Some grooming products are just too good to be true: like that 3-in-1 shower gel, face wash and shampoo that claims to reverse ageing, hide dark spots and generally turn you from a four out of ten to a straight-up seven.
Leave-in conditioner doesn’t fall into the category of snake oil. Whether you dread the post-wash fluff, like to be in and out of the shower faster than an F1 pitstop, or just want to streamline your bathroom clutter, this is one piece of kit that genuinely could be the answer to a good handful of your grooming dilemmas.
But what exactly is it, which ones are best and how do you use them? Here, with the help of six experts behind the locks of Hollywood actors, athletes and pop icons, is everything you need to know.
What Is Leave-In Conditioner?
“Leave-in conditioner is a lighter version of a regular hair conditioner as it is free from oils,” explains Davide Barbieri, a hair stylist with a client list that includes Ansel Elgort, Anthony Joshua and Robbie Williams.
“It typically comes in spray or cream format, and it is used after shampooing on towel-dried hair. It helps hair to retain moisture all day long, keeping it soft and shiny without weighing it down. It is also a very good detangler, so if you wear your hair mid- to long-length, it will cut down time spent brushing out any knots.”
Who Does It Work For?
“Leave-in conditioner is good for all hair types as it’s lightweight, doesn’t weigh fine hair down and can simultaneously add volume to limp locks. It’s also ideal for coarse, curly or afro hair, which are prone to dryness,” adds Davide. “It’s great for those who live an active lifestyle, those who go to the gym or travel frequently, or are just generally on the go.”
How Should You Use Leave-In Conditioner?
“After shampooing, towel-dry your hair thoroughly – if hair is still too wet the product won’t be absorbed properly and won’t be as effective. Apply your leave-in conditioner to the lengths, avoiding the roots as this is where your hair is naturally oiliest. If your hair is longer, apply it to the lengths and brush it through with a wide tooth comb to the ends to help detangle. It really is a fool-proof hair product,” and one you could do with adding to your rotation.
The Best Leave-In Conditioners
Label.m Protein Spray
Not a fan of heavy styling products but want smooth hair? Use Label.m Protein Spray, a favourite of session stylist Lee Machin, who’s groomed Colin Firth, Jeremy Irvine and Benjamin Clementine. “It’s lightweight and works well as a styling tool for people who don’t like too much product, and for those with drier hair.”
Kiehl’s Creme With Silk Groom
Grey hair loses its lustre and often looks dull. To bring back a healthy shine reach for Kiehl’s Creme with Silk Groom. The non-greasy grooming aid has a thick consistency, and you only need to use a little to reign in frizzy ends, meaning it goes a long way.
Pankhurst London Styling Conditioner
Want your hair to smell nice at the same time as looking good? Soho barber Brent Pankhurst’s award-winning Styling Conditioner has a signature bay rum scent that’ll no doubt win you over. Better yet, it contains wheat protein to nourish hair and is excellent for taming flyaway strands.
Kevin Murphy Thick Again
For receding hairlines, choose Kevin Murphy Thick Again. “It’s a leave-in treatment specially designed for men with fine or thinning hair,” says Davide. It achieves this with a blend of ginger root, parsley and nettle which work together to invigorate the scalp and promote, fuller, healthier hair while smoothing out any dry or wiry bits.
Sassoon Professional Halo Hydrate
Heading somewhere hot? Joshua Gibson, a hair stylist with over two decades’ experience, suggests Sassoon Professional Halo Hydrate. “It preps the hair excellently before styling, enhancing the quality of the blow dry through its anti-static technology. It’s never heavy and has a UV filter, so it’s great for protecting your hair and scalp on holidays.”
Pureology Colour Fanatic Multi-Tasking Hair Beautifier Spray
These days, it’s not uncommon for guys to have chemically treated or highlighted hair. If you fall into this category, Tim Pateman, director of London salon The Lion and The Fox, recommends Pureology’s Colour Fanatic Hair Beautifier Spray. “This is a good one for protecting coloured hair, especially from regular heat styling. It’s vegan, too.”
Philip Kingsley Daily Damage Defence Conditioning Spray
Good for all hair types, Philip Kingsley’s Daily Damage Defence Conditioning Spray is one of the best all-rounders on the market. It also has UV filters, so it protects against environmental damage and heat styling. “It instantly boosts overall condition, manageability and shine,” says Davide.
Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Treatment
Hair prone to breakage? Award-winning barber Carmelo Guastella likes Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Treatment. “This really nourishes and strengthens the hair, especially if it’s very dry or stressed. It gives hair a healthy feel.”
Men-Ü Slic Smooth Leave-In Conditioner
The sky is a desert. Inside an aeroplane cabin, humidity levels drop to lower than the Sahara, which can be bad news for your hair. That’s why Bradley Smith, of Bradley Smith Hair at Heathrow Terminal 5 Arrivals, is a fan of Men-Ü Slic Leave-in Conditioner. “It leaves hair recharged, nourished and hydrated for a natural shiny finish while adding texture. It’s enriched with nutrients, and the formula has a long-lasting effect. It also comes in 100ml, so it’s fine to stick in your hand luggage.”