The Best Curl Creams for Every Curl Type

Say hello to your new favorite curl multitasker (and goodbye to gross, crunchy gels).

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Portrait of laughing young woman with curly hair after using curl cream

Having curly hair can be exhausting. Between its need for intense hydration plus its tendency to break and frizz up, finding the right products for curly hair can feel like an endless quest that results in way too many products and far too few great hair days.

That's because, unlike straight or wavy hair, curly hair struggles to stay hydrated. Hair gets its moisture from oils released from the sebaceous glands on the scalp, explains celebrity hairstylist Mia Santiago. "With curly hair, it's hard for the oils to be distributed down the hair shaft because of the spiraling shape."

That's where curl creams come in. This multi-tasking product delivers the benefits of products like oils, sprays, and mousses without any of the unpleasant side effects. Combining the flexible hold of a gel with the hydration boost of a leave-in conditioner, curl cream is meant to be used post-shower and applied directly to soaking wet curls before plopping, scrunching, or diffusing. It also comes in a range of formulas to meet the very specific needs of different curl types. (If you don't know your curl type as a number/letter, check out this curl typing guide and figure out what kinds of curls you have.)

Tighter textures — think coils and super spiraling curls — need heavier curl creams (with a thicker consistency like a custard) for maximum hydration and reduced shrinkage, says Nicolle Lemonds, Devachan stylist and colorist and curly hair specialist. Those with finer hair texture or looser curl patterns should look for lighter products, with more of a lotion or milky consistency, that won't weigh down hair. For frizz-fighting, Lemonds recommends looking for curl creams with a jelly-like consistency, specifically with ingredients such as castor oil or shea butter. In terms of what to steer clear of, Lemonds warns against silicones as these "block moisture from getting into the hair's cuticle layer, causing dryness" as well as using straight-up oils, which operate the same way as silicone: offering temporary shine but with some potential major drawbacks. Instead, look for curl creams that contain oil or hydrolyzed versions of oil.

While curl creams really do the work of multiple products at once, they can be used in tandem with others, especially if they're more of a lotion than a thick, buttery texture — so don't throw away your favorite leave-in just yet. Also, it's important to cut down on the inevitable build-up that super-hydrating curl creams can cause: Aim to use a gentle clarifying shampoo every fourth or fifth wash day to keep the pores on your scalp clean and clear. Other major curl and coil no-gos include sulfates, which strip dirt from your hair but take your natural oils along with it, and potentially harmful chemicals such as phthalates and parabens.

If you've been struggling to find a multi-tasking curl product, look no further. Whether your curls are extra-thirsty, heat-damaged, or in desperate need of shine, check out these top-rated and expert-approved curl creams for every hair texture and curl concern.

Best Curl Cream for Coils: Miss Jessie's Coily Custard

This curl cream from fan-favorite curl brand Miss Jessie's has a wonderfully rich, pudding-like texture that provides hold and shine without weighing hair down or creating hardened, stiff sections. Reviewers rave about how glossy and defined their 4c (coily) curls look when using this custard which also happens to be free of petroleum, sulfates, parabens, paraffin, and mineral oil, all major red flags that can clog the pores on your scalp, weigh down curls, and cause extra build-up. (FYI, Zendaya and Madison Bailey are both obsessed with another Miss Jessie's curl styling product.)

Buy It: Miss Jessie's Coily Custard, $14, target.com

Best High-End Curl Cream: Oribe Styling Butter Curl Enhancing Crème

oribe-curl-cream
Amazon

Curly hair makes a strong statement, but it's actually incredibly delicate and, as such, requires extra nourishment. Natural butters and essential oils that strengthen and moisturize hair are key, according to Stacey Ciceron, an Oribe brand ambassador. Oribe's Styling Butter Curl Enhancing Crème is formulated with shea and cupuacu butter, which is rich enough to seal moisture into tight coils and natural textures without weighing down curl patterns. It also won't leave your hair greasy or crunchy (as a gel might) thanks to avocado oil that protects hair and provides definition.

Buy It: Oribe Styling Butter Curl Enhancing Crème, $46, amazon.com

Best Shine-Boosting Curl Cream: DevaCurl Supercream Coconut Curl Styler

devacurl-supercream-curl-cream-coconut
Devacurl

More than 700 curly reviewers agree that this curl cream lives up to its name. Packed with coconut oils and free of silicones, potentially harmful phthalates, and moisture-stripping sulfates, this super-rich cream smooths frizz, provides ample hydration, and creates a glossy hold that lasts. Reviewers love the scent — shout out to coconut oil, yet again — and the fact that it brings out the best in varying curl patterns, adding bounce in hair types from tight coils to looser waves. (

Buy It: DevaCurl Supercream Coconut Curl Styler, $28, devacurl.com

Best Curl Cream for Thin or Fine Curls: R+Co Turntable Curl Defining Crème

r+co-turntable-curl-cream
Dermstore

Despite misconceptions about curly hair, fine curls aren't any easier to style than thick curls. In fact, due to the fact that the fine hair is easily weighed down by thick butters, fine curls struggle even more to hold curl patterns and volume than other curl types. That's why Turntable, a curl defining cream from R+Co is such a great option for folks with finer curls. It seals in moisture and shine with rice protein, chia, flaxseed, and olive fruit extract and provides a boost of moisture thanks to coconut oil — all without weighing down thin or fine curls. It's also formulated without parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, or petrolatum, all of which can dull shine and cause greasy-looking buildup on the scalp. (

Buy It: R+Co Turn Table Curl Defining Crème, $29, dermstore.com

Best Curl Cream for Thick Curly Hair: Maui Moisture Curl Quench Coconut Oil Curl Smoothie

maui-curl-quench-smoothie
Ulta

This ultra-luxurious curl cream takes the form of a thick, whipped smoothie and delivers lightweight but deeply penetrative moisture thanks to a combination of aloe vera juice, papaya butter, coconut oil, and coconut water. It works wonders on coils and natural textures, providing maximum hydration without causing breakage, snapping, or weighing hair down. As a bonus, it's a great detangler and includes glycerin to provide enough slip to tease out even the toughest knots. (

Buy It: Maui Moisture Curl Quench Coconut Oil Curl Smoothie, $9, ulta.com

Best Budget Curl Cream: Cantu Coconut Curling Cream

cantu-coconut-curling-creme
Sally Beauty

Unlike some other curl creams that are recommended for use primarily on soaking wet curls, this cult-favorite curl cream from Cantu can also be used on dry curls to add extra bounce, shine, and definition between wash days. With over 4,000 Amazon reviews and an average rating of 4.5 stars, this is a solid budget-friendly curl cream option for medium to thick curls and coils. Reviewers especially love that the whipped formula provides moisture to parched thick and natural textures without weighing down curl patterns or building up on the scalp.

Buy It: Cantu Coconut Curling Cream, $6, sallybeauty.com or amazon.com

Best Curl Cream for Sensitive Scalp: SEEN Curly Creme

SEEN Curly Creme curl cream
SEEN

Dealing with curls is one thing, but dealing with curls and a sensitive scalp brings on a whole new slew of issues. For one thing, coconut oil, a major hydrator that works wonders on thicker curls and coils, can clog pores and cause breakouts on sensitive scalps. SEEN Hair Care founder and dermatologist Iris Rubin, M.D., recommends seeking out non-comedogenic (or non-pore clogging) curl creams, but advises that it's hard to find hair products that fit these criteria since most don't typically undergo comedogenicity testing. Instead of coconut oil, SEEN Curly Creme features shea butter, squalane, and hemisqualane (a plant-derived emollient that functions like silicone without all the nastiness) to hydrate hair and smooth frizz without weighing down curls or creating an imbalance in your scalp health.

Buy It: SEEN Curly Creme, $27, helloseen.com

Best Clean-Ingredient Curl Cream: Emerge The Works Butter Cream

emerge-the-works-butter-cream-curls
Target

If you're looking for a greener, cleaner curl cream this super creamy formula from Emerge may quickly become your clean ingredient and budget-friendly go-to. Phthalate-, paraben-, sulfate-, and dye-free, it offers moisture, flexible hold, and curl definition without sacrificing ingredient integrity. Featuring fair trade butters and oils for moisture and zero mineral oil (which is a non-renewable oil), this vegan curl cream works well on all curl types and textures and its blend of shea butter, pequi oil, and sweet almond oil provides an ultra-smooth finish.

Buy It: Emerge The Works Butter Cream, $8, target.com

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