What is the difference between a leave-in conditioner and a moisturizer?

No, they are not the same.

At the beginning of every healthy hair journey, one of the staple product that is recommended is a leave – in conditioner. A moisturizer is also necessary but not all the time. It is rather dispensable when compared to the leave-in conditioner. But before we talk about the difference(s), it is important to distinguish them so as to use them appropriately. Although, they are pretty much the same in terms of function and composition, there are one or two things that set them apart.

Leave-in conditioners

A leave-in conditioner is the lightest form of conditioning which is the best means for a quick, light makeover for hair. It gives the hair elasticity, hydration, and manageability. The main purpose of a leave-in conditioner is to fortify the hair with strength and moisture and also help detangle it easily in order to style 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.


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 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 even when the individual does not have time to maintain their hair for some period of time and moisturizers can be used on a daily basis to keep the hair soft and tangle free and hydrated so it is easy to manage.

Bottom line?

Leave-in conditioners do the job on the outside of your hair but really doesn’t get inside the cortex of the hair however good moisturizers combine water with amazing ingredients to penetrate the hair and ensure that the moisture stays longer. If you have dry hair, get a moisturizer (as leave-in conditioners may be too light for you) and moisturise as often as needed.

They are both in the business of replenishing moisture and refreshing the hair but one is better suited on wash days while the other can be used as desired.

NATURALICIOUS1 does a good job of breaking down this difference here.

Find more information here and here 🙂

© Copyright 2016 Ebun Oluwole, All rights Reserved. Written For: Get your Sizzelle on!

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