Home Beautygab Can You Put Leave-In Conditioner On Dry Hair?

Can You Put Leave-In Conditioner On Dry Hair?

by Gabbi

If leave-in conditioner is not part of your hair care routine, you’re missing out.

Leave-in or no-rinse conditioners are specially-formulated products that you can put in your hair after a wash to replenish some of the hair’s moisture. They come in different forms with varying active ingredients that can really take your hairdo to the next level.

If you struggle with any amount of frizz, dryness, flyaways, or general lack of shine, a good leave-in conditioner might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Traditionally, you’re supposed to put the leave-in conditioner in your hair while it’s still wet after your shower, before you begin drying and styling it.

This is because wet or damp hair absorbs the product better. So you get more moisture inside of the hair shaft, which is what gives your tresses that silky and healthy look.

But sometimes you might be in need of those frizz-taming powers on a non-wash day, when your hair is not damp at all.

So, can you put leave-in conditioner on dry hair? Short answer: yes. Long answer: it depends. For some hair types, it is better to distribute the product through slightly damp hair, but for most hair types, you can make it work on dry hair. 

You just need to use the right product for your hair type and know how to apply it correctly.

In this post, we will go over how different hair types can affect the results of using a leave-in on dry hair. We’ll go over the best types of leave-in products for your specific hair type. And we will share some other tips that’ll help you get the most out of your style.

Your Hair Type

Your individual hair type plays a big role in how leave-in conditioner works its magic. 

The two main things you need to keep in mind are:

  • Hair Porosity
  • Hair Texture

Once you understand your hair type and porosity, you will unlock the key to getting the best results from your leave-in conditioner, even on dry hair. 

Using leave-in conditioner in damp hair is a little more forgiving – most of the time, your hair will be able to soak up the product pretty easily, regardless of your hair type.

But since we’re talking about dry hair, we need to be a little more cautious. Dry hair does not absorb the leave-in treatment as easily as wet hair. So we have to be a little more careful with it.


Your hair porosity is easy to determine – you’ll need a strand of hair from your head and a glass of water.

  1. Gently place your strand of hair into the glass of water.
  2. Observe what it does.
  3. If your hair floats on top – you have low-porosity hair. If it sinks to the bottom of the glass – you have high porosity hair. If it sinks a little but hangs somewhere in the middle of the glass – you have medium porosity hair.

Hair porosities are not specific to any type of hair texture. Porosity is often determined by your genetics, hair treatments, damage, coloring, etc.

Low porosity hair has the hardest time absorbing product, especially in a dry state. If you have low-porosity hair, you’ll probably notice that you’ll consistently get better results from using your leave-in conditioner while it’s still damp. 

Putting any products on low-porosity hair can often result in product build-up: conditioners, oils and moisturizers collecting on the surface of your hair and making it look heavy and greasy.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use leave-in conditioner on dry hair at all. A good reminder is to pick a lightweight leave-in conditioner and avoid applying too much.

Medium porosity hair is a little more absorbent than low-porosity hair, and can withstand a leave-in product with more moisturizing properties. We still wouldn’t recommend using any heavy or oil-based leave-in conditioners on dry hair if your hair is medium-porosity as some of it might not be absorbed well.

Low porosity hair tends to be so dry that it will soak up leave-in conditioner like a desert cactus. This hair type doesn’t mind creamy, oily, or heavy leave-in conditioners, and will absorb them even while completely dry. 

Low-porosity hair is often deficient in keratin and other protein structures, so using a leave-in that contains proteins can be very helpful, too.


While hair porosity is undoubtedly the most important factor in figuring out how to apply leave-in conditioner on dry hair, your hair texture matters, too.

There are many different hair textures: 

  • Straight
  • Wavy
  • Curly
  • Coily

Hair experts further divide them into categories from 1A to 4C. Each hair type requires different levels of moisture. 

For example, very straight hair can begin to look too weighed-down by a heavy leave-in conditioner, even if the hair is high-porosity. On the other hand, very curly hair might need extra hydration even if the hair itself isn’t very porous.

You have to keep both the porosity and hair type in mind to select the best type of leave-in conditioner if you plan to use it on dry hair. 

Remember that when your hair is dry, it’s less absorbent than normal, so err on the side of caution and avoid the types of leave-ins that might be too heavy for your hair.

Select The Best Leave-In Conditioner For Your Hair Type

Now that you know your hair type, make sure you understand what the different labels on leave-in conditioners mean so you can get the one that’s right for you.

First, let’s talk packaging. 

Some leave-in conditioners come in a spray bottle. This is a sign that they are on the lighter side. These leave-in conditioners are more watery and can absorb well into low-porosity hair.

They’ll work great when applied to dry hair because they absorb fast and are easy to apply evenly throughout the hair.

Some leave-in conditioners come in pump bottles or lotion tubes. These usually have a much creamier texture and carry more moisture – and weight.

These would be great for medium-porosity hair as well as very curly but low-porosity hair. 

Lastly, the most powerful leave-in conditioners come in cream jars. These are usually the heaviest types of leave-in conditioners. They are thick and intensely hydrating.

These would be great for natural, extra curly, and dry hair. You probably don’t want to use these on straight, wavy, or low-porosity hair. Especially if your hair is not damp – it’ll end up looking greasy!

Aside from the container, pay attention to labeling.

Phrases like:

  • Deep conditioning
  • Repair 
  • Cream
  • Oil
  • Protein

…usually suggest that this is a heavy leave-in conditioner that won’t be ideal for straight or low-porosity hair, but might work well on very curly hair or dehydrated hair.

Whereas phrases like:

  • Lightweight
  • Balm
  • Spray
  • Detangler

…suggest that this is a lighter leave-in that might do a good job of smoothing flyaways and frizz on low-porosity hair, even when applied to dry strands.

We hope this helps you as you look for the right product! 

Applying Leave-In Conditioner To Dry Hair

You figured out your hair type and got the right leave-in conditioner that will tackle your level of damage without over-weighing your hair. 

Now you just need to make sure you know how to apply it on dry hair.

It’s a little different than applying it on damp hair. Like we mentioned earlier, damp hair absorbs products better. It is much easier to distribute leave-in conditioner evenly through wet hair.

Less Is More

When applying leave-in conditioner to dry hair, you need to work with smaller quantities of the product. 

For example, if the instructions on the bottle call for a quarter-size dollop of leave-in conditioner, adjust by starting with a dime-size amount. This will help prevent depositing too much product and giving you a sticky look.

Start Slow

Once you have the right amount of product in your hand, rub your hands together to spread the product over your hands in a thin layer. 

This will help ensure that you deposit minimal amounts of conditioner at a time. You can always build it up by adding more. But if you start off with too much, only a shower can undo it!

Focus On The Ends

Rub your hands with the thin layer of leave-in conditioner over your hair starting at the bottom 2-3 inches, then slowly move up.

Go through each section of hair, trying to spread the leave-in conditioner evenly from ends to mid-shaft. Your hair is thirstiest at the ends, so this is where you want the majority of the leave-in conditioner to end up.

The rest of the hair above your ends can benefit from a little bit of product, but avoid putting any of it close to your roots, especially if you have naturally oily hair.

Now run a comb or brush through the hair, further spreading the conditioner to each hair strand.

Now that you’ve gotten the leave-in conditioner evenly distributed through your dry hair, you can style it however you want. You’ll enjoy shinier and smoother hair until your next wash. 

How Often Can You Put Leave-In Conditioner In Dry Hair?

Leave-in conditioner is intended to be used after each hairwash. But can it be used more often than that?

We asked around and discovered that yes, many people like using their leave-in conditioner in-between washes by putting it on dry hair. 

Some were able to maintain great hydration by applying a little bit of leave-in conditioner every morning, while others only did it once every few days to avoid making the hair look greasy.

Ultimately, there is no harm in using a leave-in conditioner daily. The only risk is build-up, which is more likely with non-porous hair. 

Experiment with how often you use your leave-in conditioner, pay attention to the results, and adjust accordingly. Putting leave-in conditioner on dry hair isn’t that different from putting it on damp hair.

You just have to be mindful of your hair type and the quantity of product you’re putting on it. At the end of the day, your hair will thank you for the extra hydration and care!

Up Next: Can You Use Conditioner Without Shampoo?

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