As much as we appreciate our curls, there are days where all we want is for them to cooperate. While a consistent cleansing routine plays a huge role in how they look and feel, styling products are just as, if not more, important. They’re what we use to ensure our wet coils to stay in tact. And if we want to spend a little more time working on a twist out or other defining technique, we need one to help lock in the shape of each and every strand.
Although we’ve thankfully realized that alcohol-infused formulas are detrimental to our hair’s health, most products are still not created equal. In short: you can’t just grab anything off the shelf. According to Jamyla Bennu, creator and mixtress of Oyin Handmade, the best curl-definers are ones made with natural oils “that smooth and polish the hair shaft. For instance, broccoli seed oil compares positively to silicones in clinical tests, but doesn’t build up on the hair shaft or require harsh cleansers to remove. It’s also important to supplement your product lineup with healthy habits.
“Protect against split ends with regular trims and protective, low-manipulation styling,” she says. “Maintain a moisture balance with conditioning treatments, and never use harsh cleansers that contain sulfates, they roughen the cuticle and produce frizz.”
If you’re a fan of gels and creams, as opposed to oils, always look for one made without silicones. “They are easier to remove and this allows for more gentle cleansing, which promotes the health of your hair over time.”
Ahead are the curl-defining products that will not only enhance your natural curls, but leave them in better shape than they were before.
Oyin Handmade Shine & Define
"Our Oyin Handmade Shine&Define styling cream is a gentle, natural curl definer that smooths and reduces frizz, defines curls without crunch with a nourishing complex of sea vegetables," says Bannu. "We love to follow with a light application of Oyin Handmade Burnt Sugar pomade to add gloss and seal in moisture w/castor and broccoli seed oils."
$13.99, at Oyin Handmade
Briogeo Curl Charisma Control Gel
This light to medium hold formula contains rice amino acids and tomato fruit ferment that seal the hair cuticle to lock out frizz as your curls take shape.
$20, at Briogeo
bumble and bumble Bb.Curl Anti-Humidity Gel-Oil
This gelee is formulated specifically for curls that resemble ringlets or corkscrews. It provides the hold of a gel, while also delivering the hydration of an oil.
$34, at bumble and bumble
bumble and bumble
Curly Sexy Hair Curl Power
If your hair is more wavy than curly, this lightweight foam will keep your fresh style from losing its shape, thanks to a technology that provides hold, while also forming a shield against humidity.
$17.95, at Sexy Hair
Curly Sexy Hair
CURLS Goddess Curls Botanical Gelee
This travel-friendly gel is infused with a natural blend of Plumeria Alba Flower Extract and Aloe Leaf juice, both of which are idea for adding sheen to curls.
$10.99, at CURLS
Believe in this lightweight, non-sticky gel that not only moisturizes curls (thanks to wheat protein and lemongrass), but also strengthens them to hold shape.
$40, at DevaCurl
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day In-Shower Styler
There may not be such thing as a perfect hair day, but this next-level formula gets you pretty damn close as it defines wet curls without weighing them down.
Madam C.J. Walker Jamaican Black Castor Oil & Murumuru Oil Butter Creme
Rake this rich formula through wet curls and watch them form into the ringlets you've always dreamed of. Jamaican Black Castor Oil is also a fast-acting agent for growth.
$26, at Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture
Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture
AG Hair Re:Coil Curl Activator
This curl activator is made with an exclusive Curl Creating Complex that helps form coils without sticky residue; even in extreme humid temperatures.
$22, at Ulta
Dark and Lovely Clumping Curl Creme Gel
An oil-infused cream gel that nourishes and provides hold. It's inspired by "clumping," a routine that combines conditioning and cleansing simultaneously.
$9.99, at Dark & Lovely
Dark and Lovely
SheaMoisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie
Ask any naturalista how they achieve their most poppin' curls and we can guarantee that most of them will name-drop this ultra-rich gel.
$12.99, at SheaMoisture
Taliah Waajid Curly Curl Cream
This non-greasy cream washes out in record time, but also provides conditioning benefits as you twist and shape your curls.
$8.40, at Taliah Waajid
FORM Sculpt. Curl Gel
Thanks to glycerin and aloe vera, this gel enhances texture with leaving behind that crunchy, flaky build-up.
$29, at Sephora
Ouidad Clear Control Pomade
If you're not a fan of gels or creams, this water-soluble styler forms and holds curls, all while leaving them soft to the touch.
Camille Rose Natural Curl Maker
Smoothing marshmallow and agave extracts combine with seaweed and aloe to provide ample nourishment as you twist and coil your curls.
OGX Morrocan Curling Perfection Defining Cream
Morrocan oil is the star ingredient of this lavish cream that provides protection to curls and guards them against UV damage.
$7.99, at Ulta