Can You Sleep With Conditioner In Your Hair? Here’s Why No

We’re glad you ask this question before pumping a blob of conditioner, spreading it onto your hair, and just drifting off. 

Here’s a warning: Leaving conditioner in hair overnight does more harm than good! Scroll down for our detailed explanation!

Can You Sleep With Conditioner In Your Hair?

We are strongly against sleeping with conditioner in your hair, as this product is not meant to be left overnight. You won’t reap any benefit but only damage your hair. 

There is a false belief that the longer the conditioner stays in the hair, the greater its efficacy. 

In reality, leaving the conditioner in your hair longer than the recommended time causes more harm than good, especially when you leave it overnight. 

So, what happens if you sleep with a conditioner in? 

There are a few reasons why leaving conditioner on your hair for too long is not recommended. 

Shampoos Hub
Shampoos Hub

Regular conditioner, like shampoo, contains a certain amount of surfactant. This ingredient has a bad rap of stripping the natural oil sebum from hair, so you shouldn’t leave your conditioner any longer than the suggested timeframe.

Shampoo and conditioner work quite in the opposite way. Shampoo generates a positive charge to clean your hair, whereas conditioner typically produces a negative charge to close up the hair cuticles once the shampoo finishes its cleaning job. 

Leaving conditioner for a long time in your hair means maintaining the negative charge, which can ultimately lead to more frizz.

Therefore, regular hair conditioners should only stay on hair for a maximum of 5 minutes. They only work on the hair surface and don’t penetrate deeper into the hair shafts, and mainly serve to provide moisture to the hair. 

However, if you leave it too long, you’re forcing your hair to absorb too much moisture, which eventually wears it out. In scientific terms, this is called hygral fatigue

If you’re looking for something that can work into the inner hair follicles without causing any hair damage, deep conditioners are the right answer. 

That said, whether you’re using a regular conditioner or a deep conditioner, never let it hang out in your hair for too long. If not, your hair will suffer from hygral fatigue. 

Leaving conditioner in hair overnight can lead to hygral fatigue
Leaving conditioner in hair overnight can lead to hygral fatigue

Hygral fatigue is a state in which your hair suffers from damage from being exposed to too much water. 

It can happen to all types of hair, but already damaged hair is at the highest risk. It is because the cuticles in damaged hair are already broken, so the hair cortex is exposed and thus, more prone to damage. 

Typically, the inner hair structure, better known as the hair cortex, swells due to the moisture absorbed and contracts while drying up. 

Imagine when there is excessive moisture to work with! This will cause repeated and excessive expanding and contracting of the cuticles, which can weaken the hair strands over time and cause breakage. 

How Long Should You Leave Conditioner In Your Hair?

Rinse-Out Conditioner

1 or 2 minutes would suffice for the hair to soak in moisture and nourishment for a regular rinse-out conditioner (don’t leave it on your hair for any longer than 5 minutes). Oil-based formulas take some more minutes because they can penetrate deeper and nourish hair better.

Rinse-out conditioners’ primary job is to coat the cuticle with a protective layer and seal the moisture.

Deep Conditioning Treatment

Deep conditioners are also not meant to be slept with overnight. If you do so, you will upset your hair. This type is heavier than the conditioner you usually wash your hair with, so it’s best to leave them as instructed.

Normally, it would help if you let it sit around 10-30 minutes on your hair before rinsing it out. 

Leave-In Conditioner

Unlike your everyday conditioner, there is no rinse-out with a leave-in conditioner to enjoy the maximum benefits of the product.

You can allow leave-in conditioner to sit on your hair either for a long time or overnight. 

Various leave-ins are formulated for specific hair needs, and virtually any hair type can benefit from this product. 

If left overnight on your hair, leave-in conditioner provides hydration and nourishment for the hair shafts, which leaves your hair look smoother, softer, and more luscious. Yet, we find that dried-out, thick, curly hair is the prime candidate. 

How To Deal With Hygral Fatigue?

Signs Of Hygral Fatigue

  • Hair feels gummy, looks clump together, and harder to brush.
  • Does not return to its original state when stretched out.
  • A greater amount of hair breaks or shreds.
  • Noticeable issues such as tangling, frizziness, and brittleness.
  • Hair looks dull and lifeless. Plus, the conditioner will weigh the hair down, leaving your hair to look flat and limp than normal. 
  • Hygral fatigue can also lead to an itchy and irritated scalp. 
  • It can also damage the hair cuticle and exposes the inner cortex layer. All of these means your hair is at a higher risk of damage. 
  • Increase the buildup on your scalp and hair. Hair that is suffering from hygral fatigue also draws in more dirt, which can increase the likelihood of scalp infections.

Ways To Overcome Hygral Fatigue

  • Know the differences between conditioner, hair oil, and leave-in conditioner to use each product correctly. 
    • Hair oil: Hair oil such as jojoba, argan, or coconut oil can be applied on both hair and scalp, and let sit in hair overnight to promote hydration.
    • Leave-in conditioner: Leave-in conditioner is meant to be used after shampooing and conditioning and prior to styling your hair. There’s no need to rinse them off like regular conditioner
    • Conditioner: Normal conditioner shouldn’t sit in your hair overnight. It’s ideal for applying from the hair midsection to the ends and is not advised to use on the scalp. Plus, the product should be rinsed out after a few minutes of application. 
  • Use conditioner according to the directions on the bottle. Always use conditioner alongside your shampoo. 
  • If you think your hair is over-conditioned, cut down on the use of shampoo and conditioner (a.k.a, reduce the frequency of hair washing). 
  • It’s best to stay away from conditioners with parabens and silicones. Instead, try using those made from natural ingredients. 
  • Balance things out by introducing protein into your hair care regimen. Giving your hair a protein boost helps restore hair strength and provides further protection against damage. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t use too much of anything, including protein treatment. Protein overload, which happens when too much protein is applied to your hair, can make hair drier and more brittle, which will eventually lead to hair breakage. 
  • At the same time, protect your hair against other physical damages from using hot tools or tieing your hair too tight, for example.
  • There are some conditioners formulated to be left overnight. If you want to make the most out of your bed’s time, they are your safe bet.
  • To boost hair strength, it’s best to nourish your hair inside out.
    • Drink more water every day, and maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet.
    • Add more vegetables and fruits to promote the overall health of your mane. They hydrate your hair, and help it better absorb vital nutrients such as copper, iron, zin, or calcium to grow long and strong. 

How To Use A Conditioner Properly?

Follow these steps to condition your hair correctly so you can always reap all the benefits:

Step 1: Wash Your Hair 

Shampoo your hair first before conditioning. Never spread the conditioner on sopping-wet hair as it can slide off easily from hair and cannot work its magic. Thus, rinse out all the shampoo and the excess moisture.

Step 2: Use The Right Amount

Only spritz enough conditioner on your balm (often recommended on the package). Too much conditioner easily weighs down your hair, whereas too little can leave your hair rough and dry. 

Depending on the hair length, apply 1-2 quarter size of the conditioner. If your hair glides through without much friction, that’s enough. 

Otherwise, you may want to add a quartered size of the product at a time until it’s enough. 

Here is a general rule to estimate the amount of conditioner that your hair will need, based on your hair type and the hair length:

Hair Type

  • Fine or thin hair: If you have thin or fine hair, it’s best to use only a dab of the conditioner. For very thin and fine hair, you can swap out the regular conditioner for a lighter and volumizing version, and make sure you just use enough amount on your hair. 
  • Thick or curly hair: More hair means that you’ll need more conditioner so the product can fully cover every strand. 

Hair Length

  • Short hair: Use an amount of the conditioner equal to the size of a blueberry
  • Shoulder-length hair: Use an amount of the conditioner equal to the size of two blueberries combined. 
  • Long hair: Use an amount of the conditioner equal to the size of three blueberries combined. 

Step 3: Apply The Conditioner

Some people make the mistake of applying the conditioner from roots to ends. However, you should keep the product far away from the roots and pay special attention to your dry, damaged ends.

Our advice is to apply in reverse: Start with ends and give it the extra conditioning TLC they need. Then, walk your way up but spare the scalp and roots. 

Focus on your dry, damaged ends!
Focus on your dry, damaged ends!

Step 3: Comb Through

Run your fingers or use a wide-toothed comb to distribute the conditioner evenly. 

Step 4: Let It Sit

Allow time for the conditioner to work. It usually takes 1-2 minutes, but you’d better check the specific time on your conditioner. 

The processing time might also vary across different types of conditioners. Typically, a rinse-out conditioner only needs 1 or 2 minutes to be fully absorbed by your hair, whereas a deep conditioner might require up to 30 minutes. 

Step 5: Rinse Thoroughly

Rinse the conditioner thoroughly with water until your hair no longer feels slippery. 

How Can You Hydrate Hair Overnight?

If you want to save time and moisturize your hair while you sleep, use coconut oil. 

This oil is a great source of hydration without posing any side effects for your hair, and leaving it overnight will give you maximum benefits. You will wake to well-moisturized hair with a sleeker look and softer feeling. 

Note: You can use coconut oil as a quick deep-conditioning treatment just before washing your hair. Start by applying the oil to your dry hair and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then, shampoo and condition your hair as normal. 

Instead of regular conditioner, you can use coconut oil to moisturize hair while you sleep
Instead of regular conditioner, you can use coconut oil to moisturize hair while you sleep

Here’s how to apply coconut oil as an overnight treatment:

  • Coconut oil rarely comes in its liquid form. If your oil is solidified or solid, you’ll need to warm it up first. You can rub the solid coconut oil with your hands or place it in the pan and melt it up using heat.
  • Normally, a teaspoon of coconut oil should be enough to condition your hair. Avoid applying too much or you’ll end up with buildup in your hair. 
  • Apply the oil thoroughly to your dry hair and comb through it for even distribution.
    • You should begin from the midsection of your hair (the area around your two ears) and walk your way down to the ends to replenish moisture for your hair. 
    • Then, comb your hair with a wide-tooth comb so the oil can be evenly dispersed and penetrate the hair shafts. 
    • Coconut oil can also prevent hair loss and promote hair growth, so you may want to message a bit of it to your scalp before moving to the midsection. 
  • Pop on a shower cap to seal the oil in (a towel or old scalp will also be fine)
  • Wash your hair with shampoo thoroughly the next morning. You may want to rinse your hair a few times to eliminate all the oil traces, and your hair should be soft and silk after rinsing. Next, condition your hair as normal. 

The Bottom Line

In most cases, it’s a BIG NO to sleep with conditioner in your hair.

Doing so can cause unwanted damage to your tresses. There is a good reason why conditioners always come with suggested processing time, and for the most part, it makes no sense to go beyond it.

Edna Feber

I’m Edna. I'm here to guide you about hair products and maintenance tips. You'll fine here product reviews regarding hair tools, hair color, hair care and more along with tips to keep your hair healthy!

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