A leave-in conditioner is a moisturizing product (usually in the form of a cream) that is coated onto the hair shaft in order to smooth frizz, create shine, and allow for texture definition to last throughout the day. It is versatile in that it can be used as a styler or a heat protectant, too. Some curlies choose to skip using a leave-in in their daily hair care routine, and that is perfectly fine. Why, you ask? Because generally speaking, leave-ins are meant to have a certain function--a function that might be getting lost in the new wave of the natural hair movement. Ask yourself these quick questions and determine whether you need a leave-in conditioner or can skip it without facing repercussion. 

1. Your styler is rich in emollients.

Certified Cosmetologist Ms. Ameena of Torrid Tresses says that if your styling gel contains a high content of emollients (coconut oil, aloe vera, olive oil, argan oil, etc.) then skipping a leave-in on wash day is safe. These ingredients already provide what your leave-in is meant to do--protect, provide shine, and moisturize your natural hair. Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea All Natural Leave-In for example lists aloe vera, coconut oil, and jojoba oil in the first 4 ingredients.

2. You're drying out your hair.

Does your conditioner contain silicones or other synthetic ingredients? When using something as drying and potentially damaging as a silicone-based product, it is a good idea to restore the moisture balance in your hair after washing it. Certain alcohols may also be a culprit in adding dryness to your curls. As I Am Moisture Milk Daily Hair Revitalizer, however, contains Cetearyl alcohol, a good fatty that provides slip and help conditioner spread evenly across the hair.

3. You don't need a leave-in, you need a trim.

Do you have more split ends that you can count? Now, it would be against natural hair scout's honor to not advise you to get a trim, but it is understandable why you'd want to retain as much length as possible. Still, schedule that trim--in the meantime, use a leave-in to temporarily slow down the rate at which your ends are splitting in order to prevent further damage. Aussie Hair Insurance Split End Hair Protector and Nexxus Pro-Mend Leave In Treatment Creme both double as effective leave-ins, too, containing PEC technology, known for binding split ends.

4.  You're putting your hair and scalp health at risk.

Look at the ingredients on the back of the leave-in conditioner you have been using for years. Are the majority of them found in nature? If the answer is yes, there is no reason to break up with your leave-in. However, leaving a product that is heavy in chemicals (like parabens, for example) on top of your hair all day long can be harmful not only to your hair's health, but your body's as well. Be aware of what your scalp and skin are absorbing into your bloodstream. Oyin Handmade Frank Juice Herbal Leave-In contains a healthy concoction of vegetable moisturizers and herbs that will nourish while adding styling ease.

So, should I use a leave-in or not?

Remember, an effective leave-in conditioner should be these mostly natural--contain nourishing, gentle, moisturizing ingredients found in nature--free of synthetic ingredients like drying alcohols and silicones, and emollient rich. If your leave-in is all of those things, then it sounds like a keeper. Otherwise, it might be time to have it's-not-you-it's-me talk with your leave-in.

[prodmod]