Can You Leave Conditioner In Your Hair (Without Damaging It)?

Ever wonder if all conditioners are made equal? At some point in your natural hair journey you may have been tempted to stretch the directed use of your conditioner at one point or another, but is it really beneficial to the hair? Find out in this post the answer to the question you might have always wondered, can you leave conditioner in your hair without damaging it?

can you leave conditioner in your hair


Can You Leave Conditioner In Your Hair Without Damaging It?

No. It is not recommended to leave conditioner in your hair for longer than directed on the product by the manufacturer. This is due to the possibility of too much moisture intake into the hair strands leading to hygral fatigue overtime, excessive product buildup causing the hair to be weighed down and look lifeless in any hair style you do, increased scalp conditions such as dandruff and itchy scalp, scalp PH imbalances resulting in slow to no growth of new hair follicles and/or breakage due to excessive exposure to moisture overnight. A rinse out conditioner should be thoroughly rinsed out typically after 5 minutes to 6 minutes of application.

Conditioner that is left on the hair overnight can cause damage to the hair strand itself because the moisture allows for the cuticle on the hair shaft to swell and take in too much  moisture. You might not notice this initially, but after leaving in your conditioner overnight multiple times, you will notice your hair feels mushy to the touch and barely holds a curl let alone a hairstyle. Too much moisture, which is also known as moisture overload or hygral fatigue, will result in long term damage of the strand to were it may need to be cut or repaired with several protein treatments over a period of time.

A rinse out conditioner is not meant to be left on the hair for long periods of time and if they are, you will notice that your hair is not only weighed down, but no other hair products are able to penetrate the hair shaft. Your hair will also take a lot longer to dry (more than usual) and it will appear as though you’ve had a change in hair porosity. If you don’t want your hair to appear greasy, weighed down and limp to the touch, avoid leaving in your conditioner overnight.

If you want to learn more to your question “can you leave conditioner in your hair without damaging it?”, continue reading this post.


This Post Is All About Can You Leave Conditioner In Your Hair?


can you leave conditioner in your hair overnight


How Do Conditioners Work?

Has your hair ever felt dry, tangled or squeaky clean after using a shampoo? If so, it is a good idea to use a conditioner directly after the shampoo process. Conditioners are an important part of wash day because of its cationic positive charge. Since a shampoo’s main job is to cleanse the hair using a surfactant, the cuticles on the hair strand slightly lift due to its slightly acidic nature.

A conditioner is made up of cationic surfactants that are positively charged and bind to the negative charge of your hair. When this union happens, the cuticles on the hair lay back down and appear to be flat at a microscopic level, resulting in hair that looks and feels smooth and lustrous. It is true what they say… opposites attract!

Even though your conditioner is known to have a positive charge, there is a very small portion of it that is still acidic. The tiny amount of acidity in the conditioner is actually a good thing and helps the cuticles on the hair strand lock into one another, allowing for the hair to feel smooth again. When your hair feels smooth, it makes it way easier to detangle and comb through with a detangling brush. This sets your hair up for great ease with styling as well.

Another job of conditioner is to replenish the moisture that is lost from using a shampoo. Whether you choose to use a clarifying shampoo, moisturizing shampoo or a protein shampoo, the goal of a good shampoo is to remove any product buildup that maybe laying o the surface of the hair strand. This could potentially strip the hair of some or most of its moisture and nutrients, to which you will want to add back in.

By using a good conditioner, you can add those nutrients and moisture levels back into the hair fairly quickly. Remember not all conditioners are the same, so check to see which one you are using before you go in with one of your choice. There are conditioners that help to target protein loss, moisture loss, elasticity loss and dry, brittle hair, so choose one that targets the area you want to improve on.


can you leave conditioner in your hair overnight black hair


Should You Completely Rinse Out Conditioner?

While it may be tempting to try to avoid leaving your conditioner in overnight, opting not to rinse the conditioner out fully could be a recipe for disaster in the long run. This is because by leaving behind even a little bit of conditioner in your hair, could potentially  block your hair from receiving any moisture benefits from your follow up products.

When considering to use any leave in conditioners, refresher sprays and other styling or moisturizing butters, you have to factor in that those products will be blocked from penetrating the hair shaft.


Can You Leave Conditioner In Your Hair Too Long?

Yes. You can certainly leave conditioner in your hair for too long and so it is important to adhere to the directions printed on the label. Ideally, you should not leave your conditioner in for more than 8 minutes when it’s suggested to be used as a rinse out conditioner.

If not, leaving conditioner in your hair that it directed to be rinsed out only a few minutes after application can cause product buildup, weaken the hair strands, cause scalp irritation if placed on the scalp.

Have you ever heard of moisture overload? The scientific term is hygral fatigue which means that there is too much moisture in the hair strand. This can be difficult to treat depending on severity, but the key indicators of this condition are mushy hair, limp hair, takes a long time to completely dry and hair that easily breaks off with little to no effort.



how long should you leave conditioner in black hair


Can You Leave Conditioner In Your Hair As A Mask?

No. Some people will try to use their rinse out conditioner like it’s a hair mask or hair treatment, but the structural composition of a rinse out conditioner is very different from an actual deep conditioner that is meant to be left on the hair for 20 minutes.

Deep conditioning treatments are formulated to have a lower molecular weight, meaning the molecules are small enough to actually penetrate the hair strand. A rinse out conditioner has a higher molecular weight when compared to a deep conditioner, because it’s main purpose is just to coat the hair.

This is why you may feel more slip when applying your rinse out conditioner as opposed to when applying a deep conditioning treatment. You may find that with a deep conditioner, you may have to spent a little more time working the product through with a detangling brush or comb.


Do You Use Conditioner Before Or After Shampoo?

Although it is recommended to use your conditioner after shampoo, there are some great benefits to using a conditioner before. Remember that conditioner is formulated to coat the hair strands and provide smoothness. If your hair is extremely tangled and dry, shampooing may make detangling even more of a nightmare.

By using conditioner before shampooing, you are priming the hair with a lubrication component (aka slip) that will make detangling a breeze before going in with a cleanser.

If you need to section your hair, go ahead and apply your favorite pre-poo conditioner to make your shampoo routine a breeze.


How do you use a conditioner?

Depending on the type of conditioner you are using, there may be specific ways in which they should be used. Take a look at the different types of conditioners and how to use this with this guide below:

is leaving conditioner in 30 minutes bad



Types Of Conditioners and How To Use Them

How To Use Rinse Out Conditioner

Immediately after shampooing, apply your rinse out conditioner of choice if you have no plans of deep conditioning your hair with a specific mask or treatment. Be sure to thoroughly rinse out any shampoo left on the hair and gently wring out any excess water from the hair as well before you go in with your conditioner.

If you apply the conditioner to soaking wet hair, the product will slide right off the hair strands which will be a waste. Thoroughly coat the hair with your rinse out conditioner while gently using a detangling brush or detangling comb in each section before doing the final rinse. Once thoroughly detangled and smoothed, rinse out completely.

This helps to smooth the hair strands even further, reducing frizz, friction and breakage while getting  out any last minute tangles that may come about after shampooing.

How To Use Deep Conditioner

When deep conditioning, it is always a good idea skip the rinse out conditioner and go right into deep conditioning immediately after shampooing. This is because the rinse out conditioner will coat the hair, blocking anything else from being absorbed into the hair strand.

After the shampoo is rinsed out, wring the hair of excess water as you will want to apply your deep conditioner to damp hair instead of soaking wet hair. Work in sections and apply deep conditioner from root to tip, using a detangling brush to smooth and emulsify the deep conditioner into the hair. For a list of the best deep conditioners for low porosity hair, click here.

This technique will give you shinier hair that is frizz free and without tangles. Cover hair with a plastic processing cap and sit under a hooded dryer for 20 minutes. If you are using a steamer, do not cover hair. Simply pin hair up into sections and sit under steamer for 20 minutes. Rinse out.

How To Use Leave In Conditioner

Upon rinsing out either your basic rinse out conditioner, deep conditioning mask or deep conditioning treatment, wring hair of excess water and pat dry with either an old cotton t-shirt or a microfiber towel. Apply leave in conditioner to damp hair section by section to ensure that all strands are coated. Do not rinse out and proceed with styling.


Final Thoughts On Leaving Conditioner In Your Hair

Leaving conditioner in your hair past the recommended time is not ideal, as it can cause a host of problems that will ultimately lead to a lack of hair health and eventually breakage. It is best to use a rinse out conditioner the way it is instructed on the label and if want to use something to last for a longer period of time (no more than about 20 minutes typically), then it is best to opt for a deep conditioner after shampooing.

Leave in conditioners will add more water and moisture to the hair before stylers are used and they can be lightly spritzed into the hair throughout the week as well.

Comment below how you use conditioner, how long you typically have it in for or do you just skip it and go for a deep conditioning treatment altogether!

More In Conditioning:


21 Best Deep Conditioners For Low Porosity Hair!



What Is Deep Conditioning? Benefits & Why You Should Use It Regularly



10 Best Deep Conditioners For 4c Hair!





Subscribe To My Newsletter

Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to my monthly newsletter to catch up on all the latest from interviews, blog posts and special coupon codes on your favorite products!

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Subscribe & Become Apart of My Squad!

* indicates required