Do you ever look in the mirror halfway through the day and wonder what happened to your beautiful, shiny curls? Curls are great. But if you’ve had them your whole life, you might have a love-hate relationship with them. When hydrated and nourished properly, you’re left with beautiful curls. But when it’s 90% humidity or you’ve bleached your hair (a lot), the result might not be so flattering.
Creams, gels, sprays, mousses, leave-ins; you’ve heard of them all. And chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve tried them all, too. It can be a bit overwhelming and quite frankly, costly, to figure out which ones work best for your hair. So, in this guide, we’ll show you how to find the right curl defining cream for you. And if you’re still a bit stuck, we’ll list our top 10 favorites.
How to Choose a Curl Defining Cream – Buying Guide
If you’ve got curls, you’ve probably tried dozens of curl-defining creams to help you nourish and maintain them. And you still might not have found the right creams for your hair. There are just so many products out there, so we decided to ask Sylvia to help us sort through the good and the bad.
Sylvia started her natural hair journey over 10 years ago. Back then, she struggled with a dearth of information about natural hair, hair care, and hair products. And now, in 2018, she knows that people are overwhelmed by the opposite: hoardes of online information, with no way to separate truth from fiction.
And that's why she founded Curls Understood, a site that curates content from around the web so you know just what to do with your hair. Her success as a blogger has also led her to write 2 ebooks about natural hair, as well as contribute to platforms such as Allure and Buzzfeed. Learn more about her and your curls at her site below.
・The Curls Understood Site: https://curlsunderstood.com
Gels, Mousses, or Creams: Depends on How Much Hold You Want and the Feel You Want
A cream will give you lots of moisture and bounce, but if you’re looking to keep your hair styled up and in place all night, it won’t do the job–you’ll need to add a gel. Let’s take a look at when you should use gels, mousses, and creams.
For a Strong Hold, Choose a Curling Gel
Gels typically provide a stronger hold with more control. However, they offer less body.
If you do prefer a curl-defining gel, be careful not to apply too much; otherwise, it’ll leave your hair looking quite wet and crunchy. And if you’ve got fragile hair, gel might be too harsh. There are also spray gels, which gives your hair a little more bounce.
I think it works great for women who have a looser curl pattern or beach waves, as opposed to someone who has an afro. If you have an afro, you can't actually see the curls until you get really close, which means the curls are smaller. For those smaller curls, gels don’t work as well. People who have kinky hair or who are in the 4a, 4b, or 4c scale probably don’t have as much success using gels.
For Added Volume, Go with a Mousse
Mousses are for you if you’re looking for added volume and bounce. They provide a light to medium hold, so they work great with finer hair.
Unfortunately, though, a lot of mousses contain drying alcohols, so if you choose a mousse to help define your curls, make sure it doesn’t contain those alcohols.
Whereas, you would use a mousse to encourage softer curls. After it dries, the hair isn’t going to feel as crunchy. But again, more so for people with looser curls, as opposed to afros. I don’t know many people with the 4a, 4b, or 4c hair who would use a mousse. If you have thicker curls, you’d have to use more product. If you have looser curls, it makes your hair softer and bouncier and light.
For Ultimate Moisture, Look for a Cream
The rule typically goes like this: the tighter your curls are, the dryer and more fragile they are. If you’re a type 3 or 4, you know this fact all too well. But, if you sufficiently nourish and hydrate your curls, you’ll be left with soft, manageable, defined curls.
Creams generally provide the most moisture, but only offer a light hold. They can be advertised as leave-in-conditioners, as well. They can even help add some volume and bounce, but only if you avoid applying at the root. They’ll add control to any curl type; however, if you’re looking for a strong hold, they probably won’t deliver.
Make sure when you’re using a cream, you apply it when your hair is still damp. Get one with moisturizing botanical ingredients, like chamomile, jojoba, or olive oil. Sylvia also mentioned to look for water as the first ingredient and something that isn’t drying as the second ingredient. She likes glycerin because it’s moisturizing.
Creams are great for enhancing the curl. You would have to spray water to activate the curl, then you would use a cream to enhance the curl, and then maybe a little gel to hold. If you want a strong hold that lasts, you'd use a cream and then a gel. Some of the creams that I use are even marketed as leave in conditioners.
My favorite curling cream is Shea Moisture Curling Souffle--I love the smell and its not too heavy. I usually twist my hair with it and when I let the twists out to make my hair crinkly, they're still fluffy and have movement; they're not weighed down by the product. For loose curls, Ouidad or Deva Curls have good creams.
Tame the Frizz and Keep it Shining
You’ll need an anti-frizz curl defining cream with natural oils to give you added shine, define curls, and help reduce frizz. You’ll typically find a variety of gels, mousses, and creams that contain these properties.
All curly girls probably deal with frizz, but if you’ve got tighter curls, it’s typically harder to tame frizz, especially in humid climates. Women with looser curls typically will find more success using an anti-frizz curl defining product.
I personally love to wear my hair up, so you can still see some of the crinkles in my curls—or maybe wear head scarves. If I have to wear my hair out, I will maybe use more gel and a lot of water while styling my hair, to encourage the curl pattern.
But sometimes it doesn’t matter—if it's too humid, it'll frizz. Some people use frizz control serums. But those don’t work with my hair type. I would say if you have a looser curl, then frizz serums or a light natural oil are really good. Gel is definitely more effective for frizz control than cream. The first ingredient in creams is water, so they are more prone to frizz up.
For Permed or Bleached Hair: Avoid Heavy Creams and Further Damage with UV Protection
So, we all know we have to protect our skin when we go out on a sunny day. But our hair deserves no less TLC. UV rays can be just as detrimental to hair as it is to skin–chemically-treated hair in particular. UV rays can dry out the hair, resulting in brittle, frizzy hair. Not to mention, they can disrupt chemical processing in permed or colored hair.
Also, avoid creamy formulas, since they can weigh the curls down. Mousses and light creams complement a permed do. If your hair has gone through chemical processing, or if you simply spend a lot of time out in the sun, look for a lightweight curl defining cream containing SPF.
For straight hair, the natural oils that our scalp secretes just runs down. But for curly hair, it's harder for those natural oils to get from the scalp to the ends, so a lot of us suffer from dry ends.
If you're worried about sun damage to your hair, look to see if it specifically says that it helps with UV. Otherwise, most curl creams won't protect you from the sun. On a regular day, you’re not outside the whole time, so it's not that big of a deal. But if you know you’re going to be in the sun, find a product that specifically says that it has UV protection.
Avoid Build-up: Stay Away from Silicones, Non-natural Oils, and Waxes
A lot of curly girls tend to skip a day or two of shampoo-ing, to keep their hair moisturized. But in between those washes, we tend to use curl-defining creams. So to avoid build up and itchiness, try to stay away from silicones, waxes, and non-natural oils. If you must, look for a clarifying shampoo to get rid of the build up.
Silicones typically end in suffixes like -one, or -xane, like dimethicone, so they can be easy to find. Mineral oil is a common non-natural oil that you should avoid if you can. Additionally, waxes like bees wax or candelilla wax can build up in your hair quickly.
Mineral oil has no nutritional benefit to hair at all. Mineral oil was just a filler ingredient, so definitely stay away from it if you can. Bees wax isn’t the best because it's very sticky and hard to get off your hair, but people love it because its an alternative to gel. But I don’t like it and I would avoid it.
Silicones have gotten a really bad reputation in the curly community, but as long as its one of the kinder silicones that isn’t as stripping, it should be fine.
Alcohols: Which to Avoid and Which to Look For
For products that are going to be rinsed out, like shampoo, drying alcohols might be okay. But you’re probably going to use a curl-defining cream all day, so it’s important that you avoid drying alcohols. They include SD alcohol, isopropanol, ethanol, propyl alcohol, ispropyl alcohol, and more.
That being said, some alcohols actually help keep your hair moisturized, so look for them when shopping. They include stearyl alcohol, lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, behenyl alcohol, and others.
If someone is really worried about it, they can make their own products. I also have a section on my site about making your own products. Also, if a drying alcohol is not one of the first 3-5 ingredients on the list, it should be okay.
People should educate themselves on the alcohols that are better, so they know which to avoid and which ones not to. Maybe put a list on your phone and then you can look at it when you’re shopping.
Top 10 Curl Defining Creams to Buy Online
If you still need a little push in the right direction, here are our top 10 picks for curl defining creams, including some of Sylvia’s favorites!
10. ORS Curls Unleashed Curl Defining Creme
An Anti-Frizz Cream that will Keep Your Curls Soft–Great for Loose and Tight Curls
Made with sweet almond oil, coconut oil, and safflower oil, this moisturizing cream will make your hair smooth and touchable, all while maintaining the definition of your curls. This cream isn’t as drying as some other curl defining products and leaves your hair with semi-relaxed curls.
It’s got a light, pleasant scent to it and also has glycerin, so it attracts moisture to your hair, making sure it never gets too dry. It offers just a light hold, so if you need a strong hold, we recommend pairing it with a gel.
9. SheaMoisture Coconut and Hibiscus Frizz-Free Curl Mousse
No Crunch, Lightweight Mousse–Great for Fine Hair
This anti-frizz curl mousse really lives up to its name. People love its anti-frizz properties and the fact that it can stand up to the humidity and keep your curls defined, even in Texas. If you’ve got thick hair, this might be too light and you’ll have to use a lot of it. But if you’ve got fine curls, this will define your curls, leaving them soft and touchable.
People with both wavy and kinky hair have tried this and liked it. The coconut oil moisturizes your hair and reduces breakage, while the neem oil keeps frizz to a minimum. The scent isn’t as nice and summery as some other products from this line, but it doesn’t have a chemical smell to it, either.
8. DevaCurl Supercream Coconut Curl Styler
A Volumizing Cream Disguised in a Mousse Applicator
Don’t let the packaging fool you–this is not a mousse, but a cream. A very fresh coconut-y smelling cream, indeed. It’s not going to keep your frizz away completely, but this cream will give you lots of volume and bounce. If you’ve got thick, tight curls, you’ll likely need to use this, as well as a mousse or gel for more hold. But if you have slightly looser curls, this might be the only thing you need.
This cream gives good definition, but leaves your hair feeling soft. The only thing you may have to consider is its price. If you’re using another product with it, like a gel, you can get away with just a pump or two for each use so it lasts longer. Be sure to check reviews of the sellers beforehand, as some have received containers with broken lids and pumps.
7. Curls Blueberry Bliss Control Jelly
Definition and Hold with a Sweet Blueberry Scent
Light in both texture and smell, this gel will give your curls definition, hold, and a nice sheen. Lovers of this gel like to pair it with a leave in conditioner for ultimate moisture. If you’re like most people and hate the feeling of sticky gel on your fingers–unfortunately, this gel is sticky. However, it doesn’t dry sticky; just wash your hands after applying.
If you’re sick of all of your hair products smelling like coconut, then you might be satisfied with this, as it smells like slightly sweet blueberry. That being said, if strong smells tend to give you migraines, don’t take an up-close whiff of it. Make sure your hair is wet before applying to avoid damage.
6. Brio Geo Rosarco Milk Reparative Leave-In Conditioning Spray
A Lightweight Cream with Nourishing Oils–Great for Brittle, Damaged Hair
Labeled as a leave-in conditioner, this spray cream is super lightweight, so it won’t weigh ine hair down. It’s got nourishing oils like rosehip, coconut, argan, and vitamin E to help your hair maintain moisture, control frizz, protect against breakage, and prevent further damage. So it’s great for dry, damaged hair, or for bleached hair.
Since this cream spray has properties similar to that of a conditioner, it’s also great for detangling hair–with your fingers, of course! You can use it alone, or, for a strong hold, you can add a gel on top of it. This cream spray is even great for a second day refreshment. If your hair tends to get oily, don’t use a lot–it’ll make your hair feel slightly greasy.
5. TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier
A Great Curl Definer with Strong Hold–Best Paired with a Leave-in Conditioner
Great for all different curl patterns and textures, this hair lotion gives a lot of hold. It’s a bit heavier than others, but doesn’t weigh down your hair too much. Be careful not to use too much (more than a pea-sized amount); otherwise, it might dry as a white residue. That being said, if it does happen, don’t fret! Just add a little water and massage it into the product.
Make sure you apply to your hair when it is very wet; otherwise, it will leave your hair very crunchy. If you have naturally dry hair, this may not work well with you. But if you do choose to use it, be sure to apply a leave-in conditioner or cream first to ensure that your hair retains some moisture.
4. SheaMoisture Coconut Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
Dense and Rich in Nutrients–Leaves Your Hair Light and Touchable
One of Sylvia’s favorite curl defining creams, SheaMoisture really impresses here. Packed with hydrating ingredients like aloe, coconut oil, avocado oil, and vitamin E oil, this cream will moisturize your curls, leaving them bouncy and vibrant. And if you hate crunchy hair, this is for you–it’ll leave your curls soft and touchable.
Since it isn’t a gel, it can be a bit difficult to define tight curls. If you have very thin, loose curls, though, this cream might be a bit heavy and weigh them down. This cream will give your hair nice shine, but without the wet look that a lot of gels have.
3. Eco Styler Black Casotr & Flaxseed Oil Gel
Alcohol-free Lightweight Gel with Excellent Hold
Another one of Sylvia’s favorites, this styling gel is made with no alcohol and offers a strong hold. The vitamin E, black castor oil, flaxseed oil, and Omega 3 are all ingredients that promote healthy hair. It contributes to hair growth, shine, nourishment, and helps repair damaged hair. We also love that this gel is anti-itch and combats dandruff.
Since it’s lightweight and alcohol-free, it works great with all hair types, even loose beach curls and permed hair. It can be applied to wet or dry hair, but if you don’t like crunchy hair, don’t use a lot. Be sure to check reviews of the seller before buying, as some people have received damaged or opened containers.
2. Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Curl Defining Creme
A Little Goes a Long Way for this Anti-Humidity, Super Moisturizing Cream
When you’ve got natural curly hair, it’s all about moisture. Eden BodyWorks has put a number of moisturizing agents in this cream, including water, coconut oil, shea butter, jojoba seed oil, and avocado oil. It’s got moisturizing alcohols, such as cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol, too! And although it has all of these oils, it won’t leave your hair feeling greasy like some creams do.
Rejuvenate your coarse, thick, kinky, damaged hair with this cream. It’s great for dry hair and any curly head of hair that needs some TLC. The one thing you should be careful with is the amount you use for reapplication. If you use too much (especially on day 2 or 3), it might show up as white in your hair. It’s got some hold to it, but if you’re looking for a strict hold all day, this won’t be enough.
1. Ouidad Curl Quencher Moisturizing Styling Gel
Excellent Quality, Antifrizz Gel–Perfect for Tight Curls
Some people are a bit put off by the price of this moisturizing gel, but the overall consensus is that it is worth it. Whether you’ve got natural curls or permed curls, this gel will keep your curls defined, hydrated, bouncy, and soft–no more stiff, sticky curls. It won’t weigh your hair down and the meadowfoam seed oil helps keep moisture in each strand.
What we especially like about this gel is that it helps tame frizz. So if you live in an area with high humidity, this will help keep your hair from being an unmanageable, frizzy mess.
So, there you have it! Curls can be a wonderful, beautiful thing when nourished properly, so remember to give them some TLC. Hopefully we’ve helped you get a better understanding of how to look for and choose a curl defining cream for you, whether it’s a leave-in, mousse, cream, or gel.
So, we know that washing your hair too much’ll turn it into a nest of twigs. But some shampoos are gentler than others. Moisturizing shampoos contain key ingredients like amino acids, coconut, avocado, or argan oil that will help keep your hair healthy and soft. You’ve got moisturizing shampoos for dyed hair, naturally curly hair, dry hair, dry scalp, fine hair. But no matter what type you have, a moisturizing shampoo should make your hair healthier and more manageable. How to Choose a Moisturizing Shampoo – Buying Guide Let’s choose the best moisturizing shampoo for you by comparing popular products, what they do for your hair, how they do it, and how much they cost. For Silky Hair, Get Amino Acid Shampoo Amino acid shampoos are the gentlest. They won’t bleach your locks or dry them out. Rather, there’s an amino acid derivative–called TEA-cocoyl glutamate–which’ll condition your hair. It’ll smooth down your cuticles (the sheath that wraps around each strand) and leave your hair fe
While the onset of winter might signal the coming of turkey and tinsel, it also means drier air and drier hair. But just because fallen leaves crunching beneath your boots is a natural part of winter, it doesn’t mean that crunchy, brittle hair has to be too. Even if you already use conditioner, winter requires a little more effort. So, to keep your hair looking as lush as possible, you want to use a deep conditioning hair mask. Choosing a hair mask can seem nearly as impossible as choosing the right secret santa gift for your new boss. There are hundreds of options, and choosing the wrong one might be disastrous. But don’t worry. This buying guide will help you cut through the junk and choose the best hair mask for you. If you still find yourself stuck, at the end, we’ve also got a list of our ten favorites for you to start your search. That secret santa gift though? That’s all on you. How to Choose a Deep Conditioning Hair Mask – Buying Guide There’s a bunch of good–great–hair
Hands don’t get enough love. Most of us moisturize right after facial cleansers, but how many of us do so after a good hand washing? And while the skin on our hands isn’t as sensitive as the stuff covering our faces, it’s still living tissue. It cracks, flakes, and gets itchy. Especially when winter comes, which is when it’s high time for a good hand cream. But you have different skin from the guy next to you. You live different lifestyles. If you need to be out in the drying winds, if your job demands you wash your hands constantly, then the cheap watery stuff may not work for you. So here are a few tips and tricks that will help you pick out the heavy duty stuff–hand cream targeted at dry, cracked hands. How to Choose Hand Cream and Lotion for Dry, Cracked Skin – Buying Guide Bodies are complicated things. No matter how much research you do or data you gather, there’s always a component to skincare that’s determined by experience and trial-and-error. So this time around, we talked h
As consumers become more aware of what conventional shampoos contain, a growing number are shifting from chemical-filled products to plant-based alternatives. And so countless natural hair care products fill up store shelves. They promise great things, but can they really live up to what they claim? Don’t be mislead by catchy taglines or branding. To help you find that truly natural shampoo, we’ve compiled a list of popular product lines. How to Choose a Natural Shampoo – Buying Guide Natural hair care products have become increasingly popular in a world where we’re all obsessed with health and the environment. And we believe that “natural” products are pure and safe. But what does “natural” really mean on shampoo labels? Actually, the term “natural” is not regulated by the FDA at all. So a product with just one natural ingredient can claim to be natural, even if the rest of the ingredients are chemical toxic. Of course, not everything’s a scam. But take things with a g
Foundation is so yesterday. Nowadays, in Asian beauty, all you hear about is alphabet cream: AA, BB, CC, DD, so on and so forth. CC cream is more a skincare product than a cosmetic; it usually functions as a color corrector and primer, though its properties can differ by brand. Depending on who’s making it, CC cream can be all sorts of shades and do all sorts of things. So which products are actually loved in Japan and which are dupes? To answer that question, we ordered the 14 most popular Japanese CC creams from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and @cosme) and tested them all. We also consulted three experts, who looked for the following: Finish Ease of Application This is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese CC creams. Introducing the Experts Who Lent Us Their Knowledge This time around, we borrowed the expertise of hair and makeup artists Rika Fujiwara and Mutsuki, as well as the former fashion retailer and Instagrammer Chie Kato. [expertprofi
We’re obsessed with flawless skin here in Japan. Beyond just looking good, we want our skin to actually be good–naturally healthy and free of blemishes–so it makes sense that BB cream, which is makeup and skincare in one, would have firmly taken root here. We’ve got a lot of brands, like Sekkisei, and a lot of formulations. So you’re probably wondering which BB creams are actually popular and which work. In order to answer that question, we ordered the 16 most popular tubes of BB cream from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and @cosme) and tested them all. We also invited two experts and had them compare the following: How Well It Spreads Coverage Finish Longevity This is how we tested and found the most exceptional BB creams. Introducing the Experts Who Lent Us Their Knowledge This time around, we borrowed the expertise of hair and makeup artist Rika Fujiwara and Instagrammer Chie Kato. Invalid Short Code. There is not profile. Please write expert_id = hikaku9 comment.
Sorry, but What’s BB Cream Again? In J
For many people with longer hair, hair washing can be a bit of an ordeal. The actual shampoo and conditioning is normally all right, but it’s the drying process that’ll really get you. Depending on your hair length and texture, air drying can take several hours, and even blow drying can take long enough to tire out your arms. Hair drying towels can help to cut drying time in more than half. Made from soft, absorbent, non-abrasive materials, a good hair drying towel can make all the difference. In this guide, we’ll go over the factors to consider when looking for the right hair drying towel for you. At the end, we also have a list of our 10 favorites to help you get started. How to Choose a Hair Drying Towel – Buying Guide The most important thing to consider when weighing your options is your own hair type. So keep that in mind when looking into the different factors as well as when reading reviews. Material Determines Absorbency and Frizz Control There are two main types of materials
If you’re constantly ripping little shreds of skin from your lips, you know you need lip balm. But every lip balm has its own features and benefits: it can be medicated, tinted, scented, or flavored; it can provide UV protection; it can be made up of anything from natural beeswax to petroleum and mineral oils. Choosing the right lip balm can be an overwhelming task. That’s why we’ve done it for you. We have compiled a list of 10 popular lip balms that are truly effective, so you can finally say goodbye to dry, chapped, and sore lips. How to Choose a Lip Balm – Buying Guide It’s not just the icy northern winds; the suns’s beams can also dry out your lips. In order to keep your lips hydrated, a good lip balm is a must-have item, all year round. Many balms make your lips lush and shiny for a second–and the next second, the desert’s back on your face. Here’s a few tips on how to choose a lip balm that’ll actually last. The Good: Moisture-Boosting Ingredients Step one, read the ingredi
With the dry winter months comes dry winter skin, and for those who already have dry skin, it can sometimes feel unbearable. While lotions do help, they won’t work their best if your soap is leaving your skin drier than before you showered. That’s why it’s just as important to be using a moisturizing body wash. But there are hundreds of options out there all claiming to do the same thing. In this guide, we’ll go over the things you should look for that make some body washes better than others. At the end, we’ve also got a list of our 10 favorite moisturizing body washes for you to start your search. How to Choose a Moisturizing Body Wash – Buying Guide When it comes to body washes, there are some factors that definitely make for better body washes. Here’s what to look out for. Nature Knows Best: Look for Hydrating Oils and Soothing Natural Ingredients While oils don’t add moisture to your skin, they do a great job at locking it in, which is why you want to ensure you’re getting som
Last time, we talked about toners. Now, we move on to the next step in the Japanese skincare routine: moisturizers and face lotions※1. Face lotions are important–they are, if you remember, the lid that seals your toner in. And, just like in America, in Japan, we have our high-end and drugstore brands, our revolutionary products and dupes. We thought it was high time someone separated the wheat from the chaff. That’s why we ordered the 25 most popular moisturizers and face lotions from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and @cosme) and tested them all. We also invited a skincare specialist and had her compare the following: Hydration Application This is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese moisturizers and face lotions. We also talk about the difference between lotion and cream at the very end of the article–be sure not to miss it. ※1 乳液: moisturizer / face lotion Introducing the Expert Who Lent Us Her Knowledge This time around, we borro