Every curly girl out there has struggled to find the right products to take her tresses from a wild mess to a fluffy, full-bodied mane.
Growing up, I had no idea what I was doing, which led to me slick back my curls with my brother’s electric-blue gel that left my hair feeling and looking like a helmet.
After reading article after article, and watching a nearly endless string of curly hair routine videos, I figured it was time I tried something else—anything, really.
I’ve mixed leave-ins, gels, milks, and pomades for years and what did I discover? My 3b curls crave only 2 products: a leave-in conditioner and a serum with a slight hold. Sometimes, I can just get away with just a leave-in conditioner. I know, I was shocked too!
CurlTalker beantree, for example, finds that a whole mess of products is the secret to good curls for her. "Used AG Recoil shampoo, SM Curl & Shine conditioner, then a generous scoop of SM JBCO leave in (palm-sized amount?), a loonie-ish sized amount of SM Curl & Style milk, one pump of AG Recoil, and two toonie-sized blobs of Giovanni gel," she says. "Today it's soft, shiny, mostly frizz-free, and somehow, not greasy." (A "loonie" is a Canadian dollar coin; a "toonie" is their two-dollar coin.)
Having watched so many tutorials and read about other curlies’ routines, I know that some people need many products to experience curl nirvana, but for me, more product does not equal better hair.
Every hair type is different, but is there a way to determine the right number of products for your hair nirvana — without all of the trial and error? Rather than dealing with the same struggles that I did, I think there’s a way we can find the best products for our curls or at least narrow down the selection from hundreds to handfuls.
What type of texture do you have?
The first and most important step to finding the perfect products for your hair without trial and error is to find out what type of curl you have. Determining your curl pattern will open a door to new product options and, thankfully, it will close others.
What’s the weather like where you live?
Weather plays a huge part in how curls form. Hair, especially curly hair, is like a sponge. It soaks up everything around it—smells, weather, and more. Before you head over to the nearest beauty supply store, keep the climate in mind.
If you live in humid areas, you might need a little more help controlling frizz and managing volume. Drier climates make hair more prone to breakage. Try something a little richer to give your curls the condition they need to be bouncy and healthy.
These key points will help you navigate the endless curly hair products and help you achieve the best control for your specific needs and location.
Do you air dry or use heat?
There’s always a split here.
There are many ways to dry curly hair, but it usually breaks down into heat vs no heat.
If you’re one of the curlies that swears by her diffuser or if you like to go back and forth between straight and curly hair, you probably need a product for heat protection. A light serum or spray that is infused with heat-protectant ingredients such as argan and coconut oil will keep your curls free from damage.
Depending on your texture, you might need a little help with air-drying. Products with stronger holds will help your curls stay intact when you move about your day and let them dry.
Are your curls color-treated?
Color-treated hair, especially bleached hair, needs a little more love than natural hair. When hair is exposed to color, it’s stripped of its natural integrity. This can leave hair feeling brittle, and even change your curl pattern.
As a color-treated curly, I struggle with keeping my ends as curly as my roots. Using a deep conditioning treatment once or twice a week helps me restore my curls after a visit to the salon.
After finding the right shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, leave-in conditioner, serum, gel, cream, pomade—you get the picture—you then have to decide how and when you will use them all.
Do you need to use them all at the same time to get perfect curls? Maybe, maybe not. You might experiment with forgoing the cream and see if your curls look just as good as they did with the cream. Or maybe your deep conditioner can replace your leave-in?
You also have to decide how much of each product to use. Is a pea-sized amount the right amount? Or do you need a palmful? As I discussed above, start with your hair type, your local weather, and the other factors we listed, and then begin experimenting!
Every curly is different. Some only need to wash and go and some need a whole suite of products to make it out the door. Do you use a drop, a dollop or a vat?
Sometimes more product equals better hair, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s very individual. Let us know how many products you use and what have been your go-to’s in the comments section below. And if you’d like to read about a product-layering method we call LOC, check out this article.