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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.
Best Overall: DevaCurl SuperCream Coconut Curl Styler
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.
Best Budget: 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.”
Best for Thick Hair: SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
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.
Best for Fine Hair: Redken Curvaceous Ringlet
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.
Best for Waves: Kristin Ess Soft Shine Beach Wave Spray
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.”
Best for Kinks and Coils: Miss Jessie’s Coily Custard
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.
Best Conditioning: Mielle Organics White Peony Leave-In Conditioner
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.”
Best Gel: Pattern Curl Gel
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.
Best Mousse: Paul Mitchell Flexible Style Sculpting Foam
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.
Best for Frizz: OGX Coconut Curls Frizz-Defying Curl Styling Milk
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.
Best for Humid Weather: Tigi Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier
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.
Best for Knots: Not Your Mother's Naturals Tahitian Gardenia Flower & Mango Butter Curl Defining Detangler
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.
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.
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.