Can you Use Regular Conditioner as Leave-in Conditioner? [Key Differences]

One question people ask quite often is whether they can use a daily conditioner as a leave-in conditioner. If you have asked this question at any time, probably because you ran out of leave-in conditioner, or you’re wondering if you can use one conditioner for both functions, then your answer is right here.

This article will answer your questions on whether a regular conditioner can be used as a leave-in. It will also go on to tell you about the difference between both conditioners, and what they’re most suitable for.

What is the difference between a leave-in conditioner and a regular conditioner?

The first step to finding out whether a regular and leave-in conditioner can work interchangeably is to know their differences.

A regular conditioner is used in the shower or when washing your hair, and rinsed out after a few minutes of application. Its main purpose is to close the hair cuticles and restore lost moisture.

Leave-in conditioners also help retain moisture, but they are added to damp or dry hair and left in to do their magic. 

Let’s go further into their differences:

Regular ConditionersLeave-in Conditioners
They are heavy and weighty, which is why they need to be washed off to avoid weighing down the hair.They are light and thin, and they don’t weigh down your tresses when you spray them on your hair.
Regular conditioners contain oils, fatty acids, and surfactants.They are oil-free, and don’t contain surfactants and fatty acids. Instead, they contain glycerine and other humectants.
Due to their hair concentration and thickness, regular conditioners can become heavy, greasy, and slippery when you don’t rinse them out properly.Leave-in conditioners have a light consistency that doesn’t need to be rinsed out, and won’t become greasy.
Regular conditioner focuses on filling up the cracks and gaps in the hair cuticles or shaft.Leave-in conditioner protects the hair shaft as a barrier when you handle things like detangling and styling.
Strengthen and rehydrates your hair after shampooing.Rehydrates your hair between shampoo days.

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

The answer is yes, when and where necessary. For instance, it is okay to use your regular conditioner as a leave-in conditioner if you run out or it is an emergency, and you cannot get a leave-in conditioner. However, you can’t permanently replace a regular conditioner with leave-in. 

Also, you’ll need to apply a small amount of regular conditioner and focus on your ends. Additionally, you can add water to dilute it because it is thicker than the leave-in conditioner.

Add a cup of distilled water to 4 tablespoons of regular conditioner in a spray bottle. Shake them properly, and then spray on your hair.

One recommendation from experts when replacing a leave-in conditioner with a regular conditioner is to ensure that it contains only national ingredients. Certain chemicals and surfactants in the regular conditioners can cause build-up and stick to your hair.

The chemicals to avoid:

  • Behenoxy Dimethicone
  • Dimethicone 
  • Dimethiconol 
  • Polydimethylsiloxane
  • Phenyl Trimethicone 
  • Simethicone
  • Trimethicone

The regular conditioners you can use as leave-in conditioners should contain light ingredients like:

  • Dimethicone Copolyol 
  • Hydroxypropyl 
  • PPC or PEG silicones
  • Laurel methadone Copolyol

Apart from the ingredients above, don’t use a silicone-based regular conditioner as a leave-in conditioner because it could make your hair greasy, lifeless, and limp.

Finally, if you use only a regular conditioner without a leave-in conditioner, your hair would lack adequate conditioning. Similarly, if you use only a leave-in conditioner without a regular conditioner, your hair would lack thorough nutrition from the regular conditioner.

As much as you can, use both types of conditioners.

What is the best alternative for leave-in conditioner?

If you’ve run out of leave-in conditioners, or you are seeking other alternatives to store-bought conditioners, there’s a list of products and substances you can use instead.

General alternatives to leave-in conditioners

1. Coconut and Avocado Mix

Coconut oil, avocado oil, water, and Aloe Vera oil are the ingredients for this hair spray that can serve as your leave-in conditioner. The ingredients soothe your scalp, protect your hair from breakage, increase shine, and rebuild your hair follicles. 

Measure 1 tablespoon of avocado oil, 2 0z. Aloe Vera oil, 1 oz. coconut oil, and ⅓ cup water. Mix the avocado and coconut oil in one cup and pour the water and Aloe Vera oil in a spray bottle. Proceed to add the mix in the cup to the spray bottle and shake well before use.

Please note that coconut oil becomes solid when left at room temperature, so you might need to warm it before every use.

2. Jojoba and Aloe Spray

A mixture of Jojoba oil, Aloe Vera juice, and coconut water can improve your hair shine, softness, and manageability. The leave-in alternative also strengthens your hair and prevents flaking and dandruff. 

Mix 2 cups coconut water, 1 ½ cups Aloe Vera juice, and 2 tsp. jojoba oil in a spray bottle and shake well before use.

3. Coconut Oil and Shea Butter Spray

The primary ingredients in this mixture are shea butter and olive oil, which are great moisturizers, especially for coarse and thick hair.

Thyme oil and rosemary oil are also ingredients in this spray, and they fight dandruff, soothe an inflamed scalp, and promote hair growth.  

Measure 1 tablespoon of coconut oil into a small bowl. 

Add 1 cup of water, half cup of Aloe Vera gel, and half cup of coconut milk in a spray bottle.

Then, mix 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon rosemary oil, and half tablespoon thyme oil in a small bowl. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of shea butter oil and set aside.

Combine all the mixtures in a spray bottle and shake before use.

Leave-in creams

1. Tea Tree Hair Cream

A mixture of tea tree oil, jojoba oil, Aloe Vera gel, coconut milk, and Shea butter creates a medium-weight leave-in conditioner cream. The cream improves hair growth, strength, and offers anti-fungal and bacterial functions.

Melt 1/2 cup of shea butter, add 2 tablespoons of Aloe Vera gel, 2 tablespoons of jojoba oil, 1/2 cup of coconut milk, and 2 tablespoons of tea tree oil

Mix properly and place in the refrigerator until you get the consistency you need.

2. Avocado and Rosemary Mask

Avocado is rich in proteins that improve hair shaft health, and Rosemary stimulates hair growth while reducing inflammation. Together, Avocado oil, shea butter, and Rosemary oil make a healthy leave-in conditioner cream. 

Melt 1/2 cup shea butter and set aside. Mix 6 drops of Rosemary oil and 2 tablespoons of avocado oil and add the shea butter

Refrigerate the mixture until it is firm.

3. Hibiscus and Grapefruit Leave-in Cream

The combination of hibiscus powder, grapefruit seed extract, Aloe Vera gel, and shea butter helps fight frizz and dandruff. It also prevents hair loss, dry hair, and itchy scalp.

Melt 4 0z. shea butter and add it to 8 oz. water and 2 oz. Aloe vera gel. Add 1 tablespoon grapefruit seed extract and 1 tablespoon lavender essential oil. Mix all ingredients properly and sprinkle 1 tablespoon hibiscus powder

Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature or refrigerate it until it’s firm.

Leave-in Conditioner Alternatives by Hair Type

1. Leave-in Conditioner Alternative for Sensitive Hair

People with sensitive hair often find it hard to find the perfect leave-in conditioner in the market, so it is best to make their conditioner that improves their hair health and shine with little effort.

Mix 1 tablespoon each of Castor oil and jojoba oil, and 2 tablespoons of Aloe Vera juice and honey. Then, add 2 tablespoons of honey and 1 tablespoon of almond oil (optional)

Apply the mixture to your hair after washing, and use it three to five times weekly.

2. Leave-in in Conditioner Alternative for Natural Hair

With a few basic ingredients like avocado oil, Aloe Vera juice, and vegetable glycerin, you can make a leave-in conditioner that smoothes natural hair and improves its health.

Measure 2 tablespoons of your regular conditioner, 1 tablespoon of vegetable glycerin, 10 drops of your preferred essential oil, between 5 and 10 drops of avocado oil, and one cup of Aloe Vera oil. 

Mix all the ingredients and pour them into a spray bottle for use whenever you need them.

3. Leave-in Conditioner Alternative for Dry Hair

With several natural ingredients, you can make a leave-in conditioner for dry hair that maintains your hair’s moisture throughout the day, repairs damage and offers sun protection. 

Create a leave-in mixture with 3 tablespoons each of avocado extract and coconut oil, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons almond oil, and 15 drops of any essential oil of your choice.

Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and use it as you please.

4. Leave-in Hair Conditioner Alternative for Damaged Hair 

If you’re battling with damaged hair caused by harsh products, poor hair maintenance, or chemical damage, your leave-in conditioner can help to improve your hair health.

Mix 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of protein powder. Adds 10 drops of essential oil and 3 drops of geranium (optional). Apply this mix to your wet hair.

5. Leave-in Conditioner Alternative for curly hair

Curly hair needs some special care because of its nature to prevent it from clotting and excessive dirt.

Mix 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of essential oil, 1 tablespoon of Aloe Vera, and 5 tablespoons of distilled water.    

Apply the mixture to your hair thrice a week.

Final Words:

There are several great leave-in hair conditioners out there, but sometimes, a regular conditioner can take the place of your leave-in products. Alternatively, you can make your own leave-in conditioner with the ingredient guide contained in this article. 

Remember that regular hair conditioners cannot replace leave-in hair conditioners. It is in your best interest to use both the way they ought to be used.