Few products are absolutely necessary to have great curly hair, but some of the below do make it a bit easier and are excellent occasional treats. I’m no scientist and certainly not a trained hair stylist, but these are the products that have worked best for me after roughly 15 years of rigorous experimentation. Please note that when purchasing hair products, it’s the ingredient list on the back that matters — not the fancy marketing text on the front. These have been vetted by me, and over time you will come to recognize the ingredients to avoid (i.e.: some sulfates and silicons) and which ones to embrace (i.e.: glycerine and aloe). More will be added as I try them!
No offense to the grand folks at Aussie, but this is my “cheap conditioner.” In fact, they should be quite proud, as this is the only brand I will purchase from a drug store. I’m sure I could spend hours trying to find a comparable product, but it’s inexpensive, easy to find, and doesn’t contain sulfates or chlorides. It does have alcohol as one of the main ingredients, which isn’t great, but it works well enough in oil treatments and for scalp scrubbing.
This is the highest-quality conditioner that I’ve found, and I use it for all regular conditioning. This is what I refer to when I am not talking about the “cheap conditioner.” I also use it in oil treatments sometimes when my hair needs extra lovin’. It has nothing but the best ingredients, smells great, and a little goes a long way. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it.
This conditioner is definitely one of my favorites, despite the lofty price tag. It uses organic ingredients and is very thick, so a little goes a long way, meaning you don’t spend as much as you might think. It comes in Rosemary and Peppermint; both of which are refreshing scents and pack a ton of essential oils to revitalize hair.
Agadir’s Argan Oil conditioner is a good one to add into the rotation, but it’s not my favorite. The smell can be overpowering, but this is good if you plan on going to the gym or sweating a lot at some point that day — the fresh scent will hold up and will release while you sweat, and after!
This product has been fully reviewed in WEN in Doubt, Try it Out!, and I love it. It normally comes in Pomegranate, Cucumber Aloe, Lavender, Sweet Almond Mint, Tea Tree, and Fig. I purchased the indulgent Summer Mango Coconut from the seasonal collection.
As far as hair masks go, this is one of my favorites. It does wonders on hair when left on overnight, and can be rinsed out with a sulfate-free cleanser, seen below. The lemon juice-conditioner mixture is not necessary to wash out masks, that is more beneficial when using heavier oil treatments. Apply masks to your scalp as well as your hair.
This splurg-y mask is made of all natural ingredients and is wonderful for overnight treatments. As with any overnight treatment, cover masked hair with a treatment cap, tie on tighter with a bandana, go to sleep and wash it out in the morning. You may want to use a sulfate-free cleanser to get it out. Apply masks to your scalp as well as your hair.
This is my favorite hair oil treatment. It’s light enough to apply a drop of it to hair when it’s dry and needs a little moisture, and it smells a bit like creamsicles (to me, anyway). I also use this as an overnight treatment and concentrate on ends when I have a lot of splitting and breakage. It’s not as intense as an oil treatment or mask, but it’s a quick and easy pick-me-up that can be left in and won’t look greasy or sticky. Cleanser is not needed to remove it, it will rinse out with water the next time you wash.
I’ve said in the past that I don’t use anything other than gel to style my hair, and anything else is a waste. I’ve been proven wrong! Hair creams have come a long way as of late, and this is my favorite. It has a lot of healing ingredients to moisturize your hair, and isn’t sticky or stiff. It allows hair to dry in a caste like gel does, but easily releases when hair is dry and allows strands to feel softer than ever. When I use this, I only wash out about half of the conditioner soaked into my hair, towel dry, and apply it by raking it through my ends. The moisturizing duo of conditioner and styling cream is perfect for summer hair that’s been blasted with heat, UV rays, chlorine, salt water, and sweat.
This is my favorite base gel, and I use it pretty much every time I do my hair. This is the gel I put on in the shower, immediately after the conditioner. It’s a great conditioning gel and smells really nice, definitely worth buying. I sometimes use it alone, but if it’s humid out I also use a finishing gel.
(Bonus: I also sometimes use this on the days that I don’t wash my hair. I simply run water through my hair at the sink, then use a small amount of this to coat the hair. Wetting it does re-activate the gel, but by the next day a lot of it has worn off. You can get the same effect a bit more easily and with less mess by using Deva’s new spray gel.)
This little beauty does wonders as a self-described “finishing gel.” For me, this means that I use it as the very last thing that I put on my hair while wet. My particular routine is to leave some conditioner on the ends in the shower, hand-squeeze out excess water and add a small amount of Devachan’s Angel concentrating on ends. Then I get out of the shower and carefully towel dry my hair by blotting it with a soft towel. Next I use another small amount of this to pack in nourishing frizz control that leaves my hair feeling soft and very manageable with just the right amount of control.
This is what I call my “finishing gel.” Once I’m out of the shower and have towel dried my hair, I *lightly* coat it with this gel. A very little bit so it doesn’t get too sticky. Too much product can be a very bad thing, you always want to monitor the amount you use. Now that your hair is health and well-conditioned, you won’t need as much gel. Always err on the side of less is more. When it’s dry and you’ve broken the “cast” set by the gel (the “scrunching” process we gel users all know and love, but scrunch with the same downward motion we’ve been using, only scrunch upward to increase curliness) it should look and feel clean, shiny, and not sticky or “wet” at all. I only use this on extra humid days, or days that I know my hair will be more prone to frizz. Normally it is not necessary to use more than one gel. I do enjoy all of Ouidad’s gels, but this has been my favorite so far. I suggest trying them all.
(Note: Hair gets used to products, I have no idea how. But switching them up now and then seems to help).
I rarely tell you to use anything on your scalp, because like the rest of your skin it needs to breathe. When I feel scalp pains or dryness I rub a touch of quality conditioner on it like hand lotion, but that’s about it. However, in the months when volume is a bit of a problem, this spray works like a pro and doesn’t appear to have any negative effects. I’ve been using it only after washing my hair, so about once or twice a week, for the past six months and it truly does lift my roots and add shine. Simply angle your head and spray about three spritzes on each side, putting the nozzle just inside your hair so you target the roots. No further rubbing or touching necessary, and you want to touch your hair as little as possible while it’s still wet. If you notice that your scalp is getting greasier, simply cut back to using it only for special occasions.
I only use this when I am about to straighten my hair. For me, that’s maybe 5 or so times a year. It has a small amount of the harsher cleansers, so this is the closest to shampoo that you should ever get. It’s probably akin to the “lather-free” shampoos you can buy in health food stores, but I’ve never really looked at their ingredients. It works well at getting all grit and grime out, and your hair won’t feel or look greasy at all once you’ve straightened it.
(Note: It is good to have a certain amount of grease in curly hair, but in straight hair it just looks messier and gets dirty too quickly.)
When I want to cheat a little bit and not use the full-on lemon juice + conditioner mix (4 tbsp conditioner + 4tbsp EVOO, as detailed in the Oil Treatment page), this is what I use. It contains zero harsh chemicals, and is a great conditioning cleanser. You’re not hurting your hair at all by using it, and the peppermint extract in it is good for your scalp.
Have you ever noticed how great your hair looks at the beach? The sea salt and humidity have a restorative effect on our locks, but without proper moisture it can make them too dry over time. This sea salt spray from Cold Spring is a definite splurge, but every time I need to freshen up next-day hair it goes above and beyond. Coconut and jojoba oils condition while the dead sea salts coax out cool texture and volume. It restores life and bounce to worn-out curls, and the product’s scent is AMAZING.
(Bonus: All Cold Spring products are made in small-batches to ensure freshness, and feature all organic natural ingredients.)
This little sucker ain’t cheap, but it’s hair gold. It was reviewed in Wen in Doubt, Try it Out! and is genius at replenishing tired, greasy, dull hair that just needs a little lift between washes.
We who don’t wash our hair every day sometimes need a little help from dry shampoo, I think you know what I’m talking about. This one, however, has none of the harmful ingredients (talc, if you haven’t heard, is bad) that traditional yucky sprays and powders have. It also has a great scent of the outdoors and happy times, so I highly suggest sprinkling some of it on itchy and oily patches of scalp between shampoos. Since you have curly hair, don’t brush it through your strands, just rubbing it into the scalp will be enough to help you.