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Leave-in conditioner can be all it takes to give your hair a boost of shine, bounce, curl, or irresistible softness.

There are plenty of options on store shelves, but what about making it yourself?

DIY leave-in conditioner can be a cheaper, healthier, and more eco-friendly alternative to store-bought options.

Read on to get the details on why to make it, how to make it, and when to make it.

Did you know that your head produces its own natural conditioner? It’s called sebum.

The problem is that shampooing removes it. And not shampooing can leave your hair looking and feeling greasy.

Conditioners do a lot of useful things. They:

  • reduce static electricity
  • flatten the cuticle scales on the hair shaft
  • reduce the friction between hair fibers
  • improve shine and color of the hair
  • act as a natural detangler
  • temporarily seal split ends

All of this is due to ingredients in the conditioner, like:

  • fatty alcohols
  • humectants
  • proteins
  • thickening agents
  • oils

Scientifically speaking, dry and damaged hair has a negative charge, while conditioning ingredients have a positive charge. By clinging to the hair, the conditioner makes hair less static.

But what about leave-in conditioners?

According to Celeste Arnold, senior stylist and owner of Celeste Arnold Hair and Makeup, “Nearly every hair type can benefit from the use of leave-in conditioners, but you may find them particularly useful if you have dry, damaged, or frizzy hair.”

The ingredients in leave-in conditioners are slightly different than regular conditioners. They usually contain more water, which means leave-in treatments aren’t as heavy since you won’t be rinsing them out.

When it comes to DIY leave-in conditioner specifically, it all comes down to ingredients, cost, and sustainability.

Holly Zoccolan, holistic lifestyle and nutrition coach and founder of The Heath Zoc, says, “They’re natural and contain no…additives or preservatives. They nourish the hair, and they’re cost-effective, too.”

You may have many of the ingredients for leave-in conditioner in your pantry already. This means you’ll be saving money by skipping the beauty aisle.

Making your conditioner at home also gives you the option of using a reusable container. That’s one less plastic bottle in a landfill!

These 13 recipes give you plenty of options. Experiment, or simply use what’s on hand in your pantry.

With coconut oil

Zoccolan recommends this recipe to make your hair look and feel thicker.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 tbsp. castor oil
  • 1 cup green tea
  • 3 drops of lavender essential oil

Steps

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Store in a glass jar.
  4. Use 1–2 tbsp. of the mixture at a time, and comb through wet hair.

With aloe vera

Arnold suggests lavender essential oil, but you can use any skin-safe scent you prefer. Glycerin is an optional ingredient for extra moisture and sheen.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup aloe vera juice
  • 2 tbsp. your favorite conditioner
  • 1 tbsp. avocado oil
  • 1 tsp. vegetable glycerin (optional)
  • 5–15 drops of lavender essential oil (optional)

Steps

  1. Pour the aloe into a spray bottle.
  2. Add conditioner and avocado oil.
  3. Add glycerin and essential oil, if using.
  4. Tighten top of bottle and shake until mixed well.

While research suggests there are health benefits, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils.

Be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

With avocado

Shiny Aura of Tea & Breakfast created this recipe and suggests using it especially if you have dry hair. You can also try the Klorane Nourishing Leave-In Cream with Mango Butter.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp. avocado oil
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. almond oil
  • 15 drops of skin-safe essential oil(s) of choice

Steps

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Mix well.

Green tea

Using green tea on hair has plenty of benefits. You can also try the tgin Green Tea Super Moist Leave-In Conditioner.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup steeped and cooled green tea
  • 1 tbsp. aloe vera gel
  • 1/2 lemon, juice of
  • 1 tsp. carrier oil of choice
  • 6 drops of essential oil(s) of choice

Steps

  1. Combine ingredients.
  2. Mix well.

Shea butter

Shea butter has several potential benefits for hair and skin, like moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging effects.

Meanwhile, argan oil has antioxidant properties and several potential benefits for hair.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shea butter
  • 1 tbsp. argan oil
  • 1 tsp. melted coconut oil
  • 10–15 drops of essential oil of choice(s)

Steps

  1. Heat the shea butter and argan oil in a double boiler until fully melted.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool until it’s cloudy but not solid.
  3. Whip the mixture using a hand mixer until the ingredients are well combined, light, and fluffy.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and mix.
  5. Put in an airtight container, and store in a cool place.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk softens and conditions hair without making it feel heavy. This DIY coconut milk leave-in conditioner from Mommypotamus only takes minutes to make.

To use, shake well and spritz onto clean, damp hair. Comb through hair with fingers or brush.

If you’d rather buy a coconut milk leave-in conditioner, check out the Alba Botanica Hawaiian Leave-In Conditioning Mist, Drink It Up Coconut Milk.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup distilled water
  • 1 tbsp. full fat coconut milk
  • 2 oz. spray bottle
  • ice cube tray
  • blender
  • fork and whisk

Steps

  1. Add water and whisk coconut milk thoroughly.
  2. Pour mixture into bottle.
  3. Store in refrigerator and use within the week.
  4. Use the ice cube tray to freeze the remaining can of coconut milk in 1 tbsp. increments for future use.

Coconut water

Ylang-ylang essential oil is often used for a dry scalp. It can stimulate the production of sebum.

While a patch test is recommended before using any new products on your skin or hair, it’s definitely recommended for ylang-ylang, as it contains several possible allergens, including isoeugenol. Linked to contact dermatitis, ylang-ylang can be irritating to the skin when topically applied.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of coconut water
  • 2 tsp. aloe vera juice
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • 2 tsp. ylang-ylang essential oil

Steps

  1. Combine aloe vera and coconut water.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Combine oils in a separate container and mix well.
  4. Add oils to water mixture.
  5. Shake well.

Honey

Shiny of Tea & Breakfast recommends this DIY leave-in conditioner recipe for damaged hair.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. protein powder
  • 10 drops of essential oil(s) of choice
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 3 drops of geranium (optional)

Steps

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Mix well.

Creamy leave-in conditioner

Hibiscus may help balance hair’s pH and prevent a dry and itchy scalp. Combined with lavender, this creamy leave-in conditioner will leave your hair smelling fantastic.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. coconut milk (canned)
  • 2 tbsp. aloe vera gel
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. hibiscus powder
  • 1 tsp. lavender essential oil
  • 1 tbsp. carrier oil of your choice

Steps

  1. Combine water, aloe, honey, and coconut milk in a bowl.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Add lavender essential oil to 1 tbsp. carrier oil.
  4. Mix again.
  5. Sprinkle in hibiscus powder.
  6. Let stand or refrigerate until firm before using.

For curly hair

Shiny of Tea & Breakfast suggests using this leave-in conditioner at least three times per week for the best results. You’ll likely notice significant improvement after a month of use.

Ingredients

  • 8–10 drops of essential oil(s) of choice
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 5–6 tbsp. of distilled water
  • 1 tbsp. aloe vera

Steps

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Mix well.

For natural hair

Geranium essential oil is said to help promote hair growth and improve circulation.

Grapefruit seed extract is a natural immune system stimulator and may relieve some skin and scalp conditions.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup filtered water
  • 1 tbsp. argan oil
  • 1 tbsp. grapefruit essential oil
  • 1 tbsp. geranium essential oil
  • 4 oz. glass spray bottle

Steps

  1. Add all ingredients to a bowl.
  2. Whisk together until mixed well.
  3. Pour mixture into a spray bottle.
  4. Shake well before each use.

For low porosity hair

This super-moisturizing recipe is great for low porosity hair, which can be slow to absorb moisture.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. oil of choice (argan, jojoba, coconut)
  • 1/2 cup distilled water
  • 2 tbsp. coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup aloe vera gel
  • 5–7 drops of essential oil(s) of choice

Steps

  1. Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle.
  2. Mix well.

Detangling conditioner

Marshmallow root has commonly been used to detangle and soften hair. Spray lightly over your hair and brush gently using a wet brush.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1/4 cup marshmallow root
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or jojoba oil
  • 2 tbsp. aloe vera gel
  • 15–25 drops of essential oil(s) of choice

Steps

  1. Bring water to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to medium low and add marshmallow root.
  3. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer until you have your marshmallow “tea.”
  5. Cool to room temperature.
  6. Whisk in remaining ingredients and mix well.
  7. Pour into a glass spray bottle.

Conditioning spray

Most of these recipes are applied by spritzing or spraying them on. If you’d rather grab a ready-made leave-in conditioner spray, there are plenty of options. Here are a few:

Leave-in conditioner is applied after you finish washing your hair and before styling it. Unlike traditional conditioners, it’s not washed out.

You can either use it as a replacement for the conditioner you normally use in the shower or you can use both. People who have dry or damaged hair may find it beneficial to add that extra step.

The process for all leave-in conditioners is more or less the same:

  1. Wash your hair in the shower.
  2. Condition hair, if desired.
  3. Gently towel dry your hair.
  4. Apply a small amount of leave-in conditioner.
  5. Brush your hair with a wet brush or comb to detangle it.
  6. Let your hair air-dry or style as desired.

Be careful to avoid your eyes if spraying or spritzing on your conditioner.

If you have naturally oily hair, you may find leave-in conditioner leaves too much residue.

If a product or ingredient is irritating your skin or scalp, wash it out immediately and stop using it.

Some people may have allergic reactions to certain ingredients. Always do a patch test before you apply a new ingredient to your hair, scalp, or skin.

If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have skin conditions or allergies, always check ingredients with your healthcare professional before use.

Making your own leave-in conditioner is a pretty simple process.

It may help you cut down on costs and allow you to know exactly what’s going on your hair.

Plus, it means you can skip the plastic bottle.

Depending on your hair type, you may have to go through some trial and error before finding the recipe you like best.

Always consult a healthcare professional if you have skin or scalp conditions or other concerns.


Ashley Hubbard is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, social justice, and more. Passionate about animal rights, sustainable travel, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences whether at home or on the road. Visit her website wild-hearted.com.