Leave-in Hair Conditioners for Curly Men

A curly hair man’s best ally. Tecnically, leave in conditioners are nothing more than watered down versions of conventional conditioners (more or less). In an attempt to stick to the “no bullcrap” principle of our website in the name of all curly men (and to keep things simple), I will go through how leave-in conditioners are tools that every busy curly dude should have in his arsenal. It must be noted, however, that leave-in conditioners are only part of the equation of having great curls and they act to complement a solid curly hair grooming routine.


Justin Timberlake with curly hair

If you want to learn how to have some kickass curls like those of Timberlake, then you are in the right place!

Leave-in conditioners – How they work

Leave-ins, as they are also known as, allow the user to benefit from healthy-looking and bouncy curls. They are applied once you have shampooed and while the hair is being styled and damp (not soaking wet). Contrary to conventional hair conditioners, they are designed to be left on the hair and not rinsed, hence the practical benefit it offers as it cuts down grooming time. A good leave-in conditioner provides moisturising and sealing properties as well as good slip via lubricating the hair shafts. Unlike as claimed for some hair creams or gels, which are also used to style the hair, it is important to apply a leave-in when the hair is damp so as to maximise moisturizing results. I personally prefer the leave-in option as opposed to conventional gels for daily use as I prefer the bouncy look that leave-in conditioners offer. Similarly, leave-ins provide a day-long lubricating coverage which is magic for people like me whose hair has a tendency to tangle easily. The only drawback is that they do not offer as much of a conditioning bang as conventional conditioners but this would only be a problem if the user needs more moisturising than the one achieved by the leave-in (or if you don’t use conventional conditioners).


Three leave-in conditioner bottles for men

Leave-in hair conditioners are very useful for curly men


Leave-in conditioners – What to look for

Now, we know that conventional conditioners can have a wide array of ingredients that are catered for specific conditions. In the case of leave-ins, the purpose is to provide a styling product that provides hair with vigour and can be used daily. Moreover, leave-ins should satisfy the three aforementioned purposes: moisturising, sealing and lubricating. In essence, these purposes refer to the following:

Moisturising: this is the act of attracting moisture to the hair shaft. Moisturising is achieved via a blend of water and ingredients known as humectants. Their primary function is to attract moisture from the environment and hydrate the hair shaft. Moisturising is what counteracts dry hair, a commonality in curly hair, so it is imperative to have moisturised hair everyday. Names of humectants you should be looking for in the ingredient list of your leave-in include (but are not limited to): glycerolpropylene glycolsodium lactate or glyceril stearate. I would recommend you stick to at least one of these humectants although most leave-ins these days contain their own blends which work to one extent or the other.

Sealing: moisture achieved by the humectant can only be retained for a short period of time without any aid (think of when hair dries on its own after taking a shower). Sealants are mainly composed of oils and act to emulate the waxy material that is naturally produced by the sebaceous glands in the scalp. They coat the hair and retain the moisture in the shaft, yielding a shiny and full-looking appearance. Oils you should be looking for in the product include those from coconutolive and jojoba. Alternatively shea butter is a valid option. Most leave-ins these days carry a type of oil or butter, coconut being a popular one.

Lubricating: this is what is known informally as the “slip”. It means how well your fingers or comb (wide tooth, remember!) run down your hair. The lubricating ingredient allows for bounce and helps avoid the dreaded matting effect. Ingredients which should be in the list include several fatty alcohols, cetearyl alcohol being a popular one, as well as silicones (any ingredient in the label ending in -one) and panthenol (pro-vitamin B5).

When it comes to interpreting the ingredient label, do not sweat it. Most leave-in conditioners are designed with all this in mind although spotting these ingredients on the label will certainly ascertain a good product.

Which leave-in conditioner for men to buy?

If you have curly hair from loose waves to afro-textured hair, you certainly will benefit from a leave-in conditioner. Grab the following conditioners if:

Take-home message

– Leave-in conditioners are a great daily use option for curly hair men

– Leave-ins provide conditioning without taking too of your much morning time

– Leave-ins should moisturise, seal the moisture and lubricate which yields great curls

All the best,


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Rogelio is the go-to guy when it comes to men's hair. Having embraced his natural curly hair for over a decade while living in 5 countries, Rogelio has learnt a thing or two along the way. Rogelio is the author of the two bestselling men's books "The Curly Hair Book" and "The Men's Hair Book", and his motto when it comes to hair is, "Gentlemen, having a good head of hair should not cost us our testosterone".

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17 comments for “Leave-in Hair Conditioners for Curly Men

  1. Alex
    March 11, 2016 at 5:50 am

    Hy Rogelio. I have wavy hair Right now my routine is: I shampoo my hair and then condition it every 4’th day(for example If I shampoo and condition it Monday the next time repeat is Friday). On the days that I don’t use shampoo and conditioner, I just wash my hair with water. I pat my hair dry ,apply some heat protecting spray and then I blow dry it. I’ve noticed that my hair is greasy and looks lifeless on the days that I don’t use shampoo and conditioner. Would a leave in conditioner help with this? When would I use a leave in conditioner? After I apply heat protecting spray and blow dry my hair?

  2. Enyce
    August 10, 2015 at 6:18 am

    Hi Rogelio,

    I have straight/wavy hair and would like for it to be less wavy without using chemicals – do you happen to know of any products that are good for that? I was thinking of trying a leave in conditioner. Have already tried Moroccan oil, jojoba oil, and some of the creams by Baxter and Malin + Goetz – none seem to have the exact effect I am seeking.

    Thanks in advance for any recommendations you may have.

  3. JMK
    January 28, 2015 at 12:17 am

    I have a medium length Afro (I don’t know if I can get a pic and show you). I don’t use a conditioner; I use the Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo or mostly a dandruff shampoo and conditioner product (2-in-1), that’s what I look for, and I was wondering if I should continue using? And instead use any other products? Is it OK that I’m using a 2-in-1 dandruff shampoo and conditioner? I want to grow a larger hair length and grow my Afro faster. I’m also trying to figure out the types natural oils to start using, as before I was using Indian hemp.

  4. Jay
    January 19, 2015 at 7:28 am

    I think I have a type 3-4 hair and I’m trying to grow it out I use a leave in conditioner and have stopped shampooing t every 3-4 days. I read that even if you don’t shampoo you should always condition. Is this true even if I use a leave in conditioner.

    • Rogelio
      January 19, 2015 at 11:45 am

      Hi Jay,

      Strictly speaking, there’s no need to use conditioner if you don’t shampoo. However, the minute your hair starts looking a bit greasy or dull (i.e. doesn’t reflect light well), then use a conditioner. However, if you are using a conditioner when you shampoo every 3-4 days, you should be fine especially since you’re using a leave-in conditioner. Do remember that Type III to IV do need more moisture to keep the curls defined and shaped.

      Continue with your regime, and, as said, if you see your hair lacking shine or “life”, then use a conditioner that day and simply test from there onwards. As I say here in Manly Curls and in my books, there’s a strong component of trial and error when achieving the optimal hair care regime for your curls.

      Hope that helped!


  5. Rudy
    December 1, 2014 at 5:18 am

    Hi Rogelio,

    I was just wondering, after I shampoo and condition in the shower, I put in the leave-in conditioner. Why is it that after about half an hour, my hair gets unbelievably dry? (I have type 3 and MAYBE ONLY ON THE FRONT AND BACK type 4ish curls)

  6. Josh
    April 11, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Does coconut oil work as a leave-in?

  7. Aankky
    March 1, 2014 at 4:30 am

    Hey Rogelio. I have a question. I am little new to entire conditioner thing. I have type II medium hair. I was wondering how much of leave-in spray conditioner to be sprayed on hair during one use? Also if possible, can you direct me to a video where they are showing it?
    Loved your all of the articles.

  8. kdpguy
    November 6, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Hi Rogelio,

    Great article & website man, apparently the best one for men’s curly hair. I have type 3 curls according to your website. At present I am using AG Xtra moisture shampoo and American crew pomade to style my hair but I still have that frizzy/dry look on my hair with some shine and little hold. After this article I will add a Paul-Mitchell leave in conditioner and a wide tooth comb. Is there anything else that you would suggest me to get that wet look on my curls.

  9. robert
    August 15, 2013 at 12:40 am

    hi I have curly hair and I put water and greese in it and it curls up but wat can I do to keep it up all the time and nort get fuzzy wen I applie the grease

    • Rogelio
      August 17, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Hi Robert,

      Try to avoid grease for your curls; instead use either pomade or run your fingers through your curls to enhance your sebum secretion (i.e. my Sebum Coating method).


  10. Abdu
    May 11, 2013 at 12:44 am

    Hi Rogelio,
    I have a simple-minded question,what is the difference between men and women hair products
    Cause i’m Egyption and there’s no shampoos for men except clear :)
    So can i use women products or what should i do?!

    • Rogelio
      May 13, 2013 at 2:10 am

      Hi Abdu,

      Yes, don’t worry about it. Choose a leave-in conditioner that you like, regardless of whether it says it’s for women or not.

      All the best

  11. Matt
    December 7, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Hi Rogelio,

    Thanks for your great content here! Really useful to a guy that has no clue how to look after his curls. Even at 33!

    I’m a type 3 and I am looking to grow my hair to about 5/6 inches. I really like the combed back look on me. And a lot of people suggest I would look great with a Matthew McConaughey style (similar face shape etc). I have started experimenting with my wifes comb (wide-toothed) as she has bad ass curls, too. Now I am wanting to buy my own. Could you advise if wooden is more beneficial over plastic? If it helps, my hair is more on the fine side :)

    Also, I use the paste products. Can I use this after applying the leave in conditioner?

    Thanks, Matt

  12. Andy
    August 25, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Hi,I’m growing a jewfro and was wondering if it’s ok to use my regular conditioner in the shower and then a leave in conditioner once I’m out of the shower?

    • Rogelio
      August 27, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Hi Andy,

      Correct. Use a conditioner after shampooing, then use a leave-in conditioner for the styling of the hair. You can use other styling products such as gels or creams but the leave-in should be applied first.

      All the best.

  13. Jonas
    July 16, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Bought one some days ago and applying it after the shower. I was suprised it was not jelly or sticky like hair gel. Thanks for the article :D

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