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How To Apply Leave-In Conditioner To Curly Hair

How To Apply Leave-In Conditioner To Curly Hair

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If you’re looking to breathe new life into your curls, you might be exploring hydration-boosting hair care like leave-in conditioner. But if you’re not actually sure how to use leave-in conditioner, this guide is for you. 

We’re breaking down how to apply leave-in conditioner & covering other conditioner concepts like:

  • How much leave-in conditioner to use
  • When to apply leave-in conditioner
  • How often to use leave-in conditioner

If you’re looking for a tell-all instructable on your soon-to-be favorite hair product for curly hair, you’ve come to the right place.

Choosing a Leave-In Conditioner for Your Hair Type

Before we dive into how to use leave-in conditioner for curly hair, let’s zoom out: what does leave-in conditioner do & how can you pick the best product for your curl type?

Leave-in conditioner is similar to regular conditioner, however, instead of rinsing it out, you leave it in to lock in extra moisture. No matter your curl pattern, curls all have one thing in common: they’re thirsty. Your curls crave all the extra hydration & moisture they can get. So, for curly hair, natural oil is key. Natural oils help lock in moisture (water) to keep your hair cuticles sleek & hydrated, giving your curls that bouncy, delicious & sleek look.

To that end, search for products that contain ultra-hydrating natural oils & ingredients like:

  • Jojoba oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Shea oil
  • Aloe leaf extract
  • Tea tree oil

While you’ll certainly find plenty of leave-in conditioner products that tout one or two oils, look for products packed with multiple luscious oils to bring out the best in your curly strands.

Applying Leave-In Conditioner in 4 Simple Steps

Applying leave-in conditioner is simple, but it’ll take your hair care routine (& results) to a whole new luxurious level. Let’s break down how to apply leave-in conditioner the right way. 

Step 1: Complete Your Wash Day Routine

You might not be too sure when to use leave-in conditioner. While you can use it between washes to refresh your curls or smooth down flyaways, leave-in conditioner is best used on wash day as part of a hydrating cleansing routine.

So, before you whip out your bottle of leave-in conditioner, take the steps you normally would on wash day. Your wash routine might include:

Can you use leave-in conditioner on dry hair? Yes, but you’ll achieve extra moisture if you apply it to soaking wet hair after washing.

Step 2: Section Your Hair

Thorough coverage is crucial for locking in extra hydration in every single hair strand. To achieve that, you’ll need to section your hair. Here are some tips for different curl types:

  • If you have tight-textured hair, consider using the PATTERN Hair Pick or Edge Tool to separate your strands into small sections. Since your hair is thick & dense, you’ll want to work with smaller sections to achieve even coverage.
  • If you have coily hair, small-to-medium sections are likely best for you, too. Clips will be your friend as you section your hair & apply product one area at a time.
  • If you have loose curls, consider clipping your sections or even tying them back with a scrunchie while you work.

Step 3: Apply Evenly & Thoroughly

Once you’ve strategized your sectioning based on your hair type, it’s time for the moment of truth: applying leave-in hair conditioner. 

How much should you use? That all depends on your hair:

  • Volume – Do you have tight-textured or thick hair? If so, you’ll likely need more product than someone with fine hair. 
  • Length – Since you want to work leave-in conditioner down your entire hair shaft, you’ll likely need more product than someone fresh off of a Big Chop.
  • Porosity – Low-porosity hair types might simply soak up less product than high-porosity hair types.

As a general rule of thumb, we recommend starting with a small amount of leave-in hair conditioner & adding more as needed. Try this technique: add a quarter-sized amount to your hands & work it through your hair—from scalp to end—one section at a time.

Step 4: Style (Or Don’t!)

Once you’ve applied leave-in conditioner to every hair strand, you can either:

  • Let your curls air dry naturally
  • Apply a product like Heat Protectant & blow-dry your hair
  • Try styling your hair as you normally would after wash day

Whether you’re styling your hair or letting it hang free in the breeze, you’ll likely see the results as soon as your hair dries—sleeker, more defined curls with that unmistakable, hydrated glow.


Discover the Transformative Power of Curl Care with PATTERN

Whether you use a leave-in conditioner after every wash or only every once in a while (the frequency is up to you), you’re sure to see positive, long-term results. Get ready for jaw-dropping, juicy & bouncy curls that defy gravity & hold their gorgeous shape until your next wash day. 

If you’re ready to discover the best leave-in conditioner for curly hair, turn to PATTERN: Both our special edition Palo Santo Leave-In Conditioner & classic Leave-In Conditioner will deliver the luscious moisture, curl definition & shine your hair deserves. 

At PATTERN, we love your curls—& we want you to love them, too. Explore our entire line of hair products for curly hair & discover the best in curl care.


Allure. For the Love of Moisture, Please Stop Saying That Oils Can Hydrate Skin & Hair. https://www.allure.com/story/do-oils-hydrate-skin-hair 

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Reviewed by Ashley Ludgood

With over 12 years of experience in the beauty and fashion industry, Ashley Ludgood brings a wealth of expertise to her current role at PATTERN. Her insights have been featured in reputable publications like American Salon Magazine, American Spa Magazine, and Skin, Inc. Ashley has also shared her knowledge at conferences, including Face & Body, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to contributing to the industry. Having been an integral part of the team at PATTERN for nearly 4 years, Ashley continues to make significant contributions. Holding a degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she remains passionate about her field. Among her favorite products, Ashley turns to the PATTERN Styling Cream, Moisture Milk, and the Cleansing Shampoo as her go-to essentials.

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