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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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.

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… Read more »

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.

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 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.


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.