If your hair is feeling dry and difficult to tame, it may be time to add a leave-in conditioner to your repertoire. I personally can’t go without the added boost of hydration and protection that a leave-in provides, even after conditioning my hair in the shower. But what exactly separates the best leave-in conditioners for men from regular conditioners?
Essentially, a leave-in conditioner is different because it’s formulated so there’s no need to wash it out. It is typically added to hair after conditioning in the shower, once hair is damp and towel-dried. Leave-ins come in two different forms (more on that below).
The best leave-in conditioner will do several things at once, including de-frizzing your hair, adding moisture, strength, and shine, and often acting as a heat protectant if you heat style your hair. So if your hair is dry, frizzy, or coarse, you may want a leave-in. As someone who regularly color treats my hair, I find it returns essential moisture to my hair, keeping it healthy and hydrated so it doesn’t feel stripped.
Before we get into the 6 best leave-in conditioners for men, let’s take a peek at the different types of leave-in conditioners so you know what to expect and look out for.
Different Types of Leave-in Conditioners
There are roughly two different types of men’s leave-in conditioners, and the one you choose is typically dictated by your hair type/needs. It’s also worth noting that a leave-in conditioner does not replace your regular conditioner. Consider it a supplement, insurance for your hair to keep it nice and healthy. And it always goes on before any styling products like waxes, gels, or pomades.
Sprays: Spray leave-in conditioners are generally more lightweight and can be sprayed onto damp, towel-dried hair post-shower. They add softness, shine, and work to tame frizz. Best for fine, thin hair—though they can work on coarse hair types as well.
Creams/butters: This is going to be thicker in texture than a spray, and naturally will do a better job at coating exceptionally thick or dry hair. Great if your hair is coarse, curly, or coily, especially if you have a 3 or 4 curl pattern. Creams and butters really tamp down the cuticle, repairing damage and boosting shine.
For this assignment, I began poring over dozens of products on all the best hair care websites, customer reviews, and even my own bathroom cabinet until I whittled it down to the 6 finalists you see on this list.
Overall, the best leave-in conditioner is Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate because it’s affordable, suitable for all hair types, and highly effective at smoothing hair and reinforcing weak bonds of the hair shaft. For a slightly pricier spray leave-in conditioner that uses lactic acid to hydrate, exfoliate, and reduce oxidative stress on the hair, check out Kerastase Chroma Absolu.
Our Top Picks
Why it’s Great: Redken is my go-to because it’s salon-quality at middle-of-the-road prices. This leave-in conditioner has a bit of a cult following thanks to its ability to penetrate the hair cuticle to reinforce weak bonds in the hair. If you regularly process or color your hair, if it’s feeling particularly weak/brittle, or if you want to maintain the health your hair already has, you’ll love this one. It’s ideal for distressed hair that has lost some elasticity, but many find it works on all hair types. The citric acid care complex makes hair smoother, heals split ends, and acts as a heat protectant.
How to use it: For incredibly softness and shine, coat onto clean, damp hair post-shower. Dry and style as you normally would.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Some say it isn’t the best at smoothing hair or altering the texture, but it definitely strengthens the hair, repairs bonds, and adds shine.
Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Amodimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Polyquaternium-37, Dimethiconol, Parfum/Fragrance, Propylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Trideceth-5, Steareth-20, Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose, Glycerin, Citric Acid, Limonene, Ppg-1 Trideceth-6, Trideceth-10, Sodium Hydroxide, Chlorhexidine Digluconate, Sorbitan Oleate, Acetic Acid, Linalool, Citronellol, Citral, Eugenol | Scent: Not listed | Volume: 5.1 oz | Hair Type: Damaged | Type: Cream
Why it’s Great: This product is my holy grail, thanks to my hairstylist. Kerastase makes arguably the best hair care in the game, though it comes with the price tag to prove it. Chroma Absolu is worth every penny, however. It combines three restoring acids to rebuild the hair fiber, reduce oxidative stress, and gently exfoliate the hair. It makes my hair feel insanely healthy and strong, even after one use (I’m a couple of bottles deep now). It’s excellent for all hair types but truly works best on sensitized or damaged, color-treated hair. An absolute must for transforming frizz into soft, silky hair.
How to use it: They say you should use 6-10 sprays, but if your hair is shorter than your shoulders, you can definitely get away with less. Just be sure to adequately spritz damp, towel-dried hair and distribute root to tip using a comb.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: It’s not exactly affordable, especially considering the size of a bottle, but a little goes a long way with this one. If it’s within your budget, it’s worth a try. And because it’s so hydrating, I don’t often feel like I need to apply an oil afterward.
Ingredients: Aqua / Water / Eau, Amodimethicone, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Trideceth-5, Polyquaternium-37, Phenoxyethanol, Propylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Glycerin, Tocopherol, Arginine, Phenyl Trimethicone, Trideceth-10, Lactic Acid, Ppg-1 Trideceth-6, Chlorhexidine Digluconate, Sorbitan Oleate, Acetic Acid, Quaternium-87, Sodium Hyaluronate, Centella Asiatica Extract, Tartaric Acid, Linalool, Propylene Glycol, Limonene, Geraniol, Hydroxycitronellal, Parfum / Fragrance. N279920/1| Scent: Not listed | Volume: 5.1 oz | Hair Type: Normal | Type: Spray
Why it’s Great: I’ve used expensive leave-in conditioners (looking at you, Kerastase) and I’ve used this cheap one from Aussie, and I have to say, for a budget pick, it does a pretty good job at effectively hydrating the hair. It uses ingredients like jojoba oil and sea kelp to protect hair against damage while softening and smoothing the cuticle. I like it because it also works as a detangler, making it easy to comb through my hair post-shower. Effective for all hair types, but because it’s somewhat light, it’s great for those with oily, thin, or fine hair.
How to use it: To use this lightweight spray, spritz onto damp, towel-dried hair and comb through with a wide-tooth comb.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: I will say, those with 4c curls say this lightweight product doesn’t really get the job done. Creams and butters are better, and there are plenty highlighted below.
Ingredients: Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Simmondsia, Chinesis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Ecklonia Radiata Extract, Fragrance, Phenoxyethanol, Amodimethicone, PPG-2 Methyl Ether, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Benzyl Alcohol, Polyquaternium-11, Disodium EDTA, Polysorbate 80, Ethylhexylglycerin, Aminomethyl Propanol, Citric Acid, Trideceth-12, Cetrimonium Chloride | Scent: Citrus, florals, musk | Volume: 8 oz | Hair Type: All | Type: Spray
Why it’s Great: Like Aussie, Shea Moisture is another decent drugstore brand. This one is great for those who have kinky or curly hair, or for those who regularly chemically perm or straighten their hair. It uses shea butter to deeply condition the hair peppermint to stimulate hair growth and Jamaican black castor oil, which has reparative omegas that promote healthy hair. This thick cream provides major damage control to hair by tamping down frizz, detangling, and supporting the elasticity of the hair. This will keep it from breaking easily.
How to use it: Like most of the best leave-in conditioners for men, it should be combed through damp, towel-dried hair.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: When I say this probably isn’t the best for thin hair, I mean it. It’s pretty thick and nourishing, so if you’re questioning if it’s going to be too much for your hair type, steer clear.
Ingredients: Water, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Fragrance, Behentrimonium Chloride, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Dicaprylyl Ether, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Panthenol, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Adansonia Digitata (Baobab) Seed Oil, Glycerin (Vegetable), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Mauritia Flexuosa (Buriti) Fruit Oil, Acetic Acid (Apple Cider), Niacin, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Trifolium Pratense (Clover) Flower Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch, Yeast Extract, Caprylyl Glycol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid | Scent: Not Listed | Volume: 11.5, 20 oz | Hair Type: Curly, relaxed | Type: Cream
Why it’s Great: If you’ve got distressed curly hair and are unfamiliar with Kerastase—you’re welcome. Their curl manifesto creme is worth every penny because it not only enhances your curl definition but it restores moisture and strength to the hair shaft while adding gorgeous shine. Essential ceramides and precious manuka honey help by providing all-day frizz control. If your hair is curly, very curly, or coily, this may be the best leave-in conditioner for you.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Again, the price here is not ideal, but a little goes a long way with this thick, hydrating creme, especially if you have short hair.
Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil/Sunflower Seed Oil, Hydroxypropyl Guar, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Cetyl Esters, Caprylyl Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate, Salicylic Acid, Benzyl Salicylate, Linalool, Benzyl Alcohol, Tartaric Acid, Mel Extract/Honey Extract, 2-Oleamido-1,3-Octadecanediol, Citric Acid, Parfum/Fragrance | Scent: Floral | Volume: 5.1 oz | Hair Type: Curly/coily
Why it’s Great: Celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin knew what she was doing when she created Ouai. The products have a track record for not only making hair feel healthier but also smelling amazing. This multi-tasking spray is no different. It uses hydrolyzed proteins that act as a heat and UV damage protectant and panthenol and vitamin E to hydrate and condition the hair. It’s great on all hair types too, thanks to tamarind seed extract which provides weightless hydration. Fine hair especially is going to love it.
How to use it: I like this leave-in conditioner for men because it can be applied and combed through damp hair, but can also act as a hydrating refresher on dry hair in between washes. Just be sure to apply before other styling products.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Sure, it’s not exactly cheap, and I don’t love it for tightly coiled hair, but it’s not as expensive as Kerastase, but it’s highly effective and smells downright delish.
Ingredients: Water, cyclopentasiloxane, cetearyl alcohol, fragrance, quaternium-91, phenoxyethanol, adansonia digitata seed oil, argania spinosa kernel oil, evening primrose oil, tocophyeryl acetate, hydrolyzed rhodophyceae extract, tamarindus indica extract, panthenol, hydrolyzed pea protein, arginine, aspartic acid, pca, glycine, alanine, serine, valine, isoleucine, proline, threonine…| Scent: Not listed| Volume: 0.5, 4. 7 oz | Hair Type: Wavy, textured, curly, fine, straight | Type: Spray
Buying Considerations for the Best Leave-In Conditioners For Men
Understanding your hair type can determine which leave-in conditioner will work best for you. As someone with moderately thick, straight hair, all I need is a solid spray to properly hydrate my color-treated hair. Those with thin, fine hair may find anything beyond a spray is too heavy. Those with thick, coarse hair, and especially those with curls and coils, will likely need a cream to add in the necessary hydration and strength to maintain the integrity of their ringlets.
I’m a firm believer in natural whenever possible, but there are plenty of leave-in conditioners out there that use synthetic ingredients and work like a charm. As long as there are no stripping sulfates or harmful parabens or phthalates, you should be good. That being said, some of the most nourishing products do contain ingredients like ceramides, shea butter, avocado, and of course, nourishing oils. A mix of ingredients is a great way to go, but of course, totally natural ingredients can get the job done. I often do a pre-poo mask on my hair with straight jojoba oil and it’s highly effective.
Now there are some pricey leave-ins on this list, among cheaper ones, of course. If you’re on a budget, any of the affordable leave-ins should get the job done. That being said, when it comes to hair care, I’m a firm believer in investing in high-quality products to not only fix damage but prevent it from occurring again. A solid leave-in also keeps from having to do frequent damage control with nourishing hair masks. Essentially, if you can afford it, I think shelling out for a pricey product that you use conservatively is definitely worth it. Just my two cents.
Why you should trust us
I’m a fashion and grooming writer at FashionBeans, meaning I compare, test, and research everything you can carry, wear, and use for healthy hair and body. For this review, I researched a host of trusted sources and even reviewed my own bathroom to understand what makes a great quality product that meets the highest standards in terms of function and current style. I started with over 50 considerations and narrowed it down to the top 10 that will best fit a range of discerning consumers. Ultimately, I want to see everyone find one of the best leave-in conditioners for men for them.
The best leave-in conditioners should hydrate the hair and promote shine and strength, acting as hair insurance for your specific hair type. My top pick is Redken Acidic Bond Concentrate because it’s extremely effective at repairing weak bonds in the hair, regardless of hair type. Now go on and treat yourself to some luscious locks!
Men’s leave-in conditioners contain strengthening and hydrating ingredients that maintain the integrity of the hair cuticle and hydrate every strand.
Typically, leave-ins can be applied to hair after every shampoo and conditioning. If you find your hair getting oily, try applying less of it or less frequently.