Byrdie August 4, 2023



The Best Hair Routine for Curly Hair of 2023


The full hair care routine to define your curl pattern, add moisture, and fight humidity

Whether you have soft, loose ringlets, or type 4C curly Q’s, caring for your curly hair can be a challenge. Without the right hair care routine, your curls can end up a dried-out mess.

The key to finding the best hair routine for curly hair is to look for products that have hydrating ingredients — think shea butter, squalane, avocado oils, and hyaluronic acid. These types of ingredients will both nourish your strands while eliminating flyaways, too.

Another factor to look for when shopping for products for a curly hair routine is to pay attention to descriptors on the bottle. You want to look for words like “hydrating” or “moisturizing” for curly hair. Below, we asked experts for their recommendations for the best hair routine for curly hair.


Best Under $20

DevaCurl SuperCream Coconut Curl Styler


What We Like

  • Available at drugstores nationwide
  • Super hydrating formula

What We Don't Like

  • Can be a bit greasy
  • Not ideal for oily hair

The DevaCurl SuperCream Coconut Curl Styler is our favorite drugstore pick for multiple reasons. First off, it’s affordable at $17 per bottle. Secondly, we love that it’s easily available at many drugstores and retailers nationwide. And finally, we love that it’s free of parabens, silicones, and SLS/SLES sulfates.

This formula does a fantastic job of hydrating curls, while helping to define them, too. Some folks have complained that this formula feels a bit greasy. A little goes a long way, so don’t use too much.

Price at time of publish: $17

Size: 5.1 ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes

Best Shampoo

Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo

What We Like

  • Has super hydrating ingredients

What We Don't Like

  • May be too heavy for some

When it comes to maintaining your hair, you want to set yourself up for success: Starting with your shampoo for curly hair. The Ouidad Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo features an innovative “Anti-Frizz Nano Technology” within its formula, which basically prevents flyaways before they form.

We love that this shampoo is gentle and hydrating, thanks to ingredients like ceramides, shea butter, and murumuru butter. It does a great job of protecting hair from humidity and keeping the cuticle smooth and in place.

However, some folks with fine hair might find this formula a bit too heavy.

Price at time of publish: $24

Size: 8.5 ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes

Best Conditioner

Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Shea Curl Defining Conditioner

What We Like

  • Doesn’t irritate sensitive skin
  • Works well for different curl types

What We Don't Like

  • Not as affordable as others
  • Some people didn’t notice a difference

It’s important to give curls the moisture they need, and you can count on Briogeo to deliver in the form of this conditioner for curly hair. Leigh Hardges, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, is a big fan of all things Briogeo. “They are great for people who have sensitive skin, and the products just work.” I recommend their products to clients because they do what they say they’ll do, she explains.

Jessica Morrobel, a natural hair educator based in New York City, also loves this product for curly hair.  “The formula is free from harsh sulfates, silicones, and parabens, so you can feel good about what you're putting on your hair.” “What sets this conditioner apart is its ability to detangle and fight humidity — and I recommend it to fellow curly-haired friends because it works well across the curly spectrum. It tackles stubborn knots and tangles, which is great for wash days, leaving curls smooth and easier to detangle.”

The Briogeo Curl Charisma Conditioner features rice amino acids to prevent flyaways and frizz, and mollis leaf extract and tomato fruit ferment to define your curls. We love that it’s sulfate-free and 97 percent naturally derived.

The downside is that this pick is a bit pricier, at $27 per bottle.

Price at time of publish: $27

Size: 8 ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes

Best Leave-In Conditioner

Kérastase Curl Manifesto Crème De Jour Curl Enhancing Leave-In Cream

What We Like

  • Contains soothing manuka honey

What We Don't Like

  • Definitely on the pricey side
  • Isn’t ideal for coarse hair types

There’s nothing quite like a nourishing leave-in conditioner to really make your curls pop. This pick from Kérastase is a favorite of Jenna Spino, a veteran stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, Illinois. "The Kerastase Curl Manifesto Crème De Jour softens hair and enhances curl," says Spino.

Not only that, but this formula contains manuka honey to soothe an irritated scalp, while ceramides hydrate weakened strands, too. We love that this formula features key ingredients to nourish hair, but some folks with coarser hair types might not find this leave-in hydrating enough.

Price at time of publish: $45

Size: 5.1 ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes

Best Cream

Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Featherlight Styling Cream

What We Like

  • Great for adding bounce and volume
  • Also provides shine and hydration

What We Don't Like

  • More of a lightweight hold
  • Not great for folks with thicker hair

This styling cream from Ouided does not disappoint when it comes to curl definition and anti-humidity. No matter which climate you’re in, the Ouidad Climate Control Styling Cream will prevent humidity-caused frizz without weighing hair down.

Featuring ingredients like olive, meadowfoam seed, and soybean oils, this pick does a great job of adding bounce and volume to curls while hydrating your strands, too. Plus, we love that the formula contains a dedicated UV filter to protect your hair from environmental aggressors.

Because this is more of a lightweight hold, it might not be ideal for folks with coarser, curly hair.

Price at time of publish: $21

Size: 5.7 ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes

Best Mousse

SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Frizz-Free Curl Mousse

What We Like

  • It’s a multi-functional product
  • It smells amazing

What We Don't Like

  • Not suitable for all curl types

SheaMoisture is a fantastic brand that’s well-known for their haircare products geared towards curly and textured hair. This mousse works well to define curls without the crunch. Made with ingredients like coconut oil, neem oil, and shea butter, the SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Mousse hydrates, detangles, and protects hair from breakage, too.

The price is right at $11, and we love that this pick can be found in most drugstores nationwide. Some users have found that this product is not as strong of a humidity-shield as other products on the market. Make sure that you are applying enough product depending on your hair length and thickness.

Price at time of publish: $11

Size: 7.5 ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes

Best Gel

AG Care Curl Re:Coil Curl Activator

What We Like

  • Suitable for all curl types
  • A little goes a long way

What We Don't Like

  • May leave your hair feeling dry
  • Not great for folks whose hair is already dry

Specifically designed to enhance and define natural curls, the AG Care Curl Re:Coil Curl Activator gives them that beautiful bounce and shape. Morrobel really loves this product because it’s so lightweight. “It's silicone-free and won't weigh your hair down or leave it feeling greasy and sticky,” she explains. “Instead, it leaves curls feeling soft and natural, without any unwanted residue.”

Morrobel recommends this product for anyone who has loose waves or tight coils — it's super versatile and suitable for all curl types. “Plus, it's easy to use,” she says. “Just apply a small amount to damp hair and scrunch it in or you can also brush your curls based on personal preference.”

Some folks have complained that this product leaves their hair feeling dry. If you have super dry strands already, you might want to consider another pick on this list.

Price at time of publish: $26

Size: 6 ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes

Best Mask

Pattern Treatment Mask

What We Like

  • It’s extremely hydrating
  • Also works as a detangler

What We Don't Like

  • Contains propylene glycol, which can be drying
  • There is a bit of fragrance in this product

Give your curls some TLC every once in a while with this fantastic hair mask from Tracee Ellis Ross’s brand, Pattern. We love this pick for curls, kinks, and coils because it thoroughly hydrates hair without weighing your curls down or leaving an oily film.

The watery, gel-like consistency works as a detangler and makes hair more manageable.

Hardges loves this product for her clients because the watery, gel-like consistency leaves hair soft and easy to manage and detangle. Plus, it has a delightful, subtle floral scent that adds to the appeal, too.

One thing we don’t love about this formula is that it contains propylene glycol. This ingredient is a type of alcohol that might be drying for some.

Price at time of publish: $25

Size: 15 ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes

Best Hair Dryer

DevaCurl DevaDryer and DevaFuser For All Curl Kind

What We Like

  • Diffuser attachment is shaped like a hand
  • Designed specifically for curly hair

What We Don't Like

  • A bit on the pricier side
  • Not the most chic-looking hair dryer

Traditional hair dryers usually wreak havoc on curly-haired folks. It’s important to invest in a great blow dryer that has an effective diffuser attachment. Hardges loves this pick from DevaCurl. “I do feel that, at times, traditional diffuser attachments can create an unnatural or mechanical look to curly hair,” explains Hardges. “This shape ensures a more organic and natural finish to curls.”

This innovative design is shaped like a hand to surround your curls in 360-degree airflow. This ensures a blow dry all the way up to the roots. We loved that the hand attachment could scrunch, lift, and separate coils as they dried. While we love this cutting-edge technology, it costs a bit more than your average blow dryer.

Price at time of publish: $180

Size: 1 pound | Sulfate-Free: Yes

Best Hair Towel

DevaCurl DevaTowel Anti-Frizz Microfiber Towel


What We Like

  • Defines curls while drying them
  • Made of microfiber, which is better for curls

What We Don't Like

  • Towel is only available in one size
  • Might not be large enough for longer hair

Drying curly hair comes with its own set of rules. The biggest one being to invest in a microfiber hair towel. Considering curly hair types are more prone to frizz, it’s important to use a towel that will decrease the chances of tangles as much as possible. This pick from DevaCurl helps to define your curls and gently dry them.

Microfiber is preferred over terry cloth towels for curly hair because it’s gentler on strands than terry cloth, because the material has less friction and absorbs more water. Some folks have complained that this towel is too small and not large enough for those with longer, curly hair.

Price at time of publish: $25

Size: One 39-inch-by-20-inch towel | Sulfate-Free: Yes

Best Hair Brush

Curls Ultimate Detangler Brush

What We Like

  • Ideal for mixed curl types
  • Firm bristles that don’t tug on your hair

What We Don't Like

  • The bristles might be too firm for some
  • Kind of expensive for what it is

Thanks to the 18 rows of bristles (including nine thinner rows for finer hair and nine thick bristle rows for coarser hair), the Curls Ultimate Detangler Brush is ideal for those who have multiple curl patterns on their head. It was even named our best brush for curly hair in our testing.

This is a fantastic detangling brush that has soft but firm bristles and won’t snag on hair. It’s lightweight and inexpensive, too. Some folks might find the bristles to be too firm — it’s all up to your own preference in terms of how flexible you like your hairbrush.

Price at time of publish: $17

Size: 1 hairbrush | Sulfate-Free: Yes


Leigh Hardges, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago
Paul Cucinello, a New York City-based celebrity stylist and founder of Cucinello Beauty
Jessica Morrobel, a natural hair educator based in New York City


How We Researched

To compile this list, we first looked at all of the New York-lab tests that have taken place this year. We considered the best blow dryers and diffusers and brushes for curly hair. Then we turned to the experts: hairstylists and got their recommendations for curly hair styling products. From there we looked at the pros and cons of each product as well as what curl types and hair types they are best for in order to write this guide.

What to Look for in the Best Routine for Curly Hair

Ingredients to Include

A haircare routine for curly hair should consist of easy-to-follow, consistent steps that enhance your natural hair texture and define your curls. “The new stars of smooth, defined curls are co-polymers such as brassica oil, which actually performs better than most silicones and is plant-derived,” explains Paul Cucinello, a New York City-based celebrity stylist and founder of Cucinello Beauty. “Look for products that contain an updated ingredient list featuring any natural oils that are easily absorbed such as squalane, hemp, and avocado oils.”

Additionally, hyaluronic acid can help to infuse and attract moisture to dry hair. “Do your best to avoid silicones, as they can provide instant gratification, but they will quickly start to build up on the hair, preventing other ingredients from penetrating,” says Cucinello.

Choose Slip Over Grip

According to Hardges, you want to look for products that yield more slip than grip. “Products that say hydrating or moisturizing are going to be descriptors you look for in products,” she says. Curls need more moisture because it takes only for oils to travel down the spiral of the curl. This hair type is more prone to dryness and breakage, especially at the ends, so relying on products to keep it juicy is key. A weekly mask, like Pattern’s Treatment Mask, can also give strands that dose of hydration.


Are sulfates bad for curly hair?

According to Cucinello and Hardges, sulfates are not great for curly hair. “You can use cleansers with sulfates in them if you plan to do a clarifying cleanse, but other than that, they will only strip the natural protective barrier from the surface of the hair and enhance frizz,” explains Cucinello.

How do you layer hair products for curly hair?

Serums and water-based products go first to deliver nutrients deep into the hair. “Creams and lotions go second, which will attract well to water-based serums,” explains Cucinello. “Oils go third and will create a barrier from humidity, holding water-based serums and creams in and preventing frizz. Fourth, use anything with hold, like gel for enhancing curls and locking it all in place.”

Hardges recommends lightest to heaviest in terms of product viscosity. “Start with your water-based leave-in conditioner, then your styling aid, whether it’s a curl cream or gel,” she says.

Why Trust Byrdie

Daley Quinn is a contributing writer for Byrdie, where she covers all things beauty, health, and lifestyle. Quinn has worked as a beauty journalist for ten years and has been published in both print and digital outlets, including Allure, Fashionista, Well + Good, Women’s Health, The Cut, WWD, Real Simple, Shape, and more. Quinn rounded up the favorites of each category from past stories to create this list. When Quinn isn’t busy testing beauty products for extensive review, you can find her writing for her lifestyle blog,