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What’s the difference between rinse-out and leave-in conditioner?

Mari Murmers:
Hi Beauty Brains, Thanks for all the info, its really fantastic! What the difference is between regular conditioner and leave-in conditioner? I’ve been putting a little bit of conditioner on after I’ve toweled off my hair and all (except Pantene) seem to work better that way for my curly hair.

The Right’s Really Righteous Reply:
If you’re asking if it’s ok to use little bit of rinse out conditioner and leave it in your hair, the answer is yes as long as it leaves your hair looking and feeling the way you want.

Rinse out conditioners are typically made with heavier ingredients (and they generally conditioner better) because they contain a combination of “fatty” chemicals and high molecular weight silicones.

You don’t usually find these ingredients in leave in conditioners because they weigh the hair down too much.

Now, if you have hair that’s really thirsty for conditioning, all bets are off. And while most leave ins don’t make very good rinse out products (because they’re not designed to stay on the hair after rinsing), many rinse outs could work well as a leave in.

Two things to watch out for:
1) Make sure you only apply to the ends of your hair and don’t use too much or your hair will get greasy.

2) If you have sensitive skin, the ingredients and fragrance used in the rinse out product MAY cause irritation if left on too long. If you experience irritation, stop using the product entirely!

The Brain‘s Bottom Line:
Rinse out and Leave in products are formulated to have different functionality, but they can overlap. If it makes your hair happy, feel free to leave in a rinse out.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Elizabeth July 29, 2016, 1:28 pm

    I am so confused. My hair is really dry from having blond streaks (from foils) put in. The rinse out conditioners I am currently using (i have tried many different brands) are not really doing anything (my hair still looks dry). To save money, I would like to try using a rinse out conditioner as a leave-in but I don’t want to hurt my hair. Please advise with a straight answer as I’m getting confused by the above.

    • Randy Schueller August 1, 2016, 8:47 am

      It’s not a good idea to use a rinse out as a leave in because SOME rinse outs contain ingredients that are not designed to be left in contact with the skin.

    • Anam July 11, 2017, 5:59 am

      After shampooing and conditioning ur hair. Towel dry ur scalp only and air dry ur hair and then apply leave in conditioner. The brand that I use as leave in conditioner is Q Sera Leave on Conditioner it’s a bit creamy and non-greesy easy to stay on hair. After applying it run ur fingers through ur hair detangle ur hair when it’s a bit wet to avoid breakage and damage on dry hair.bHope this helps

  • Linda February 20, 2018, 10:40 am

    I ran out of leave-in conditioner, so I started using rinse out conditioner and it made my hair less tangled when I combed it out and less hair on the comb. It made my hair look better, more smoother. Don’t use alot, work it through the hair. Left a nicer smell too. My hair wasn’t greasy looking either and more manageable.

  • Emmy January 19, 2019, 3:17 am

    Talking from experience I once used a rinse out as a leave in and my hair started breaking that I had to chop it off and re-start