It’s the question Stylist’s beauty director is asked the most: what are the best products for curly hair? Here, she shares her hair heroes, as well as tapping up fellow curl-owners for their recommendations.
Genuinely good curly hair products are hard to come by. All too often, formulas that promise the world — in other words: bouncy, full, defined curls — come up short. I should know because I’ve tried them all, which means I’ve experienced my fair share of hair disappointments: hair mousses that turn curls crispy; hairsprays that render them stiff; creams that weigh them down. So when I do come across a product that boosts my curls and keeps them buoyant for an entire day? Well, it’s akin to a modern day miracle.
The thing is, every set of curls is different, and reacts differently to different products. What works for my fairly loose, fluffy curls and waves won’t be quite the same as what works for something with a set of glossy ringlets, or afro coils.
So, in a bid to collate the definitive guide to the best products for curly hair, I’ve rallied the troops. I’ve DMd, emailed and practically stalked eight women whose incredible curls feature most commonly in my Instagram ‘Saved’ folder and I’ve begged them to share the secrets behind their curls.
From the curl cream that locks moisture into Dido Janes’ blonde curls to the deep conditioner that adds bounce to Zezi Ifore’s afro coils, here are the products that 8 curly-haired women (plus me!) swear by. I’ll kick things off, shall I?
Shannon Peter, Stylist’s beauty director
Larry King Haircare Liquid Hairbrush
“It’s no secret that I owe my curls to Larry King (well, him and my Antiguan granddad). The greatest hairdresser on the planet (in my humble opinion), he’s the one that brought my curls back from the brink after years of straightening them to death. So, I trust everything that man creates. Case in point: Liquid Hairbrush.
“A conditioner by another name, this product is mind-blowing — and no, I’m not being hyperbolic. You run a little dollop through the lengths of hair post-shampoo, and as you rinse it out, the knots legitimately melt away. Gone. In an instant. My hair spends 90% of the time in a mass of tangles, so anything that means I can forgo using a frizz-inducing hairbrush is epic in my book.”
£42, Cult Beauty
Redken Curvaceous Full Swirl Cream Serum
“I can’t abide heavy curl creams that do little more than make curls greasy and heavy, but this one by Redken does neither. Like a cream and a serum swirled in one, it plies my loose curls in the nourishment they need to look shiny and full, but it never stops their bounce. I apply this to sopping wet hair before diffuser drying it, et voila.”
£17, Look Fantastic
Dido Janes, PR at Trinny London
Moroccanoil Curl Defining Cream
“I absolutely hated my hair until I was about 14 years old when I discovered this product, courtesy of my mother’s hairdresser. She dragged me to her when everyone else had refused to cut my hair. For me — and I know all curls are different — it is the only thing that really works. My curls are defined with the perfect amount of volume… all of the time, no matter what. It keeps away the frizz and locks in moisture. I use it more or less every day and I am very liberal with the application — I take the view that if in doubt, add more! I probably go through a bottle a month. I would literally give up every other part of my routine for a bottle of this; it’s my desert island necessity.”
£25.45, Look Fantastic
Tangle Teezer Detangling Hair Brush
“I’ve been using a Tangle Teezer for 13 years. Anyone with curly hair knows it’s an utter nightmare to brush. In order to brush my hair, it has to be wet. This took me a long time to get my head around, and in the early days, it always resulted in lots of tears at the hairdresser as they cut matted knots out of the back of my head. The Tangle Teezer was the first — and is still — the only hairbrush that I can get through my hair.”
£12, John Lewis
Zezi Ifore, broadcaster and consultant
Dizziak Deep Conditioner
“I’ve been using Dizziak religiously since 2018. It was love at first squeeze. I first found out about it from my friend Tas who told me founder Loretta’s brilliant idea to make a conditioner for afro and curly hair that actually works. At that point most mainstream products were full of junk (parabens, silicones… etc) and it was hard to find products that enhanced curls but didn’t strip moisture, cause build-up or both. The moment I got my hands on it I was like “OMG she’s actually done it!”
“It’s a deep conditioner but I use it as a leave-in because it’s light enough and to be honest, it feels too fab to rinse out. I wash my hair every week and a half with shampoo (the co-washing flex doesn’t work for me anymore) and then section my hair into four parts and use a dollop on each section. It’s rich, so it goes a long way, especially on wet hair. Sometimes I squeeze a glug into a spray bottle with some water; the spritz is also good for a midweek afro refresh.
“Back in the day I used to love heavy products that made my curls drop but now I’m all about FREEDOM and BOUNCE for my ‘fro. Dizziak gives me that and smells really gorge — clean, botanical and kind of luxe. Also let’s have a moment for the product design: that bold, graphic logo (from cult designer Teds Draws) is deeply iconic. J’adore!”
Rhea Cartwright, brand consultant and founder of @nahfemme
Creme of Nature Argan Oil Style & Shine Foaming Mousse
“I found out about it through an amalgamation of watching curly-haired YouTubers and perusing afro hair shop aisles. A few YouTubers mentioned various mousses but I had visions of crispy, stiff hair. It’s been a staple for almost 3 years now, which says a lot for a haircare commitment-phobe! I even leave some at friends houses that I regularly stay at so it’s there ready and waiting!
“I use it every single wash day, without fail. Firstly, I NEVER put a towel on my hair after washing as it absorbs too much moisture. I’ll apply a leave-in conditioner first, raking through with my fingers and then follow with liberal amounts of the mousse. I’ve found that to achieve the definition I want; the prep while my hair is still quite wet is crucial.
“It makes curls so much more defined, bouncy and bountiful which also allows me to stretch out my wash and gos. It’s very watery and lightweight so it has a super delicate hold rather than an old-school crunchy mousse. Every curly queen has a graveyard of half-used products that just didn’t work so I love that it’s incredibly affordable.”
Kiran Kandola, model
DevaCurl Styling Cream
“I’ve been using it for around a year, after hearing about it through a hair stylist. You just apply a couple of pumps and run it through your hair. I apply it after I wet my hair each morning and it keeps the curls defined. For me, it’s great because a lot of products leave residue on your hair and weigh it down a lot, but this is so light whilst keeping my curls defined.”
Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask
“I’ve only been using it for the last month, about once a week, but it leaves your hair feeling so soft. I apply a good amount to wet hair and leave it in for as long as possible, then rinse out. I just found this whilst browsing Sephora, but I love it.”
£30, Cult Beauty
Izzy Dierssen, stylist
Novex My Curls Shampoo and My Curls Hair Mask
“The last time I was visiting my family, one of my aunts introduced me to these wonderworking products and I’ve used them ever since, on days when I’m going for my natural curly look. I wash my hair once a week; I wash my hair twice with the shampoo and then I use the hair mask which I leave in for three minutes before rinsing it out with cold water. They smell amazing, and make my curls so soft and shiny. They define them so beautifully that it truly looks like I put so much effort in but actually it’s so low maintenance and I love that.”
£11.35 and £10.61, Amazon
Bibi Abdulkadir, model
Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
“I’ve been using it for years, since I was a young teen and I heard about it through family. My cousin had all the best hair products growing up and I’d always try different brands but this one always stuck. I apply a generous amount to my curls after a wash, make sure it’s really moisturised in there and dry. I do this every three to four days, or more if my hair is feeling a little dry. I find that the curls actually look better on the second day rather than the first after using this product.”
Shea Moisture Manuka Honey and Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Hair Masque
“I use this hair mask every week and sleep with it in overnight. In the morning it leaves my hair hydrated, soft and bouncy. I love this brand especially because it’s sustainably produced and paraben-free. It works for my curl pattern as it’s not too oily & leaves my hair looking healthy.”
Renata Jazdzyk, fashion creative
Kérastase Nutritive 8H Magic Night Serum
“I’ve been using this Kérastase serum for more than a year, after my hairstylist recommended it to me. It’s a no rinse serum. Two to three times a week, I use two pumps, and apply it on the lengths and ends of my towel-dried hair. I always leave it overnight. My hair tends to be very dry, I love this product because it intensively nourishes my hair. The morning after using it, my hair feels very soft and my curls are a lot easier to style.”
£30.60, Look Fantastic
Nia The Light, founder of Curl Bar London and @happyfroday
Oribe Curl Gloss
“I’ve been using Oribe Curl Gloss for the past five months since it was sent to me by the PR team. I use it on my hair when it is wet and smooth it in on my curls in small sections. It gives it so much definition which I love! It can be used as many times as you wash and style. It’s lightweight and doesn’t sit on the curls or cause build up, it is a great gem to have.”
£41.50, Cult Beauty
Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk Foam
“I collaborated with Carol’s Daughter which is how I found out about the Hair Milk Foam, and I’ve been using it for two years. I use it when my hair is soaking wet right after I have applied a leave in or primer and I just scrunch away. It’s brilliant because it’s a black-owned business with an amazing story and is just a great product.”
£14.99, Naturalistic Products
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Images: courtesy of brands.