If you have naturally curly hair, chances are you've struggled to find an ideal styling product—one that takes the needs of your specific texture into consideration. It's so frustrating to buy a new mousse, conditioner, or spray only to realize it doesn't work after a few uses. Right? Right. Luckily, we've done the research for you and tapped celebrity hairstylist Nigella Miller to round up the products that actually work.
Below, find the best drugstore products for curly hair.
DevaCurl SuperCream Coconut Curl Styler
Strengthens the curls
Enriched with the magical powers of coconut oil, DevaCurl's SuperCream Coconut Curl Styler volumizes while it protects and retains moisture in your hair like no other. You can count on this multitasking cream to smooth, shape, and define your curls while taming frizz and adding shine.
Price at time of publish: $28
Key Ingredients: Corn starch, jojoba oil | Hair Type: Curly, Wavy, Kinky | Size: 5.1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Marc Anthony Strictly Curls Curl Cream
While there are plenty of affordable finds at the drugstore, Miller is a huge fan of this frizz-fighting curl cream from Marc Anthony that costs well under ten bucks. “I love this product because it controls my frizz on hot and humid days, it has a nice hold and very little goes a long way, and it’s packed with a silk protein and vitamin E,” she says. “This curl define lotion actually works.”
Price at time of publish: $9
Key Ingredients: Shea butter, avocado oil, vitamin E | Hair Type: Coarse, Frizzy | Size: 6.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Thick Hair
SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
Nutrient-rich vegetable butters
Provides curl control
Feels heavy to some
Made with natural and certified organic ingredients, including coconut oil, silk proteins, and neem oil, SheaMoisture's cult-favorite is great for thick, curly hair in need of serious conditioning. “I’ve tried this product and I just love it,” says Miller. “This curl enhancer is great for a wash and go that needs more of a defined curl pattern. It can also be used in a twist out to apply more moisture to a double strand twist.” Bonus? According to Miller, it also smells amazing.
Price at time of publish: $12
Key Ingredients: Shea butter, coconut oil | Hair Type: Thick, Curly | Size: 12.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Fine Hair
Redken Curvaceous Ringlet
Has a UV filter
Made with a curl memory complex
For those with finer curls, this lightweight cream is for you. It's the perfect primer for creating your own cocktail of styling products—this one as the base and then layering others on top.
Price at time of publish: $24
Key Ingredients: Moringa oil, sugar crystals | Hair Type: Curly, Fine | Size: 6.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Waves
Kristin Ess Soft Shine Beach Wave Spray
Fights split ends
May make some hair frizzy
This spray from Kristin Ess creates gorgeous beach waves that are silky soft—never crunchy. Rather than using it on wet hair like typical wave sprays, it’s meant to be spritzed onto dry waves (whether natural or heat styled) to create soft separation and definition. While she’s never tried it personally, Miller says this would be a great product for creating shiny, frizz-free waves. “When styling your hair in this particular style, you want a light shine and a formula that doesn’t weigh your hair down,” she says. “This adds that final touch of lightweight moisture that controls frizz and annoying flyaways.”
Price at time of publish: $15
Scent: Floral Beach | Size: 6.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Kinks and Coils
Miss Jessie’s Coily Custard
Fights curl shrinkage
Feels dry to some
For those working with tighter coils or a natural texture, this curl custard from Miss Jessie’s checks all the boxes. Not only does it define your curls, but it moisturizes them with an emollient-rich blend of agave and coconut oil while enhancing shine, and reducing frizz. Plus, it helps to fight curl shrinkage and keeps your scalp hydrated and flake-free.
Price at time of publish: $17
Key Ingredients: Agave, coconut oil | Hair Type: Kinky | Size: 8.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Mielle Organics White Peony Leave-In Conditioner
Good for natural and transitioning hair
Doesn't leave residue
Smells unpleasant to some
When parched curls crave hydration, look no further than this leave-in from Mielle Organics. Fueled by natural ingredients that improves hair, it smooths away frizz and flyaways while sealing moisture into each strand. The easy-to-apply spray is light enough to be used on a daily and won’t weigh your hair down. “It’s great for dry hair that needs light styling and prep and is perfect for applying moisture right out of the shower,” says Miller. “It’s also great as a curl refresher if you feel like your curls are lacking mixture throughout the day.”
Price at time of publish: $14
Hair Type: All | Size: 8.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Pattern Curl Gel
Clean, floral fragrance
Creates a springy effect
Not much frizz control
When curls, coils, and tighter textures need a bit of definition, you can trust this gel from Pattern to leave them bouncy and springy sans any crunch. Formulated with a nourishing blend of aloe vera, coconut oil, and cacay oil, you can expect a flexible finish that’s oh so soft and touchable.
Price at time of publish: $25
Key Ingredients: Aloe vera, coconut oil, cacay oil | Hair Type: Kinky, Coily, Curly | Size: 9.8 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Paul Mitchell Flexible Style Sculpting Foam
Creamy coconut scent
Dispenser works a bit clunky
For a combination of both styling and conditioning, Paul Mitchell's flexible foam works to control frizz and flyaways while adding moisture. It's never crunchy, and it leaves your curls super shiny.
Price at time of publish: $14
Key Ingredients: White ginger, algae extract | Hair Types: All | Dosage: Apply a moderate amount as needed | Size: 6.7 or 16.9 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Frizz
OGX Coconut Curls Frizz-Defying Curl Styling Milk
Made with exotic ingredients
Pump could be more durable
This blend of coconut oil, sweet honey, and citrus oil nourishes and protects your hair while boosting the definition of each curl, all while fighting frizz like a pro. Plus, it smells like vacation.
Price at time of publish: $8
Key Ingredients: Citrus oil, coconut oil, honey | Hair Type: Curly | Size: 6.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Humid Weather
Tigi Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier
Combined with thermal and environmental protectants
Easy to use
Feels heavy to some
Unmatched in its ability to protect your hair from heat styling and other environmental factors, you can trust this product will keep working even in the most humid of temperatures. Run it through damp hair to enhance texture and define anything from soft waves to bouncy coils.
Price at time of publish: $15
Scent: Fresh | Finish: Radiant | Size: 5.07 oz. | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Knots
Not Your Mother's Naturals Tahitian Gardenia Flower & Mango Butter Curl Defining Detangler
Detangler and curl enhancer in one
Greasy to some
For that ever-coveted bounce, opt for this detangling product, which soothes and softens to enhance the shape of your natural curl. It's formulated with frizz-fighting mango butter, which restores elasticity and creates shine. It also provides a natural (and silicone-free) slip, making combing through knots a breeze.
Price at time of publish: $9
Key Ingredients: Tahitian gardenia flower, mango butter | Hair Type: Curly | Size: 8.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
When it comes to the overall best curl products you can snag at the drugstore, our top choice would have to be the DevaCurl SuperCream Coconut Curl Styler. It does it all, imparting moisture and a shine to curls while smoothing, de-frizzing, volumizing, and defining. We’re also loving the Mielle Organics Leave-In Conditioner White Peony for its ability to hydrate parched curls without weighing them down. It smooths away frizz and flyaways like a pro while locking in much-needed moisture. And finally, for the gel-lovers who don’t love the crunchy feel that sometimes comes with them is the Pattern Curl Gel. It defines curls, coils, and tighter textures while leaving them soft, bouncy, and touchable.
What to Look for in a Curl Product
Because curls need more moisture and are more prone to damage than their straighter counterparts, the first thing Miller recommends looking for in a curl product is hydrating ingredients. You'll want to choose formulas that'll nourish and condition your curls in addition to defining and styling them. However, it’s also important to consider how heavy the formula is and how it'll work with your specific texture and needs. If you have finer curls and waves, you won’t want a product that will weigh them down or leave them greasy. And while thicker, tighter curls tend to need the most hydration, you’ll still want a formula that leaves them bouncy and defined.
A Soft Finish
Some products, particularly gels and mousses, are notorious for leaving behind a stiff finish that’s reminiscent of the crunchy curls and waves of the early aughts. Since we imagine that’s not what you’ll want out of a curl product, look for formulas that promise to impart a soft, touchable finish that’ll leave curls shiny and natural, not crispy and stiff.
As you likely already know, there are a number of potentially harmful and irritating ingredients that hide in some of our beauty products, hair care included. That’s why Miller recommends looking for products that are mindfully formulated with clean, natural, or organic ingredients. “I try to limit my use of products that contain harmful chemicals that affect Black women and try to be mindful of reading the label and understanding what I’m using on my hair and skin,” she says.
Brands by Founders Who Know Curls
When choosing between hair care brands to shop from, Miller suggests first looking at who the brands are owned by. Much like your hair stylist, it’s important that a brand truly understands curls and knows what different textures need out of a product. For Miller, she prefers to use products from Black-owned brands because they know exactly what works for natural textures. Products from hair stylist-founded brands who often work with curly textures are also great option.
Are drugstore products for curly hair good?
Drugstore products can perform just as well—and in some cases, better than—their salon-priced counterparts. Just as you would with any product, pay attention to the ingredients to make sure everything plays well with your curly hair.
Can I sample the textures of drugstore products before buying them?
While some drugstores offer a tester for customers to try, this isn’t always the case. So read up on reviews beforehand to get a better idea if the formula will be a match for you.
Meet the Expert
Nigella Miller is a celebrity hairstylist and natural hair and grooming expert who has worked with the likes of Jhene Aiko and Chloe and Halle. She’s the founder of Nigella Hair Studio in Brooklyn, New York, where she is a barber, braider, and dry cutter. You can find her work in numerous fashion editorials and her expert advice across multiple beauty publications.
How We Researched
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.