What's the Difference between Leave-in, Rinse-Out & Deep Conditioner?

What's the Difference between Leave-in, Rinse-Out & Deep Conditioner?

Have you ever walked into a beauty supply store, overwhelmed with the huge variety of hair products and didn’t know where to start? Don’t worry, at some point in everyone’s healthy hair journey, we’ve all been there. Understanding hair product labels is not always easy…I mean, what’s even the difference between a leave-in conditioner and deep conditioner? If I leave a regular, rinse out conditioner in my hair for a longer period of time, does that make it a deep conditioner?

Well, Donna is here to help you understand product labels and find the right products for you. Choosing the right conditioner for your hair type is crucial to maintaining a healthy hair routine.


Rinse Out Conditioner

A classic rinse out conditioner is generally applied on wet, freshly washed hair after the shampoo step. Since the shampoo is there for cleansing your hair, a conditioner is used to rehydrate, strengthen, and protect the strands.

This conditioner can be used daily as a “surface conditioner” for about 1-3 minutes. Rinse out conditioners smooth the cuticle to detangle and help tame frizz. 

Is a Rinse-Out Conditioner for Me?

To ensure your hair is healthy, you should condition your hair every single time you wash it. If you’re not using a deep conditioner (will talk about this shortly), it’s recommended that you at least use a rinse-out conditioner. It is important to apply conditioner correctly to enjoy all of the benefits. So try sectioning your hair into 2-4 parts, continuously add water, detangle from tip to root, let it sit for 1-3 minutes, then rinse with cool water. 


Deep Conditioner

A deep conditioner is a hair treatment that is used once a week and usually has a thicker consistency, requiring you to leave it on for a longer period of time, typically around 10-30 minutes (depending on the instructions). Deep conditioners consist of beneficial ingredients that can penetrate the shaft of the hair and nourish the cuticles on a deeper level. Deep conditioners typically have a thick, sticky consistency between solid and liquid, providing long lasting effects. These effects can be amplified by adding heat.

For those with low porosity hair, the hair should be freshly shampooed to raise the cuticles, and heat should be added to help the ingredients penetrate deeper into the strands. Those with high porosity hair also benefit from adding heat to the strands with thick deep conditioners as well to help infuse as much moisture into the highly porous cuticle. Not sure what porosity level your hair has? Check out our blog “Porosity Level 101”.

Is a Deep Conditioner for Me?

It’s universally recommended that you incorporate a deep conditioner into your healthy hair routine. Your frequency of use depends on your hair type, and overall health of your hair. If you have fine or thin hair, a couple times a month is recommended. If you have dry or brittle hair, you should consider using a deep conditioner every wash or every other wash.


Leave-In Conditioner

A leave-in conditioner is a light-weight water based cream that is meant to be used after both shampoo and (rinse out or deep) conditioner. Just like its name, you leave it in and don’t rinse it out, It works best when hair is damp to help retain moisture. Compared to the deep conditioner and rinse-out conditioner, the leave-in is the lightest form, so they don’t weigh the hair down.

This product is best for keeping hair soft and shiny, and helps prime your hair before styling.


Is a Leave-In Conditioner for Me?

Leave-in conditioners work well for anyone that’s looking to strengthen and hydrate their hair while making it more manageable for styling. You can also add Donna's Recipe Strength Hair Oil with your leave-in conditioner in between washes to continuously keep your hair hydrated. However, it works best for those with low porosity hair. Leave-in conditioners are light enough to be absorbed by low porosity hair making it the perfect moisturizer.


It’s important to understand the purpose of all conditioners in order to build a healthy hair care regimen. It’s best to experiment with a leave-in, rinse-out, and deep conditioner in order to find the recipe for healthy, nourished hair.



  • Shirley Moore

    i like the leave-in Conditioner i thank it best for your hair

  • Lorraine Cobb

    I use a deep conditione (I also use a heating cap), and rinse out conditioner and it helps detangle my hair. But I also know that my ends must be in good shape in order for detangling process to remove less hair. Then I add a gel (low porosity hair) to whole the curt pattern and then a moisturizer.

  • Teresa Augarten

    Every time I use conditioner leave in or not it seems like it my hair comes out more.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published