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Beauty

12 Best Curl Activators for All Hair Types

 

Get the bounce you want.

There's nothing quite as striking as voluminous, bouncy curls. But every curly girl knows just how hard it can be to nail the style. All types of curls are prone to frizz, tangling, and dryness, says Leigh Hardges, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. Thankfully, there's a miracle worker that can help tackle the latter dilemma—it's called a curl activator.

What exactly is a curl activator? "A curl activator is used to enhance your natural curls by adding moisture and definition to existing, natural curls," says Stacey Guerra, a senior stylist at Butterfly Studio Salon. Activators are a great addition to the curly girl method since they’re easy to build on and great for refreshing curls in between wash days, says Guerra.
 

When shopping, it's important to note that curl activators come in multiple mediums, including gels, sprays, and creams (aka curl cream). "Sprays are usually a lighter formula, and creams tend to be a bit richer," says Guerra. No matter what type you choose, Guerra says curl activators are a great base product—they can be layered with other, firmer-holding products (like gels and holding hair sprays), depending on the hair texture, curl pattern, and the level of hold desired. "Someone who prefers completely frizz-free curls with lots of definition will likely want to layer curl activators with a gel. Someone who doesn't mind wild, imperfect curls with a bit of frizz could get away with just the curl activator."

To help you find the perfect one for your strands, we asked stylists to share their favorites. Read on for the best curl activators on the market today.

BEST CURL ACTIVATOR CREAM

Cantu
Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream

This cream is a bit heavier, which makes it perfect for those with thicker, textured hair. It's packed with all kinds of smoothing ingredients, like shea butter, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, and seven essential oils.

BEST CURL ACTIVATOR SPRAY

Curlsmith
Moisture Memory Reactivator

If you're looking for something lightweight, you'll love this curl activator spray. The formula is vegan and cruelty-free, plus it's loaded with clean ingredients that tame frizz, hydrate, and revive limp curls.

BEST CURL ACTIVATOR FOR FRIZZ

EVOLVh
WonderBalm Magic for Curls

One pump, and you'll understand how this product got its name. The paraben-, silicone-, and fragrance-free product defines curls without any stickiness or crunch, plus eliminates frizz and flyaways, leaving you with a photo-shoot-ready style.

BEST CURL ACTIVATOR GEL

Oribe
Curl Gloss

A splurge? Yes, but a worthy investment for gorgeous, frizz-free, shiny curls. The gel isn't at all crunchy—instead, it defines while adding a high boost of shine. It doubles as a UV protectant, too. What's more, it's color- and keratin-treatment-safe.

Kérastase
Curl Manifesto Curl Refreshing & Restyling Spray

This salon-worthy product is a light spray that makes second-day curls the best version of themselves—softer, bouncier, and totally frizz-free. It gets bonus points for smelling like the beach, too.

BEST BUDGET-FRIENDLY CURL ACTIVATOR

Twisted Sista
Twisted Sista Curl Activator

Use this curl activator cream for a soft hold without the stickiness. When your hair dries, you'll be left with frizz-free and super shiny, bouncy curls—no matter your hair type.

BEST CURL ACTIVATOR FOR DEFINITION

Philip Kingsley
Curl Activator

Suitable for all hair types, this defining curl activator goes on nice and light for smooth, bouncy, frizz-free curls—zero stickiness or crunch.

BEST VEGAN CURL ACTIVATOR

AG Hair Cosmetics
Recoil Curl Activator

This award-winning curl activator is full of unique ingredients, like tomato extract and rice amino acids, that work to define curls and seal in moisture. All you have to do is brush it into damp hair, then style with a diffuser.

BEST HYDRATING CURL ACTIVATOR

Bumble and bumble.
Curl Reactivator

It may be on the pricey side, but this spray has a bold blend of oils and butters that provide intense hydration, resulting in more defined curls with less frizz and fewer flyaways.

BEST CURL ACTIVATOR FOR NATURAL HAIR

SheaMoisture
Smoothie Curl Enhancing Cream

Specifically formulated for textured hair, this deeply nourishing curl cream does wonders for thick, curly hair. It reduces frizz and smooths, leaving you with softer, silkier, bouncier coils.

BEST STRENGTHENING CURL ACTIVATOR

Rene Furterer
Sublime Curl Nutri-Activating Cream

This hardworking cream not only helps define curls but also contains evening primrose oil, which helps regenerate hair fiber and protect against frizz.

BEST CURL ACTIVATOR FOR SHINE

Creme of Nature
Argan Oil Moisture & Shine Curl Activator Styling Creme

It may be budget-friendly, but that doesn't change how effective this curl activator is. It's packed with argan oil to revitalize curls, coils, and waves, leaving them smooth, bouncy, and frizz-free.