By Laura Reilly
Jan 03, 2019 @ 4:00 pm
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Curly hair isn’t just a follicle growth pattern, it’s an art and a science. And no one knows that better than the community of curly hair-product testers and advocates at Reddit’s enormous r/CurlyHair community.

While straight hair-havers may balk at the extremes that curly, wavy, and frizzy hair-havers take to keep their manes tame, the truth is that coils and ringlets often require more products and maintenance than their smooth counterparts.

What is the Curly Girl Method?

To maximize curly hair’s natural potential, Redditors follow a recommended routine known as the Curly Girl Method, which promotes several key practices. At the center of this method is the practice of removing sulfates (a type of detergent) and silicones (ingredients added to products to help with slip, but that can build up in hair) from one’s routine.

This is accomplished by replacing a conventional shampoo with a low-sulfate or sulfate-free alternative, or cleansing with conditioner, called no-poo (i.e. “no shampoo”) or co-washing (“conditioner washing”).

Still with me? If your shower routine is just shampoo, conditioner, and towel dry, chances are this already sounds like quite a switch up. But hang tight, there’s still more to come.

To coax out the best curl shape possible, you’re going to want more moisture and less friction. This basic tenet produced countless curly hair drying and styling techniques with names like “praying hands,” “plopping,” and “squish to condish.”

Also, the curly hair community seems to have realized that hair gel — which many of us associate with terrible, rock hard hairstyles of our embarrassing youths — is actually a godsend for frizz-free locks. They call that one “scrunch out the crunch.”

Of course, one’s quest to find the best products for curly, frizzy hair or curl enhancing products for wavy hair can get expensive. Thankfully, these Redditors understand the struggle, and in turn try to recommend cheap curly hair products that actually work and are often found in your local drugstore.

Whether you’re looking for the best natural curly hair products or products for black curly hair, or even if your hair isn’t all that curly and you’re just looking to coddle your waves, these are the 12 best curly hair products to buy now.

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Best Clarifying Shampoo for Curly Hair: VO5 Herbal Escapes Clarifying Shampoo

“I clarify after swimming or using a very heavy silicone. Since I don't clarify often, I just use Alberto V05. It leaves my hair bone dry (on the plus side, I know for sure that it works because of that) but it's cheap and I just condition and use a leave-in and that makes my hair acceptable.”

To buy: $6; walmart.com

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Best Low-Sulfate Shampoo: Yes To Carrots Nourishing Shampoo

“I'm moderately Curly Girl Method (CGM) and use Yes To Carrots Nourishing Shampoo for the occasional cleanse. You can get it at most drugstores (I got mine at Walmart) for $5.

It has sodium coco sulfate instead of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) which is basically a more diluted form of SLS, so I'm not sure if you'd consider that be low-sulfate, but it is a tad gentler than straight SLS. The shampoo also has a considerable amount of natural ingredients like carrot seed oil and aloe vera.

What I do is dilute it with a co-wash (Suave) with a ratio of about 3:1. Of course, you could use it straight or dilute it with water if you want to omit co-washing. When I first did this, I had polyquat buildup and the cleanse left me with the most beautiful, silky waves.

The shampoo has never stripped my hair even when I rinsed it through the ends. It always leaves it clean and refreshed.”

To buy: $5 (Originally $9); walmart.com

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Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo for Curly Hair: Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo

“I just started using a sulfate free shampoo awhile back (Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle one) and it's the best decision I've ever made. I think a lot of curlies are afraid of shampoo when they shouldn't be — they just need the right type. Co-washing isn't going to work for everyone unfortunately.”

To buy: $5; amazon.com

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Best Co-wash (Cleansing Conditioner): TRESemmé Expert Selection Botanique Nourish and Replenish Conditioner

“I LOVE TRESemmé Botanique Conditioner w/ aloe vera and coconut. I've tried the popular Garnier Olive Oil one (sorry can't recall the exact name) but it's wayyy too heavy. The TRESemmé works amazing as a co-wash for my super fine, dry 2c hair. Good luck!”

To buy: $9; walmart.com

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Best Conditioner for Curly Hair: Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Conditioner

“Shea Moisture Manuka Honey Hydrating Conditioner is my hands down favorite. I’ve tried so many but always go back to this one. It doesn’t weigh my hair down, and makes my curls so beautiful and bouncy. I also love the hair mask from the same line.”

To buy: $10; walmart.com

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Best Protein Treatment for Curly Hair: K-Pak Deep-Penetrating Reconstructor

“Since I started the Curly Girl method, my hair has felt awesome — super soft and moisturized, but it's looked like shit! I kept trying to scrunch in different products, but every day my hair looked like a lifeless fuzzy blob even though it felt awesome (like a soft cloud!).

I dropped into the store last night and spotted some K-Pak products. I picked up the Reconstructor and used it in the shower this morning (side note: it smells and feels kind of like a mashed banana, which is awesome). And today... my waves are the best ever! So much less frizzy than usual (even in this crazy humidity), and they're so springy and full of life!

I just had to share — I feel like protein is the enemy for a lot of curlies here, and many of the product lists I was finding were for silicone, sulfate, and protein-free, so maybe this will help a fellow protein-craving curly!”

To buy: $21; ulta.com

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Best Hair Mask for Curly Hair: Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Hair Masque

“I've used this twice since I purchased it, and I love it. One problem I've always had with my hair is slip, which is part of the reason I stuck with DevaCurl for so long. This definitely gives my hair slip! I used this in place of conditioner in the shower, combed it through my hair, left it on for five to ten minutes. I washed most of it out, and left some on the ends. Both times I've used it, it's left my hair relatively moisturized. More so than a normal conditioner, less than I expected from something that is essentially a deep conditioning treatment. But for the price, I think it's worth it, especially if your hair needs slip like mine does. I also like the way it smells.”

To buy: $8; walmart.com

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Best Gel for Curly Hair: L.A. Looks™ Extreme Sport Styling Gel

“I'd recommend LA Looks Gel. I use the blue sport one because it supposedly has stronger hold. I only need to use a very small amount for soft, defined curls, but I'll use a little extra if I'm diffusing. One bottle lasted me like six months (including some humid summer months) and my hair is past my shoulders, too. Plus it's only like $2.50 at Walmart, so it doesn't hurt to try it.”

To buy: $4; walmart.com

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Best Mousse for Curly Hair: Suave Professionals Captivating Curls Mousse

“I'm 40 and have tried a ton of things over the years and have spent hundreds if not thousands on my hair. I discovered my current routine about five months ago and it has worked in every type of weather and climate. It doesn't matter if I use water, shampoo, conditioner, co-wash, or any combination of them. After my shower, I part and finger comb my very wet hair into the place I want, scrunch in Suave mousse, spray detangler on it, finish my make-up, spray with max hold hairspray, and diffuse until dry.”

To buy: $3; walmart.com

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Best Styling Cream for Curly Hair: Miss Jessie's Pillow Soft Curls

“I love using Miss Jessie's Pillow Soft Curls, the Devacurl Supercream Coconut Curl Styler, or Curls™ Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave in Conditioner. I use Miss Jessie’s when I’m going out and I want my hair to look really good. I usually pair it with some mousse and a very light mist of hairspray. I find that it’s a bit perfumey but works REALLY well in my hair.”

To buy: $23; amazon.com

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Best Oil for Curly Hair: Coconut Oil

“Anyone else out there into coconut oil as their primary product? I apply to wet, detangled hair then scrunch and air dry. It's a great leave-in conditioner and seems to hold the curl well. I wash with Theorie shampoo and conditioner every 2-3 days, and mist with water to wake the curl back up between washes. I've kept it away from heat, color, and all conventional hair products for about 10 years now, and have found that the less I do, the happier it is. I think the 12-year-old me who hated her hair would be proud of this mane.”

To buy: $9; walmart.com

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Best Hairspray for Curly Hair: Pantene Pro-V Smooth Airspray Alcohol Free Hair Spray

“The alcohol-free air spray from Pantene is supposedly a level two hold (according to the bottle) but I always used to use this hairspray when I was growing out my bangs but still wanted them in a ponytail and it always kept them slicked back for me. I would highly recommend!”

To buy: $5; walmart.com