15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (2024)

While the "I woke up like this" look has never been cooler, those of us with curly or wavy hair know that it's not as effortless as it sounds. While genetics determine curl formation, the key to creating shiny, bouncy, static-free tresses is finding products that are specifically formulated to provide hydration and create definition.

We've scoured the beauty aisle to find the highest-rated curl products—from styling creams to smoothing oils and leave-in conditioners—for every curl type, hair concern, and budget. Most of our picks were rated by Byrdie testers, who used them at home to see how well they lived up to their claims. We then combined our intel with industry expertise and advice from expert stylists Leigh Hardges and Larry King. The result: A treasure trove of hero products to guide you on your curl journey, no matter where you are on your path to hair goals.

Choosing the Right Products for Your Curls

Curly hair comes in many forms but is often categorized into three main types: wavy, curly, and coily, with subcategories representing curl tightness. Knowing your specific curl pattern is the first step in finding the products that help you have more good hair days.

Wavy Hair: For loose curls and waves, reach for lightweight products like mousse, leave-in conditioners, and styling milks, which add definition without weighing down your hair. A texturizing spray with natural ingredients like sea salt can boost volume and create that coveted beachy look, all while keeping your hair hydrated.

Curls & Coils: Tighter curls and coils crave moisture-rich products like deep conditioners and rich styling creams. Look for ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, and hyaluronic acid – these hydration heroes help lock in moisture and prevent frizz. Lightweight gels can also be your friend, providing strong hold and definition for your dense curls and coils without feeling crunchy or stiff.

What We Like

  • Moisturizing

  • Helps define curls

  • Long-lasting results

  • Natural formula

  • No flaking

What to Consider

  • Bottle could be larger for the price

Hair Type: Wavy, curly, coily | Size: 6 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Coming in at the top of our list is this leave-in cream from Briogeo, which works double duty to both define and humidity-proof your curls. The formula is infused with rice amino acids and avocado oil to help your hair retain moisture and reduce static, and the creamy texture is lightweight and doesn’t ever flake or feel sticky. Also nice? This cream is made with 96 percent naturally-derived ingredients and contains no dyes or silicones, so it’s safe to use on all hair types.

Byrdie contributor Bianca Lambert took it for a spin and gave it a perfect five-star rating. “My curls were not only soft to the touch but defined, and the moisture lasted all week,” she writes. Needless to say, she was impressed.

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (2)

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (3)

What We Like

  • Strengthens

  • Sustainably produced formula with ethically-traded ingredients

  • Detangles

What to Consider

  • Hard to get product out of bottle

Hair Type: Curly, coily | Size: 8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Coconut oil is this leave-in conditioner’s secret ingredient, working to detangle and hydrate. Ideal for letting your hair air dry, it’s a major time saver. Curls are left soft and swingy, protected from static and humidity. The natural formula includes ethically-traded ingredients that are also sustainably produced.

"This is a tried and true styling product that never disappoints me. Creamy styling milks always leave my curls ultra-hydrated and defined. And this one does just that," confirms Byrdie editor Olivia Hanco*ck.

What We Like

  • Gentle

  • Nice scent

  • Sulfate-free

What to Consider

  • Has a strong fragrance

Hair Type: Curly| Size: 8.5fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

This shampoo formula checks all of the curly hair shampoo boxes. It’s sulfate-free, first and foremost, so you don’t have to worry about it stripping away your natural moisture. The creamy formula cleanses super gently, and it contains hydrating ingredients (manuka honey and ceramides) to keep your curls in tip-top shape. Plus, it’s a good option for wavy, curly, or very curly hair.

What We Like

  • Moisturizing

  • Reduces static

  • No sticky or stiff residue

What to Consider

  • May weigh down finer hair types

Hair Type: Curly, coily | Size: 6, 12 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

As the name suggests, this curl-friendly gel formula helps define, strengthen, and moisturize coils so they look and feel their best. It's not overly heavy on the hair, and it's a salt-free formula which helps to make it less drying.

"I really loved how my curls looked after I finished drying my hair, but this isn't a product I could use solo since it didn't hold my 4C coils and may have contributed to flakes," says product tester Bianca Lambert. "But I think for wavy, curly hair types, the AG Hair Curl Re:Coil Curl Activator would give the perfect amount of hold and hydration."

To use, apply a small amount to damp hair and dry it as usual. Then, wait for the compliments to roll in.

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (7)

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (8)

What We Like

  • Naturally-derived fragrance

  • Non-sticky

What to Consider

  • May not combine well with other hair products

Hair Type: Curly | Size: 8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No

A gel that defines your curls without leaving them dry and flaky? Yes, please! This hydrating cream-gel hybrid adds shine, moisture, and hold without any of the stickiness or stiffness associated with gels. It’s great when you want to wash-and-go or for styles, such as buns and ponies. It works equally well on wavy, curly, and coily textures.

What We Like

  • Moisturizing

  • Helps define curls

  • Reduces static

What to Consider

  • Not heavy enough to prevent shrinkage

Hair Type:Coily|Size:5 fl. oz |Cruelty-Free:Yes

Think of this curl cream as nutrient-rich food for your curly hair. It's ideal for tight curls, and it's formulated with sweet almond oil to keep them nourished. It coats every last coil with intense moisture to eliminate static and dryness. Instead, your curls will look instantly defined and feel super soft.

"It had a pretty good slip and glided onto my coils with ease," adds product tester Bianca Lambert. "I loved my curls’ definition, especially at the front of my head, where my curls are loosest."

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (11)

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (12)

What We Like

  • Lightweight

  • Helps define curls

  • Restores hair elasticity

  • Reduces static

What to Consider

  • Minimal slip

Hair Type: All | Size: 2.5, 8.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Having fine hair and curls can be ​tough since many defining creams can weigh them down. But not this gem from Moroccanoil. The featherweight formula is infused with argan oil to calm static and refine ringlets, all without ever feeling greasy or sticky. It works its magic to bring on the bounce for all curl types, from waves to tight coils. Plus, it restores elasticity, making hair more manageable."I think for those with wavy to loose curly hair types, this product is worth a try," says product tester Bianca Lambert.

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (14)

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (15)

What We Like

  • Helps define curls

  • Reduces static

  • Fits most commercial hair dryers

What to Consider

  • Bulky design can make it difficult to use

Hair Type: Wavy, curly, coily

When you have curly hair, you may find that the hair dryer can be your enemy. For instance, if you apply too much heat, you could contribute to a damaged, staticky result. But now there's an entire industry around maintaining healthy curls, resulting in products like this diffuser. It attaches to the end of your hairdryer (try ionic dryers to cut drying time in half) and coaxes stunning ringlets out of hair. "As someone who has a difficult time keeping my hands off my head as I dry my curls in an attempt to get to my roots, I love this design," adds product tester Bianca Lambert.

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (17)

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (18)

What We Like

  • Detangles

  • Doubles as a leave-in or rinse-out product

  • Has great slip

What to Consider

  • Doesn't offer much hold

Hair Type: Wavy, curly, coily | Size: 8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Say goodbye to knots that lead to breakage and grow your hair longer and stronger with this herbal conditioner, which is formulated with organic ingredients like slippery elm, marshmallow root, lemongrass, and mango fruit extract. The name says it all: Those with kinky curly hair know that wash day can be a time-consuming task, but the slip in this moisturizing product makes detangling a breeze by smoothing the cuticle and removing knots. Use it as a traditional rinse-out conditioner for those with waves and loose curls, or try it as a leave-in for those with tighter textures.

What We Like

  • Reduces static

  • Moisturizing

  • Lightweight

What to Consider

  • Doesn't add volume or lift

Hair Type: All | Size: 4.4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No

Another great way to tame coarse, flyaway hair is to use a relaxing balm. This one by Phyto helps to loosen the curls so they start to straighten, but not so much so that you lose texture or volume. You'll love thelightweight consistency that won't leave your hair feeling greasy.

What We Like

  • Affordable

  • Multi-tasking formula

  • Doesn't strip hair

What to Consider

  • May leave hair looking a bit greasy

Hair Type: All | Size: 8.45 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Celebrity hairstylist Kristin Ess (known for her work with Lauren Conrad, Lucy Hale, and more) has a line of affordable, high-quality hair products that we recommend giving a try, and this co-wash is at the top of the list. Rather than using traditional shampoo, this hydrating formula cleanses, detangles, and softens—all without stripping curls of their natural moisture. (Oh, and it’s choice for combating static, too.) And while it’s ideal for those with curly hair, this is a great option for anyone whose hair is on the drier side.

What We Like

  • Nice scent

  • Natural formula

  • Lightweight

What to Consider

  • Can cause buildup if used too often

  • Peach scent may be too strong for some

Hair Type: Curly | Size: 8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Give your hair some extra love with this deep conditioning treatment, which boasts a clean formula filled with natural and plant-based ingredients. The stars of the show are oils (sunflower seed and baobab seed) that add a hefty dose of moisture but are still lightweight enough that they won’t weigh down your hair. Also nice: Leave it on for five to 10 minutes to reap those deep conditioning benefits. If you’re in a rush, you can also use it as a traditional conditioner. Bonus points for the light, peach scent, which is naturally derived.

What We Like

  • Nice scent

  • Multi-tasking formula

What to Consider

  • Thick consistency may make it harder to distribute evenly

Hair Type: Curly | Size: 9.8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Actress Tracee Ellis Ross created Pattern specifically to fulfill the unique needs of those with curly hair. All of the products consistently pull in rave reviews, but if you’re going to try just one, make it this leave-in, a true hero SKU that gets tons of five-star reviews. It hydrates, seals in moisture, and detangles while also helping to enhance curl definition. "It softens and defines curls in just one step—pretty revolutionary for someone who typically uses a slew of other curl-defining products as well," says senior social media editor Star Donaldson.

Top tip: Apply it all over while hair is still soaking wet.

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (24)

  • 15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (25)

What We Like

  • Affordable

  • Multi-tasking formula

  • Hydrating

What to Consider

  • Has a strong fragrance

Hair Type: Curly| Size: 8fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No

Okay, so you don’t need to use a pre-wash treatment, but it can be a good way to give your curls a little extra care. What’s unique about this one is a proprietary blend of proteins specifically meant to target the needs of curly hair (which, FYI, has a different composition of proteins than straight hair). Work this into wet hair and let it sit for five to 10 minutes to do its thing—namely strengthen, moisturize, soften, detangle, and elongate your curls—then shampoo and condition as usual.

What We Like

  • Adds shine

  • Moisturizing

  • Lightweight

  • Silicone-free

What to Consider

  • Doesn't provide heat protection

  • Can make hair greasy if you use too much

Hair Type: Curly | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Make this fast-absorbing finishing oil the final step of your styling routine. Just a few drops help to smooth and fight static while also adding mirror-like shine—for all curl types. Credit a blend of five different oils, plus the fact that the formula is silicone-free, so you don’t ever have to worry about it weighing down your hair.

What to Look for in a Product for Curly Hair

  • Make sure it’s curly hair-specific: First and foremost, make sure you choose a product that’s specifically formulated for curly hair. It sounds obvious, but because curly hair is so different, using curl-specific products, including a hair dryer made for curly hair, if you use one, is paramount.
  • Moisturizing ingredients: Hydrating ingredients are your curls’ best friend (think glycerin, shea butter, and natural oils). Because curly hair is naturally more prone to dryness than straight hair, the more hydration you can pack into your curly hair routine, the better. That being said, while curls do need a little extra care, they also need some downtime. “Curly hair needs lots of attention, but it also needs to just be left alone. It thrives with the least amount of styling and manipulation,” notes Hardges. In other words, style them and then leave them alone—the less you touch and mess with them, the better.
  • Ingredients to avoid: While curly hair thrives on certain ingredients, there are a few you might want to skip or be mindful of when browsing hair products.
  • Sulfates: Cleansing agents that can strip away natural oils and leave hair prone to breakage.
  • Alcohols: Skip products with ingredients like ethanol, propanol, or alcohol denat, that can dry out your hair.
  • Silicones: Silicones coat strands to maximize smoothness and shine, but they can build up over time, making curls appear limp. If you choose to use a product that contains silicones, opt for a dimethicone or cyclomethicone, and clarify your hair regularly to remove buildup.
  • Artificial fragrances: Artificial scents can irritate your scalp. If you’re prone to sensitivity, consider fragrance-free products or those scented with natural essential oils.

FAQ

  • How does curly hair grow compared to straight hair?

    “The follicles on the scalp that house the strand as it grows are flat and elliptical, which causes the hair strand to curl as it grows,” explains Leigh Hardges, stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. Further, that difference in shape is largely why curly hair needs more moisture and hydration; it makes it harder for the scalp’s naturally moisturizing oils to travel down the hair shaft.This also means it's more susceptible to the negative effects of hard water.

  • How should you layer hair products for curly hair?

    According to hairstylist Larry King, those with curly hair should apply most products while the hair is still wet. Static begins as the hair dries, so keeping your products in the shower will give you the most defined results. Start with a curl cream, then scrunch a blob of mousse through the lengths to keep the curls defined and static-free.

  • How many products should you use on curly hair?

    Curly hair only needs a few key products to thrive; don’t overdo it, or you might weigh your natural texture down. Other than shampoo and conditioner (or co-washing or whichever method works best for you), all you need is the aforementioned curl cream and mousse, as well as a refreshing spray to keep definition and bounce between washes and hairspray to hold any styling. Any other products are up to your individual needs.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She considered dozens of products for this roundup, researched peer-reviewed journals, and consulted our testing insights. Our product testers tried some of the top-rated products for weeks at a time, taking note of how well they delivered results as well as any extra product features.

Team Byrdie worked with experts to help inform this story:

  • Leigh Hardges is a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. She has been trained in hair-cutting at Vidal Sassoon Academy and has over 15 years of professional experience.
  • Larry King is a stylist and the founder of London-based Larry King salons and Larry King Haircare.
15 Editor-Approved Curly Hair Products for Bouncy, Healthy Curls and Coils (2024)

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