9 best leave-in conditioners: Lightweight oils, sprays and creams

Saman Javed
·7 min read
<p>We’ve tested a range of leave-in products that target different hair concerns to help you find the perfect solution</p> (The Independent/iStock)

We’ve tested a range of leave-in products that target different hair concerns to help you find the perfect solution

(The Independent/iStock)

As we move into winter, the effects of the harsh weather outside and central heating inside can leave hair feeling dry, lacklustre and in serious need of nourishment.

While there are a number of steps you can take in adding hydration back to your locks – such as limiting the use of heat and using regular hair masks – adding a leave-in conditioning treatment to your routine which gets to work in between washes can really work wonders in repairing and moisturising your tresses.

When choosing the right leave-in treatment for you, consider your hair type and hair concern. For those with dry, damaged hair, look for an intensely nourishing serum or cream which will hydrate without weighing down the hair. If you suffer with scalp problems or limp roots, look for a treatment that will calm irritation while giving volume to the hair.

We’ve tested a range of leave-in products that target different hair concerns to help you find the perfect solution. When compiling this line-up, we ensured that all of the products included did not leave a residue on the hair and felt weightless.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

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Davines oi all in one milk

This hair milk, which comes in the form of a spritz, is extremely lightweight and won’t weigh down even the finest hair types. Despite its feather-light feel on the hair, it instantly added moisture back into our dry locks which have been suffering under the weather change. The “all-in-one” formula promises a long list of benefits such as adding body, shine, softness and silkiness to the hair, while detangling, keeping frizz at bay and protecting hair from heat styling. Applied on towel-dried hair before styling, our tester found it lived up to most of its claims. The milk detangled her coarse unruly hair, leaving it feeling moisturised and noticeably less frizzy once blow dried. We preferred spraying this into the palm of our hands and then running through the hair for more control of where it was going. Once applied, the product is undetectable, leaving no residue or heaviness. The result was healthy-looking manageable hair with great shine.

Buy now £15.50, Cult Beauty

Livingproof frizz vanishing oil

While our tester previously steered clear of hair oils, which can be heavy and make the hair more prone to greasiness, Livingproof’s offering is a total game changer. A silky, lightweight oil, this not only banishes frizz, but also vanishes once applied to the hair and feels virtually undetectable. Infused with five different oils, including nourishing jojoba, it visibly moisturises the hair but feels as weightless as a serum. We saw the best results when we applied this on damp hair before drying as it added shine but also kept flyaways and frizz at bay until our next wash day. This also works well applied to the ends of dry hair, instantly making damaged tresses look healthier. An added bonus, this treatment is safe for use on chemically treated and coloured hair.

Buy now £31.00, Livingproof

Grow Gorgeous volume bodifying leave-in serum

If it’s volume that you’re after, then plump for this leave-in serum which gave us the full-bodied hair of our dreams. We found we needed just one pump of this for our whole head, as a little goes a long way. After applying on to damp locks before blow drying, our hair looked visibly lifted and felt bouncy and light. While some volumising products can leave hair feeling a bit dry or less smooth to touch, this kept our lengths and roots feeling hydrated, thanks to the addition of hyaluronic acid; a hydrating hero ingredient that locks in moisture.

Buy now £18.00, Lookfantastic

Bumble and bumble full potential hair preserving booster spray

Damage from heat styling and colouring can often leave hair prone to breakage and brittleness. Enter Bumble and bumble’s booster spray, a treatment which promotes strength and elasticity and aims to reduce hair loss and breakage. Suitable for all hair types, the treatment also contains scalp calming menthol as well as UV absorbers which protect against UV damage. While we did find this treatment difficult to apply at first – the spray nozzle shoots out squirts of product as opposed to evenly distributing it – we found it worked best when applied to the hands first and then worked into the scalp and hair after washing. Upon blow drying the hair, we noticed an instant lift in volume. A few uses later, our tester found her hair felt stronger and more manageable.

Buy now £38.00, John Lewis & Partners

Oribe supershine light moisturising cream

This moisturising cream adds a luscious shine to the hair and noticeably tames frizz, making blow drying our hair considerably easier than usual. The cream, which is applied to wet hair before blow drying, comes in two versions: normal and light. While our tester has relatively thick hair, we preferred the feel of the light version which adds moisture and shine without weighing the hair down. Infused with keratin as well as vitamins A and C, the formula aims to protect the hair’s shaft and enhance the hair’s natural colour and shine. As it is a cream consistency, we recommend applying while hair is still wet, rather than damp, to ensure the product does not leave any residue once dry.

Buy now £54.40, Space NK

Shu Uemura ultimate reset duo hair serum

Taking inspiration from ancient Japanese beauty rituals, this serum is infused with rice extract to hydrate and protect the hair. The result is a creamy serum that nourishes the hair without feeling greasy or heavy once applied. It also incorporates a blend of oils to strengthen hair and prevent future damage. Similarly to other serums in our line-up, this works best on towel dried hair before styling. Upon first application, we noticed how much shinier and softer our hair looked and felt. If you have fine hair that needs a little extra TLC, this is the leave-in treatment for you.

£28.35, Lookfantastic

KMS moist repair revival creme

This moisturising hair cream is perfect for thick, coarse hair which suffers from dryness, especially in the winter months. After washing, apply a dime sized amount to the hands and work it into the palms before distributing through towel-dried hair. We found a little went a long way with this product. While the cream is intensely moisturising and our hair dries noticeably less frizzy when using this, we recommend avoiding the roots and concentrating the product on the lengths and ends as it can weigh down some hair types.

Buy now £18.00, Lookfantastic

The Body Shop ginger scalp serum

The latest addition to The Body Shop’s ginger-infused hair care range, this serum helps restore balance to the scalp. Formulate to be used in between washes, apply a few drops of this to the scalp in sections on dry hair. Within the first day of using this, our tester’s usually itchy scalp was less irritated. Within a week, her usually oily scalp felt fresher and cleaner in between wash days. Without the feeling of excess oils on the scalp, our hair felt lighter, bouncier and more full bodied.

Buy now £15.00, The Body Shop

Kérastase resistance therepiste serum

For those who regularly use heat to style their hair, this serum acts as both a heat protectant and a treatment to reverse damage, claiming to resurface the structure of the hair. While it may take a few months of regular use to put these claims to the test, we did find that our split ends were less noticeable and the ends of the hair looked and felt well-conditioned with the use of this serum. While it is designed for use on thick hair, we actually found the formula to be quite weightless and think this would also work well for medium hair types. Be sure to apply this to wet hair, avoiding roots, and comb through before drying.

Buy now £19.80, Lookfantastic

The verdict: Leave-in hair conditioners

If you’re looking for a hair treatment that does it all, Davines’s formula will hydrate even the thickest of hair types, provide heat protection and manageability, all while feeling completely weightless. For those looking to boost volume and lift limp roots, we recommend Grow Gorgeous’s volume bodifying leave-in serum which gave our hair salon-worthy bounce.