The Difference Between a Smoothing Serum and a Leave-in Conditioner

You dream of finally taking some curl control.

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All hair has one thing in common -- it can get out of control if you let it. Straight, curly, fine or coarse, a wild head of hair is uncouth if it's not on purpose. There are literally hundreds of products that stake a claim on reigning in the frizzies, but you need only be concerned with care and repair. It can get confusing trying to tell the difference between them; concentrate on two things: serums and leave-in conditioners.

What They Are

Leave-in conditioner is just what it says it is -- conditioner that you leave in, meaning you do not rinse it out after you shampoo. It can also be used throughout the week, between shampoos, to boost moisture. Smoothing serum sounds like something from a Harry Potter movie, but it's actually a thick solution you can apply after the leave-in, or in the weeks between your deep conditioning treatments.

The Differences

The leave-in conditioner can have a creamy base, or possibly come in a spray bottle. Smoothing serums are clear with a slightly greasy feel to them. They coat the hair strand, as opposed to penetrating it as the leave-in does. Conditioners combat damage, improve the structure of the hair follicle, add volume and repair hair dulled by chemicals, sun damage, products and heat styling. A serum's main job is to fight frizz, smooth split ends and maximize shine.

The Similarities

Both products add shine, smooth and offer a polished look as a result. In addition, serums can come with some of the benefits of conditioner. If your budget does not provide the option of a protein or conditioning serum, boost your regular hair routine by adding an egg or tablespoon of jojoba oil to your shampoo and regular conditioner between serum uses to get that little extra.

Hair Types

Those with curly or thick hair benefit the most from the smoothing serum because of the power of its frizz control. The serum is good for fine hair if you've got a lot of it. That stuff may make your hair stiff on the first day of use; after one or two days, it'll be silky as opposed to greasy. Sometimes cream-based leave-in conditioners weigh down thin hair. Those available in the spray bottle are usually light, yet concentrated enough to control fly-aways and provide shine with moisture.

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