DIY Leave-In Conditioner


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Coconut milk DIY leave-in conditioner on table

Coconut oil is the Swiss Army Knife of beauty products. It can be used to make this three-ingredient shampoo barhomemade deodorantlotion bars, and even tooth whitener. And, hey, you can just rub it on as a lovely body oil. But as a DIY leave-in conditioner? Yeah, not so much . . . it’s just too heavy for most people.

Fortunately, coconut milk softens and conditions without weighing hair down, and only takes minutes to make into a conditioner spray. When I first shared this recipe a few years ago it got a lot of rave reviews like this one:

Thanks for this amazingly simple recipe! I’ve used it on my thick, curly hair, as well as my young daughter’s fine, tangly hair, and it leaves our hair feeling soft and looking smooth. Hair brushing time is now almost tear free, what a huge relief!” – Rachael

I also got a fair amount of questions, so I’ve updated the post to answer the most common ones at the bottom of this post.

Also, if you’re looking for more easy hair care recipes, here are some of my other popular ones:  

  • DIY Dry Shampoo – These two easy recipes work for light or dark hair and take less than five minutes to make. You’ll only need two ingredients, and you probably already have them in your pantry.
  • Natural Hair Gel – Many of the styling gels on store shelves contain hormone disrupting fragrances and formaldehyde releasers, but you can make natural hair gel with just 1-3 simple ingredients like aloe vera, essential oils, etc.

Print

DIY Leave-In Conditioner Recipe

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Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Heather Dessinger

Equipment

  • fork and whisk
  • 2 oz spray bottle
  • ice cube tray

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup distilled water (or tap water that has been boiled for 5 minutes and allowed to cool)
  • 1 tbsp full fat coconut milk ((or 2 tbsp homemade coconut milk, although canned tends to work better)
  • 2 – 10 drops essential oil (optional)

Instructions

How To Make Leave In Conditioner Using Canned Coconut Milk

  • Start by adding the essential oils (if you're using them) to the coconut milk and whisking together thoroughly.
  • Add the water and whisk again.
  • Pour the mixture into a 2 ounce spray bottle. See the section below for how to use your homemade leave in conditioner.
  • Store in the refrigerator. Because it doesn’t contain any preservatives, I make small batches and use within about a week.
  • Note: To save the rest of the coconut milk for future batches, use an ice cube tray to freeze it in 1 tablespoon increments.

How To Make Leave In Conditioner Using Homemade Coconut Milk

  • After straining the coconut milk as described here, whisk it together with the essential oils (if using).
  • Add the water to the coconut milk and whisk again.
  • Place mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours. As it cools a thin layer of cream will harden on the top.
  • Remove mixture from the fridge, give it a whir in the blender, and then pour it into a spray bottle. See the next section for how to use your homemade leave in conditioner.
  • Store in the refrigerator. Because it doesn’t contain any preservatives, I make small batches and use within about a week.

How To Use Leave In Conditioner

  • Shake the bottle well, then spritz the the conditioner on clean, damp hair. Use your hands, a comb or a brush to distribute it evenly.

Notes

Because this recipe doesn’t contain a preservative I keep it in the fridge and use it within a week. When the mixture chills (as it will in the fridge) the coconut milk can separate from the water.

If the coconut milk used was store-bought it will typically mix back together when shaken.If homemade coconut milk is used I suggest chilling the mixture and then blending it before pouring it in the bottle. After that it should stay pretty well dispersed. 

 

instagram iconTried this recipe?

Mention @mommypotamus or tag #mommypotamus!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

If you don’t see your question listed below, please leave it in the comments!

Can I use leave-in conditioner as a detangling spray?

Many people do and find it works well for them. I also have several other hair detangler recipes if that’s what you’re looking for. They use many ingredients you probably have on hand, like jojoba oil or olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and essential oils.

When making leave-in conditioner, is it okay to use canned coconut milk with guar and xantham gum?

I personally keep this guar gum-free coconut milk on hand for cooking so it’s what I use, but in the past I have used coconut milk with thickeners and it worked just as well.

What essential oils do you suggest using for homemade leave-in conditioner?

Though most often recommended for oily hair due to their astringent qualities, a small amount of tea tree or rosemary essential oil can be helpful for maintaining freshness. Rosemary also boosts shine, and one study found that it promotes hair growth. (Where to buy tea treewhere to buy rosemary)

Lavender is one of my favorite nourishing oils for normal/dry hair. (Where to buy lavender essential oil)

Vanilla resin just smells amazing, especially with the light coconut scent of this conditioner. It doesn’t have any properties that would assist in keeping the conditioner fresh, though, so I would pair it with another oil. (Here’s what I use)

I also love this anti-age blend because it smells like honeysuckle. (It’s pricey, though!)

Can I use DIY leave-in conditioner every day?

It depends on your lifestyle and hair type. If you’re swimming in a pool or ocean every day, probably. If your hair tends to be oily at the scalp and dry toward the ends, it might be better to just use it on the ends. The best thing to do is experiment and see what works for you.

Can I use a preservative to make leave-in conditioner last longer?

I prefer to make this recipe in small batches and use it up quickly, which is pretty easy since my hair is super thick and my daughter’s is nearly to her waist. However, it is possible to add a natural preservative such as Optiphen Plus to extend the shelf life.

Usually formulators add it by weighing the total amount of liquid (in this case about 50 grams), then multiplying that number by the recommended percentage of preservative, which for Optiphen Plus is from .75 to 1.5. The resulting number represents the total weight of the Optiphen Plus liquid that should be used. In this case, that would be between .38 grams or .75 grams.

Deciding how much to use and whether a particular preservative is the right fit for a formula is not just a matter of percentages, though. A lot depends on the pH of your formula, which can vary based on the pH of the water in your area.

How do I use leave-in conditioner?

Shake the bottle well, then spritz it on clean, damp hair and distribute it evenly with your hands, a comb, or a brush.

This leave in conditioner made my hair feel dry. What happened?

As Ashley mentioned in the comments, “Your hair probably just doesn’t like coconut. Unfortunately coconut is a weird ingredient that hair seems to hate or love. My hair hates coconut. However my daughter’s hair soaks it up gets really soft.”

Fortunately, if this recipe doesn’t work for you or you know you just need something a little more moisturizing, this argan oil spray is rich in Vitamin E and works beautifully as a more intensive leave-in conditioner and heat protectant.

Don’t see your question answered? Leave a comment below!

FREE Ebook: DIY Body Care Gifts Made Simple

Do you want to give gorgeous, handcrafted gifts for family and friends, without spending a bunch of time on them?

Then I’d love to give you a free copy of DIY Body Care Gifts Made Simple – my step-by-step guide to making gorgeous handcrafted gifts without stressing yourself out – as a gift for signing up for my newsletter. I’ll show you how to make vintage labels, luxurious lotion bars, lip balms, sugar scrubs, body sprays and more like a pro. Sign up for my newsletter and you’ll be redirected to the download page immediately!

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