After trying countless products since 2017 here’s what I know about the differences between a leave-in conditioner and curl cream for your textured hair.
Differences between leave-in conditioner and curl cream
Not sure when to use these curly hair products? Check out this table. Did I miss anything? Please leave a comment to let me know.
|Leave in conditioner||Curl cream|
|A conditioner that doesn’t rinse out||A holding agent; a styling product.|
|Provides moisture and hydration||May not offer moisture on very dry hair.|
|Easier to absorb in low porosity hair||Can build up, if not clarified frequently|
|Can be used daily to refresh||Use up to 2x a week|
|Contains Water based ingredients||Oils & Butters|
|As a primer, makes styling easier||This is a styling product.|
|Doesn’t hold when used on its own||Holds desired style up to 1-2 days, or more.|
|Helps in detangling wet hair||Enhances curls without frizz|
|Lightweight||Thicker, denser in texture.|
Should you use conditioner and leave-in conditioner?
Think about how you want to style your hair. For example, when your hair is feeling extremely dry, first use a hair mask. Using a hair mask will offer that immediate boost your hair has been craving for. After rinsing out the mask, apply a conditioner for sealing in the cuticles. If you have fine hair or wavy hair, skip the conditioner and apply a leave-in conditioner instead. This will ensure that the moisture from water is trapped, hydrating your dry hair.
Can I use curl cream instead of leave in conditioner?
Depends on how hydrated and detangled your hair already is. Fine or wavy hair can skip a cream completely! For thicker coarser textures make sure you’ve at least used a conditioner in order to skip leave-in conditioner.
What to use instead of a hair gel?
Don’t like using hair gels? Sometimes, using the wrong hair gel can leave your hair drier than before. Some people don’t like the crispy crunchy hair after using hair gels. For soft defined and voluminous curls, use a curl cream instead of hair gel.
Using leave in conditioner and curl cream together
Do you go many days without washing your hair? If you wash your hair weekly without any refreshes in between, you’ll find that your hair is feeling extremely dry. If you have no time to mask that or to treat that, combine a leave-in conditioner and curl cream in your styling routine. Doing this can offers the much needed moisture and the hold your curls needed. Just be careful about the quantities. Fine hair, wavy hair use less quantities of curl cream to avoid buildup. Thicker, coarse textures apply styling products in smaller sections.
How to use leave-in conditioner
If you’re only going to tie your hair up, use a leave-in conditioner instead of curl cream. Dry hair breaks easily under any kind of tension. So using a leave-in conditioner offers moisture when your hair is tied up. Make sure to apply leave-in conditioner on your wet hair first. Then braid your damp hair for a nice sleek, glossy finish! A curl cream is used to hold your styling, use it when you want to let your hair down!
My top 3 Leave-in Conditioner recommendations
- Rio Mist ★ Get 10% off with code HONESTLIZ buy here and here (India)
- Sugar Boo ★ Get 25% off with code HONESTLIZ here | for 10% here and here.
- Boucecurl Leave-in
Want more choices? Check out this epic list of Best Leave-in Conditioner
Curl cream vs Mousse
Both curl cream and mousse are styling agents. Use either or both for the desired style after washing hair. For my coarse texture, I find that using a curl cream under a mousse gives me better results. Using a mousse by itself dries out my coarse hair. On the other hand, fine hair or wavy hair can use mousse directly. Tap to learn more about mousse here.
My top 3 Curl Cream recommendations
- Cachos Brazil ★ Get 10% off with code HONESTLIZ here and here (India).
- Sugar Boo ★ Get 25% off with code HONESTLIZ here | for 10% here and here.
- Miribel Naturals ★ Get 10% off with code HONESTLIZHERE here | for 10% here.
Want more choices? New blog with epic list coming soon!
Pro tip for curl cream
All these products are concentrated. Use a “dime-size” of products like this and emulsify them real nice before applying. See if doing this helps you achieve lighter, happier curls!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is curl gel and curl cream different
While both are styling products and offer “hold”. However, a hair gel may not moisturize your hair the same way like curl creams do. They are the same but different 🙂
After workout, which one should I use?
Ideally, if you sweat a lot then just wash and restyle as normal. If you want to refresh your hair and need “hold”? Use a curl cream after a workout. Use a leave-in before workout before you tying your hair up, so your hair stays moisturized and doesn’t break from the tension.
How to refresh with them?
Check out my 123 Refresh technique. Use a curl cream or gel or both to refresh. Both products are stylers for hold. Use a leave-in under your stylers when hair feels especially dry.
Which one should you use in the humidity?
If you wash your hair more often and have fine or wavy hair, use a leave-in on its own! Or use gel over leaveins for more hold. If you have coarse hair then try Cachos Creme over their leave-in. See more recos here.
Is it ok to skip leavein and directly go to stylers?
Only if your hair is properly conditioned. Or if you’ve done a quick ACV rinse, Or you’ve been diligently using hair masks or hair feels moisturized after wash, then yes!
For high porosity hair can you use leave in, then cream, then gel?
Yes! That’s a great technique especially for thicker hair types. If you have fine or wavy hair then layering may weigh your hair down. Focus on tackling the porosity instead. Try bonding treatments or acv rinse to fix this. Then you can style with minimal products and get results!
Suggestions for fine hair because my curl cream makes hair droopy
I know of the best leave-in conditioners for fine hair (also because my youngest daughter has fine curly hair). It’s the Cachos Brazil Rio Mist [use code: HONESTLIZ for 10% discount here and here] I don’t recommend using curl creams for fine hair nor any hair products with silicones. Ingredients like amodimethicone and dimethicone are commonly used in commercial hair products. These are thicker types of silicone in products that can weigh down hair. Read the ingredients on your creams to spot these culprits!
Found this guide useful? Leave a comment and SHARE this with someone you know
Thank you for highlighting my question and answering. Love your post. Very insightful and straight forward.
It’s my pleasure 🙂 Please keep those questions coming!
This is an incredibly helpful blog, especially for people like me who have curly hair and want to know how to get rid of the frizz without using products that just make our hair even more frizzy or heavy!
I usually put my Curly hair in bun and have been using fix my curls products for a while now and they are doing worders for me. So, if anyone would like to try it then I will tag the page here. Also, they have sales all the time, so prices are always affordable.
You also use my code HONESTLIZ for extra discount on this shop, and on sublimelife website too!
Will surely use.
Thank you Liz for writing this and covering up all the points.
It’s my pleasure 🙂
So based on this what do you think would be better for you? Leavein or Cream?
Hey Liz, love this blog post! I’ve been following you in Insta for some time now and I diligently read your blogs. They are very helpful.
I have fine wavy hair that is low porosity so I usually struggle with styling my waves. I like using leave-in conditioners. Curl creams weigh my hair down and after reading this I realise why. Do you think layering a leave-in conditioner with a gel or mousse is a good idea for my hair? Should I use a gel or a mousse?
Thank you! 🙂
Thank you for another informative blog. Where else could I get that kind of info written in such an ideal way? I’ve a project that I am just now working on, and I’ve been on the look out for such information.