Finding the Best Curl Cream: A Buyer’s Guide
It’s important to remember that your curl cream is just one step in your hair care routine, and it may not always be necessary. “Curl creams can be an amazing tool for damaged hair and situations where you may not be ready to let go of all the length that truly needs to go,” says Hannah Grace, hairstylist and owner of the Graceful Hairstylist Salon. “It can provide an extra ‘band aid’ to create a healthy looking style until you’re ready for the cut you need.
“However, if your curls are in a healthy place and you prioritize style longevity, I don’t recommend curl creams for a wash day,” she continues. “Curl creams (leave-ins too) can weaken the hold of other stylers like gel or foam, causing your style to lose definition faster than you may be hoping for. I tend to recommend curl creams more as a refresh product. A little bit can go a long way to help tame frizz between washes while keeping your hair soft to the touch.”
As a result, it’s important to look for a curl cream which matches your goals and pairs well with the rest of your curly hair products (shampoo, conditioner and more). If you want to repair hair damage, a hefty curl cream with a balance of moisture and protein may help nourish and strengthen your strands. If you already have healthy curls, a lightweight cream, used sparingly, may be the better option.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Curl Cream
When selecting a curl cream, it helps to consider the following factors.
All curl creams fall into one of three categories: lightweight, medium weight and heavy weight. Lightweight creams work well for fine hair that is easily weighed down by product. Medium-weight creams perform well on slightly denser hair. Lastly, heavy-weight creams work best on coarse, dry hair which requires a lot of moisture. Understanding what weight works best for your strands will help you quickly narrow down your choices.
If you have low-porosity hair, or hair that struggles to absorb water, a curl cream with plenty of moisturizing ingredients and low levels of protein will perform best on your hair. As a result, we recommend reaching for products that say “moisturizing” or “softening.” Products that say “protein” or “strengthening” on the bottle are more likely to create a dry, crunchy look on your curls.
If you have high-porosity hair, or hair that easily absorbs water, your strands have probably experienced damage from sun, chlorine, bleach or hair dye. So, we recommend looking for products that have protein and say “strengthening” or “repairing” on the label. Protein-rich curl creams will fortify your hair and reduce breakage, creating springy curls.
It may feel like a hassle, but carefully reviewing the ingredient list of a product before you buy it can save you money and trouble. For instance: I know not to use products that contain almond oil, because I am allergic. In addition, I avoid products with a lot of coconut oil, which tends to draw moisture out of my strands. If you are a beginner, it will take some trial and error to find out what ingredients don’t work for your hair.
A high list price on a curl cream usually means that it has good ingredients and will deliver great results. However, you may be able to achieve the same results at an affordable cost if you take the time to read reviews and buyer’s guides (like this one!). In our opinion, you don’t have to spend more than $30 on a curl cream to get well-defined curls. The least you can expect to spend on a good curl cream is about $8.
What Are the Different Types of Curl Creams?
There are three main types of curl creams: moisturizing, strengthening, and balancing.
Moisturizing curl creams are those which have minimal protein and plenty of hydrators in the ingredient list. The most common (and beneficial) hydrating ingredients include glycerin, an odorless compound derived from plant oils, aloe vera, coconut oil, sunflower oil, shea butter and silicones or synthetic conditioners.
Many of these ingredients work well across an array of hair types, but some can cause adverse reactions. For instance, coconut oil may draw moisture out of hair if it is used too often, and silicones can make it difficult to thoroughly wash hair.
Strengthening curl creams contain protein, which helps repair damaged hair strands. The most common proteins in curl creams include wheat, oat, soy, rice proteins, keratin, collagen and amino acids. Keep in mind that curl creams contain at least some moisture to balance out the formula.
A balancing curl cream is one that contains an even amount of moisture and protein. This type of formula works well for medium porosity hair, which does not need excessive hydration or strengthening. In general, a well-balanced curl cream will contain more moisture than protein, as too much protein can easily overload hair.
- Creates definition
- Non-toxic ingredients
- Only pairs well with other Innersense products
- Small container
- Smells great
- Creates all-day hold
- Heavy on wavy hair
- Not 100% vegan
- Great for air drying
- Doesn’t hold
- Heavy near the scalp
- Black-led brand
- Soft definition
- Smells great
- Drying on low-porosity hair
- Hold doesn’t last
- Weighs down fine hair
- Shiny finish
- Too lightweight for type 4 hair
- Not always available
- Fluffy finish without gel
- Moisturizing for low-porosity hair
- Great scent
- Not for air drying
- Smell is strong
- Great for type 2 curls
- Sweet scent
- Nozzle doesn’t work well
- Not enough moisture for type 3 hair
- Amazon packaging could cause leaks
- May be greasy
- May weigh down hair
People Also Ask
Q: How do I know if my hair is low, medium or high porosity?
A:Take a piece of hair (about a finger-width) and spray it with water. Then, observe how easily it absorbs moisture. If water beads on the surface and the strand only gets slightly wet, you have low porosity hair. If your hair absorbs the water and a little beads on the surface, you have medium porosity. In contrast, high porosity hair absorbs water very quickly with virtually no beading.
Q: How do I know which ingredients are non-toxic?
A:If you are worried about the safety of your curl cream, check out the EWG Skin Deep Database. Type the product name into the search bar to find out how the EWG rates it in terms of safety.
Q: What ingredients should I avoid?
A:If you have sensitive skin, we recommend avoiding parabens (preservatives), polyethylene glycol, or PEG (a solvent), and non-natural fragrance.
Q: How much should I spend on curl creams?
A:In general, you can find a good curl cream if you spend anywhere between $8 and $30.
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We try various products, so we can recommend our favorites, and we also summarize feedback and data from other customers. Data, like product reviews and ratings, helps us recommend the best product choices for individual price points and needs.
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