Sure, you can always grab a gel, serum, or hair spray (even lip balm, in a pinch) to slick down those hairs, but some products offer a little too much hold—making your strands feel dry and crunchy to the touch. A lotion (especially one loaded with hair-healthy ingredients like jojoba oil and shea butter) can offer that control while delivering moisture, so your hair still feels soft. And because many lotions contain overlapping ingredients to leave-ins and hair serums, they can function similarly on the hair if you’re in a bind.
Of course, you’ll want to be choosy about the lotion you use: Select a product with fatty acids, antioxidants, oils, and butters (find our favorite lotions here) to condition and protect your strands. Texture also plays a role—some prefer lightweight hair care products, while others are partial to butter-thick confections. The good thing is, you can find a range of lotion options: from spreadable formulas with good slip to dense, rich creams.
If you’re thinking about permanently swapping your leave-in for a lotion (why not streamline your beauty routine?), Rubin says it’s not a 1:1 substitute. “I would not say face lotion is entirely interchangeable with a leave-in hair product since it is not formulated or tested to have properties like heat protection, color-safe, and UV or pollution protection,” she notes.
In other words: Stick to your leave-in conditioners and stylers (our top picks, here). “It can be helpful, though, to add moisture and smooth flyaways in a pinch!” Rubin adds.
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