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Knowing when and how to utilize a moisturizer or a leave-in conditioner can be quite difficult to determine no matter what level of curly hair experience you have. You are in good company if you’ve been wondering if you should replace your leave-in conditioner with the newest water or cream-based moisturizer on the market. Today, we analyze two Carol’s Daughters best sellers, Hair Milk Original Moisturizer Leave-in Moisturizer and Monoi Repairing Anti-Breakage Spray to distinguish the differences between a formulated moisturizer and a formulated leave-in conditioner.

Prior to the recent widespread acceptance of textured hair, leave-in conditioners were traditionally popular for women with straight hair while moisturizers marketed toward straight hair was uncommon. Many women with textured hair used grease and cream-based moisturizers quite frequently, but rarely used a leave-in conditioner. Today, products that women previously expressed no interest in are now being assessed for usability, regardless of ethnicity. This has left us with many questions and a thirst for understanding, no pun intended.

Purpose of a Leave-in Conditioner

A typical leave-in conditioning formulation was created to fortify the hair with strength and/or moisture, aid in detangling, and provide ease of styling without weighing down the hair or creating a buildup. These concoctions were made to allow the freedom of frequent, daily usage without unwanted side effects. This is usually a third step after cleansing and conditioning, but it can also be used as a daily refresher. The leave-in concoction is the lightest form of conditioning compared to the rinse out or deep conditioner and serves best as a quick, light means for elasticity, hydration, and manageability.

Example: Monoi Repairing Anti-Breakage Spray

Top 5 Fab Ingredients Breakdown

  1. Water- ultimate hydrating agent
  2. Cyclopentasiloxane- a silicone based detangler and solvent that provides slip and protection
  3. Cyclohexasiloxane- a silicone based carrying and wetting agent, emollient, and polymer
  4. Isododecane- enhances the ability to spread product and prevents moisture depletion
  5. Pentylene glycol- a moisture binding humectant that can be used as a solvent and preservative

Purpose of a Moisturizer

As curly hair tends to lose moisture quickly, a good moisturizer can be very helpful in retaining water levels within the hair strand, helping to maintain the integrity of the hair. A good moisturizer will have both hydrophilic molecules that will attract and hold moisture to the hair strand and hydrophobic agents that will seal and protect the newly added moisture.

Example: Carol's Daughter  Hair Milk Original Leave-in Moisturizer

Top 5 Fab Ingredients Breakdown

  1. Water- ultimate hydrating agent
  2. Glycine soja (soybean oil)- an emollient and occlusive agent that protects and adds conditioning that provides sheen, suppleness, and body to hair
  3. Prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond oil)- an emulsifier and lubricant that provides slip and prevents moisture loss
  4. Theobroma cacao seed butter (cocoa)- an emollient that provides elasticity to hair
  5. Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter)- an emollient and natural plant based moisturizer

From the experts

“A leave-in conditioner is a conditioning product that you do not have to rinse out of your hair. These contain humectants and help attract moisture back into the hair, which create a stronger, more flexible hair strand. Moisturizers have all the goodies you know and love, like shea butter, to intensely hydrate curls, coils, kinks, and waves, plus soybean oil to soften and strengthen it too…The only difference between a leave-in conditioner and a moisturizer is that a leave-in conditioner is meant to leave in your hair to condition your hair or refresh your hair on a daily basis…A moisturizer is an intense, slightly denser lotion that can be applied to coarse, thick hair, as it can weigh down fine hair.” –Carol’s Daughter Representative

Take away

Both formulations can be used for multiple purposes, however the original intent of a leave-in conditioner is to frequently condition and provide ease of styling. The purpose of a moisturizer is to attract and retain moisture to denser, thirsty strands. Tighter curls can use both, as a moisturizer will not typically deliver the slip and detangling effects of a leave-in conditioner. Nor will a leave-in conditioner provide the long lasting, intense, moisture retention like the formulated moisturizer does. Depending on the hair type and hair need, choosing one option may or may not be sufficient.

Decision making

  1. Before rushing to purchase a product that is getting all the rave, ask yourself “What are my unique hair needs?”
  2. Second, read the product promises and guidelines before making a selection. Although marketing companies may not always use the correct scientific terms, they will go through great lengths to effectively communicate in layman’s terms.

Do you prefer a leave-in conditioner or a moisturizer? Do you use both? Tell us your faves!

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