Cosmopolitan September 25 2023



16 Best Wavy Hair Products in 2023, Tested and Reviewed


Let’s leave crunchy waves in the past, k?

If you have wavy hair, I’d be willing to bet you spend half your days desperately trying to find wavy hair products that actually work and the other half saying f*ck it, nvm, it is what it is (cue: your go-to roster of braided hairstyles, messy buns, and quick updos). Wavy hair requires a ~delicate~ balance of hydration and hold, but annoyingly, a ton of wavy hair products tend to be either all moisture-focused (ahem, heavy oils and air-dry creams that leave you greasy) or all hold-focused (see: sticky, crunchy, tangled-feeling finishes).

But it’s 2023, bb, and we’re not about disappointment this year. So, to help you and your waves out, I chatted with two hairstylists—Jenna Spino and Naeemah LaFond—to handpick all the best shampoos, deep conditioners, texturizing sprays, and curl gels that’ll leave your wavy hair defined and smooth, not pulled-out and limp. Right this way for a sneak peek of some of the best wavy hair products on the market rn, then keep reading for the complete list of our favorites plus answers to all your wavy hair questions.

FYI: We updated this article in September 2023 to give you the most up-to-date info on wavy hair products, including new tried-and-tested picks, many experts' take on which ones are the best, and how to choose a product for your wavy hair.

Our top picks for the best wavy hair products in 2023:

Now that you’re officially intrigued, keep scrolling for a full breakdown of the best wavy hair products to try ASAP, along with tips on how to enhance your wavy hair and how to choose the best wavy hair product for your specific type of wave.

Best Air-Dry Product for Wavy Hair

John Frieda Frizz Ease Air Dry Waves Styling Foam


  • Helps keep waves defined between washes


  • Some reviewers say the pump can get messy

If the 4,000 five-star reviews don’t prove the magic of this drugstore mousse, then I don’t know what will. When you can’t be bothered to pull out your hair dryer and actually style your hair (me, most days), you need this air-dry foam that helps enhance and volumize your natural wave pattern without the crunch or heat damage. Reviewers recommend scrunching 1-2 pumps through towel-dried hair, then letting it completely air-dry before touching it, or just leaving it untouched for a soft, beachy finish.

Type of product: Mousse
Size: 5 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “My hair looks voluminous but just feels conditioned and soft,” one review reads. “I have found the waves stay at least three days (the longest I can go without washing my hair).”

Best Texture Spray for Wavy Hair

OUAI Wave Spray


  • Leaves your waves looking natural and soft


  • Can make your hair a little crunchy if you over-spray it

If your definition of an easy hairstyle is just your natural hair but better, please meet your new BFF. Unlike traditional sea salt sprays that leave your hair tangled and dry, this non-sticky spray uses a combo of strengthening proteins (like rice, keratin, and corn proteins), moisture-retaining humectants (like glycerin and panthenol), and hydrating coconut water to boost your natural wave pattern with just a few spritzes on wet or dry hair.

Type of product: Texture spray
Size: 5 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “I have naturally wavy hair, and this is one of the only products I use anymore because it perfectly accentuates natural waves or curls,” one tester writes. “I just put it in slightly damp hair and crunch it a bit, and it results in lovely, soft waves.”

Best Deep Conditioner for Wavy Hair

Aussie 3-Minute Miracle Waves Deep Conditioner


  • Affordable and available at most drugstores


  • May not be moisturizing enough for thicker, coarser waves or curls

Waves need a very delicate balance of moisture: too much, and your hair gets greasy and weighed down; too little, and your waves can become tangled and poofy (especially if you have dry hair). Enter: this cult-favorite deep conditioner that uses a hair-smoothing cocktail of fatty alcohols, hemp seed extract, and kakadu plum extract to keep your waves lightly moisturized and super soft.

Type of product: Deep conditioner
Size: 8 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “This is one of my favorite go to drugstore deep conditioners,” writes one tester. “The price is fantastic and I can always count on it to easily condition my hair.”

Best Drugstore Shampoo and Conditioner for Wavy Hair

Dove Amplified Textures Sulfate-Free Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner


  • Shampoo leaves hair feeling clean without stripping it
  • Conditioner doubles as a detangler


  • If you don't like fragrance, both have a coconut scent that lingers
  • Shampoo might feel too harsh on very dry or damaged hair

For wavy hair that needs moisture without feeling heavy or oily after rinsing, try this drugstore-favorite shampoo and conditioner duo. Both are formulated with moisturizing aloe, shea butter, and coconut oil to add that sweet, sweet softness to your hair that’ll help define your waves without leaving them looking stringy.

Type of product: Shampoo and conditioner
Size: 32.3 oz. (each)

THE REVIEWS: “My waves are even more defined, smooth, and even have more bounce,” according to one tester. “My hair felt noticeably softer, smoother, and easier to brush.”

Best Leave-In Conditioner for Waves

Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosarco Milk Leave In Conditioning Spray


  • Doesn’t leave behind a greasy residue


  • May cause tangling if you use too much

If there’s one product your wavy hair needs in its arsenal, it’s this lightweight leave-in conditioner. Thanks to the formula’s mix of shea butter and oils (hi, rose hip, argan, and coconut), this leave-in spray lightly coats your hair cuticle with humidity-blocking moisture to help keep your waves soft and smooth, even in the sweaty summer months. *adds to cart immediately.*

Type of product: Leave-in conditioner
Size: 5 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “It’s the only product I’ve ever used that actually reduces my frizz without weighing down or creating a weird coating on my hair,” a tester writes in one review. “Where has this been all my life?!”

Best Shampoo for Fine, Wavy Hair

TGIN Rose Water Sulfate-Free Hydrating Shampoo


  • Leaves roots feeling clean, light, and volumized


  • Some reviewers find it too drying for tight waves or curls

A common myth about fine hair? That it requires sulfate-filled shampoos to keep it feeling light and volumized. But nope—wavy hair is automatically drier than straight hair, so to keep your waves soft, shiny, and healthy, you’ll need a cleanser that actually helps hydrate, like this one. This sulfate-free shampoo gently breaks down buildup while adding a bit of shine-enhancing moisture that won’t make your fine hair riot.

Type of product: Shampoo
Size: 13 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “I have rather thick, low-porosity, fine hair, and TGIN shampoo gets my hair clean with no residue and helps my hair absorb conditioning and smells so nice and light,” writes one reviewer.

Best Leave-In Cream for Soft Waves

Miss Jessie's Pillow Soft Curls Lotion


  • Leaves waves looking smoother


  • Reviewers say the squeeze-tube cap can leak

I’m a firm believe that all hair types can benefit from a leave-in conditioner (yup, even stick-straight hair), so if you’ve been avoiding the leave-in life because you’re afraid your waves can’t handle it, try this mid-weight cream. It’s formulated with glycerin, avocado oil, and silk amino acids that smooth and soften your waves, without straightening out your curl pattern. Use a quarter-size amount of the cream and rake and smooth it through detangled hair (really! do it!), then blow-dry with a diffuser or air-dry.

Type of product: Leave-in cream
Size: 8.5 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “It does not give that wet look that most curl gels and creams do—just simply light and fluffy curls,” writes one reviewer.

Best Oil for Wavy Hair

Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Hair Oil


  • A little goes a loooong way, so start slow


  • Some reviewers say it can leave a yellow tint on blonde or bleached hair

Don’t be scared of hair oils—they’re actually the MVP of locking in moisture and smoothing flyaways and split ends on wavy hair. The trick is finding an oil that’s lightweight, like the mix of moringa, sunflower, and grape-seed oils in this formula. Rub a few drops between your palms, then rake, smooth, and twist your fingers through your dry or damp hair to define your waves while adding a bit of shine.

Type of product: Oil
Size: 1 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “I use this product exclusively on the ends of my hair after I shower,” writes one reviewer. “When my hair dries, it dries very soft and without any frizz.”

Best Strong-Hold Gel for Wavy Hair

Ouidad Curl Quencher Moisturizing Styling Gel


  • Uses a mix of oils to keep hair smooth and workable


  • Contains alcohol as the second ingredient (if you’re trying to avoid)

If your wavy hair is both super dry and prone to poofing, you already know that one styling product is never gonna cut it. Instead, layer a dollop of this moisturizing gel (ty, glycerin and castor oil) on top of a lightweight leave-in conditioner or styling milk to keep your dry hair soft and defined without flaking or crunching.

Type of product: Gel
Size: 8.5 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “This gel is so moisturizing for my dry hair,” writes one tester. “It isn’t like other gels that harden and dry your hair out in the next couple days.”

Best Texturizer for Wavy Hair

R+Co Velvet Curtain Cotton Touch Texture Balm


  • Doesn’t feel sticky or tacky on your hair


  • Can make your waves look oily if you use too much

I've always had bad luck with texture sprays making my hair look sticky and tangled rather than bedhead-y and purposeful, which led me to ultimately fall in love with this texture balm (yes, balm). A tiny dab of the silicone-based formula will leave your hair's ends looking piecey and beachy yet still soft and workable. Think second-day grit without the second-day grease.

Type of product: Texture balm
Size: 3 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “Nothing, nothing, nothing felt sticky or heavy or looked like I had products in,” writes one reviewer. “I mean I had perfect lift at the crown, and the rest of my hair looked great. Even my waves looked like delicate beautiful waves, which I have never experienced in my life.”

Best Moisturizer for Dry Hair

Camille Rose Curl Love Moisture Milk


  • Uses only lightweight oils to soften dry hair


  • Has a super-sweet scent that some may find too strong

Yes, wavy hair is naturally drier than straight hair, but using a too-heavy cream or balm can often leave your waves weighed down and stretched out—i.e., the opposite of what you’re going for. Instead, try this lightweight cream that uses avocado oil and aloe vera to moisturize dry hair while absorbing quickly into your hair cuticle, thanks to its milky texture (ahem, that’s editor speak for “thin”).

Type of product: Light cream
Size: 8 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “I can use this every day on my hair, and it keeps my hair moisturized and doesn't weigh down my hair,” reads one tester’s review. “It also works great as a styling product and smells amazing, like sugar cookies.”

Best Mousse for Wavy Hair

Moroccanoil Curl Control Mousse


  • Anti-static agents will help keep your waves defined


  • Some reviewers don’t love the strong coconut fragrance

If your hair is too fine for styling creams and leave-ins, but it still requires more moisture than a gel can provide, try this airy mousse that’s filled with moisturizing argan oil, vitamin E, and castor oil to give your waves a touch of hydration, along with anti-static agents to keep your waves smooth after they dry. Shoot for a golf ball–sized puff and rub it between your hands before raking it through your hair with your fingers to evenly distribute.

Type of product: Mousse
Size: 5.1 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “I am traveling, and it is wonderful not to have to spend a lot of time on your hair—just apply the mousse, use hairspray, and you are ready for the day,” one review reads.

Best Clarifying Shampoo for Wavy Hair

Bumble and Bumble Sunday Clarifying Shampoo


  • Uses intense sulfates to dissolve product build-up, oils, and mineral deposits


  • Way too drying and color-stripping for regular use

Wavy hair feeling a little flat, dry, pulled-out, and meh? You may need a “reset” wash—i.e., when you wash your hair with a sulfate-based clarifying shampoo to strip away product buildup or mineral deposits (see: hard water, chlorine, dry shampoo, etc.). This cleanser uses sodium laureth sulfate, one of the harshest of the sulfate detergents, to reset your waves. It’s effective but hella drying, so limit your use to once or twice a month, avoid it on your freshly colored or chemically treated hair, and always follow with a deep conditioner on the ends.

Type of product: Shampoo
Size: 8.5 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “This shampoo makes my hair and scalp feel super refreshed and clean when I’m done using it,” one reviewer writes, “but it never leaves my hair feeling stripped.”

Best Scalp Scrub for Wavy Hair

Fable & Mane SahaScalp Wild Ginger Purifying Scrub


  • Helps buff away flakes from dandruff


  • Can be annoying to completely rinse out of hair

Exfoliating your scalp with a scalp scrub once a month is basically a requirement for healthy hair growth and voluminous waves. Before shampooing or conditioning, part your wet hair with a wide-tooth comb or your fingers, and massage this sea salt-based scrub along your scalp, section by section, to break down dead skin cells and product buildup. Shampoo and condition like normal to rinse out all the residue.

Type of product: Scalp scrub
Size: 8 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “I had been struggling with product buildup on my long, very thick hair, and this has worked wonders,” writes one tester. “It leaves my hair silky, shiny and clean.”

Best Detangler for Wavy Hair

UNITE Hair 7 Seconds Detangler


  • Doubles as a heat protectant before heat-styling


  • Contains alcohol, which can be drying if used too frequently

Anyone with wavy or curly hair knows that a brush is basically the enemy of good hair definition. Instead of trying to detangle dry hair, mist this detangler throughout your freshly washed hair after showering. The formula’s conditioning panthenol and slippery silicones will help you gently comb out knots without messing with your waves or leading to breakage.

Type of product: Detangler
Size: 8 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “It’s a great all in one product that everyone should use,” writes one reviewer. “It detangles, adds shine, acts as a heat protector, and makes my hair really soft.”

Best Sea-Salt Spray for Waves

Sun Bum Sea Salt Spray


  • Adds texture and grit without creating tangles


  • Reviews say the spritzer clogs easily

This sea-salt spray is actually the GOAT for giving freshly washed hair some texture and grip (or, you know, making your third-day hair look intentionally gritty), but its salt-based formula can also be drying. To get that matte, beachy look without your hair feeling like straw, first layer on a lightweight leave-in conditioner before spritzing on your salt spray to create a moisturizing, flexible barrier.

Type of product: Sea-salt spray
Size: 6 oz.

THE REVIEWS: “It’s lightweight enough that I can go two days without washing my hair but still using the product,” according to one review. “It keeps my waves clean and frizz down.”

How can I enhance my wavy hair? 

First, we have to address the ~elephant~ in the room: No single product can “create” waves or give your hair a texture you don’t naturally have (only a hot tool can do that). So if you’re trying to enhance your natural waves, the most important step is first getting your hair as healthy as possible to bring out your texture (@ hot tools and damaging treatments—yes, this is a subtweet), then using products that will give your waves definition and hold.

Both Spino and LaFond agree that your first product addition should be a curl-enhancing product, like a curl cream, mousse, or gel. Yup, a curl-specific product may sound weird, but these formulas are typically filled with polymers and hydrators that can help “activate” your wave pattern. Creams are a good option for hair that needs All of The Moisture and often feels dry, poofy, and undefined, while mousse and gel can be helpful in providing extra hold and definition to fine hair that falls flat by the end of the day.

FWIW, only gels and mousses can really “enhance” your waves (creams and leave-ins mostly keep your hair from poofing or drying out). So, if you want to amp up your texture, try cupping and scrunching a palmful of your mousse or gel throughout your damp or wet hair rather than just raking them through.

How do I fix wavy hair in the morning? 

If you know your natural waves won’t make it past day-one hair, try pre-styling your waves before bed to get you to day two. Just mist your hair with a water bottle—or a lightweight, refreshing spray—until it’s lightly saturated, rake a small palmful of mousse throughout your hair for hold, then loosely braid it, tying off the ends with a scrunchie. (Other options? Try two Dutch braids for more definition around your crown, or go for a French braid for volume.)

Yes, the braid will give your waves a more crimped look than your natural texture, says Spino, but it’ll still leave you with workable definition for your second-day hair. In the morning, just unravel your braid, smooth flyaways with a few drops of hair oil between your palms, and live your life.

How to choose a wavy hair product

First, figure out your porosity

When it comes to choosing the best wavy hair products for you, you need to first figure out your hair porosity. Porosity, FYI, is all about your hair’s ability to hold and retain moisture (think: a sponge with lots of holes, or a sponge with virtually zero holes). If you have low-porosity hair (i.e., a sponge with very few holes), you’ll find that heavy products—specifically creams, oils, and butters—tend to sit on top of your hair cuticle and never fully sink in, leading to buildup, grease, and dryness (since the buildup also blocks moisture from penetrating the cuticle).

Sound like you? Opt for wavy hair products that are light- to mid-weight, only use lightweight oils (like jojoba and argan oil), and consider opting for silicone-free formulas, since silicones can build-up on your hair over time. Low-porosity hair can also benefit from a clarifying shampoo once or twice a month to help “reset” your wave pattern by dissolving product buildup.

If you’re working with high-porosity hair, your hair likely sucks up moisture (ahem, a sponge with tons of holes), but also loses it easily, so your waves may frequently feel dry, damaged, poofy, and tangled. Your fix? Loading up on rich moisturizers and oils, like coconut oil, shea butter, and avocado oil, and always starting with a hydrating base (like a leave-in conditioner, styling cream, or oil).

The rest will be up to experimentation: If your high-porosity hair is on the fine side, stick to hold-only products (gels, texture sprays, etc.), but if your hair is super-thick and dense, opt for products that work double duty to give you hold and extra moisture.

Figure out your hair type

Yes, your porosity is highly important, but you also have to figure out your wavy hair’s limitations. If you have fine hair—i.e., it loses definition fast, it’s prone to tangle, and it lacks volume—stick with lightweight oils to moisturize, like almond oil and vitamin E, or try oil-free formulas instead. If your hair is dense, thick, tends to get poofy or feel dry, your waves will likely benefit from products with coconut oil, shea butter, and castor oil. It’s not an exact science, but this shows why it’s so important to know both your hair’s porosity and ~personality~ when choosing wavy hair products.

It’s also important to remember that healthy hair starts in the shower. Because waves tend to be inherently a bit dry, Spino recommends using only moisturizing shampoos (ideally sulfate-free) for regular use. Your creams, gels, and mousses can only do so much for hydrating your hair and making it look healthy, so finding a shampoo and conditioner that leaves your waves clean, fresh, and soft will make your leave-ins work even better.

Plan your routine

If you walk into the drugstore with big dreams and no real plans, you’re going to walk out with a ton of random products that all do the same thing. Instead, do some research first on your hair porosity, be realistic about your laziness level (can you handle more than three products, or is even one product pushing it?), and figure out what your hair actually needs before spending a ton of money on new products that won’t actually work for you.

Not sure where to begin? Spino recommends starting with the basics, like a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, a leave-in conditioner or styling cream, and a wave-enhancing product, like a mousse, spray, or gel. From there, you can blow-dry with a diffuser (to help encourage wave formation), or just air-dry your waves. Then figure out what else you need. Wanna smooth dry ends? Grab a hair oil. Trying to keep your style free of flyaways? Add a hairspray. Looking for a whole lotta volume? Hi, dry shampoo.

Trust me—once you’ve got your routine down, your waves will look super defined, ridiculously smooth, and very much double-tap worthy.

Meet the experts:

Jenna Spino is a hairstylist at the Maxine Salon in Chicago, IL, with expertise in haircuts and styling, like updos and blowouts. She trained with salon owner, Maxine Kroll, and also regularly attends hairstyling classes to build upon her skills.

Naeemah LaFond is a celebrity hairstylist and the global artistic director for Amika Haircare based in New York, NY, where she focuses on statement hair for runways, editorial campaigns, and advertisements. Her clients include Whitney Peak, Quannah Chasinghorse-Potts, and Bethany Chasteen. She’s known for her ability to work with all hair types, from straight hair to 4c curls.


Why trust Cosmopolitan?

Siena Gagliano is an associate editor at Cosmopolitan, and has three years of experience writing about beauty, fashion, and lifestyle news. She’s an expert at researching and writing hair stories, like the best shampoos for curly hair and the best purple shampoos. She regularly tests and analyzes wavy hair products on her own hair for efficacy, while working with the industry’s top hairstylists to assess new formulas and brands.

Beth Gillette is the beauty editor at Cosmopolitan with four years of experience researching, writing, and editing hair stories that range from the best products for healthy-looking hair to haircare routines. Her wavy hair product picks were based on product reviews, ratings, and personal testing, along with information from experts.