Achieving the best curls takes work, but the right products can make it whole a lot easier. Although everyone’s hair is different, there are amazing curly hair products worth trying out, no matter your unique hair type or texture. From waves to coils, all curls need products with nourishing ingredients that keep strands strong and moisturized to achieve the optimal bouncy curl.
It all comes down to how you treat your curls. Hairstylist and beauty brand founder Nubia Rëzo, for instance, believes that a good hydrating mask and a protein treatment every three months should be part of everyone’s routine if they have a curly hair texture. Celebrity hairstylist and Imbue brand ambassador Michelle Sultan also swears by a good restoring hair mask, as well as a shampoo that doesn’t strip the hair of its natural oils.
While having a solid routine is necessary to maintain healthy hair, both stylists agree that there are also a few things to avoid. “Excessive heat is very damaging to curly hair, as are hair ties that aren’t silk or satin as they can stretch curls too harshly or pull out hair,” Sultan says. For Rëzo, tight protective styles that pull the hair at the root, and non-water-soluble silicones are things she advises steering clear of.
If you’re ready to add some curl-loving products to your beauty top shelf, we’ve rounded up 23 of the best picks—including hair masks, gels, shampoos, conditioners, heat protectants, and leave-in conditioners—to get your hands on.
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Best for Sleek Styling
Mousse Def Texture Foam
- Doesn’t leave hair crunchy
This mousse is great for styling a slicked-back look. It has enough hold to lay hair flat without making it feel hard. In fact, it leaves hair feeling super soft after using.
Best for Fighting Humidity
Curl Manifest Hair Serum
- Safe for color-treated hair
Anyone living in a humid climate knows styling curls can be tough. “I love using the Rëzo serum before and after diffusing, straightening hair, or even as a daily curl refresher,” Rëzo says.
Best for Dry Hair
Recovery Whipped Curls Daily Conditioner and Styling Primer
- Great for kinky curly textures
Layering products is an important part in keeping curls hydrated and moisturized. As a primer, this pick is your foundation for hydrated curls. It helps to restore moisture—especially to damaged hair.
Best Heat Protectant
Shea Butter Thermal Shield Heat Protectant
- Can leave a sticky texture
This heat protectant helps shield your hair from heat damage at temperatures as high as 425 degrees. The formula can also be used on wet or dry hair, or to tame flyaways.
Best for Low Porosity Hair
- Might weigh down fine textures
This deeply hydrating conditioner is best for those with tight curl textures that just can’t seem to stay hydrated and moisturized. For a little extra TLC, you can even leave it on the hair for 10 minutes to act as a deep-conditioning treatment.
Best for a Blow Out
This lightweight no-hold spray is best used as a finishing touch, as it’s intended to help block out humidity so your style stays fresh. Mist all over before heading out.
Best for Brittle Hair
Gold Series Anti-Breakage Leave-In Combing Creme
- Can be used on damp or dry hair
If you’re currently treating damaged hair, then you know the importance of being as gentle as possible when styling. The biotin and kukui nut oil in this product help moisturize and strengthen hair, as well as reduce breakage.
Best for Fine Textures
Pequi Curl Activator
If your curls need a little boost, this lightweight curl activator helps with definition. Even with conditioning ingredients like Brazilian fruit, pequi, castor oil, and murumuru butter, the milky serum won’t weigh down your hair.
Curl Restoring Intensive Mask
- Great to combat split ends
How to keep curls hydrated is a question that Sultan gets asked almost every day. “Keeping hair moisturized by using sulfate-free shampoos or cleansers that do not strip any natural moisture away from the hair is important,” she says. “You should also use a moisture treatment such as Imbue Restoring Intensive Mask, which has a really even base of protein and moisture, and also helps to define the curl pattern.”
Moisture Miracle Aloe & Coconut Water Pre-Shampoo
This pre-wash treatment helps to condition hair while also coating it in an aloe and coconut water formula for easy detangling. For hair that is on the drier side, you can leave it on for 15 minutes before washing out.
Best for Mature Hair
Bounce Back Super Moisturizing Shampoo for Curly Hair
This shampoo was specifically designed to give a little boost to thinning and aging curls. It not only cleanses without stripping your hair of its natural oils, but adds volume and bounce to limp curls.
Best for Curl Definition
Curl Charisma Rice Amino Avocado Leave-In Defining Creme
A lot of leave-in creams aim for curl definition but can easily weigh hair down or create scalp buildup. This one is super lightweight and packed with hair-loving ingredients like rice amino acids, avocado oil, and vitamin E.
Best for Hair and Scalp
Mango & Tulsi Nourishing Whipping Creme
- Might weigh down fine strands
This mango-spiked cream is packed with antioxidants to restore moisture to your hair and scalp. It’s also nice on thicker curls that might need a heavier product.
Aloe Vera Hair Gel
Gel can be tricky. Sometimes too much leaves hair crunchy and flaky, while too little won’t provide enough hold. This aloe-vera-based gel helps to keep hair soft and shiny without the stiffness of traditional gel formulas.
Best for In-Between Washes
Rice + Chai Refresh Spray
- Great for sensitive scalps
Sometimes dry shampoo doesn’t always mix well with curly hair. This refresh spray gives your curls a much-needed boost as it balances your scalp barrier, without leaving behind any powdery residue.
Best for Redefining Curls
Power Hour Curl Refreshing Spray
This lightweight spray is all you need to bring limp curls back to life. It’s great for curly or coily textures and for fighting unwanted frizz.
Best Gel for Humidity
Curl Defining Gel
- Good for all hair types and textures
When the summer humidity hits, your curls will need all the help they can get to stay frizz free. This defining gel helps to maintain styles longer in high-humidity environments and works well on all curl patterns.
Best Hair Mask
Cassette Curl Defining Masque
A curly hair routine wouldn’t be complete without a hair mask. This treatment can be used once a week in place of a regular conditioner when washing. Its rich cream texture melts down to prevent split ends and leave your curls hydrated and bouncy.
Best for Coily Hair
This Is a Curl Gel Oil
This product features a gel-to-oil formula to give dry curls and coils an ultra-dose of hydration. It’s extremely moisturizing and helps to control unwanted frizz and give hair a soft shine.
Best Multiuse Oil
Multi-Use Care Oil
“I find that using an oil at the end of your curly routine seals in the moisture and keeps the curls looking shiny,” Sultan says. “This will also help the curls to last longer into your curly routine.”
For the Minimalist
Curl Defining Cream
If you want to minimize the products in your hair care routine, this pick is definitely one to keep on hand. This curl-defining cream is an all-in-one to help define and condition curls.
Best Budget Buy
EverCurl Sulfate Free Shampoo and Conditioner Kit for Curly Hair
This gentle shampoo-and-conditioner kit is great for anyone trying to repair dry, damaged curls. Coconut oil helps to maintain curls up to 48 hours and helps with much-needed hydration.
Best for Sleeping
Peony Queen Zippered Pillowcase
“The best way to prevent breakage on curly hair is to make sure to sleep on a silk or satin pillowcase, or use a silk bonnet,” Sultan says. “This keeps your curls intact and your hair from getting too dried out on regular cotton pillowcases.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the core products everyone with curly hair should have?
When it comes to core products, maintaining hydration is a must for both stylists. Rëzo is a fan of regularly using a hair mask, while Sultan loves layering on products. She starts with a leave-in, then a gel or mousse to define curls before going in with an oil to lock everything in.
How can you keep curls moisturized?
Sultan advises, “Using a leave-in conditioner before applying a styling gel, mousse, or anything that helps to curl the hair. This helps as a base for locking in even more moisture after using treatments or wash-out conditioners.”
What are some of the best styling tools for curly hair?
“Start with a wide-tooth detangling comb or a large detangling brush with different placed bristles. [That] really helps to start smoothing and untangling my curls,” Sultan says. For those who use heat to style, she advises to “look for hair dryers where you can adjust the heat to a low setting. Take your time and do it slowly, but always make sure you are starting off with a heat defense mask to protect your hair from any extra heat damage.”
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