Should you wash out your conditioner?

This question can’t be answered by a simple yes or no, because it greatly depends on your curl type! Depending on your type of curls, leaving in too much conditioner can cause them to lose volume or rinsing it all could cause frizz.

I have read so many different advice about washing out conditioner that I felt lost when I was still new to embracing my curls. It took me quite a while to better understand my curls and know how much leave-in conditioner my curls need. To help you figure out whether you should wash out the conditioner completely or not at all, I put together a few facts.

Consider leaving in your conditioner, if:

  • you’re new to embracing your curls after years of straightening. In that case your curls most likely are highly porous (read more about that below).
  • your hair is highly porous. Porous hair has many little “holes” in it, that need the extra conditioner. You might even consider sealing with some oils.
  • you have too much unwanted frizz. Keeping your curls properly moisturized is key to fighting frizz effectively.
  • you have tight curls or coils. These curl types are usually seeking more moisture, because they tend to dry out faster than less curly hair.

Consider washing out your conditioner completely, if:

  • your curls feel dirty/ greasy when you don’t wash out your conditioner.
  • you’ve noticed that your curls hang down and don’t look bouncy anymore.
  • your curls stay clumped, voluminous and frizz-free when you completely wash out your conditioner.
Should you wash out your conditioner?

Knowing whether or not to wash out your conditioner can be a real game changer!

You don’t fit into one of the above categories?

That’s not a problem, it just means that your curls like it when you leave in some of your conditioner. There are various options to deal with that:

  • Use a light conditioner (a leave-in conditioner) which you apply to your curls after combing them with your usual conditioner (and washing out the normal conditioner). Don’t rinse this leave-in.
  • Rinse your conditioner and then again add some conditioner to your ends (which you don’t wash out). This can be helpful if you notice your ends being drier and frizzier than the rest of your curls. And also if your scalp has a tendency to get greasy.
  • Do a deep conditioning treatment as soon as you feel that your curls are getting too dry. Other than that always wash out your usual conditioner.

As for me, I need to completely wash out my conditioner after combing my curls, because my hair is easily over-conditioned. But to ensure that my curls are moisturized, I usually treat them with a deep conditioner every other week.

Are you still new to embracing your curls and found the above information confusing? If so, you might find it helpful to take a look at my washing routine.

6 Comments
  • Sophie
    September 17, 2016

    Awesome post, I wish people talked about this more often! I personally like to wash out my conditioner, then apply several pumps of leave-in to remoisturize my curls 🙂

  • Heidi Wicker
    September 19, 2016

    Thanks for writing about this, it depends on your hair but most writers only include one way to do it. I only partially wash out the conditioner and don’t use a leave-in at all. I am all about minimal product and hassle.

  • Betzy Courts
    October 16, 2016

    I have always left my conditioner after I wash it, but after 20 years of working with my curls, I’ve noticed that it’s really the amount you put more than the brand. I wash my hair every 4 days, damp dry it and I add plenty of Suave Aloe Conditioner. It’s super cheap! $1.50 per family bottle and lasts me about 2 weeks! I let it air dry and in the morning I use a spray bottle to moisten the hair a bit and add more conditioner where I need it… and voila!! bouncy, great looking hair!!
    The more expensive conditioners damaged my ends when left un-rinsed and made my hair look “down”.

  • Sarah B - Bits of Geek
    February 10, 2017

    Wow, I think this is just what I needed to see today! I got on a kick of looking at curly products again right before my haircut, and was expecting the layered cut to give me more crown/root volume, but no such luck. Just bouncier curls at the ends.

    I’ve got problems 3-5 on your “signs of over-conditioned hair” post, I didn’t know that the “stiffness”/uncooperativeness of my hair and it just wanting to stay in the same place was a sign that it was over-conditioned!

    I’ll definitely be washing out my conditioner next time, maybe just doing the ends and playing with the amuont of conditioner to see what works best. We have very similar curl type; I love having someone to compare to in terms of how my hair can look! Love your website!

  • Mrs. Sarah Painter
    December 6, 2018

    Hello. I just found your website (t6 December 2018) and am pleased with what I’ve seen. I am a biracial woman who embraced her natural curls in 2012. That was after 20 years of destroying my hair with relaxers. Each time after leaving the salon, my scalp was always sore for several days, there were scabs in my scalp and my whole head hurt. I was desperate to do something to get the relaxer out of my hair but didn’t know how.

    Then, the cowboy of my dreams came into my life in July 2008, proposed marriage in the fall of 2009 one day before my birthday; we wed on 20 March 2011. My hair was completely damaged. After much online research, I found Teri LaFlesh’s book Curly Like Me which helped with my hair problems. After ditching the chemicals, I devoured her book since I was hungry for the information. Being biracial, I have multiple curl types on my head: 3A at the crown, 3B-3C on the sides and loose curls at the nape. The only kind of leave-in conditioners my curls respond to are: Aussie Moist Mega-Moist, KinkyCurly Knot Today and Jane Carter Solutions.

    On wash day (once a week in fall/winter); twice a week in spring/summer, I use Giovanni Shampoo, Suave’s Sun-ripened Strawberry Rinsing Conditioner but have started to not rinse all of it out. It has made a difference in how my curls respond after detangling and smoothing. My curls are dry which means moisturizing EVERY DAY. I will try scrunching again but find smoothing out each curly section works better. Not all natural curlies are the same. We’re all different as our curls require different needs. One size does not fit all.

    Living in the mountains with my husband, it gets quite cold here. Which as soon as the weather turns colder, I NEVER go outside without a hat. I LOVE embracing my curls and will never go back to straight hair again.

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