What Happens if You Leave Conditioner in Your Hair?

A lady putting conditioner in her hair in the shower

What Happens if You Leave Conditioner in Your Hair?


Regular conditioning is an integral part of everyone’s hair care routine. When washing your hair, this product is often applied last and quickly rinsed out. But what would happen if you did not wash it off? Will your hair get softer and healthier? Continue reading to find.


What Are Conditioners?

 A red tub of conditioner next to an open coconut in the husk

Credit: Envato Elements/ serbogachuk


Simply described, a conditioner is a moisturizing or conditioning substance typically containing silicones, oils, and emollients in addition to cationic surfactants (the technical name for soaps or detergents that assist in washing away greasy elements). Conditioners are used after shampooing to seal in moisture and improve shine. Without using a conditioner after washing your hair, your hair may appear coarse, frizzy, and difficult to manage. As a result, these products are crucial for your hair health.

There are many different kinds of conditioner, including leave-in conditioners that can be used overnight on your hair, deep conditioners or hair masks that deeply penetrate your hair cuticles to nourish damaged and brittle hair, and regular conditioners that contain moisturizing ingredients that control frizz.


How Does a Conditioner Work?

 an image of a pink brush, conditioner bottle wrapped in blonde hair

Credit: Envato Elements/ Atlas Composer


Conditioners work by coating the hair shaft with a thin film that shields it from environmental factors like the sun, pollution, heat damage, etc. In doing so, they also make the hair softer and easier to handle due to the moisturizing ingredients present. As a result, in addition to protecting your hair, they also prevent hair breakage.


Can You Leave Conditioner in Your Hair Overnight?

 A lady pushing her hands through her brown hair

Credit: Envato Elements/ insidecreativehouse


The short answer is no. If you have dry hair, it could be tempting to leave rinse-out conditioner in your hair overnight. Although this might make sense in theory, it might end up doing more harm than good. Continue reading to learn how leaving conditioner overnight can damage your hair.


What Happens if You Leave Conditioner in Your Hair?


It might not hurt your hair if you occasionally leave your conditioner on for a few more hours. However, if you do it frequently and use a lot of product, it may over-condition your hair and cause various issues such as the following:


1)  Product Buildup

 A lady holding a brush with damaged long hair

Credit: Envato Elements/ weewendy


Most conditioners have heavier ingredients, so if they are left on the hair, they run the risk of building up on the scalp and hair. As a result, your hair will start to feel sticky and stiff. This may obstruct hair follicles, causing the hair to weaken and eventually fall out as a result of a deficiency in oxygen and nutrients.


2)  Scalp Irritation

 A person scratching their head with their fingers

Credit: Envato Elements/ toqfiqu98


As previously discussed, conditioners can cause buildup that can harm your scalp. When build-up happens, it can cause bothersome side effects on the top of your head, such as an itchy and irritated scalp.


3)  Grimy Residue

 A lady holding a curl of her hair in her hand

Credit: Envato Elements/ Dimaberlin


If you choose to leave the conditioner in your locks overnight, you will have to deal with the grimy residue. This residue is a result of the various elements and chemicals in the conditioner, including proteins and silicones. Prolonged exposure to this gritty residue may result in split ends, breakage, allergic reactions, and even permanent damage to the hair cuticle.


What Is the Right Way To Use a Hair Conditioner?

 An image of a yellow and blue bottle with a drawn shower head and a towel on the side

Credit: Envato Elements/ OksaLy


Now that you are aware of the negative effects of leaving a rinse-out conditioner in your hair, here is the proper technique to use this product so that you can get the most out of it:


1)  To begin, thoroughly wet your hair with water.



2)  Apply shampoo to your hair and thoroughly rinse it off.


3)  Pour some conditioner from the bottle onto the palm of your hand. You only need a tiny amount (about the size of a quarter).


3)  Apply the conditioner to your hair. Pay attention to the ends of your hair. Avoid using conditioner on your scalp.


4)  Allow the conditioner to work its magic on your hair for a couple of minutes.


5)  Rinse out the conditioner from your hair.


How Frequently Should You Apply Conditioner?

 A lady sitting with a towel wrapped around her holding a white bottle of conditioner

Credit: Envato Elements/ Sonyachny


Your overall hair health, texture, and history of chemical treatment will all have an impact on how frequently you can use a conditioner. Generally, you can use a conditioner after every wash or on days when you don't use shampoo. For regular hair, you can use a deep conditioner once in 2 weeks and a regular conditioner after every wash; for oily hair, you can use an oily hair conditioner, like the MONDAY HAIRCARE Volume Conditioner or the Neutrogena Exfoliating Conditioner, twice or three times per week.


Tips To Keep in Mind When Using Conditioners


When using a conditioner, make sure to keep the following tips in mind:


1)  Use It From Your Midsection to the Ends of Your Hair

 A lady in the shower with conditioner in her hair and its running down her body

Credit: Envato Elements/ gpointstudio


As this part of your hair tends to be drier, be sure to apply conditioner where it is most needed, such as your mid-lengths to your ends. Adding conditioner to the roots can make your hair look greasy and heavy, even after you've just washed it.


2)  Use the Suggested Amount

 A person pouring conditioner into her hand

Credit: Adobe Stock


When it comes to conditioner, a small amount is enough, especially if you have fine hair. Using too much conditioner could weigh down your hair. Depending on the thickness and length of your hair, you can apply a glob of conditioner the size of a quarter. If in doubt, read the instructions on the package of the product.


3)  Before Using the Conditioner, Test Its Ingredients on Your Skin

 A young lady holding two bottles in her hands near her face

Credit: Envato Elements/ Atercorv


If you are prone to allergies, test the conditioner on a small area of skin before using it. If the affected region becomes itchy, red, or swollen, use the conditioner sparingly. If there are no negative reactions, you can use the product safely.




Conditioners are great products that offer a variety of advantages when applied correctly. If you do want to keep the conditioner in your hair overnight, make sure it is a leave-in conditioner. However, if using a rinse-out conditioner, do not leave it on for more than 20 minutes at a time.


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