, I leave-in my herbal essences hello hydration after every wash. For some reason, my hair absolutely loves that stuff!I never did go Inspector Gadget into the ingredients because it leaves my hair so soft and tangle-free…it must be love lol.

  • CurlyInTheA says:

    As of the last week, I've been using Trader Joe's Nourish condish as a leave-in. I have found my product staple! Like the poster, my hair needs to be weighed down. I still can't use just conditioner for my wash and gos because it just lays on the surface of my hair and I get buildup. But, I have used it for braidouts (today's style) and it works REALLY well with protective styles. I've gotten a lot less shrinkage with protective styling.

    Typically, I have NEVER been able to use conditioner this way. Conditioners usually just sit on my hair. I only found one brand I liked — a Dominican conditioner sold once at Big Lots but that's now out-of-stock. So glad that I've found my conditioner staple that I don't care if it's a leave-in, rinse out or whatever.

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