Difference between Leave-in Conditioner, Conditioner and Moisturizer

Getting her hair into shape and make it look good is the most difficult job for any woman as often the hair does not behave the way they want; controlling a mass of curls or straight locks can be a tough job. This problem gets compounded when the hair is very long or short and also becomes too dry, brittle, greasy or limp to handle.

There are hundreds of hair care products on the market which help women manage their hair in a better way and make them look good and feel confident when they go out. Conditioners, moisturizers and leave-in conditioners are some of the most popular products that are used by women to control their hair and make it look shiny and beautiful.


A leave-in conditioner is the lightest form of conditioning which is the best means for a quick, light makeover for hair and gives it elasticity, hydration, and manageability. The main purpose of a leave-in conditioner is to fortify the hair with strength and moisture and help it detangle easily and enable easy styling without breakage.

Leave-in conditioners allow the freedom of frequent, daily usage without any unwanted side effects. Many people use these conditioners after shampoo but many apply them on a daily basis to keep their hair fresh as it is the lightest form of hair conditioning and keeps the hair hydrated and manageable.

Leave-in conditioners vs Conditioners vs Moisturizers
Hair Care Products

A conditioner is defined as any substance that is used to improve the condition of something. A hair conditioner is a liquid which is applied to the hair after shampoo to improve its dry and limp condition and to make it look moisturized and shiny. A conditioner helps to alter the texture and appearance of hair and makes it look good as it contains moisturizer and other elements which protect the hair and give it a supple look.

A moisturizer contains hydrophilic molecules that attract and hold moisture to the hair strands which keep it hydrated and supple for a long time. Moisturizers are especially good for people who have dry and brittle hair which needs lubrication to keep it tangle free and soft.

Leave-in conditioners vs Conditioners vs Moisturizers

What is the difference between leave-in conditioners, conditioners and moisturizers? All three are very popular hair care products, used by men and women living in all parts of the world to keep their hair protected from climatic changes in a trouble free manner. Even though they serve the same purpose, which is keeping hair hydrated, easily manageable, soft and tangle free, there are many people who do not understand the basic differences between them and think of them as being one and the same product.

Leave-in conditioners can be used on damp hair after a shower and they are meant to be left in so that they keep the hair soft, tangle free and manageable with the moisture and other agents used in their formula, even when the individual does not have time to maintain their hair for some period of time. On the other hand, conditioners are meant to be used during the shower or when washing the hair, and they must be rinsed out once applied as leaving them in the hair could mean extensive damage due to the strong chemical or acidic content. As compared to both the leave-in conditioner, as well as the conditioner, a moisturizer is a lighter version and it can be used on a daily basis to keep the hair soft and tangle free and hydrated so it is easy to manage and looks good too.

Comparison Chart

Leave-in Conditioners Conditioners Moisturizer
It does not have to be rinsed out after application It is used after shampoo and has to be rinsed out after application It is applied like a cream and needs no washing
It is used on damp hair straight after washing and left in to refresh it on daily basis if required It is used on damp hair after washing it from shampoo but it is rinsed after a few minutes It is used on hair whenever the user wants; it can be on damp as well as dry hair to lend it hydrated and supple look
It is more watery as it is meant to be absorbed by the hair It is thick in consistency and needs to be applied properly Some moisturizers are heavy while others are light and should be chosen according to the hair type
The intent of a leave-in conditioner is to frequently condition and provide easy styling The aim of conditioner is to keep the hair hydrated which gets all dry after applying shampoo The purpose of a moisturizer is to attract and retain moisture to denser, thirsty strands
They have surfactants which add little material to hair as they are based on unsaturated chains which make them lighter and thinner They are thicker and they form thicker layers on the hair surface, coating the hair shaft with a thick layer which adds more volume to the hair Moisturizers are just like lotions which can be used for daily hair care until the next washing


Here is one very interesting and informative video that highlights the differences between leave-in conditioner, conditioner and moisturizer.