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I have not used a leave-in conditioner since I was a child. It was once a staple in my summer camp backpack; a godsend for those of us with curls and waves prone to tangles. If I close my eyes I can still smell the mix of pool water and purple, fruity-scented spritz that I would douse my hair in until it was slippery and glistening. But as I grew up, I grew out of the habit, instead gravitating towards hair masks, oils, and souped-up overnight treatments to hydrate my hair and quell frizz. But I took notice when I began seeing bottle after bottle of new, grown-up spray-in conditioners in the last few months. I looked at my fried and split ends and wondered: was I missing out on something? Should I be using a leave-in conditioner? For answers, I consulted celebrity hairstylists Gregory Russell and Lacy Redway.
Both stylists agree that hair types across the board should be using them-from slippery and fine hair to coarse curls. The difference being, of course, the formula and application technique. While curly-haired women can get away with spraying conditioner all-over, women with fine hair should use a little more finesse. "There are plenty of very lightweight leave-ins, like Sachajuan and Rene Furterer, that will help to keep fine hair hydrated. I have some fine-haired clients that prefer no conditioner in the shower but use a leave-in instead," says Russell. He recommends spritzing them on after the shower and just on the midlengths and ends of hair. "Spraying your roots can cause your hair to get limp, flat, and oily."
"Using a leave-in conditioner on wet hair helps your hair to lock in the moisture, which leaves your hair feeling smoother and healthier," says Redway, who loves to use the Deva Curl B'Leave-In Miracle Curl Plumper on her curly-haired clients (she works with Alicia Keys, Priyanka Chopra, and Olivia Palermo). Plus, the less knots you struggle through post-shower, the less breakage you'll have in the long run.
Convinced? Me too. I've been spraying the four above through my hair every morning for the last few weeks, and I've noticed a huge difference in its health and shine. Drybar's Prep Rally spray offers UV protection to save your hair color, while Honest Beauty's softening spray is free of any controversial ingredients. The Shu Uemura Wonder Worker is a cult favorite for its shine-boosting and frizz-fighting abilities, and it's been given a makeover for the holiday season in doodles by renowned Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. And finally, the Fekkai leave-in is a lot lighter and mistier than the other three (it's the best of the bunch for those with fine hair). Shake it up to mix the dual-phase formula together, then spritz lightly through hair to protect it from heat styling.
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