Hair Products

How to Choose the Best Curly Hair Products | Beginner’s Guide to Curly Hair Products

There's an abundance of curly hair products on the market these days, most claiming to 'tame frizz', 'define curls' and everything in between. But, there are so many to choose from that it can be hard to pick the best products for your hair. Should you opt for a gel? How about a curl cream? What does a mousse do anyway?

I'm going to break down the different types of curly hair products on the market, explain the purpose of each and what hair type they are best suited to. While mousses, creams, and custards may sound like elements of a delicious dessert, when it comes to curly hair, they're so much more.

Hair Gel for Curly Hair

What is curly hair gel?

Hair gels define curls, add hold, and, when applied over a cream, serves as a way to lock in moisture. Gels are also brilliant at smoothing down frizz! I love using hair gels to enhance my curls. In fact, if I were only allowed to use one product for the rest of my life, it would have to be a gel!

Tip: Once dry, most gels leave a hard cast on the hair, scrunching your curls will release this!

What hair types are best suited to curly hair gels?

Gels are well-suited to all hair types, but due to the different consistencies available, some may provide you with better results than others. The results you get with gels are also very much down to application techniques. I find that most gels work for my hair, but gels that contain lots of oils (the closer to the top of the ingredients list, the higher the concentration), can weigh my hair down and leave me with looser curls. The best gels for me are those that contain protein, like Bounce Curl Light Creme Gel.

Curl Cream

What is curl cream?

A curl cream’s purpose is to moisturise the hair and help create curl definition. Curly hair is naturally dry, and the washing and diffusing process can cause it to dry out even more. Applying a curl cream after washing will help to add moisture back into the hair and keep your curls healthy between wash days.

What hair type is best suited to curl creams?

Like gels, curl creams come in different consistencies, and this determines which hair type a particular cream is best suited to. Thicker, coarser hair will work well with creams of a thicker consistency, like the Cantu Curl Activator, and finer hair will work best with lighter creams or leave-in conditioners.

A lot of creams contain ingredients like shea butter, which can weigh some hair types down. Always start with a small amount and add more as needed. For my fine density hair, I find that adding around two pea-sized pieces provides the right amount of moisture to my hair, without weighing it down. Less is more, especially when using heavier creams.


Leave-In Conditioner for Curly Hair

What is a leave-in conditioner?

Leave-in conditioner is - you got it - a conditioner that you don’t wash out. While, essentially, you could leave a small amount of your regular conditioner in (I do this sometimes), leave-in conditioners are specially formulated to keep curls hydrated and conditioned between wash days. Like curl creams, leave-ins add moisture to the hair but have a much lighter consistency. They are great for adding moisture to fine hair without weighing it down.

What curly hair types are best suited to leave-in conditioner?

Leave-in conditioners lend themselves well to pretty much all hair types, and they are unlikely to weigh your curls down - unless you use way too much. If you have fine hair like me, you will probably find that leave-ins work better than creams for your curls. If you have thicker hair, leave-ins will work equally as well! Some people like to layer a curl cream on top of a leave-in, too.

Mousse and Foam for Curly Hair

What is hair mousse?

The thought of hair mousse might evoke memories of eighties hairdos and curly perms, but it's here to stay, and there are even some curly girl friendly options. Mousses and foams create volume, add texture, and help to enhance curl definition. Like gels, some mousses and foams can dry hard on the hair, but a little bit of scrunching will sort this out.

What is the difference between a mousse and foam?

So, what is the difference between a mousse and a foam? The phrases are often used interchangeably, and, sometimes, products that I would refer to as foams ( Cantu Wave Whip) are labelled mousses. The main difference between mousses and foams is their containers. Traditionally, foams are found in pump bottles and mousses in aerosol cans.

The way these containers dispense products is different, meaning they come out in varying consistencies. Aerosol cans contain gaseous propellants, like Propane, that become liquified under pressure (when you press the can's button). When the ingredients leave the can, the liquid propellant becomes a gas which helps break the spray into droplets and produces a finer spray than a pump bottle. (Source)

Foams in pump dispenser bottles don't contain propellants. This is why foams tend to be wetter, lighter and less concentrated than aerosol mousses.

What hair types are best suited to mousses and foams?

Foams and mousses are generally quite lightweight and work well on most hair types. However, because their main purpose is to add volume, I find that I need to add a curl definer, like a gel, on top.

Curling Custard

What is curling custard?

A curl custard, in my opinion, is a kind of gel hybrid. As well as defining the curls, as gels do, custards also moisturise the hair and add hold.

What hair types are best suited to curly hair custards?

Custards work well for all hair types, and a little usually goes a long way, so play around with using different amounts. As with all the other products mentioned in this article, your hair density will determine the amount of product you should use.

How many curly hair products should I use?

Many people like to combine a selection of different products, to create a 'curly cocktail' that provides the perfect balance of moisture, definition and hold. There isn't a rule when it comes to 'how many products should I apply', it's all down to personal preference and what works for your hair. Sometimes, I leave a bit of my conditioner in and opt for a gel as my only styling product, and, other times, I use a cream, mousse and a gel. It's good to mix things up and try out different methods!

What order should I apply my products?

Again, product application is down to personal preference, but, generally speaking, creams should be the first product applied. I always apply a curl cream first and then a gel.

If I'm using hair mousse, I'll apply a cream, then mousse, and finally, a gel. Applying the gel last helps to lock in moisture.

However, others prefer to apply a cream, then a gel and then mousse, allowing the mousse to add volume on top of the gel, rather than being locked in by the gel. It's all about playing around to find out what works best for your unique curls.

Curly hair journal



hanzcurls curly hair journal

While not a styling product, keeping a journal can help simplify your curly hair routine.

I created this curly hair journal to help you along your journey to healthy curls and make embracing your natural hair texture a little less overwhelming.

  • Record your wash days, refresh days and in-between days 
  • Keep track of your favourite products and techniques
  • Set hair goals and record your progress

While the definition of 'best' curly hair product is different for everyone, I hope you've found this article helpful. What's your favourite curly hair product ever? Let me know in the comments!


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