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Anyone with curly hair knows that the right styling products can mean the difference between dry, frizzy curls and soft, bouncy ringlets. One of the key products that will help you achieve the curls of your dreams: curl cream.
“A curl cream is a styling cream that helps to define your natural curls,” explains Annagjid “Kee” Taylor, celebrity hairstylist and owner of Deeper Than Hair in Philadelphia. “Not only will it give curls definition, but it will provide them with moisture you need to eliminate frizz.”
Beyond frizz control, curl creams enhance and encourage your hair’s natural curl formation, says Irinel de León, celebrity hairstylist and brand ambassador for Ouidad. “In addition, curl creams are often more moisturizing and contain conditioning properties to help curls be the best version of themselves.”
Of course, the curl cream that works best for you won’t necessarily be the right product for someone else’s spirals—it all depends on your curl pattern and your individual hair’s specific needs. To help you find your perfect match, we rounded up the best curl creams for a variety of textures and concerns.
Here, the best curl creams on the market right now.
Best Overall: Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Featherlight Styling Cream
This curl cream from the curl experts at Ouidad is a winner. It adds major definition to curls while keeping them feeling super-soft, touchable, and frizz-free without ever weighing hair down. That’s thanks to the combo of meadowfoam seed, olive, and soybean oils and humectants in the formula.
Plus, as de León points out, “It works really well in humid climates as well.” Users rave about how moisturized their curls feel when they apply this cream—and how their curls last for days and days.
Best Budget: Cantu Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream
Perky curls don’t have to come with an expensive price tag. This budget curl cream gets the job done well for about the cost of a frappucino. The formula contains shea butter and essential oils for a serious dose of moisture and frizz control. All you need is a little bit for the ideal amount of nourishment. Users with type 3 and 4 curl patterns rave about the formula, which defines curls without weighing them down.
Best for Thick Hair: Amika Curl Corps Defining Cream
Thick hair can be difficult to manage—but it doesn’t have to be. Enter this curl cream, a must-have for anyone with thick, curly hair. The smoothing formula is chock full of antioxidants to protect hair against environmental aggressors that cause color fade and damage, as well as humidity-blocking ingredients to tame frizz. Users report shiny, bouncy curls that never feel weighed down.
Best for Thin Hair: Mizani True Textures Curl Enhancing Lotion
When it comes to caring for thin, curly hair, it’s all about finding products that won’t weigh your hair down. This curl cream, which has the consistency of a lotion rather than a super-thick cream, fits the bill perfectly. Coconut, marula, and olive oils offer lightweight hydration, shine, and frizz control. Users say this curl cream adds definition to curls without ever making hair look greasy.
Best for Frizzy Hair: DevaCurl SuperCream Coconut Curl Styler
Jojoba oil is a natural oil produced from the seed of the Chinensis plant, a drought-resistant shrub native to southern Arizona, California, and Mexico. It mimics natural sebum and conditions and seals moisture in the skin without clogging pores or exacerbating acne.
One of the biggest challenges people with curly hair face is frizz. Luckily, this curl cream is here to work its magic, delivering smooth, frizz-free curls with every use. Coconut oil pumps up the shine, while cornstarch eliminates frizz and jojoba protein adds bounce. Many users call this curl cream their “holy grail,” noting how soft and defined their curls look when they use it.
Best for Type 2 Hair: Moroccanoil Curl Defining Cream
Type 2 hair runs the spectrum of waves—from looser waves to coarser, S-shaped ones. With its lightweight, frizz-fighting formula, this curl cream is ideal for anyone with type 2 wavy hair. Argan oil—the star ingredient—smooths waves, while hydrolyzed vegetable protein helps mend split ends. Apply to wet hair and air dry for gorgeous, defined waves.
Best for Type 3 Hair: Marc Anthony Strictly Curls 3X Moisture Moisturizing Smoothie
Shea butter is a plant lipid that comes from African shea tree nuts and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. It's used to help moisturize, nourish, and soothe the skin.
Type 3 hair can range anywhere from light to tight curls—and it requires special care to help keep spirals in the best condition. This curl cream has a ridiculously moisturizing formula that is just the ticket for type 3 hair. Marula oil repairs damage, coconut cream deeply nourishes, and shea butter protects your hair’s cuticle for extra smoothness and shininess. Users rave about how soft and defined it leaves curls, without any stiffness or crunchiness.
Best for Type 4 Hair: African Pride Moisture Miracle Shea Butter & Flaxseed Oil Curling Cream
Type 4 hair, or coily hair, is often very fragile, meaning using moisturizing products is an absolute must. This curl cream is a favorite of Taylor. Shea butter provides the moisture type 4 hair craves, while also helping to strengthen hair. Flaxseed oil, meanwhile, offers hold and shine. Users with type 4 hair note how soft, shiny, and defined their curls look after using this product, highlighting the fact that it leaves no residue in the hair.
Best for Dry Hair: Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Leave-in Defining Crème
Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins and have a role in virtually all the biological processes that occur in our bodies, including the reparation of skin.
Curly hair is often dry, so it’s a good idea to look for styling products that pack a moisturizing punch, like this curl cream. The blend of rice amino acids, avocado oil, and Mollis leaf extract work together to hydrate dry hair, smooth frizz, and create bounciness that lasts all day. The curl cream is free of silicones and artificial dyes, making it safe for color- and chemically-treated hair.
Best for Damaged Hair: SheaMoisture Coconut Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
Show damaged hair who’s boss with this reparative curl cream made especially for thick, curly hair. The formula is unbelievably rich, with ultra-nourishing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, neem oil, and silk protein. Slather on this cream to protect against breakage—it’s a particularly good pick for those transitioning from permed to natural hair.
Best Drugstore: Miss Jessie's Quick Curls
This lightweight cream is a drugstore favorite for a reason—its conditioning formula, which contains ginger flower essence and lime fruit, helps you score smooth, frizz-free curls. It's also great for a variety of hair types (from wavy to tight curly), as well as those who are transitioning from permed to natural hair.
Runner-Up, Best Drugstore: Not Your Mother's Curl Talk Defining Cream
If you have curly hair, then head straight for this product the next time you shop the drugstore. It’s formulated with a complex of curl-enhancing, frizz-fighting ingredients—including rice, keratin amino acids, and enzymes—for shiny, defined curls. Users like how lightweight this curl cream is, while still providing plenty of moisture.
Best Splurge: Oribe Styling Butter Curl Enhancing Creme
Go ahead and treat yourself to this luxurious curl cream, a favorite of Leigh Hargdes, a hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, for good reason. “It’s just a beautiful product,” she says. “It’s rich, like crème brulee, so it completely eradicates frizz. It breaks down in your hands so the application process is a breeze.”
Key ingredients include watermelon, lychee, and edelweiss flower extracts to defend against color fade, murumuru, mango, and cocoa seed butter to strengthen hair, and olive and avocado oils to deeply nourish. Hargdes also notes the “heavenly” scent—a signature of all of Oribe’s products.
Best for Color-Treated Hair: Verb Curl Cream
Keep colored hair looking vibrant with this curl cream made for wavy, curly, and coily curl patterns. It’s formulated with sunflower seed extract, a natural UV protectant that shields hair from color fade, brassiness, and dryness. What’s more, olive oil helps manage frizz and flyaways for a sleek head of curls. Users love the definition this cream gives curls and how it tames frizz even in humid conditions.
Best for Long-Lasting Hold: Aunt Jackie's Curl La La Defining Curl Custard
This favorite of Taylor’s is a great option for those in search of a long-lasting hold. The shea butter formula does an incredible job of moisturizing hair while also adding definition and shine. You can expect curls that stay bouncy all day without any flakes or buildup.
Best for Twist-Outs: Curls Blueberry Bliss Twist-N-Shout Cream
A classic protective style for natural hair, twist-outs can be hard to achieve without the right products to help. That's where this curl cream comes in. Its formula delivers the perfect combo of definition, hydration, and shine—plus, it's free of sulfates, silicones, parabens, artificial oils, colors, and fragrances. To style, apply it to clean wet hair, twist your strands, allow your hair to dry, undo the twists, and voilà.
Runner-Up, Best for Twist-Outs: TGIN Twist & Define Cream
This curl cream is another favorite for twist-outs. With ingredients like coconut and Vitamin E oils, it helps you style smooth, shiny, and well-defined curls while fighting frizz and taming any pesky flyaways. Plus, it contains no parabens, sulfates, petrolatum, lanolin, or artificial colors.
To apply curl cream, start at the back of your head, working one section at a time and using one hand, suggests Hargdes. “I rake through the curls and gently squeeze at the ends,” she says. “Stay at least one inch from the scalp as creams can weigh hair down and create buildup on the scalp.”