Anyone with curly hair knows their particular hair type (though beautiful) is quite a feat to manage sometimes (hence the phrase: beauty is pain).
And, it can sure be painful to pick and choose the perfect curl-defining cream for your hair type. If your hair leans on the wavy side, you don’t want too heavy of a formula to bog it down. Conversely, if your hair is highly textured or frizzy, you’d need a product that doesn’t dry out your hair.
Enter our hot list of curl creams — researched by us and hand-picked by experts. We ran through the gamut of every hair type (excluding Type 1, straight hair), so all you have to do is scroll, learn the latest and greatest tips, and find the one that speaks to your soul (and your luscious locks).
“A curl cream will moisturize, soften, and define the shape of the curls with added bounce, smoothness and shine,” Amy Abramite, hairstylist, salon educator and creative director at Maxine Ltd. in Chicago, told the New York Post. “Curl creams provide nourishment, seal in moisture, protect hair from damage and strengthen internally for healthy hair.”
So, in tandem with your favorite shampoos and hair conditioners, using a quality curl cream is next up in your styling routine. Check out the 16 best hair curl products we rounded up below — but first, take a look at all the answered questions from our hair care experts.
Click to jump to a specific curl cream:
Do curl creams actually work?
With so many hair products on the market — from heat protectants to styling gels — it can be challenging to see a noticeable difference once your hair is properly fixed. But, curl creams are an exception.
“Curl creams work if there’s a healthy curl present,” Myiesha Sewell, Sephora Beauty Director, told the Post. “Curl creams are stylers that typically provide moisture to the hair and help clump curls by temporarily smoothing the cuticle.”
How to apply curl cream for every hair type
Whether in the wavy, curly or coily bucket, there’s a routine for you. In fact, there are several.
“After washing and conditioning, blot excess water from hair with a microfiber towel to keep the curl pattern intact and avoid roughing up the cuticle,” Abramite instructs. “Add enough product with fingers to saturate hair from roots to ends for hydration and frizz control.” Then, air dry or use a diffuser attachment to style.
“Doing your entire curl routine in the shower is usually a very good idea when your curls are the most hydrated and defined,” Sewell adds. “My stylist always says, ‘how your hair looks when wet is how it’s going to set.’”
Typically, the goal with any curl routine is to apply moisture with a leave-in (the LCO or LOC method) and then use a styler to set your hair, Sewell notes. “Individually smoothing out and forming each ringlet with product (aka shingling), finger coiling, using a tool like a Denman style brush, or scrunching are all popular styling methods. You can also apply your product and set it into an overnight style like a twist-out or Bantu knots.”
Can I use a curl cream with a hair mask or other styling products?
If you want to truly take care of your hair, most styling products — including curl creams — are best when used solo.
“Curl creams, hair masks and other leave-in products can all produce benefits as a whole but are not all meant to be mixed together,” Abramite explains. “For instance, curl creams function best after a hair mask is rinsed out. Hair masks can be too heavy to leave in the hair and cause greasiness if mixed with a curl cream.”
For best results, curl creams are best-applied post-shower (Sewell’s rule of thumb, too) after a mask to extend hydrating properties during daily wear.
What are the best ingredients to look for in a curl cream?
Like reading the Nutrition Facts on a protein bar, shopping with a close eye on what you’re applying to your curls is recommended. Not only that but there’s a list of top ingredients to seek out.
“Most curl creams contain one or more of the ingredients listed below for the most favorable wave, curl or coil spanning Type 1 to Type 4,” Abramite says. “They include manuka honey, shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, and argan oil.”
As for the benefits, they range from helping to lock in moisture and taming frizz to softening texture and adding shine.
Best Curl Creams for Type 2 Hair
As a stellar brand with the most unique and sweet-smelling fragrance combinations we’ve ever seen, Briogeo has a just-as-stellar Curl Charisma Leave-In Defining Crème that Abramite loves. It helps boost hydration, minimize frizz and helps seal and protect the hair cuticle, much ado to the rice amino ingredient.
2. Bumble and bumble Curl Defining Cream, $31 to $32
We love Bumble and bumble’s Curl Defining Cream for our deeply wavy hair. Abramite loves it because it helps define your curls in a sleek way. Plus, it helps protect against the drying effects of the sun.
3. Verb Curl Cream, $18 to $20
For that sweet $20 price point, Sewell swears by the Verb Curl Cream for soft curls. Namely, its hydrating, strong-hold formula is especially great for dry hair as it helps give your locks some shine. It also has a subtle floral scent, great for achieving that “clean” finish.
One of our favorite hair brands is Living Proof — and for a good reason. Not only is its dry shampoo in a class of its own, but its 5-in-1 Styling Treatment is just as good (and Sewell agrees). Specifically, this formula is great for volume, heat protection and taming frizz.
5. Moroccanoil Curl Defining Cream, $36
Ah, if it wasn’t for Moroccanoil to instantly transport us to the Caribbean. The brand’s Curl Defining Cream is one of our favorites to use (and adored by both Abramite and Sewell). Its coconut-y scent is something you have to try at least once, and impressively, Sewell also recommends this product for Type 3 hair, too — perfect for wavy and curly hair alike.
If we could write a love letter to amika, we would. There isn’t one product from the brand’s catalog we don’t like, and its Curl Corps Curl Defining Cream truly defines our wavy hair. Oh, and the scent is beyond compare. It’s also approved by hair expert Abramite.
What’s great about Ouidad’s Advanced Climate Control Featherlight Styling Cream is its dairy-free, ultra-light consistency, which is why Abramite loves it, too. Its floral and citrus scent will make your hair smell a-maz-ing, aside from it protecting against the humidity (a bonus) and not weighing down your hair (another brownie point).
Best Curl Creams for Type 3 Hair
Living Proof’s Curl Definer is excellent for standard curly hair. Conditioning your hair from root to tip, Abramite loves it for helping to achieve bouncy, frizz-fighting curls that will look photogenic wherever you’re off to.
Abramite recommends Kérastase’s Curl Manifesto Hydrating Leave-In Cream to give your hair that salon feeling. For one, it’s impeccable for dryness. It’s also made without parabens, moisturizes like no other and helps protect against frizz.
3. SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, $14 to $15
As a beloved brand that’s great for defining curls on a budget, the SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie is one Abramite swears by. Its nutrient-rich formulation is oh-so-nourishing, thanks to coconut oil and vitamins E and K.
One of our favorite brands is Adwoa Beauty — specifically for curly hair. Its Baomint Leave-In Conditioning Styler has that minty fresh scent (which is simply divine) and, for less than $30, will last you quite a while. It’s also Sephora Beauty Director-approved.
Bread Beauty Supply is the brand with the super cute purple packaging that Sewell adores. It’ll enhance your curls, give them a soft hold and is everything your hair will need for less than $30.
Best Curl Creams for Type 4 Hair
Abramite is a big fan of the Mizani True Textures Curl Define Styling Cream. It’s exceptional for coily hair, much ado to its ability to help tame frizz, erase dryness and elongate your hair’s luscious texture. Not to mention, it contains coconut, olive and marula oils.
Like Kérastase’s Curl Manifesto Hydrating Leave-In Cream, the brand’s Curl Defining Gel-Cream has a slightly different texture that’s perfectly formulated for coily hair. It has a great soft hold and is recommended by Abramite for highly textured looks.
Melanin’s Haircare Twist-Elongating Style Cream is just $20 and is all-natural (and includes shea butter, which is a lovely bonus). Cute packaging aside, Abramite loves this tub for managing super textured hair.
As one of the best brands for coily hair — if not the best — PATTERN by Tracee Ellis Ross is celebrity-owned with an ultra-hydrating formula. Especially great for braids and thick textures, both Abramite and Sewell love it to help define your hair’s kinks.
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