The 12 best leave-in conditioners for curly hair, according to your hair type

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  • Leave-in conditioners are typically a must-have styling product for curly and coily hair patterns.
  • Used after shampooing and conditioning, they can prevent breakage, hydrate hair, and promote growth.
  • We picked 12 of the best leave-in conditioners for curly hair, depending on your curl type.

For curly hair types, using a leave-in conditioner is a crucial next step after cleansing and conditioning. It’s also a great first product to use when styling. Leave-ins don’t just give hair definition and pop — they hydrate, lock in moisture, strengthen, and reduce frizz.

“Leave-in conditioners are typically distinguished by containing some protein, some element of hydrolyzed protein, something that strengthens the hair,” certified trichologist Dr. Kari Williams explains. Leave-ins also contain moisturizers like butters, oils, and humectants.

Curly vs. coily hair

When finding the best leave-in conditioner for you, consider what your hair needs based on your curl pattern, porosity, and texture. All of these characteristics help determine what ingredients you should look for and what consistency is best for your hair.

Generally, the curlier the hair, the more moisture it needs, and the differences between curly and coily hair has to do with how loose or tight your ringlets are. If your hair is a mix of loose curls and ringlets, check out the products we’ve defined for curly hair, which is categorized by the number “3.” If your hair is made of mostly tight, coiled ringlets, you’ll benefit most from the products we’ve called out for coily hair, which is categorized by the number “4.” 

Click to jump to the best leave-in conditioners for curly hair in 2021:

  • The best conditioners for curly hair
  • The best conditioners for coily hair

The best leave-in conditioners for curly hair

The following leave-in conditioners are best for those whose hair texture is defined as 3A, 3B, or 3C. Your hair is a mix of tight ringlets and looser curls. The circumference of most of your curls is about the size of a piece of sidewalk chalk. 

Kinky-Curly Knot Today Leave In Detangler

If your hair is composed of mainly tight ringlets, it’s likely coily. This texture is identified as either 4A, 4B, or 4C hair, and it typically has much more volume than length. Because of how tight your coils are, you probably don’t need to wash your hair all that often. In fact, you may find yourself using these products once every 10 days or so. 

Carol's Daughter Goddess Strength Castor Oil Leave-In Conditioner

This curl-defining leave-in conditioner was created to promote growth and reduce breakage via ingredients like raw black honey and coconut oil. If you’re trying to avoid silicone, you may want to steer clear, though. This lightweight formula includes a small amount of dimethicone — a silicone which helps seal in moisture.

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