What exactly is a leave in? Are there rules for what goes in a leave in? Is there any regulation to call a product a leave in? Why use a leave in? Will a leave in leave me greasy or over conditioned? Will it make my hair limp? How much leave in?
These questions and more come up all the time when the topic is leave in hair conditioners. Let me say right away there is no one right answer to any of them really.
In simplest terms a leave in is something you leave IN your hair -- in other words you don't rinse it out. Leave in conditioners have no rule or definition as to what they contain -- it is up to the company. Generally leave in's should be moisturizing. Other than that everybody has a different story.
People use a leave in for a variety of reasons -- some need one to prevent dryness, frizz, or poof. Others use it as a "base" for another product such as a curl cream or jel. Still others use it to detangle. There is no one "right" reason OR way to use a leave in.
If you have fine or thin hair its possible a leave in may be "too much". It depends on your hair. My hair is porous and absorbs products readily--so I use very small amounts of leave in. My daughters hair is thicker and low porosity and we use a lot of leave in. Others I know have fine hair that is low porosity and use only a little leave in. Get the picture? It's all over the place. Only you can determine if a leave in will leave you greasy, oily, flat, limp, etc.
So what about amounts? Pea sized? Grape sized? Quarter? or palmfuls? Well in my house for my hair (fine, thin and porous) I use pea sized. My daughter has fine to medium/coarse thick low porosity hair--for her? Palmfuls. My son has medium normal porosity, medium to fine texture, and thick short hair-- for him about a quarter works best.
A special word: So if there is no real regulation of leave in's do you need a product "designed" as a leave in? Well, no. Not really. You can use any product as a leave in depending on what you want for your hair or what you want your hair to do--try using your rinse out conditioner, styling lotion, or your deep treatment condish as a leave in. There is nothing sacred about what a leave in is. One of my favorite protein leave in's is meant as a deep penetrating protein treatment. We regularly use Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition for my daughter as a leave in (although its technically a rinse out) and for my son we occasionally use Curl Junkie Coffee Coco Curl Creme Lite as a leave in. Experiment! I give you permission. Fly free my beauties!
So what are my favorite leave ins?
Curl Junkie Curl Assurance Leave In (CALI)
Curl Junkie Beauticurls Leave In (BCLI)
Both of these are outstanding leave in products. They are moisturizing without being heavy. The BCLI has a stronger smell and its yummy. The CALI has been discontinued (so get it while you can!). These are excellent bases for other styling products as well and in my hair do not weigh it down. These are available from a variety of places like http://www.curljunkie.com/, http://www.aveyou.com/, or http://www.curlmart.com/
Beauty without Cruelty Leave In
This is one of my favorites actually. It has proteins high up on the list. It has a lot of slip but does not pull out my curl. It's not expensive (I get mine from iherb.cm). It is moisturizing but not super heavy.
Karens Body Beautiful Nectar and Milk:
For pure moisture and conditioning these really can't be beat. They work on all our heads at my house (although my son is NOT fond of the smells!). They come in a variety of scents so you can chose your favorite. They are super moisturizing--for my daughter they prevent frizz and give her outstanding softness. I discovered these early on and they have remained staples in our house. You can find them at http://www.karensbodybeautiful.com/
When used with the other Bellacurl products we can get 5-7 day hair for my daughter. Since her hair is so dry that is just outstanding. We love Bellacurls!
For those of you that prefer a spray or are worried about weighing down your hair..or perhaps you like a spray before a cream then the following are good choices:
Darcys Botanicals Natural Coils Leave In Spray: Smells great and about 5 sprays does my entire head. Has a decent amount of slip but I wouldn't use it to detangle (not that I need to). It's very moisturizing!
Darcy Botanicals Herbal Spray -- this is heavier than the Natural Coils one. If you like hippie stink or patchouli then this here's your spray babe. It has tea tree so is particularly good for those with itchy scalp. I tend to use it more (with a few sprays) as a base for cream curl enhancers since sometimes the cream enhancers paired with a cream leave in are too much.
Brendita's No Knots Moisturizing Leave In is a great leave in spray for hair. It's not heavy.
The BIG GUN for moisture in this category is the Taliah Waajid Protective Mist Bodifier. IF your hair is super dry or you wear braids, twists, or locs get thee to the nearest beauty supplier or online supplier and order up a couple of bottles. This stuff is like liquid gold for dry hair. I'm not crazy about the smell (Caribbean Coconut) but this stuff works great. Watch the daily use as it can feel like its building up and it is a heavy product. Outstanding!
There are a few other sprays we use but we tend to use them as refresher's or pick me ups--less as leave in's...although I include them since I have used all of them as a leave in at one time or another. All are super light.