From gels and creams to pomades and polishes, choosing the right styling products can be confusing — even overwhelming.
Just as no two curls are exactly alike, hair-care companies are working hard to make sure their styling products aren't exactly alike. And with new products churning out at a dizzying pace, even the savviest curly girl can spiral into a frizzy tizzy.
Wondering how to keep up? Curl-centric stylists help sort it all out in this time-saving guide to rock your curls with the right product for your texture.
What it does: Coats the hair, holds curls in place
How to use it: "Put it in the hair before you do any drying, scrunch the hair lightly, and let it dry," says Ethan Shaw, a stylist with James Allan Salon in Austin, Texas. "After it's dry, flip your head over, and lightly tousle your hair at the roots to break up the crunchiness."
Best suited for: All curl types, but Type 2 (wavy hair) should just use a little, while Type 3 and 4 curlies need to use more
What it does: Plumps up curls, adds volume
How to use it: Apply it in the same way as gel
Best suited for: Type 2
What it does: Serves as a setting agent and leave-in conditioning product
How to use it: "It usually can give the control of a gel with the softness of a leave-in conditioner. Generally, if a curly girl is going to use just one product in her hair, this will be the one," Shaw says.
Best suited for: Type 3 and 4, although there are versions for different curl types
What it does: Controls flyways after curls are styled and dry
How to use it: "It adds just a touch of moisture and should be applied sparingly, from the ends up," says Christine Williamson of Carriage House Salon & Spa in Cam-bridge, Mass. "It's best not to touch the root area."
Best suited for: All curl types
How to use it: "Curl Type 2s should use a light spritz . . . during the course of a day, or when they get up in the morning. Type 3s and 4s should use heavier, oil-based products for extra control," Shaw says. "But don't use this as your only styling product, just as an extra layer."
Best suited for: All curl types
What it does: This weighted curl creme helps to stretch out and elongate curls
How to use it: "Apply to wet, detangled curly hair and allow to air dry or use an over-head dryer," says Titi Branch, managing director of Miss Jessie's, a product line for textured and naturally curly hair.
Best suited for: Finger-styling 3B and 3C curl types with medium to thick texture. Also, Type 4 curlies, with medium to thick texture, can use it for shingling and two strand twists, according to Branch.
What it does: Creates piecey looks, offering hold and separation
How to use it: Waxes can be more greasy with high shine, pomade has less hold and high shine, and paste tends to be more matte and dewy
Best suited for: All curl types with medium to thick textures. "For dry, color-treated hair, you can use the wax sparingly," says Rodney Cutler of New York’s Cutler Salon. "If it's fine, but not that dry, and you need a bit of separation, you can use a paste."
What it does: Moisturizes and plumps tightly coiled curls, without a greasy residue
How to use it: "Coat natural hair that is particularly dry, and it will make it more manageable," Branch says.
Best suited for: Curl types 3C to 4C
What it does: Adds shine, minimizes frizz.
How to use it: With serums, apply a small amount when hair is dry, but only very sparingly – and only mid-shaft down. Polishes can be used a bit freer. "Serums tend to be more silicone-based and very concentrated, while polishes are often a cream-based product that is easily distributed through the hair and has oil in it to create the shine," says Cutler.
Best suited for: All curl types with medium to thick textures. Curlies with fine hair, which is easily weighed down, should avoid serums or apply a teeny-tiny amount.