The Mane Thing: Leave-In Conditioner

By Celia Shatzman / November 9, 2017
Leave-in conditioner

For gorgeous, glossy hair, try a leave-in conditioner.

Summer is the season for fun in the sun. But all those rays, chlorine and salty beach air can take a toll on your hair that can linger through the fall. Luckily, there’s a simple solution: leave-in conditioners. They keep strands hydrated without weighing them down, delivering soft, shiny and manageable hair, and they can also help prevent damage.

So what’s the difference between a regular conditioner and a leave-in? “The first is application,” says James Abu-Ulba, artistic director at Spa Utopia in Vancouver, BC. “Regular conditioners are typically applied to wet hair and rinsed out, while leave-in conditioners are applied to damp hair and left in for the remainder of the day,” he continues. “Action is another. I like to think of your hair-washing ritual like this: wash for the hair you have and condition for the hair you want. While you may be conditioning for curl or smoothing, your leave-in can add qualities such as hydration, detangling, anti-aging and sun protection.” The number one concern Abu-Ulba sees with his clients is dehydration. Made with argan oil, artnaturals Leave-In Conditioner repairs and restores all hair types while boosting healthy growth and healing a dry scalp.

Conditioners aren’t the only show in town when it comes to leave-ins. Oils, like Desert Essence Organic Jojoba Oil, can be used as a pre-shampoo treatment to remove excess dirt from the hair, or post-shower as a blow-dry serum, as well as for smoothing, nourishing and replenishing. 

For a deeper, more intense treatment, opt for a hair mask, such as Kerstin Florian Intensive Hair Repair Mask. “I like to think of hair masks as the pharmaceuticals of conditioners,” Abu-Ulba says. “Just like conditioners, masks treat areas that need attention, such as nourishment, repair, strength and shine. Masks tend to work deeper into the hair; they are designed to focus on the root of the issue and start the process of change.”

While they may sound similar, oils, masks and leave-ins should be applied differently. For a leave-in conditioner, spray or apply section by section on towel-dried hair toward the ends—you can be a little more liberal with the product in areas that need more attention. Once applied, brush the hair to ensure even saturation before applying your next product. 

“For oils, I prefer using an oil-mist, like the Kérastase Aura Botanica Essence d’Éclat, and applying it on dry hair,” says Matt Fugate, Kérastase Consulting hairstylist. “I always apply masks after shampooing. I recommend applying from the ends first with remnants on scalp, clip up, and allow the steam from the shower to aid in extra love.” Allow the mask to sit for the suggested time, usually 5 to 15 minutes.

The biggest source of damage to the hair is “sun, sun, sun,” Abu-Ulba says. “The UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays, which our hair is constantly exposed to, are the number one cause. If you are by the ocean the salty air and water are also a major cause of hair damage and dehydration.”

Whether you choose a leave-in conditioner, oil or mask, make sure it’s suited to your hair’s needs. “Frizz is your hair’s way of asking for moisture,” Abu-Ulba says. “It is reaching out to the air around you, looking for it. Give it what it asks for.” Fight tangles and frizz with Babo Botanicals Smoothing Detangling Spray. To treat color damage, look for ingredients that repair the structure and help rebuild hair, such as protein and keratin. Sea salt can leave hair dehydrated, so look for a product with moisturizing and nourishing qualities.

The best way to deal with chlorine is to avoid damage in the first place. Rinse and wash immediately after your dip. “Using a clarifying shampoo will help remove chlorine or salt damage by removing the deposits on the hair,” says Fugate. “For a leave-in conditioner, I always look for some kind of detoxification agents and also protein to strengthen the hair.” The argan oil, rosehip oil, coconut oil and vitamin E in Briogeo Rosarco Milk Reparative Leave-In Conditioning Spray will do the trick.

Your hairstyle can also wreak havoc on your strands. If you put your hair in a ponytail when it’s wet—when hair is at its full elasticity—that tension can cause breakage along the perimeter of your hair as well as at the tie point. 

“Be careful about how tightly you are binding your hair when it’s wet and do not let chlorine dry into your hair,” Fugate warns. “My tip is to always pre-rinse and post-rinse with water to prevent it from sinking in. When styling, opt for looser hairstyles like loose ponytails or messy braids.” Apply Innersense Organic Beauty Sweet Spirit Leave-in Conditioner ($8, innersensebeauty.com) before you style for extra nourishment courtesy of natural oils, herbs and flower essences.

If your strands are still looking fried after all this TLC, it’s probably time to see a pro. “Find yourself a hairstylist who can do a proper hair analysis on you and recommend the appropriate regimen for you,” says Abu-Ulba. “Going to the salon for an intensive in-salon treatment at least once a month for your hair needs is a must.”


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Celia Shatzman

Celia Shatzman

Celia Shatzman is a Brooklyn-based writer who has penned stories on topics ranging from fashion to travel to celebrities, entertainment, beauty, finance, health, food, and fitness. A graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, her work has appeared in New York, Teen Vogue, NYLON, New York Post, Latina, Marie Claire, Self, ELLE.com, Time Out New York, CondeNastTraveler.com, and USA TODAY, among others. When she’s not writing, Celia enjoys traveling, learning to play tennis, and playing with her rescue dog, Olive.
Celia Shatzman

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