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8 best hair products for curly hair in 2021

Even if you don't have curly hair, these will deliver intense hydration and repair your tresses.
Collage of woman with curly hair and products
From a restorative leave-in conditioner to serum loaded with shea butter, these are the products that work for my curly hair. Shop TODAY / Jillian Ortiz

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I never learned to embrace my curly hair until just a few years ago. I started straightening it on a daily basis in fifth grade, but I didn't realize how damaged, dry and lifeless it made my locks. There came a point where I realized my natural curls were just as beautiful as straight hair, but it took some time to figure out how I could reclaim my curl pattern and give them the opportunity to bounce back in full form.

Hair types range from 1a to 4c, with 1a being the straightest hair type and 4c being the coily-est. (On the hair spectrum, I would say that my curls land somewhere between 2b and 2c.) Heat damage from the years I spent using hot tools on my hair has definitely affected my curl pattern, but the right hair care routine can make all the difference in repairing damaged locks.

After years of experimenting with different products, haircuts and a couple of straightening stints, I finally locked down a few key products that have transformed my hair game and made me fall in love with my curls all over again. I've been through it all — creams, serums, smoothies, masks, puddings and more — and have spent plenty of time, money and effort trying to figure out what actually works. While I haven't tried everything on the market, these products work best for my curly hair right now.

Best products for curly hair

Eva NYC Deeptox Exfoliating Salt Shampoo

I recently incorporated this shampoo into my hair care routine after learning more about the importance of scalp health. I cocktail a lot of products in order to nourish my curls, which ultimately means a lot of buildup on my hair and scalp. Since it's not recommended to shampoo curly hair often (it strips hair of its natural moisture and prevents oils from reaching the ends of your hair), I love using this shampoo once or twice a week.

It's formulated with large pieces of sea salt that exfoliate the scalp (which is great for the colder months when my scalp gets flaky), while argan oil and pomegranate enzymes offer some extra love to my locks. Since my hair is super thick and curly, I usually water down the formula a bit in order to spread it across my scalp and really massage and exfoliate. It can also be used on your body for a gentle exfoliation, but I haven't tried that yet.

Ouidad Curl Shaper Double Duty Weightless Cleansing Conditioner

Since I prefer to space out how often I shampoo, I love using Ouidad's cleansing conditioner on the days when I wash my hair. I had never used a "cleansing conditioner" before I had the chance to try this formula, so I was worried that it would dry out my hair rather than deliver intense hydration. Fortunately, I was wrong about that.

The formula is not too thick but it's creamy enough to still feel like a conditioner, which makes it easier to clean my hair rather than feeling like product is just sitting on my strands. I apply it in a scrunching motion to help form my curls while I'm in the shower, brush it out with a wide-tooth comb and then let it sit in my hair for a few minutes before I give it a rinse. My hair is practically detangled by the time I step out of the shower thanks to the moisturizing formula, which makes it less of a pain to style.

Ouidad Curl Shaper Out Of Thin (H)air Volumizing Jelly

Years ago, I thought gel that made my hair crunchy was the only product I needed in order to lock in my curls. I learned, though, that it's actually supposed to act as a final touch for your styling routine and leave your tresses bouncing instead of standing still.

Once I swapped out my gel for this hair jelly from Ouidad, I couldn't imagine my life without it. The formula is lightweight and even when I fear I've used too much, my hair says otherwise. Even after it dries, my hair still feels like hair, not like a piece of straw. It also helps give my curls some volume — even though it is meant for finer hair — and I like using it on second-day hair to help tame frizz.

SheaMoisture Strengthen & Restore Leave-In Conditioner

This leave-in conditioner has single-handedly changed my life! I started using it last summer to revive my heat-damaged and color-treated hair, and it worked its magic in just one use. After straightening my hair frequently during the winter, my hair was more frizzy than it was curly and I had nearly lost my curl pattern. Since it's packed with nourishing ingredients such as shea butter, apple cider vinegar and Jamaican Black castor oil, it immediately repaired and smoothed out my hair without leaving a greasy feel the next day. I apply it in a scrunching movement after I wash my hair and then comb through with a wide-tooth comb to detangle my hair once more.

SheaMoisture Coconut and Hibiscus Frizz-Free Curl Mousse

Stumbling upon this curl mousse on a random trip to the store was a blessing in disguise. I have had bad experience with mousse in the past, usually because the formula was too thick and made my hair crunchy or it left behind a lot of residue. The formula SheaMoisture uses, though, is extremely lightweight and airy, making it easy to style my locks with while dramatically enhancing my curl pattern.

I usually divide my hair into four or five sections and apply two to three pumps of the mousse to each section in order to yield the best results. Though I find it works best when I apply it to wet hair after a shower, I also like mixing it with a little bit of water and misting my hair with a spray bottle to help minimize frizz and offer my curls a bit of a boost.

Beautify Beauties Hair Spray Misting Bottle

A friend put me on to misting bottles last year, and it's changed the way I approach my hair for good. I used to wet my hair under the sink (we can all admit we've done this) in order to restyle my curls, but this on hand has made the process all the more easier.

The spray comes out in a continuous mist that allows me to cover multiple sections of my hair in one go, rather than soaking my hair with a stream. Styling dry, curly hair tends to be difficult, but rewetting my hair with this bottle has made it easier to apply products and give life back to my hair.

Trader Joe's Shea Butter & Coconut Oil Hair Serum

Purchasing beauty products at the grocery store might seem unconventional, but I couldn't be more pleased with this serum from Trader Joe's. While this formula can only be purchased in stores, the coconut oil serum from SheaMoisture, another one of my go-to brands, boasts similar ingredients and can be purchased online.

I typically apply it to the ends of my hair as the final step in my hair care routine. Not only does it offer my curls some much-needed hydration, it also tames frizz when it seems as though no other product is helping.

SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Recovery Treatment Masque

Curly hair thrives on moisture, and sometimes it requires a bit of a helping hand in order to deliver full volume and curls. This masque from SheaMoisture was an accidental find, but the results I saw from just one use made my jaw drop. I left it on for 30 minutes in a plastic cap, trapping heat and moisture that only catalyzed the results. It's formulated with natural ingredients and free of sulfates and parabens, giving it the chance to fortify and repair hair without disrupting natural moisture on the scalp or hair.

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