MSN June 3, 2023



The Best Curling Creams for a Defined, Frizz-Free Style, According to Experts


Curly hair needs extra TLC to enhance its natural pattern. Beyond shampooing and conditioning with hydrating, sulfate-free products, experts say the best curling creams can deliver bouncy, shiny, and defined texture without the frizz. Sounds dreamy, no? Well, as Best Products' curly-haired beauty editor, I can confirm that curling creams aren't just a TikTok beauty trend of the moment. Yes, even if videos have amassed over 102 million views. Why am I so confident they’re legit? Because I’ve tested many curling creams over the years and included some favorites. I also tapped two of my favorite hairstylists about all things curling creams, including their no-fail product recommendations and tips for application.

What to Consider


Technically those with straight hair can use curling creams, but celebrity hairstylist Franck Izquierdo cautions that the final results aren’t the same as those with textured tresses. “Curling creams can still be effective on straight hair, but they may not provide as much hold or definition as they do for curly or wavy hair. However, if you have straight hair with a slight wave or use hot tools to create curls or waves, curling creams can still help enhance and maintain your curls,” he explains.


Izquierdo, a co-founder of celeb-favorite IGK Hair Care, notes that curling creams are generally designed to enhance and define curls, providing moisture, hold, and control. “They’re most beneficial for people with curly or wavy hair, as these hair types tend to be more prone to frizz and require more moisture to maintain their shape and texture,” says Izquierdo, who has styled everyone from Bad Bunny and Kate Hudson to Tom Brady.


Izquierdo advises using curling creams made with moisturizing ingredients such as oils and butters because they help prevent frizz and provide lasting moisture.


Leigh Hardges, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, advises also considering how much styling time someone wants to invest in their routine. Some of these curling creams, like the R+CO TURNTABLE Curl Defining Creme, can enhance curls without hot tools, so they're ideal for someone who wants to style and go on busy days. Others, such as the Aveda be curly Curl Enhancer, are best used when paired with a hairdryer and diffuser attachment.


Lastly, Hardges advises readers to think about the type of finish they want for their tresses. Using a product with more hold will ensure their curly strands will last all day and eliminate frizz. Others are lighter hold, meaning the hair feels softer and more flexible. Medium-hold products are a good middle ground between the two other types.


Both experts advise using curling cream on soaking wet hair straight out of the shower. "Apply a small amount to clean, wet hair, scrunching upwards, adding more as needed, and then air dry or diffuse, depending on your desired look," says Izquierdo. Hodges recommends applying product from the mid-strand to the ends to avoid weighing down the hair.

How We Chose

I asked Hardges and Izquierdo to reveal their all-time favorite curling creams, and their picks are epic. Some are made with a majority of naturally derived ingredients, while others combine the hair-glossing benefits of hair serum and guard hair from hot tools, like heat-protectants.

As for my suggestions, I rummaged through my at-home collection and the Best Products beauty closet to test several options. I considered various factors our experts highlighted, including opting for items that provide various holds and are made with moisturizing ingredients. Knowing our experts suggested curling creams with heat-protectant benefits, I also looked out for it. I also researched each curling cream to ensure all of our featured suggestions earned glowing online reviewers to ensure they work for various hair textures and types.


Kérastase Curl Manifesto Crème de Jour Fondamentale Hair Cream


  • For all curly and coily hair textures
  • Provides heat protection
  • Paraben- and sulfate-free
  • Doesn't weigh down fine hair


  • Most reviewers love the scent, but skip if you prefer fragrance-free products like SEEN

For several reasons, Hardges and I are confident Kérastase Curl Manifesto deserves our best overall curling cream distinction.

For starters, it’s compatible with all hair types and textures, ranging from fine, loose curls to long, tight coils. We’re also impressed with the ingredient list, like manuka honey and ceramides, that leaves hair extremely hydrated and significantly blocks humidity from the strands.

Users can anticipate softer, smoother, and stronger tresses after each application — and online reviewers agree. They used words like, “shiny, well-defined curls” “smells delish,” and “best curling cream” to describe it. Above all it actually works at enhancing someone’s natural curl pattern.

One online reviewer even boldly declared, "This stuff saved my hair." In their 5-star review, they note it's so effective at hydrating their long mane that they've already bought their third bottle.

Others are obsessed that it not only provides wonderful frizz control and defines their curls, but it doubles as a heat protectant. So shoppers can confidently skip buying a hair serum or extra product they don't need by splurging on this product.

More: WTF Is a High-Frequency Wand — And Do You Need One?


Aveda be curly Curl Enhancer


  • Award winner
  • Made with 96% naturally derived ingredients


  • Some reviewers find they get optimal results when it's used with a hot tool

Shopping for clean beauty products can be tricky, but Aveda is helping to make that process easier with their curling cream made with mostly naturally derived ingredients. This pick earned snaps from Hardges, who notes its active ingredient is a wheat protein that locks in curl patterns and blocks humidity for frizz-free curls.

Online reviewers love this curling cream because it effectively enhances their hair texture without a trip to the salon. “My not-very-thick, fine hair wants to be curly but can’t quite do it on its own. Usually, it only curls up cute if it’s humid. Otherwise, it might be sort of wavy, or maybe just limp. But this product brings out the natural curl that wants to be there,” says one 5-star review.


Briogeo Curl Charisma Leave–In Defining Creme


  • Made with 94% naturally derived ingredients
  • Black woman-owned


  • Skip if you don’t like gel-like hair products

This is someone’s safest bet if they like to switch up their hairstyle — or at least want the flexibility to do so. Hardges declares that she loves this brand and everything they make, but we’re most impressed with their gel-like curling cream also creates slicked-back hairstyles. Just create a sleek ponytail or bun and apply some product for smooth, shiny hair.

Of course, users can expect their waves, curls, and coils to be bouncy with one or two quarter-sized dollops of product, depending on their hair thickness and length.

The two hero ingredients of this product include rice amino acids to help seal the cuticle and eliminate frizz and avocado oil for moisture, shine, and softer strands. There's also nourishing quinoa extract and fermented tomato for curl definition.


IGK CLASS OF ’93 Curl Perfecting Whipped Cream


  • Intense moisture
  • Vegan and cruelty-free


  • Skip if you don't like whipped hair products

Izquierdo is a cofounder of IGK Hair Care, so naturally, he suggested one of their products. But don’t just take his word for it. As our beauty editor, I’m impressed that the frosting-like product relies on 10 oils and butters for rich hydration without weighing down fine or short hair. It also doesn’t leave the hair crunchy, which can be a problem with other whipped styling products.

Users can also expect their hair to be shinier and for the enhanced curl pattern to last throughout the day. We also appreciate that it's color-safe, so anyone who has highlights or a full head of dyed hair can use this product without worrying about it stripping away color.

One reviewer with waist-length coarse hair noticed that their mane has become frizzier and drier over the years, but consider this product a fabulous solution for their hair woes. They even boldly called it a “jackpot for coarse, thick hair.”


SEEN Curly Creme


  • Created by a dermatologist
  • Available in fragrance-free and scented options


Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Iris Rubin, M.D., is one of our most trusted beauty experts, so unsurprisingly, her curling cream earned a spot on our list.

Like all her products, this curling cream is made with a gentle, non-comedogenic formula, meaning it won't clog pores, which can lead to scalp acne. (Yup, it's a thing!)

This curling cream is safe for sensitive skin, and those who get their hair color- or keratin-treated can safely use this sulfate-free product. It even guards all hair textures up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest temperature our strands can handle before they burn.

It’s so fantastic for sensitive skin that the fragrance-free formulation earned approval from the National Eczema Association. (There’s also a scented version for anyone who wants to experience her products and can handle a light fragrance.)


R+Co TURNTABLE Curl Defining Creme


  • Created by hairstylists
  • Doesn’t leave the hair crunchy


  • Skip if you prefer products

As much as we love our hot tools, sometimes we don't have the time to style our mane with our trusty hairdryer with a diffuser attachment. Thankfully, the R+Co TURNTABLE Curl Defining Creme is an epic option for anyone who prefers to air-dry their mane without compromising on curl definition.

“If you have wavy/curly hair and you air-dry, you need this. I put it on while my hair is still damp, but it can also be used to add a little more oomph when your hair is dry,” says one 5-star review.

We prefer this one over the brand's TWISTER Curl Primer, which adds moisture, shine, and definition, but is thicker and has a lighthold. TURNTABLE is ideal for anyone who wants noticeable shine, major hydration, and to block humidity from running their curls.