Curl and moisture? It doesn’t have to be a head-scratcher. You can activate your curls, coils and waves without flaking out or adding crunch. Here’s a hot list of 10 curl activators that both define and hydrate.

What is a curl activator?

A curl activator can be applied to wet hair as a moisturizing step before your styling product. It won’t give your waves, curls or coils much hold but it can help prevent frizz and add shine, moisture and softness to the hair. Many curl activators contain glycerin, a common humectant ingredient that attracts moisture to the hair strand. 

Can a curl activator make your hair curly?

Curl activating products are formulated to enhance your natural curl pattern. They don’t have the power to turn straight or wavy hair into curly hair, but they do help to temporarily activate your naturally occuring curls (this is not a perm!”>.  

10 Curl Activators That Wont Dry Out

1. AG Hair Curl Re: Coil Curl Activator

“Like Abracadabra,” the “Holy Grail!” and “gold!” — NaturallyCurly members give this product high praise for curl definition, frizz control and hold, without added weight or greasy feel. AG Hair Care claims that “nothing defines, maintains and moisturizes curls” like their activator. No salt, PABA, parabens, gluten, DEA, or animal testing.

2. Cantu Shea Butter Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream

This is another fan favorite because of its satisfying results and low price. Users report amazing curls that move, reduced frizz and improved hair health. It’s made with pure shea butter and no mineral oil, sulfates, parabens, silicones, phthalates, gluten, paraffin, or propylene.

3. SoftSheen-Carson Care Free Curl Gold Instant Activator

Users are quite satisfied with the curl definition this activator delivers, its lasting power, and “round-the-clock” moisturizing. No dry, greasy or stiff curls or coils. Hair is silky smooth.

10 Curl Activators That Wont Dry Out

4. Luster’s S-Curl Activator and Moisturizer

With this activator, you can define your curl and condition it. It contains glycerin, vitamin B5, and botanical conditioning agents like argan and olive oils to help eliminate breakage and add softness and shine. Users are pleased with its moisturizing might. It has an anti-frizz formula without heaviness or crunch. No parabens or mineral oil.

5. Creme of Nature with Argan Moisture & Shine Curl Activator Creme

One user said that her natural hair loved this highly concentrated product. The rich, creamy formula revives and transforms dry curls into soft, flexible, defined ones. It also keeps the frizz down. No sulfates, silicones, mineral oil, or petrolatum.

6. Twisted Sista Curl Activator Creme

“No crunch, just soft curls,” said a user. The manufacturer touts that their non-greasy formula instantly activates curls and defines them, adding volume and shine. Contains glycerin, but no sulfate or protein.

10 Curl Activators That Wont Dry Out

7. Aveda Be Curly™ Curl Enhancer

This enhancer, which contains wheat protein and organic aloe, expands on wet hair and retracts on dry to help bring out the curl. Users report curls that are smooth and frizz-free. It’s also free from parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum, formaldehyde, and synthetic fragrance.

8. Lustrasilk Curl Max Curl Activator Moisturizer Oil

Users have called this activator “not your typical ‘Jheri curl’ product,” and that it’s like “heaven to my hair.” The rich, quick-penetrating, non-sticky formula is enriched with argan oil for max moisturizing and the restoring of hair’s elasticity. It’s non-greasy and alcohol-free.

9. Carol’s Daughter Coco Creme Curl Perfecting Water Coco Mist Spray

If your hair is fine or easily weighed down then you may want to skip the creams and oils and reach for this light, water-based spray instead. It can be used on wet or dry hair as a refresher or moisturizer, but we want to emphasize that this is a light product which doesn’t offer a huge amount of hydration. This won’t offer a huge amount of hydration, but it is a light layer that can be cocktailed with stylers and won’t weigh you down. Curlies absolutely love the mango, papaya coconut water scent of this product, describing it as a “tropical sunset.”

10. TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier

Rounding out the activator list is one that users have called “amazing” and “best product ever for curly hair!” One user cannot live without this product because she found that it’s the only product that manages her “curly, coarse frizzy hair.” TIGI touts that it delivers curl definition, hold and control, plus helps protect against humidity.


Are curl activators a part of your regimen? Tell us about your favorite hydrating curl activators in the comments section, below.

If your waves, curls, or coils are needing some deep conditioning, check out this article.

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