As beauty editors, we spend a lot of our lives testing out the latest, greatest, and most talked-about products. But every so often, the most effective solutions to our beauty needs don't come in a bottle emblazoned with a brand name. Sometimes the best formula is one that's been whipped up in our very own home. Whether your beauty secret was passed along by your grandmother or your best friend, these homemade remedies become our holy grail treatments.
For haircare, the DIY approach can be especially desirable (and rewarding), avoiding chemicals and other havoc-wreaking ingredients that can mess with our tresses. For our curly-haired girls, we've rounded up three of our favorite DIY curl cream recipes—along with insight from experts so you can stick to natural ingredients (and save your hard-earned money).
Meet the Expert
- Marilisa Sears is the artistic director for Marc Anthony.
- Morgan Rabach, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and cofounder of LM Medical NYC, a dermatology and facial plastic surgery practice based in NYC.
Keep scrolling for more about curl cream—plus some DIY curl cream recipes you can whip up in your kitchen.
What Is Curl Cream?
A curl cream is a product specially formulated (or created, like those below) to hydrate and moisturize curls. When containing the proper ingredients, curl creams should not only define curls but also provide them with moisture and help to eliminate frizz. As Sears explains, "It’s difficult to achieve great curls without moisture, as your curls will be both dry and frizzy."
DIY Curl Cream Recipes
Softening Shea Butter Curl Cream
This recipe is formulated with shea butter and coconut oil, the usual suspects when it comes to DIY curl creams. Sears explains, "When creating a cream, it’s important that the cream includes hydrating and moisturizing properties, as well as an element of hold." This lux mixture also incorporates apricot kernel oil, which Rabach tells us is rich in vitamins A and C to promote healthy hair. It also has aloe vera gel for texture and refreshing essential oils for that added oomph. In case you're feeling a little lazy to DIY a curl cream, paraben-free, sulfate-free, and phthalate-free Strictly Curls Curl Envy Cream ($8) by Marc Anthony will get you similar results.
This rich DIY cream can weigh down certain hair types and will work best on +3 curls, notes Sears. "To avoid drying out curls and making a cast, it’s important to apply only a light coat to the hair," she advises.
- Shea butter
- Coconut oil
- Apricot kernel oil
- Pure aloe vera gel
- Rosemary essential oil
- Chamomile essential oil
- Melt and mix the shea butter and coconut oil, then let the melted mixture cool in the refrigerator until it partially solidifies.
- Whip with a hand mixer, add the apricot kernel oil, then continue mixing.
- Add the pure aloe vera oil until it is completely mixed (and add essential oils for a rejuvenating scent, as desired).
- Transfer to a mason jar and store in a dry, clean place.
Click Play to Learn How to Make Your Own Curl Cream
Lightweight Curl Perfecting Cream
Rather than starting from scratch, you can add ingredients to your conditioner—Sears recommends Marc Anthony Strictly Curls 3X Moisture Triple Blend Conditioner ($8)—to create an effective lightweight styling cream in seconds. Beauty YouTuber Curly Penny does just that with this straightforward recipe for -3B curls. "Looser curls will love this cream," says Sears. "Ingredients like coconut moisturize curls, while the remaining work to balance each other out. The sea salt included in this formula helps to create texture, but it’s important not to overuse the product. Lastly, the blue agave nectar ingredient provides hydration." "Agave is rich in vitamins, especially the B vitamins, vitamin A and C. So it has antioxidant properties to keep scalp and hair healthy," explains Rabach.
- Blue agave nectar
- Sea salt
- Coconut oil
- Combine conditioner and agave until golden, then add crushed sea salt.
- For the last step, add a bit of oil and mix. Penny advises applying a quarter size of the goopy mixture to wet hair and scrunching.
Coconut Oil Curl-Refreshing Spray
While not exactly a cream, this spray is a favorite of many in the curly hair community. Its key ingredient, coconut oil, contains moisturizing lauric acid to hydrate and define all curl types no matter what the day or weather brings. "Lauric acid also has some antimicrobial properties so may help people that have some flaky scalp issues, as well," adds Rabach. Just keep in mind that this DIY product may require a bit of trial and error to create the right balance of oil and water for your hair type. "When using this product, it’s helpful to take into account percentages to ensure that you’re not overly weighing down your hair. If your curls are fine, almond oil could be a great addition," notes Sears. Combine with a leave-in conditioner for the ultimate curly hair routine.
When trying to come up with a DIY curl cream, Sears stresses using diverse moisturizing ingredients (think: avocado oil, shea butter, coconut oil, and vitamins B and E, for starters). Additionally, polymers will help to hold curls in place while keratins and amino acids will minimize damage (especially for a hair mask).
- Coconut oil
- Warm water
- Add a tablespoon of coconut oil to a spray bottle.
- Dilute the oil with warm water until you have your preferred viscosity. Thicker, coilier curl patterns will typically find that filling the spray bottle halfway with warm water will create your desired consistency. Meanwhile, looser, wavier curl patterns should fill the bottle to the top.
- Since oil and water separate, make sure to thoroughly shake your mixture before each use.
How to Apply DIY Curl Cream
The best way to apply curl cream is to start at the back of your head, working the product in one section at a time by raking it through the hair and gently squeezing through the ends. It's easiest to apply on damp hair—that way it penetrates the hair shaft. Once it's applied, let it air-dry, or blast with low heat.
The Final Takeaway
At-home curl creams can be just as hydrating and moisturizing as the stuff you see on the drugstore shelf. But be sure to use ingredients that have been proven to work—like those on our list above—and always allow the concoction to set in before drying or styling.