By Jc of The Nat­u­ral Haven Bloom

Should you real­ly leave con­di­tion­er in your hair?

This is a ques­tion that I have been asked sev­er­al times. I must clar­i­fy first and say that when you wash your hair, you should rin­se out all the con­di­tion­er thor­ough­ly (for rea­sons known as poten­tial itch­i­ness, per­son­al expe­ri­ence here, some sci­ence to fol­low). The ques­tion posed here is whether you can then use a lit­tle bit of con­di­tion­er after­wards as a mois­turis­er or on a dai­ly basis. The answer to this ques­tion is yes you can use con­di­tion­er as a mois­turis­er but with cau­tion.

So there are two main types of con­di­tion­er
1. Rin­se out con­di­tion­ers (heav­ier type that is used after sham­poo­ing to add soft­ness — typ­i­cal ingre­di­ents include fat­ty acids, sur­fac­tants and oils)
2. Leave in con­di­tion­ers (much thin­ner and lighter, typ­i­cal­ly con­tain humec­tants such as glyc­er­ine to help mois­turise hair )

Now, leave in con­di­tion­ers are a no brain­er, they are designed to be left in. The heav­ier rin­se out con­di­tion­ers are a lit­tle more tricky. They can be used but be aware

1. Using a sil­i­cone heavy con­di­tion­er (sil­i­cone in one of the first 5 ingre­di­ents) is not ide­al unless you sham­poo your hair. Co-wash­ing your hair will sim­ply not do.
2. Con­di­tion­ers which con­tain pro­tein (hydrol­ysed pro­tein or amino acids) have been shown to cause irri­ta­tion and itch­i­ness in some peo­ple (con­tact urticaria is the med­ical term). (Aller­gy. 53(11):1078–1082, 1998).
3. Hair con­di­tion­er can con­tribute to build up. This was explained in a very intri­cate study (Jour­nal of the Soci­ety of Cos­met­ic Chemists, pg 205–214,1989). The sci­ence behind this is that the hair con­di­tion­er has pos­i­tive charges and the sham­poo has neg­a­tive charges. Depend­ing on the amount and type of sham­poo, the hair con­di­tion­er can either be removed or the sham­poo can sim­ply attach to the hair con­di­tion­er and cause build up. Nat­u­ral­ly if you have been apply­ing hair con­di­tion­er to your hair on a dai­ly basis, then you will have much more of the pos­i­tive charge.

So what pre­cau­tions can you take if you want to use heav­ier con­di­tion­er as a dai­ly mois­turis­er?

1. Don’t put the con­di­tion­er on your scalp, try as much as pos­si­ble to tar­get the ends of your hair (leave the scalp and the first 1–2 inch­es alone).
2. Read the ingre­di­ent list and if you are a no sham­poo per­son, avoid sil­i­cones in the top 5 list of your con­di­tion­er. If you sham­poo, then no wor­ries here.
3. Pick a con­di­tion­er with­out pro­teins.
4. Rin­se your hair thor­ough­ly on your wash day.
5. Use a con­di­tion­ing sham­poo on your wash day if you are not anti-poo.

What is your expe­ri­ence with leav­ing con­di­tion­er in hair? Have you got the itchies or have you had a pleas­ant expe­ri­ence?

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102 Comments on "3 Dangers of Leaving Conditioner in Your Hair"

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Hi there. I need a quick anwers please. I hv been hav­ing bad irri­tat­ing scalp afta leav­ing in my olive iol con­di­tion­er overnight,eva since then I hv been hav­ing ter­ri­ble itch­ing to the extent that I can not evn slp @ night. What can I do to stop the itch­i­ness please


Have you used a good clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo? Prob­a­bly have residue on your scalp/an ingre­di­ent that is irri­tat­ing your skin…probably not a good idea to leave in con­di­tion­er overnight…can do more harm than good by weak­en­ing your strands.


Yes I’m using olive oil prod­ucts n hv neva encoun­ter such dif­fi­cul­ties before since jux recent­ly. And I pret­ty sure is the con­di­tion­er I left in ova night


Hi…I had the same issue when I was over using con­di­tion­ers and not using sham­poo. May­be you can try clar­i­fy­ing your hair and scalp,and read your ingre­di­ents list because as the arti­cle states there are some ingre­di­ents in con­di­tion­ers that can cause scalp irri­ta­tion if left in. When I had that prob­lem with itchy scalp (which lat­er led to a small nick­le sized bald spot) I start­ed using black soap as a hair and scalp cleanser, and I avoid­ed con­di­tion­ers and leave in’s with Rose­mary oil. I also washed/ cleansed my scalp and hair more fre­quent­ly.


I use Herbal Essence Hon­ey I’m strong mixed with olive oil to mois­tur­iz­er and it works won­ders with my 4c hair. I can fin­ger comb or even brush through my curls with lit­tle to no break­age. Also it gives me a great smell,sets my twist and braid outs,and makes my hair real­ly soft.

Kad Dak

I use hair con­di­tion­er (not leave in) at least three times a week as a hair dress­ing and have had no prob­lems with irri­ta­tion of any sorts for some­time now. I wash my hair at least once a week, some­times less.


I used pan­ti­ne, a store bought con­di­tion­er. Appren­ly cheap con­di­tion­ers tend to have more chem­i­cals that are harm­ful to the scalp. I left the con­di­tion­er on my head overnight for two nights in a row! I was think­ing I was doing good to my hair, but appar­ent­ly not! I had a very itchy scalp and could bare­ly sleep because of it! Nev­er doing that again! Thanks for the arti­cle.

Tayla Morris
I co-wash my curly hair every day and leave in a lot of heavy con­di­tion­er. I’ve nev­er had any irri­ta­tion or itch­ing. I’ve also nev­er had issues with build up. The only times I sham­poo my hair is when I change to or from straight hair. I straight­en my hair only about 6 times per year. I use to use only nat­u­ral hair prod­ucts, but now I use prod­ucts like pan­tene and Aussie. Very cheap con­di­tion­ers, and I’ve nev­er had any issue. (My hair type is a 4A)  I will add that I’ve tried to do over night with wet con­di­tioned… Read more »
Mea S.

When I had nat­u­ral hair, this worked fine with no side effects. Now that my hair is relaxed, I think leav­ing in non- leave in con­di­tion­er dries out my hair even more.