Sometimes, rinsing out hydrating products isn't enough. We need deeply moisturising goodness in the hair to fight off any dryness and frizz after a wash day. A lot has been said in favour of hair oils, though the greasy aftermath is less desirable.
Enter lightweight leave-in conditioners or creams. Part water and part oil, these emulsions stay in your dehydrated locks for a smoother, shinier appearance between shampoos.
What does a leave-in conditioner do?
A leave-in hair conditioner is meant to go on after your rinse-off conditioner, so it's not a replacement for the latter. In the summertime, most hair types can become prone to frizz post-wash, making the product essential in your hair care routine.
Dr Aashim Singh Kukreja, a specialist dermatologist with Medcare Medical Centre in Dubai, explained: "Frizz depends on how dry your hair is and the humidity in the atmosphere around you. In the summer, it gets very humid, so there's more moisture in the air. Your dry hair will then try to absorb more moisture from the air, causing the cuticles to swell up. This imbalance of moisture between the air and hair makes the hair frizzy."
Just as we lock in water by applying moisturiser to a freshly washed face, leave-in conditioners work the same way. Dr Kukreja says this method of preserving hydration is beneficial for dry and frizzy hair types, but not so much for oily tresses.
In the case of curls, which by their nature tend to be dry, leave-ins make the hair "more manageable, help in styling and preventing any heat damage from blow drying and straightening".
How do I use a leave-in conditioner?
You might wonder: why not just add a dollop of hair oil, instead? If you want a shiny coat to pin down flyaways, hair oil could be the only aftercare product you'll need. If your concerns go beyond a glossy topcoat, Dr Kukreja tells us that a leave-in conditioner delivers more add-ons and essential nutrients to the hair cuticles.
"Conditioners are oil and water emulsions, so they don't cause too much of stickiness, like oils," added Dr Kukreja. You'll still find oil-based active ingredients, such as argan oil, shea butter, rosemary oil and more, depending on the type of leave-in you go for.
The way we go about applying a leave-in conditioner is important, as well. Our expert says to pat your hair dry after the usual shampoo and conditioner routine. Use a cotton T-shirt or a gentle towel for this step. Then, apply the leave-in conditioner of your choice while the hair is still damp in long, vertical motions onto the shafts. Rubbing the product in will only cause further frizzing.
You can make leave-ins a part of your post-wash routine in the summers. Dr Kukreja says the frequency can be reduced come winter, where twice a week would suffice.
We've gathered below only the best leave-in conditioners to combat dry and frizzy hair, starting off strong with expert picks. If you want a full rundown on a frizzy hair care routine, check out this list of products. Subscribe to Prime to get free, fast delivery.
1. Best Overall: Phyto Kératine Extrême Exceptional Cream
Dr Kukreja recommends Phyto Keratine Extreme Exceptional Cream to her patients often, who report back excellent results. "It's a tried-and-tested formula that can be used every other day and doesn't leave behind any powdery residue. You're getting smooth, shiny hair that's more manageable and less frizzy - it also helps with improving the strength of your hair," she explained. Together with reparative botanical keratin, the leave-in draws nourishment from sapote butter, baobab oil, castor oil, grapeseed extract and more. This deeply restorative formula adds life back to dry, over-processed locks. It even doubles as a heat protectant.
2. Best for All Hair Types: Olaplex Bond Smoother No. 6
Our expert's second-best pick is the Olaplex No. 6 Bond Smoother. This leave-in treatment is great for all hair types - from grey to chemically treated - and hair textures, including fine hair. Olaplex promises 72 hours of frizz-free hair after application. Its patented bond-building technology repairs extremely dry, brittle locks from within. The product is completely vegan, and free of gluten, nuts and sulfates. Reviewers love that it doesn't feel greasy, and others who come from bleaching leave positive impressions after purchasing it on recommendation from their hairdressers.
3. Best Lightweight Formula: Curlsmith Weightless Air Dry Cream
Curlsmith is a loved brand among curlheads, and if you're struggling with finding the right formula for your ringlets, look no further. Its weightless texture goes on easily without adding to your product buildup. The vegan conditioner doesn't aggravate curls as it's free of sulfates, silicones, mineral oils and phthalates. With all the nasties out, the cream is full of hydrating goodness - hyaluronic acid, ginger, castor oil, murumuru seed oil and dragon fruit pulp. Those with fine hair can't get enough of the lightweight application and say their curls are no longer hard to style and completely pliable. It's the perfect product to use on 'lazy' hair days.
4. Best for On-The-Go: Davines OI All-in-One Milk
Something that's going to give you fresh-out-of-salon results, is the Davines' OI All-in-One Milk. Backed by roucou oil, extracted from an Amazonian plant that's rich in beta-carotene, the hair milk reconstructs the hair, as well as controls frizz, protects against heat damage and leaves the tresses feeling soft. It comes in a spray bottle, allowing you to apply quickly for a touchup. According to reviews, the leave-in wraps the hair in an irresistible fragrance and smoothes out any frizz instantly. Even those with colour-treated hair attest to the moisturising effect it delivers.
5. Best for Thick Hair: amika Hydro Rush Intense Moisture Leave-In Conditioner
Another leave-in conditioner that wears many hats, the amika Hydro Rush Intense Moisture hydrates, prevents frizz for up to 72 hours and detangles. It does this with the power of hyaluronic acid, bio-fermented coconut water for hydration, squalane that protects hair from moisture loss, polyglutanic acid for moisture retention and, finally, blue/green algae, which adds vitamins and amino acids to the locks. Everything in the conditioner is designed to alleviate dryness in all hair types. Reviewers with dyed hair say their bleached strands no longer feel rough after a wash day. There's palpable difference in the appearance of frizz and flyaways, too. Some fine hair types do find the product too thick for them.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.