Whether you’ve battled with them all your life, or have always rocked them, curls are amazing. Tight coils, textured Afro hair, loose waves… the spectrum of curl power is so diverse, it’s had to be categorised into . I know.
Like most curly girls, I went through a period of routinely blow-drying and straightening my hair until my ringlets turned into a fluffy, frazzled mess that just kept getting shorter and shorter (hello, breakage). Now, I’m two months into my straightener ban (with every heat tool stashed away in a box) and my hair is actually getting curlier every day. As a total beauty junkie, I’ve built up quite the arsenal of products that are pretty much ambrosia for your locks. I can’t go without them, and neither should you. Introducing my dream team….
Shampoo + Conditioners
In the words of hair legend Christophe Robin, you wouldn’t wash a silk shirt with any old harsh detergent. Think of your strands as a delicate Céline blouse; scrub it with whatever lathers up and it’ll start to look haggard and fall apart. Curly and Afro hair is drier than straight (the coils make it harder for oils from your scalp to travel down), so go sulphate-free if you can. Boucléme’s cleansing creme formula doesn’t bubble up but is definitely doing its job, or go for OGX’s coconut shampoo, which smells like the beach and feels just like a normal shampoo, minus the dryness. Don’t be afraid to mix and match - if the matching conditioner is rubbish, then swap it for one that your curls love.
Masks + Treatments
Hot oil treatments are the bomb, you guys. Warm up anything containing coconut oil (it’s one of the few ingredients that your hair can absorb) like Leonor Greyl’s and Alchemy’s, wrap your head in cling film and leave for as long as you can, then wash it out. Even better, massage it into your scalp for thicker, stronger locks. For hair masks, look for ones that say ‘moisturising’, ‘nourishing’ and ‘reconstructing’ for soft, springy curls - Palmer’s £2 protein pack has been my ultimate favourite for years.
After watching endless YouTube videos of curly gurus loading their hair with products, I assumed that my fine, fluffy strands needed to be totally coated. All I got was stringy, crunchy curls, and quickly learned that sometimes less really is more. For bouncy, frizz-free curls, layer a leave-in conditioner with a tiny dab of something jelly-like (Shea Moisture’s Souffle is just too perfect) to fight humidity. Finish with a couple of drops of whatever oil you like, and you’re all set.
The less heat the better, but air-drying can be a pain. Find a good like Cloud Nine's for your hairdryer and scrunch your curls upwards using the cool setting - they’ll be gorgeously defined and bouncy AF. Try a skinny curling wand for naughty strands that refuse to spiral - Babyliss’s has an adjustable heat setting for guilt-free styling. Also, ditch your regular towel and grab an old T-shirt or an Aquis towel; you’ll see the difference in your hair straight away, I promise. If you're ever lusting after fuller, longer locks, then do some of the best curly hair extensions for every type of hair.
Below is my edit of the best products for curly hair. I've tried and tested every single one and will be adding to it in the coming weeks and months.
1. OGX Quenching Coconut Curls Shampoo & Conditioner
These two really go hand in hand. The conditioner won our illustrious Best Beauty Buys Editor's Choice award, so you know it's for real, and the shampoo ensures your locks stay smooth and nourished.
2. Bouclème Curl Cleanser
Sometimes regularly lathering up with a soapy shampoo is too much for very fragile curls - use this creamy conditioning wash every other shampoo and your curls will be super soft.
3. Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen Grow & Restore Treatment Masque
When your hair is seriously suffering after a battle with the hair dryer, you need the big guns. Apply this hero mask from scalp to ends for stronger growth, damage repair, and a better curl pattern over time.
4. Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Shampoo
Formulated with manketti nut oil from Ghana, this luxe shampoo will work wonders on relaxed, heat-damaged and bleached hair. It nourishes, protects and restores locks, but still lathers up despite its lack of sulphates so you get that extra-clean feeling.
5. DAVINES Love Curl Enhancing Conditioner
This conditioner is seriously like ambrosia for your curls. The almond oil nourishes thirsty strands, and leaves them crazily soft and defined once dry. You. Need. This.
6. Leonor Greyl L'Huile de Leonor Greyl - Pre Shampoo Treatment
A total summer hair saviour, this luxurious oil protects your strands from the sun and the sea - but it still works amazingly well year round. Plus, it smells absolutely divine. Winner.
7. Palmer's Coconut Oil Protein Pack
When travelling, whack one of these sachets into your carry on for instantly nourished curls. Plus, the protein works absolute miracles on bleached hair to reverse all that damage.
8. Belle Bar Organics Green Tea Rinse
Dousing your locks in tea sounds wacky, but hear me out. Belle Bar Organics specialise in custom magic mixes to nourish your hair and scalp - all you do is pick your hero ingredients (like camomile for blondes, or rosemary and lavender to promote growth), pop the leaves into the cute bag that comes with it and brew it like you would a normal tea, then leave to cool. After this, the possibilities are endless: either pour it into a spray bottle and use to refresh morning curls, or tip it over your hair in between shampooing and conditioning to act as a lightweight mask. You can even spray it onto your scalp to encourage growth, relieve dandruff or itchiness, or to soothe your scalp while you're rocking braids or a weave.
9. Alchemy Oils Amla Hair Remedy
Coconut, castor and amla oils join forces to give your hair a dose of nourishment as a hot oil treatment, or even a drop or two every day.
10. Palmer's Shea Formula Moisture Curl Cream
Sweep a dab of this sumptuous cream over dry hair for an instant refresh, or rake through damp strands for perfectly soft curls.
11. Cantu Leave In Conditioning Repair Cream
Cantu's one of the best kept secrets in the natural hair community, and their range actually works wonders for every hair type. This leave-in cream stands out as their hero product, but finer curls might need a dab diluted with water to avoid being weighed down.
12. Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curling Gel Souffle
I know you shouldn't play favourites, but this is my favourite hair product of all time. I don't know how it works, but I'm always guaranteed a good curl day whenever I use it. Want soft, glossy, super defined coils? You'll have them with this tub of wonder.
13. Oribe Curl Gloss, £38
Asides from divinely gorgeous packaging, Oribe's gel softly defines and moisturises curls without leaving them sticky or crunchy. Add UV protection and frizz-fighting powers, and we've got ourselves a holy grail product.
14. Cloud Nine Airshot Diffuser, £15
A solid diffuser is a must for bouncy curls. Cloud Nine's acts like an actual hand with fingers to scrunch away, lift and separate to perfection, and the tourmaline and vitamin-infused Airshot Dryer (£99; ) means you can dry away without fear of heat damage. Tip: diffuse damp curls using low heat and medium power until 80% dry, then turn it up to medium heat with high power for some major volume until dry.
15. SILKE Hair Wrap
This cute little turban ensures you wake up with hair that isn't a tangled, frizzy mess. Plus, you'll get to feel like Sofia Loren on her 1965 Vogue cover every damn night. Yaas.
16. BaByliss Tight Curls Wand
Curls that are damaged just don't curl. Use this super skinny wand to make your curls uniformly springy, or get the spirals you've always wanted if you've got straight strands.
17. Aquis Long Hair Towel
The terrycloth structure of normal towels mean frizz and breakage for your hair, whatever texture it is. Aquis's towels are smoother, so you can wrap up your locks without fear.