Can You Use Regular Conditioner as Leave-in Conditioner

If you have ever walked into a drug store and seen leave-in conditioners on the shelves, you have probably thought about just what goes into these products.

Then you were probably left wondering can you use a regular conditioner as a leave-in conditioner. You may have also, in a desperate attempt for extra hydration, left some conditioner in your hair as a leave-in treatment.

But what are the consequences, if any, of leaving a product in your hair that was meant to be washed out? Read on to find out if you can make leave in conditioner out of regular conditioner and how exactly the two are different.

Differences Between Regular and Leave-In Conditioners

Although regular conditioner and leave-in conditioner share a similar name, there is a reason why they are two separate hair products. Here are some of the main differences between these two.

Regular Conditioner

A regular conditioner or conditioner that is meant to be washed out is a product used after shampoo to restore moisture to the hair. It balances out the pH of hair after the shampoo and closes the cuticles of your hair and scalp for protection.

This product is also great at providing a final sleek and healthy look to even the driest hair. Since it is meant to be washed out after a few minutes and must act fast, the formula is usually concentrated and packed with ingredients, meaning it’s a heavier product. This fact hints at why it isn’t recommended to consistently leave the regular conditioner in your hair.

Using a conditioner is a must for people with very dry and damaged hair as this hair will surely benefit from the extra hydration and strength.

Leave-in conditioner

The responsibilities of a regular conditioner are extended to a leave-in conditioner, but this product has way more time to do its magic. It is designed to stay in your hair for a few days until the next wash, so it’s a lighter formula overall.

These conditioners will not weigh down your hair or put pressure on the scalp, you won’t even feel that there is a product on your head.

A leave-in conditioner is designed to help you detangle strands, avoid frizz, and retain moisture over multiple days. This will leave your hair looking and feeling great even two weeks after wash day, as it slowly absorbs into your hair and the ingredients get to work.

So although the answer to the question of can you use a regular conditioner as leave-in conditioner is yes, you should already be able to tell that the latter product is specifically designed to stay in your hair!

Leave-in conditioner is a product everyone can benefit from, no matter the hair type. It is good for moisturizing dry hair, smoothing frizzy hair, detangling messy hair, and strengthening weak hair.

A leave-in conditioner will also coat your hair with a light protective layer, so if you live in an urban city this layer will protect your hair from air pollution.

In the summers, a leave-in conditioner will also work as hair sunscreen to shield your hair from UV rays and heat. For hair that is dyed and appears dull, a leave-in conditioner can add shine to your strands. If you want to leave the conditioner in your hair, I would recommend investing in a good leave-in conditioner!

Can you use a regular conditioner as a leave-in conditioner?

Using regular conditioner as a leave-in is okay, though only as a last resort. The regular conditioner has a thicker and more concentrated formula, so leaving too much in the hair can lead to product build-up on the scalp. So, you can leave the regular conditioner in your hair, just don’t overdo it.

In most cases, the answer to the question of can you leave in regular conditioner question is yes. It’s a good fix when you are having an especially bad hair day, where your hair seems to have lost its shine and feels hard to touch.

But, if you leave the regular conditioner in your hair too often and in large amounts this may result in product build-up. This can lead to clogging of the pores on your scalp that allow your head to ‘breathe’ which will in turn lead to irritation, itching, and worse.

The heavy formula of regular conditioner can also weigh down individual strands of your and the weaker strands fall out due to the pressure. Also, keep in mind that regular conditioners usually contain a lot of oil which is fine when some is absorbed and the rest is washed off.

However, if you leave this oil sitting on your hair, it won’t be absorbed anymore and will leave you with a greasy head. This means you will feel the need to wash your hair more often which may strip your scalp of the majority of its moisture.

What conditioners can be left in

Regular conditioners that are made from all-natural ingredients are fine to be left in most of the time, but those with lots of chemicals shouldn’t be.

Ingredients like Dimethicone, Trimethicone, Simethicone, and Polydimethysiloxane are designed to stick onto the hair and a build-up of these will lead to limp and oily looking hair.

What conditioners should never be left in

Using a regular conditioner as a leave-in is an absolute no when you are using a deep or intense conditioner. These conditioners are especially thick and concentrated, so they may really damage fine and thin hair if left too long.

The formulas of deep conditioners also contain mainly silicone-based ingredients that shouldn’t be left on the scalp for a long time either. If you plan on using a regular conditioner as a leave-in conditioner make sure to dilute it well with water to avoid greasiness and damage to the scalp.


What happens if you leave in regular conditioner?

It can help retain moisture and reduce frizz but may also weigh down the hair and coat it with a layer of oil. Regular conditioner is usually concentrated and designed to be washed off, so the ingredients shouldn’t really stay on your hair for too long. There are no huge consequences, but it isn’t recommended as practice either.

Can I leave the conditioner in my hair for 30 minutes?

Yes, half an hour is a great amount of time to leave the conditioner in the hair. It gives it time to do some extra protective work but not long enough to pull down on your hair strands or build up on the scalp. Make sure you rinse well once the time is up!

Is there a difference between a leave-in conditioner and a regular conditioner?

Of course! The leave-in conditioner is usually designed to be more lightweight and dilute, while the regular conditioner is thicker and more concentrated. Since a leave-in conditioner is meant to stay on the hair, you won’t even feel it there while it affects your hair for the better.


I hope this article helped you gain insight into the differences between regular and leave-in conditioners! By now, you should know that a regular conditioner can be left in the hair but only in the most extreme cases when a leave in the conditioner is inaccessible.

If you really must do this, then make sure you dilute the thicker conditioner with water. Do you have any holy grail leave-in conditioners you just can’t live without? Let us know and maybe we will try them out!

Also read:


  1. What Causes Scalp Buildup and How Can I Treat It? –
  2. The Truth About Silicone-Based Hair Products –

Allyson Carter

Ally is a professional hairstylist with more than 6 years of experience, but hair has been her passion since early childhood. Here, at Hair Spies, she blogs about all things hairdressing, hair tools, and everyday hair care. Read more about Allyson here.

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