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Convincing curls to cooperate is easier said than done because they often have a mind of their own. We could waste a ton of time trying dozens of products that claim they'll get the job done, but we've got better things to do, so the Shop TODAY team called up some top hairstylists to find out which curl creams they swear by when they're craving stunning ringlets.
Curl creams recommended by experts
You don't have to spend a ton of money to give your curls a nice boost and Suave's $5 curl cream is proof of that. Ona Diaz-Santin, celebrity hairstylist and owner of 5 Salon & Spa, is a big fan of the product and loves that it "leaves hair silky soft with great shine and definition."
The budget-friendly find is suitable for both waves and curls and works to moisturize, add shine and soften strands. The paraben-free formula also helps manage frizz and is infused with two highly hydrating ingredients: coconut oil and shea butter.
Much like a real smoothie, this nutrient-rich curl cream from SheaMoisture is packed with multiple beneficial ingredients and it works overtime to condition curls and add body and shine. It's no wonder that editorial and celebrity hairdresser Jasmine Burnside was quick to recommend it.
"It's a thick, rich cream that's great for thicker, frizzier hair types. It's particularly amazing for type 4 hair, especially for twist out and protective hairstyles," she said.
Leigh Hardges, stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, appreciates how this cream separates curls, fends off frizz and offers just enough hold. It also happens to provide UV protection and helps prevent breakage.
"It works best for 3a to 4a hair types and offers more hold than moisture, so it's not ideal for 4c curl styling. It gives the best results with finger styling like coiling/shingling and I personally squish this product into my curls," she revealed.
Craving touchable tresses? Zotos' color-safe cream adds definition and softens curls of all types. It's also free of sulfates, parabens and silicones. "This lightweight cream allows for a natural bounce to come through the style," Diaz-Santin said.
To use, just dispense a small amount of product into your hand and scrunch it up into roots, then wait for the magic to happen.
When she's working with a client that has ultra curly or dry, wavy hair, celebrity hair colorist Stephanie Brown takes this budget find out of her beauty arsenal. "It's very moisturizing and hydrating, which is great for curls," she said.
The curl cream is free of harsh ingredients like sulfates, soaps and detergents and and helps manage frizz while adding definition to strands.
Curls can be pretty delicate and celebrity hairstylist Michelle Cleveland loves the fact that this lightweight cream doesn't weigh them down. "It adds shine and polish and define curls without making it feel stiff or crunchy," she said.
Two of its rock star ingredients are moisturizing shea butter and glycerin, and Cleveland appreciates that the product also shields curls from pesky frizz.
Named for the amount of benefits it offers curly hair, this powerhouse cream from Mizani is the very definition of a multitasker. Renaissance Salon & Spa owner Jennifer Korab couldn't talk highly enough about its moisturizing and priming benefits.
"It plumps curls, adds intense moisture and touchable softness. It improves curl definition, adds shine and touchable texture. The priming benefits help control frizz, prevent split ends and makes your blowouts easier," she explained.
Not only does this curl cream do a great job of whipping waves into shape, it also smells amazing. "I love the sweet, candy scent," celebrity hairstylist Patrick Kyle told us.
The mane expert touted the benefits of the coconut-infused cream, explaining that he uses it all the time. "It adds moisture to hair without stiffness or weighing it down," he elaborated.
Ideal for type 3a to 4c curls, this rich cream features several nourishing ingredients like murumuru seed butter and chia and flaxseed gels. "It has a creamy texture and it's super hydrating. Hair is left feeling soft and looking shiny after use. It's great for very dry hair," Brown said.
As an added bonus, the product is also vegan, gluten- and cruelty-free and housed in recyclable packaging.
We've always had a soft spot for products that go above and beyond and provide multiple benefits, and this cream from Bumble and Bumble is a truly versatile find. It offers UV protection, tackles dryness, defines curls and adds shine, for starters.
"This product is great for wavy and curly types of hair. It smells amazing and has an oil and butter cream base so it goes on smooth and adds enough moisture without looking wet," Kyle said.
Curl creams don't have to weigh down your hair to be effective, and this lightweight formula coats ringlets with plenty of TLC. "It offers intense hydration and locks in smoothness without weighing down your hair and leaves curls stronger and more defined," Korab said.
The multitasking miracle worker works equally well for wavy, curly and coily strands of multiple textures and has several standout ingredients, including manuka honey and ceramides. It fends off frizz for up to 24 hours and also protects strands from heat up to 450°F.
When you find a product that truly gets your curls, it doesn't hurt if it also smells great, and Hardges couldn't stop gushing about this fragrant wonder. "The smell that it gives off is just heavenly," she told us.
The quality cream features several nourishing ingredients like olive and avocado oils and a butter complex that hydrates and smooths the cuticle. "It is rich, like crème brûlée rich, and it completely eradicates frizz. It breaks down in your hands so the application process is a breeze," the stylist said.
"Made with natural oils such as chia, linseed, coconut and babassu, Ouai's curl cream helps to form and shape curls, control frizz and protect hair from humidity," Cleveland told us.
The silicone-free cream helps seal damaged cuticles and hydrates without added parabens, sulfates or fragrances. It's also safe for colored and chemically treated locks!
For more stories like this, check out:
- 12 products to enhance wavy locks, according to hairdressers and stylists
- Revlon's bestselling One-Step styling brush just got some major upgrades
- How to care for aging curly hair, according to stylists
- Jonathan Van Ness's new hair line brought my curly hair back to life
- The best hair care routine for your 40s, according to trichologists