These are the must-haves for curly girls in pursuit of the perfect hair day
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Curly hair is the envy of anyone with straight locks, but if you have textured tresses, you know how much work can go into making your ringlets or coils look both voluminous and sleek. No two curls on your head are the same—some are flatter from the weight of your hair, while lighter wisps at the front or underside of your head may form a perfect cylinder shape—and they all seem to have minds of their own.
We set out to find curly hair products that’ll enhance your natural locks without changing your unique curl pattern or texture.
Using style creams, gels, or hair sprays on curly hair lets you manipulate your curls and freeze them in place, but thoroughly washing those products out is its own challenge. This set from Cantu boasts a shampoo that’s free of sulfates (a cleansing agent used in soaps for a lathering effect), but still lathers to rid your hair of any product residue and buildup that may lead to dandruff or a greasy look. The conditioner claims to retain your hair’s natural oils and moisturize brittle hair with shea butter to prevent split ends and breakage. One Amazon reviewer swears by this pairing: “This combo together is an absolute Godsend. The shampoo gets rid of any dirt or product build up you may have and gives it that slip that I absolutely love. Other products do not give me this cleansing feeling or the nice softness in a shampoo. The conditioner is something special. Never in a rinse-out conditioner has my hair felt so soft and so curly.”
If you’ve quit shampoo or you want to kick (or reduce) the habit, a conditioner that also serves as a cleanser for any buildup is a must-have. Ouidad’s No-Lather Coconut Cream Cleansing Conditioner claims to infuse dry curls with fatty acids and natural oils—coconut, abyssinica seed, and sunflower seed oil, to name a few—to hydrate and strengthen, while rosemary oil stimulates the scalp and sage oil removes any residue. One Ouidad customer writes: “This product is a curl changer! It brought my curls back to life by hydrating them. Amazing and would recommend highly!”
When your hair feels zapped of moisture from dry weather or too many days in the sun, a hair mask is your best friend. This one from Shea Moisture claims its sea kelp seals and smoothes the hair cuticle, argan oil brings back shine and hair elasticity, and shea butter moisturizes the hair and scalp. One Amazon reviewer writes: “So far this has been the only thing that has helped my overly curly, frizzy hair! I use it once a week for about an hour and then wash and style as normal. Whether it’s blow drying or letting my curls loose, both come out beautifully.”
To avoid separating your curls after they dry, you can detangle your hair out while it’s wet in the shower. But if you’ve ever run a regular brush through wet hair, you know that’s not an easy feat, and can even cause more damage, as your hair is weaker when its wet. Instead, use a wide tooth comb, like this one from Hyoujin, to detangle your in-shower hair. One Amazon reviewer writes: “Love this product! I have super thick curly hair and this works perfectly in the shower.”
True story: A regular terry-cloth towel soaks up too much moisture from curly hair, causing the cuticles along the hair shaft to lift and frizz to happen. The coarse texture of terry also introduces breakage- and frizz-causing friction. For a gentler option, pat down or wrap your hair in a microfiber towel, like the raved-about Aquis. One Amazon reviewer is glad to have made the switch from a normal towel: “I just wrap my hair up for a few minutes and then pat out excess water. Great for natural styling without rubbing a lot and damaging my hair to dry it.”
If you have fine curls that get weighed down by heavy products like creams and gels, a leave-in conditioner is a lightweight alternative that still hydrates your hair post-shower. The Mixed Chicks Leave-In Conditioner claims to add shine with jojoba oil, strengthen with evening primrose oil, and repair damage with silk amino acids and silk protein. One Target reviewer writes: “Absolutely love this product. It works perfectly to control the frizz and leave my hair not too crunchy but helps hold my curls.”
To give your curls shape while also moisturizing your hair, apply a styling cream when hair is dry for more tendril definition. The DevaCurl Styling Cream Touchable Curl Definer claims to leave your hair hydrated and frizz-free with panthenol (a moisturizing ingredient also called vitamin B5), hydrolyzed jojoba protein (a conditioning protein extracted from the jojoba plant), hydrolyzed wheat protein (a source of amino acids that’s derived from soft wheat), and humulus lupulus, or hops, extract (an astringent used in creams and lotions). One Dermstore reviewer writes: “I want my curl to maintain their natural pattern with as little frizz as possible and soft to the touch. I love this stuff, it doesn't weigh down my hair and I don't need much, plus no sticky, tacky feeling and no residue!”
If you’re looking for extra-defined curl insurance, a gel helps keep curls in place, especially when applied to very wet hair and allowed to dry without touching. The Garnier Fructis Style Curl Scrunch Controlling Gel claims to “lock in shape and shine” without frizz, flyaways, or flaky residue. The gel also uses shea butter to keep your tresses moisturized. One Amazon reviewer writes: “Do you have curly hair? Hate the frizz? This is the only product you will ever need. If I could purchase this by the gallon, I would.”
To loosen kinky coils and give your hair a more lengthy appearance, try a stretching cream that adds weight to your curls. The Garnier Fructis Curl Stretch Loosening Pudding claims to elongate your curls for a more wavy appearance without adding any flaky or greasy residue to your locks. The formula also defines and tames frizz while hydrating with coconut oil. One Amazon reviewer writes: “Where has this been all my life? Keeps my curls bouncy, not frizzy... this little jar of product is so worth it!”
If you like the routine of using a blowdryer on your hair, especially if you shower at night and prefer not to go to bed with wet hair, try a diffuser attachment. It (literally) diffuses the dryer’s air flow and has nubs that act like fingers to scrunch and cradle your hair to dry it without disturbing your curls. The DevaCurl DevaFuser, which attaches to any dryer with a barrel, may be the most unique-looking diffuser we’ve seen, similar to a hand reaching out to protect your curls. And according to one Dermstore reviewer, it does just that: “So easy to use and I love that I can dry the roots, have my hair bouncy and with volume, but without drying my hair, so the ends don't get dry. Leaves my hair shiny and dries quickly—perfect for the winter when I don't want to wait hours to hair dry my long hair!”
Throughout the day, your curls may lose their luster from getting dried out in the sun or weighed down by your hair length. And if you sleep on your curls, your second-day hair may need some TLC. To revive flattened locks, spritz them with Ouidad Botanical Boost Curl Energizing & Refreshing Spray, which uses plant extracts like rosehip, centella, and aloe to hydrate. One ULTA reviewer writes: “It revives my curls and can be used throughout the day when necessary. It doesn't make my hair sticky or crunchy, but adds shape and sheen to my already styled curly hair.”
When you achieve a perfect hair day, the last thing you want to do is wreck your curls by tugging them into a hair tie. Pinning your hair with clips prevents breakage and gets your hair out of your face without messing with your curls. Depending on the density of your hair and how much you want to pin back, you can opt for a smaller or larger size. One Amazon reviewer writes: “Love these and wear them with my thick curly hair in French twist or bun. They don’t slip out or are unable to hold and grip hair.”
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.