As anyone with curly hair can likely attest to, curls are a constant journey of trial and error. Though everyone’s journey to embracing their natural texture is as varied as curl patterns themselves, the one thing that remains constant is that finding the perfect styling products can be a challenge. Sure, there are specific products that help make the transition to natural hair easier, but once you’ve ditched your straighteners, the question becomes what products should you be using for styling? In search of that answer, we decided to reach out to women with curly hair to share what products they swear by for keeping their curls in top shape. Ahead, you’ll find which product works best for them, their curl types and of course, their tips for using their holy-grail product that makes styling a breeze.
For wash days…
WHO: Renia Jaz
WHAT: 3C/3B curl type
Jaz told us, “I wash my hair every two days, and during the week, I use a number of products on my hair. This shampoo is my lifesaver. It removes any dead skin cells and product buildup, leaving my hair fresh and lighter and making my curls looking healthy and bouncy. I also noticed that after using it, my hair is a lot easier to style!”
Her tip for using this shampoo? She suggested, “Use this product once a week. It’s the perfect detox for curly hair. I also put a generous amount of moisturising conditioner on my hair after I use this shampoo just to make sure that my hair is well-nourished.”
For when you need a leave-in conditioner…
WHO: Alanna Doherty
WHAT: 3C curl type
Doherty professed, “I LOVE this product for styling curly hair! I’ve been using Shea Moisture products for over six years now, and its leave-ins are the only products that consistently moisturise my hair. I started using this one in particular after I dyed my hair blonde, and I’m positive that it's done wonders for the health of my fro!”
In addition to investing in a leave-in conditioner, Doherty revealed her curly hair hack: “I’ve found that doing an apple cider vinegar rinse in the shower before conditioning helps my hair a ton! I only shampoo once a month because it strips my hair, so the ACV rinse is a perfect substitute that also helps with product buildup and hair growth.”
WHAT: 4A/3C curl type
Why this product? Lal shared, “I truly swear by the Imbue Crème Gel for curls and kinky hair like mine. It is a true one-and-done product, which means you can use it by itself, as it is a cream, and a gel combined in one! It gives my hair a good base of moisture with lasting definition and volume. It is the only product I own that styles my hair in one. It is also CG-friendly, vegan, cruelty-free and very affordable, which are all really important to me, as my mantra is to make curl care and education accessible for all!”
Her hack for styling with the Crème Gel? She told us, “For curly hair, make sure to apply the product on freshly cleansed hair, and for drier types like mine, I like to leave a little of the conditioner I’m using in the shower before I style. When using the Imbue Crème Gel, I section my hair in four and use a two-finger scoop of product per section, rub it between the palm of my hands, and finger-rake it through wet curls until the hair is as defined as I like. Scrunch upward to encourage curl clumping and leave to air-dry or diffuse until dry!”
For daily styling…
WHO: Yvette Corinne
WHAT: 4C curl type
Why this styling product? Corinne shared, “I love this product because I have low porosity, and it adds a lot of moisture in my dry strands. Also, it pairs well with gel if you're looking for a more defined look.”
Her tip for getting the most out of this product? She shared, “It looks great if you wet your hair first, add the product, and then seal it with some oil. I like to use avocado oil. If you're looking for more of a defined look, add gel after the product, and your twist out will be poppin‘!”
WHO: Eni Popoola
WHAT: 4C curly type
Popoola shared, “To get my natural curls more defined, I love to use the Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker. I love it because it works wonders for defining my tight 4C curls, but it also works just as well on any clip-ins or ponytails that I wear as well. It defines my curls without weighing them down or giving that unwanted crunchy feel.”
WHO: Janibell Rosanne
WHAT: 4A/3C curl type
Skeptical? So was Rosanne, as she told us, “I never looked to Pantene for curly hair products, so I was skeptical at first, but this stuff is great! Whenever I use it, my curls are super soft and moisturised. I have a lot of hair, but it's very fine, so I like that this doesn’t weigh my hair down.”
WHO: Tacha John
WHAT: 3B/3C curl type
John confessed, “I'm obsessed with Bumble and Bumble's curl products, but I think my one holy grail is its HIO primer because it's so versatile. It works as a leave-in, heat protectant, and the base for just about every style I do. It's also super lightweight without sacrificing moisture, which is important for my fine hair.”
Her tip that may make styling your curly hair a breeze? She said, “I find that applying products to wet hair and letting my curls air-dry a bit before going in with my diffuser is the best way to get defined but voluminous hair. Try it!”
WHO: Ashley Reuben
WHAT: 3A/2C curl type
Reuben mused, “It's really hard to pick just one, but I would have to choose the Aussie Conditioning Mousse. This mousse has been my go-to for such a long time, and I love it because it is so versatile. I've used it as a one-and-done styler, a refresh for those days I don't feel like washing my hair, and to give me some texture when I just braid my hair if I'm too lazy to fully style it. In all scenarios, my hair has turned out great! It's perfect for fine-normal hair curlies who struggle to get volume, but it also provides great definition and hold.”
When it comes to using products to style your curls, Reuben declared, “It's a really easy product to work with. Don't be afraid of applying too much because this never leaves your hair crunchy. I go in with a lot of this mousse. Be sure to diffuse your hair if you want extra volume as I always do!”
For when those edges need some love…
WHO: Anneliese Nicole
WHAT: 3B curl type
Fellow WWW editor Anneliese has quite a few favourite curly hair products. But when I slid into her Slack messages, she professed her love for two products, the first being Olaplex’s miracle leave-in cream, and the second being Carol’s Daughter Edge Control. Per the Slack receipts, she stated, “I wear my hair in a snatched ponytail basically any time I go out, and this gel keeps all my flyaways from trying to ruin my look.”
For when you’re not sure where to start…
WHAT: 2C/3A curl type
Formulas aren’t the only thing you need in your curly hair styling arsenal, and frankly, if you get nothing else from this story, investing in a good brush can make all the difference for styling your curls. As Kristy contested, “I swear by using a Wet Brush! First, I love using this brush to gently detangle my hair while dry to prevent breakage while detangling. I then use it in the shower to distribute conditioner and form curl clumps. Whether I’m using a mousse, gel, or any styling product, using this brush to distribute everything evenly throughout my hair is key to having bouncy ringlet curls!”
To use this brush properly, Kristy advises, “Section your wet hair while applying your styling product(s). Brush through your sections with the Wet Brush to evenly distribute your product and apply light tension along the edge of the brush, as if you’re curling a ribbon! Then I give it a scrunch, and I’m left with gorgeous ringlets.”
WHO: Jasmine Fox-Suliaman
WHAT: 3C/3B curl type high porosity
I’ll admit gathering everyone’s favourite curly hair products made me realise a few things, the first being that finding the best products for styling curly hair is all about trial and error and learning about your hair texture.
The second is that, no matter which products or brands work for you, there are seven essential styling products in general that every curly headed person should have in their arsenal. Here are the essentials that I not only love but noticed were a common thread within this story. Consider this a great starting-point list for shopping the best styling products for your curls.
Styling curly hair is all about having a good base and knowing which shampoos are dehydrating your curls versus actually cleaning them. This shampoo isn’t for everyone, but I’ve loved DevaCurl’s Build Up Buster, as it’s great for when I want to eliminate scalp buildup without stripping my hair of its nutrients.
Hair masks are essential for curly textures because we’re more prone to dryness and they promote hair growth. I’d recommend trying a few different masks to figure out which one works for your hair texture and doesn’t weigh it down. After going natural, I found this masque became the savior for my heat-damaged curls.
If you’re wondering why your hair isn’t locking in moisture, especially after deep-conditioning, it’s probably because you’re not using hair oil. I’ll admit even I was skeptical about oils, but since starting a quarantine hair routine that includes hair oil, I have found it's been a game changer in keeping my hair moisturised and for hair growth. Typically after washing my hair, I’ll rub my scalp with Cantu’s Tea Tree & Jojoba Oil to my ends and then braid my hair to sleep in to lock in the moisture. Just try it!
No matter what curl type you have, it’s essential to invest in a product you can use for styling daily. (I recommend you determine the porosity of your hair to inform this decision.) Since I have high porosity, my daily product is a heavier curl-styling cream from Shea Moisture.
Do you know when you’re not going to do a full hair mask? But also need to freshen up your curls? I recommend everyone have an in-between conditioner to keep your hair moisturised. Sachajuan’s curl conditioner is great for keeping your hair moisturised in-between your bigger wash days, and it smells delightful.
On the days I don’t feel bothered about styling my curls, I’ll opt for a sleek mid-part bun or pigtails. To make sure it looks its best, I recommend you invest in a good edge gel and a baby hairbrush. My personal favourite is Design Essentials' edge gel because it keeps everything in place and smells like heaven on Earth. At the end of the day, we want our curly hair products to be heavenly, no?