Let's be honest: Finding products that work with your curls is a journey of trial and error that is never, ever fun. So we've compiled this list of curl-loving products—from heavy creams to oils to leave-ins, drugstore finds to high-end purchases—that will address every curl need out there. But first, let's talk about the science of curly hair. There are so many factors that play into our curls looking their best, and lot of that has to do with our hair porosity.
What is hair porosity?
Porosity has to do with how hair absorbs water and hydration. Low porosity hair doesn't absorb water very well, which can lead to dehydration and frizz. High porosity hair absorbs water very quickly, but can also break more easily and take forever to dry. Want to know your porosity levels? Pluck a few hairs and drop it into a glass of plain water. If it sinks to the bottom immediately, you may have high porosity hair. Low porosity hair will float on top of the water for a while. If your hair sinks a little then hovers in the middle, you probably have normal porosity hair. Well, congrats on being perfect, I guess.
What products does my curly hair need?
Low porosity hair won't react very well with heavy creams and butters, and prefers products that the hair cuticle can absorb better, like serums and sprays. High porosity hair can handle heavier products, which should include some protein treatments to strengthen your strands. But even with these guidelines, it can still be difficult to find products that are your holy grails. Ahead, our editor-approved guide to curly hair products, no matter your hair type.
Best For All Curls
SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
There's a reason this curl cream has a cult following—it works. For curls, coils, and even waves, this smoothie adds softness, definition, and hydration to your hair. A little goes a long way, so for hair that can get weighed down, start with a small amount and work in more if needed.
Best Duo Oil
Kérastase Curl Manifesto Nourishing Scalp & Hair Oil for Curly Hair
Jojoba seed and olive fruit oil work alongside the hero ingredient, manuka honey, to nourish the scalp and hair and heal damaged strands. Designed for all curl types, this 2-in-1 oil strengthens curls while subduing any unwanted frizz. For an intense moisture treatment, apply liberally to hair before you shower, let it sit for five-plus minutes, and rinse with shampoo or a co-wash.
Best Reviving Mist
Ouidad Curl Shaper Bounce Back Reactivating Mist
Are your day four curls falling flat and no longer bouncy? This mist revives those unwound curls and gives them back that definition you love so much. Simply spritz it onto sections that need extra encouragement, scrunch, and watch your curls come alive again.
Best Defining Mist
Design Me Bounce.Me Curl Enhancer Spray
The convenience and reach of this continuous spray bottle should be reason enough to add this mist to your routine! Think of this product as nourishment for your hair, like when you water your plants throughout the week. The light formula binds to hair to ease frizz and enhance your natural curl pattern.
Best Frizz-Fighting Serum
John Frieda Frizz Ease Extra Strength Serum
If frizz is the bane of your existence, reach for this serum by John Frieda. It helps form curls into spirals and also adds heat protection before styling with a diffuser. The result is soft, cared-for curls that retain moisture.
Best Reparative Mask
Listen, I know there is an unspoken rule to leave deep conditioners in for way longer than needed, but Rizos Curls products are infused with intensive, reparative ingredients so you won’t need to leave this mask on for longer than 20 minutes. This conditioner has all the oils your hair needs to grow stronger, healthier, and softer.
The Best for 4C Hair
4C Only Too Clean Shampoo
In case you couldn’t tell from the name of this brand, these products are for 4C hair only. Of course, anyone can use them, but the products are truly developed for the curliest and coiliest of hairs.
Best for Sculpting
Mielle Coil Sculpting Custard
There's no worse feeling than when you begin to style your hair and you can just tell from the formula that it’s going to leave your hair feeling crunchy. Mielle is very anti-crunch, and this curling custard detangles and soothes frizz for beautifully sculpted curls. One reviewer noted its benefits on multiple curl types: "I have 3c and my daughter 4b type hair and it works for us both. Our curls are so defined and moisturized after using this. This is the last step in our hair routine after leave-in conditioner and oils.”
Best Hydrating Mask
XMONDO Hair Prismatic Glow Hydrating Mask
Hairstylist and king of bleaching hair fail videos Brad Mondo is tired of people killing their hair—and he's come to the rescue with his hairline XMONDO. The hydrating mask is jam-packed with restorative argan oil hat will help with hair growth. If your heat obsession has left behind brittle straw-like hair, reach for this mask once a week.
The Best For Coily Hair
it's a 10 Miracle Hydrating Shampoo
Another great choice for our coily pals, It’s a 10 created this line specifically for their hair type. It boasts natural ingredients like avocado, coconut oil, and shea butter for sealed-in moisture and cleaning. If you need a good basic shampoo for wash-day or to really clean your hair without agitating your scalp, look no further.
The Hydrating Leave-In
COLOR WOW Dream Cocktail Coconut-Infused Hydrating Leave In Treatment
A quick storytime: I once styled my very unruly curls using only this leave-in treatment and not only did it help my severely bleached-damaged hair, but I got several compliments. This product isn’t solely for curly-haired individuals, but if you have dry hair from one too many treatments or heat damage, this will work to repair it from root to tip.
Naturally Drenched Rebalance Restorative pH Hair Treatment
An in-shower treatment, this pre-conditioner is exactly what it sounds like: a reparative agent that drenches the hair with moisture after shampooing and before conditioning. It's filled with natural ingredients to strengthen damaged and dry hair: Almond oil, bamboo extract, calendula, and papaya are the main components of this treatment to help rebalance hairs pH.
Matrix Total Results A Curl Can Dream Co-wash
Every curly-haired pal needs a good co-wash in their hair routine. If there’s one thing to avoid with curly hair it’s over-washing, which can lead to the stripping of hair's natural oils. This co-wash was developed specifically for in-between washes to gently cleanse, but not overly so.
Best For Extra Dry Hair
Bounce Curl Defining Butta
All of Bounce Curl's products are top notch, but this hair butter is packed with hydration. For curls and coils, this cream adds definition and hydration for 4C hair. For type 3 curls, this cream can still work for you if used sparingly.
Best Hydrating Gel
Eco Style Professional Olive Styling Gel
Whether you're creating a slicked back look or are looking for a gel to add definition and keep frizz at bay, this gel does it all. It's infused with hydrating olive oil for curls that have never been softer, but also doesn't skimp on definition.
Best All-Over Oil
Bread Beauty Supply 100 Percent Macadamia Oil Concentrate
Curly hair is notoriously dehydrated, which is why this oil is an essential part of the routine. It is a one-product oil that adds moisture, tames frizz, and softens hair. Plus, it can also be used on the body for all-over hydration.
Best Curl Boosting Spray
Leonor Greyl Algues et Fleurs Restructuring Styling Spray
On wet or dry hair, this spray revitalizes curls that need some extra encouragement to take shape. It adds a healthy bounce to your hair without weighing it down or creating extra unwanted frizz.
Best Detangling Conditioner
LUS Brands Hydrating & Detangling Conditioner
Detangling curly hair doesn't need to be on par with a high-intensity workout. This conditioner makes it easy to detangle hair in the shower. It is ultra hydrating without weighing down hair, and adds volume and softness with every wash day.
Best Lightweight Creams
OUAI Curl Cream Fragrance Free
This curl cream is perfect for anyone who tends to think their hair is too fine for creams. With both a perfumed and fragrance-free version, this cream adds hydration and volume but never feels sticky or greasy.
The Dermatologist Designed Cream
SEEN Curly Creme
In order for hair to be healthy, the scalp needs to be healthy too. SEEN was founded by dermatologist Dr. Iris Rubin who created every product in their hair line. This curl cream uses only skin-loving ingredients for less frizz, more hydration, and healthier curls.
Best Drugstore Curl Cream
Emerge Hair Care The Works Butter Cream
Beyond the unbeatable $7 price tag, this curl cream actually works. It's a vegan formula full of shea butter and pequi oil, with a creamy, pudding-like consistency that will drench your hair in moisture. Work this through your hair in sections before styling for a touchable, shiny finish.
Best Detoxifying Scalp Serum
Eden Body Works Papaya Castor Scalp Massaging Serum
Another scalp savior to offer you some sweet relief. If you're dealing with a dry, itchy scalp, take your time while moisturizing with this serum. Made of vitamins A, C, D & E, it will hydrate your hair from root-to-tip and stimulate hair growth overtime.
Best Non-Crunchy Gel
Pattern Beauty Curl Gel
The one and only Tracee Ellis Ross, who has a powerful curl story, dropped new styling products to extend her haircare line on Juneteenth. This gel, created with nourishers like aloe vera, coconut oil and cacay oil, will give your curls the bounce and definition it's craving...without the crunch.
Best Moisture Mask
Living Proof No Frizz Intense Moisture Hair Mask
When it comes to curls, dodging dryness is the number one priority. When your hair needs more than a shampoo or conditioner, add this intense moisture mask into your wash day routine. It deeply conditions coarse curls, minimizes frizz and coats each strand with a creamy, rich lather that won't weigh your hair down.
Best Damage-Repairing Leave-In
Carol's Daughter Monoi Repair + Moisture Star Strength Leave-In Cream
Every curlista knows they can count on Carol's Daughter to come through. If you're already a fan of the cult-loved Monoi line, it just got three new additions featuring this strengthening leave-in cream. If you're dealing with serious damage, monoi needs to be your hair's BFF to bring it back to life. Liberally apply this on damp hair, letting it fully absorb to reap all the hydrating and strengthening benefits.
Best Leave-In Cream
African Pride Moisture Miracle Coconut Oil & Baobab Oil Leave-In Cream
African Pride knows how to do your curls justice on the moisture front. This heavenly-smelling leave-in is not only a delight to apply because of the scent, it will give your hair added shine and bounce with literally no residue left behind. Let flakes from products be a thing of the past.
Tatjana Freund is a Beauty Commerce Writer, covering makeup, skincare, and haircare products and trends. She's a fan of vodka tonics and creepy Wikipedia pages.
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