Anyone with curly hair knows that it has a mind of its own. Some days, it's a mass of perfectly defined ringlets or coils on their best behavior. Other days, getting your curls to stay clumped together is like trying to get a toddler on a sugar high to stand still. Yup, curls can be pretty temperamental, but sometimes all it takes is the right combination of products to get them to play nice and live up to your idea of perfection.
Of course, not every curl cocktail works for everyone and finding one that's best for your hair can take a bit of trial and error. Trust us, we've been through it. And now that we've each found the perfect components for flawless curls, we want to share our discoveries with the world. Below, five curly girls spill the tea on their perfect curl-product combos, proving that when it comes to curls, there is no one-size-fits-all way to bring them to perfection.
1. Alyssa Hardy, fashion news editor, Teen Vogue
It's taken me a long time to figure out the right cocktail for my curls. Though I have a lot of hair, it's actually pretty fine, so I need something that doesn't weigh it down. I shampoo with Bumble and Bumble Bb. Curl Care Free Shampoo and condition with Amika Hydrate, because it's the only thing that takes all the knots out.
Then I scrunch Deva Curl Ultra Defining Gel into super wet hair and blow-dry with a diffuser. If I need more volume, I'll spray on Deva Curl's The Curl Maker when it's dry. I've tried everything under the sun and this is truly the only thing that has worked well for me without too much fuss.
2. Jessica Cruel, senior editor, beauty & style, Self magazine
I used to do the most with my hair, like taking four hours to meticulously twist my 4B curls into small sections, but that got old real fast. Now, I’m focused more on moisture than definition. Funny enough, the results come out pretty much the same.
I use the L.O.C. method, which stands for leave-in, oil, cream. I start with a leave-in, like Mielle Avocado Moisturizing Hair Milk or Taliah Waajid Protective Styles Bamboo and Coconut Milk Leave-in Conditioner on damp hair (I keep a spray bottle nearby to keep my hair wet). Then I use an oil, like Curls Blueberry Bliss Hair Growth Oil or Taliah Waajid Protective Styles Growth Oil.
I finish with a cream like The Doux Afro Bonita Balm or Taliah Waajid Protective Styles Curl Activator. Then, I go in with my Tangle Teezer Thick & Curly to detangle and get curl definition. This layering technique locks in moisture, which is exactly what my dry hair needs.
3. Devon Abelman, digital reporter
Because my fine hair is cut into a lob, springy, defined ringlets are the ultimate goal of my curl cocktail. I start off by misting my hair with the IGK Sold Out Curl Priming Basecoat. The spray moisturizes my curls and adds shine without that heavy, oily feeling. I also use it as a second-day curl refresher. Next, I put a quarter-size amount of a curl jelly into my palm, like Taliah Waajid Curly Curl “Gello” or Inoar Divine Curl Hair Styling & Finishing Gel, before rubbing my hands together. Then I rake my fingers through my hair.
Once the product is evenly dispersed, I split my hair down the middle and twist each section. To finish off the process, I slip on a Silke Hair Wrap and let my hair dry. I like to wash my hair before bed, so it helps my curls dry more uniformly without getting crushed and frizzy while I sleep. A silk pillowcase is also a good option if you don't want to snooze in a bonnet.
4. McKenzie Dawkins, Best of Beauty assistant
My color-treated curls love protein, so I like to start with the Aphogee Keratin and Green Tea Restructurizer. I spritz the lightweight spray throughout my wet hair and rake through with my fingers to protect my color and give my ends a strengthening boost. After my protein, the first step of my styling is always a leave-in conditioner. Lately, I've been loving the Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave-In Conditioner, but if I need something a little extra for my thick hair, I'll substitute a heavier cream.
Next, it's time for a gel. I love using gels or curling custards to add definition and hold to my hair, so I can stretch my wash-and-go as many days as possible. Again from the Curls Blueberry Bliss line, I love the Curl Control Jelly. As gels go, it's pretty moisturizing, adds great shine, and also smells just like a blueberry Jolly Rancher, which is a bonus. Once my hair is fully dry, I like to scrunch out some of the crunch using an oil — my fave is the Creme of Nature Essential 7 Treatment Oil. That stuff is liquid gold and leaves my hair nourished without the greasy feeling.
5. Jihan Forbes, digital editor
My curl-cocktail routine is constantly changing because of my job, but through all of that experimentation, I've been able to come up with a mixture of products that not only make my curls super defined, but stay that way for a long time. I typically start on damp hair and, section by section, spray on my still-favorite Form Beauty Multitask Leave-In Lotion and start detangling. To make sure my hair looks extra defined, I pass each section through my Denman brush or my Tangle Teezer.
Then I rake a bit of the Taliah Waajid Protective Styles Curl Activator, which not only has a very light and fresh smell but makes my hair look and feel like absolute heaven. It's not too thick, and doesn't add much weight to my curls — it just makes them super defined and moisturized. To lock it all in, I add just a bit of Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel over the top to make sure the curls stay for days. And they do — even in the humid New York City summers. If I feel the need to use an oil, the SheaMoisture 100% Pure Monoi Oil is the first I reach for.
I typically twist my hair up and go about my business for a bit before taking the twists down and gently separating the curls. I'll use my Harry Josh lightweight blow-dryer with the diffuser attachment if I don't want to air-dry. To avoid shrinkage, I switch to a concentrated nozzle, pull my hair up or out, and hit the roots with a little air to give me more length and volume.
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