Contrary to popular belief, curls aren’t an enigma – they just follow a different path to hair management. Once you crack that route, with research and patience, you’ll never not want to wear your hair natural, again. Wavy, curly, coily and kinky hair types, all thrive with curl-friendly formulas in hair products. It takes a bit of digging around to find the right shampoo, conditioner, cream and mask for curly tresses, since not any off-the-shelf bottle will do. What ingredients are for you, you ask? We’ve got expert advice, from tips to products, for healthy, moisturized curls.
Without a curated product range, you’ll notice frizz and stubborn flat curls taking over, post-wash day. Leena Relan, a curly hair stylist based in Dubai and a hair blogger on Instagram, recounts struggling with the frizz and resorting to a bun on most days. It wasn’t until three and a half years ago that everything started to make sense, once she stumbled upon the Curly Girl Method – a viral approach to curl care designed by British-born hairstylist Lorraine Massey.
“There’s no basic rulebook to managing curls; products vary from head to head. But, in general, there are some avoidable ingredients that are drying for naturally textured hair. My hair is in a much healthier state, now that I’m aware of the ingredients in products,” said Relan.
The avoidable big four in the bottle are silicones, sodium laureth sulphate (SLS), drying alcohols and parabens. Fida Abouibrahim, a professional curl stylist and owner of Natural Curls by Fida hair salon in Dubai, explains that sulphates are a foaming agent that can strip the hair of natural oils. Then there’s silicones that engulf the hair shaft with a film, keeping moisture out.
Which products are the best for curly hair?
Instead, experts say reach for products that are moisturizing or rich in protein, depending on what your curls need. Relan said: “When your hair starts to feel dry and undernourished, that’s your sign to add moisture to your routine”.
There’s also the pitfall of excessively hydrating your curls, also known as moisture overload. “If your hair looks weighed down and the curls start losing their shape, then you know you’ve over-moisturized. Add protein to strengthen the hair – you can even use some natural remedies, like rice water and aloe vera mask, which are amazing for the hair,” advised Abouibrahim.
Here’s a typical roster of products that a curl head has in their arsenal, according to Relan: a regular cleansing shampoo, a clarifying shampoo for once every 15 days, a conditioner, a leave-in conditioner and a styling cream or gel for hold.
For extra TLC (tender loving care), Abouibrahim recommends a weekly hair mask, too. She adds that since wash days only come twice a week, you could do with a gentle co-wash (conditioner washing) cleanser in the interim, if the hair calls for it after a workout session, for instance.
Check out the brands our curl experts swear by below, and shop these products with an Amazon Prime membership, for next-day, free delivery.
1. Best Shampoo: Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Invigorating Shampoo (Pack of 3)
Relan’s shampoo pick is Giovanni’s Eco Chic range: “It gives you the satisfaction of a good, gentle cleanse, without stripping off oils or drying the hair”. In this line, you’ll find shampoos for damaged, dry, color-treated hair and more. Most curly-haired reviewers have opted for the Tea Tree Triple Treat shampoo, which targets all hair types. It leaves you with a rejuvenated, itch-free scalp, using three botanical oils: cooling peppermint, conditioning rosemary and clarifying eucalyptus. Reviewers say it’s an unshakable staple in their curly hair routine. This vegan and cruelty-free product does away with sulfates and parabens.
2. Best Clarifying Shampoo: Bounce Curl Enzyme Gentle Clarifying Shampoo
For thorough build-up removal, consider the clarifying shampoo by Bounce Curl, recommended by both experts. Replace this with your daily shampoo once or twice a month, not more, says Abouibrahim. It’s packed with organic black seed oil, pomegranate and pumpkin enzymes, pro-vitamin B5, biotin and a handful of natural ingredients. Reviewers appreciate the nozzle applicator that prevents product waste, and say that the protein-to-moisture balance is nearly impeccable. They also add that a little product goes a long way, since it lathers well.
3. Best Conditioner: Curlsmith Post-Wash Calming Conditioner
Curlsmith is another popular choice for curls. Relan prefers the brand’s conditioners, which are organic and vegan, while free of any sulphates, silicones and parabens. The Post-Wash Calming Conditioner is suitable for all curl types, charged with hyaluronic acid for moisture and tea tree and peppermint essential oils for soothing the scalp. Curlsmith recommends the rinse-out conditioner on days you’ve opted for a clarifying shampoo, to restore the hair’s moisture levels. Leave the product in for one to two minutes, before rinsing. For fine curls, Abouibrahim highlights Jessicurl’s Aloeba Daily Conditioner.
4. Best Co-Wash: As I Am Coconut Cowash Cleansing Conditioner (Pack of 2)
For a light cleanse in between wash days, try the As I Am co-wash product, says Abouibrahim. This is a cleansing conditioner that doesn’t lather, rather gently removes scalp sebum and product build up. Its key ingredients are coconut oil, castor oil and tangerine, wrapping the locks in a natural fragrance. Happy reviewers marvel at how clean and soft their hair feels after using the cream, without leaving the curls greasy. Use it as you would a regular shampoo to retain moisture and gloss.
5. Best Styling Gel and Cream: Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly and Crème de Curl (2-Pack)
While both Bounce Curl and Curlsmith have excellent styling products, Relan says Umberto Giannini is worth checking out, too. In this pack of two, you’re getting a gel and a curl cream for all types of curls, be it wavy, curly or coily. The Scrunch Drying Jelly has a medium hold and controls frizz with a formula that’s silicone-, gluten- and sulfate-free. Or, you could switch it up with the Crème De Curl for extra hydration and protection from heat styling, as well as hold.
Pro tip: To refresh day-old curls, our experts say a solution of water and gel (or conditioner) in a spray bottle works every time, for restoring definition.
6. Best Moisturizing Hair Mask: Curlsmith Double Cream Deep Quencher (8oz)
Nourish your curls when they start looking dull, with a hydrating hair mask. Abouibrahim picks Curlsmith’s Double Cream Deep Quencher, which has a thick, buttery texture and delivers the goodness of avocado, aloe vera, apricot kernel and more to every strand. To be used weekly, this deep conditioner can be left in for up to 30 minutes before rinsing out. Reviewers say the mask works wonders for their high-porosity hair, which has a hard time holding onto moisture.
7. Best Protein Hair Mask: tgin Miracle Repairx Curl Protein Reconstructor
It’s imperative that your protein and moisture levels in the hair are balanced. To strengthen the strands, deep condition with tgin’s Mircale Repairx protein treatment, to be used every four to six weeks. Black castor oil, biotin and wheat protein reduce breakage and prevent split ends. You can get the most out of the product by wrapping the hair in a warm towel or a plastic cap, before rinsing it out.
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