Our Favorite Leave-In Conditioner: The 2022 List Beauty Awards

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Kicking off 2022 with our List Beauty Awards seemed like a no-brainer. Testing products and finding the best ones to recommend to our readers is something we've always been interested in, and the new year seemed like the perfect time to pursue this opportunity. If you've been wanting to refresh your beauty routine by adding new items to your lineup too, we've got you covered.

One of our goals for 2022 was to establish a haircare routine that would infuse our tresses with more moisture. There's nothing worse than dry hair, and sometimes those follicles need more help than your everyday products can provide. Enter one of our most trusted items: leave-in conditioner

We tested five different brands to determine which was the best of the best, and we were pleasantly surprised by the results. Though we fell in love with a couple of options, there was one brand in particular that gave us the shiny hair of our dreams and was officially crowned our favorite leave-in conditioner.

As I Am Leave-In Conditioner: Winner

When we set out to try new leave-in conditioners for our 2022 List Beauty Awards, we thought the expensive brands would yield the best results. These high-end items were great, but our favorite leave-in conditioner was actually the least expensive of the bunch. The Leave-In Conditioner from As I Am was the clear winner from the beginning, and you can buy an eight-ounce bottle at Target for just $8.79.

This product is cruelty-free, and it's also free from dyes, aluminum, and parabens. As I Am comes recommended for those with textured hair but it works well regardless of your hair type. The List member tasked with trying out this product has hair that sits between wavy and curly and found this leave-in conditioner to provide the biggest boost of hydration.

To use this leave-in conditioner, all you need to do is apply a small amount of product throughout your hair while it's still damp, primarily focusing on your ends. Then you can brush and style your hair normally! You'll notice an immediate difference in the softness of your hair, and the results will continuously improve over time.

Dae Cactus Flower Leave-In Conditioner: Runner-up

If you have damaged hair, leave-in conditioner offers numerous benefits. In addition to providing added hydration, leave-in conditioners prevent breakage and protect your hair against heat styling. One of the most worthwhile brands we tried for this category was Dae, a haircare line designed to be as simple and effective as possible. More specifically, we tried the Cactus Flower Leave-In Conditioner from Dae, which retails for $26 at Sephora.

Of the high-end items we tried on our quest to find our favorite leave-in conditioner, this Cactus Flower option was one of the best at supplying immediate results. The product comes recommended for all hair types and textures, but it works especially well if you struggle with damaged hair. And since we care about using ethical products, we always search for items that are cruelty-free, and Dae fits this preference.

Dae's Cactus Flower Leave-In Conditioner is also vegan, gluten-free, and comes in recyclable packaging. Plus, it's free from harmful ingredients and it smells absolutely amazing. What a dream, right? 

All you need to do to reap the benefits of this leave-in conditioner is to shampoo and condition your hair regularly in the shower, then towel-dry your hair before spritzing this product over your tresses. Our hair was more manageable after using Dae's leave-in conditioner for the first time, and it remained soft and smooth even after heat styling.

Ouai x Byredo Mojave Ghost Leave-In Conditioner: Runner-up

Ouai is one of the most popular beauty brands right now. The company sells a variety of products that work super well, and their simplistic bottle designs make your bathroom look très chic. We've been wanting to try their leave-in conditioner for a while, but we became even more intrigued when Ouai announced they were partnering with fragrance brand Byredo to devise a one-of-a-kind creation.

The Ouai x Byredo Mojave Ghost Leave-In Conditioner, which is available at Sephora for $26, is every influencer's dream product. Combining Ouai's leave-in conditioner with the incredible Mojave Ghost fragrance from Byredo, this item is great if you're looking for something cool and different. It's free from sulfates, formaldehydes, and parabens, and it's recommended for every hair type and texture.

While we really liked this leave-in conditioner, especially the scent, it wasn't as impressive as the options from As I Am and Dae. Your hair will be easier to brush, and it'll smell amazing, but we weren't completely wowed by the results. Maybe it's because we were expecting more for the price, or perhaps the added fragrance impairs the original conditioning formula, but either way, it definitely lacked a certain je ne sais quoi.

Mielle Organics Pomegranate and Honey Leave-In Conditioner: Runner-up

In terms of affordable leave-in conditioners, the Pomegranate and Honey Leave-In Conditioner by Mielle Organics is terrific if you're operating within a strict budget. Available at Target for $12.99, this 12-ounce bottle will likely last several months since you only need a small amount of product to yield results. It's primarily recommended for people with textured hair, but we found that it works for all hair types and textures.

In addition to smelling good, the Pomegranate and Honey Leave-In Conditioner is cruelty-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, and dye-free. Plus, Mielle Organics is a Black-owned brand, which is something that's important to us at The List. 

We'd recommend shampooing your hair regularly, then running a very small amount of your usual conditioner through just the ends of your hair before washing it out completely. When you step out of the shower, towel-dry your hair before applying about a dime-sized amount of the Mielle Leave-In Conditioner through your tresses. Start in the middle and work your way down — you'll want to avoid working the product through your roots. Since this product is designed for thicker, curlier hair, a little goes a long way if you're trying it out as someone with a thinner hair type.

We noticed our hair was curlier and felt healthier than usual when using this brand. Maybe we'll give up the heat styling for a few weeks and see what this Pomegranate and Honey Leave-In Conditioner can really do.

Living Proof No Frizz Leave-In Conditioner: Runner-up

Living Proof's products come highly recommended by friends and celebrities alike. Awkwafina, for example, swears by Living Proof's dry shampoo. For our 2022 List Beauty Awards, we wanted to hop on the bandwagon and try the Living Proof No Frizz Leave-In Conditioner, which you can snag at Sephora for $27. To be honest, the fact that it costs $27 for four ounces of product seems criminal, but we kept an open mind since Living Proof is constantly praised for its effectiveness.

To try it out, we shampooed our hair regularly before running a bit of conditioner through our ends. After drying our hair with a t-shirt, we applied a small amount of the Living Proof leave-in conditioner to the middle and ends of our hair. While we brushed out our locks, we noticed that our hair was slightly more tangled than it usually is, which didn't feel like a good sign.

We pushed through to the heat styling portion of our day in hopes that the results would improve once the product had time to sit. Reader: the results did not improve. Our hair somehow felt drier and oilier at the same time and the overall experience was disappointing. After reading online reviews, it appears as though the Living Proof No Frizz Leave-In Conditioner works best if you have thin hair, which explains why we struggled with it. We'll be sticking with our favorite from here on out.