No Joke, This Is the One Product That Completely Saved My Dry, Curly Hair


(Image credit: @thatcurlytop)

It definitely took me a while to embrace my curly hair. As someone who heat-styled religiously (and is still dealing with the damage to prove it), I almost didn't know what to do with myself once I put down the flat iron and was reintroduced to my 3C pattern. My first thought was, What the heck kind of products do I use now? Products I used on my hair when it was straight didn't necessarily provide enough hydration for my curls anymore, so naturally, I did some research. The first thing I incorporated into my routine was a good leave-in conditioner.

Because my hair was so dry, a leave-in became absolutely necessary. It provided extra moisture after conditioning that helped me style my hair, made it more manageable, and brought life back to my brittle, frizzy curls. To this day, it's a nonnegotiable item in my routine. If your hair is also in need of some serious TLC, keep on reading. I asked a stylist for tips on how to choose the best leave-in conditioner for curly hair and to provide some recs.

What to Look For in a Leave-In Conditioner for Curly Hair


(Image credit: @thatcurlytop)

Celebrity hairstylist Jennifer Korab says, "I recommend looking for a leave-in conditioner with the right amount of hydration for your curls to keep them moisturized and frizz-free," she says. "I also recommend looking at the ingredients. I tend to like the ones with more natural ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil. Lastly, make sure to use a leave-in that is lightweight so it won’t weigh down your curls." 

Thinner curl types will want something lightweight that won't be too heavy or greasy on the hair. Thicker and extra-dry hair types can probably get away with heavier creams and oils.

How to Apply Leave-In Conditioner for Curly Hair

The great thing about using a leave-in conditioner is that most of them are designed to be used daily. I like to apply leave-in conditioner twice a day, once in the evening on wet or damp curls and once in the morning on dry hair. It helps the product to absorb better, and I notice that my hair dries that much softer when I apply it this way. If you're using a spray leave-in, you'll want to thoroughly saturate your curls from top to bottom. If your curls are like mine and tend to get extra dry, don't be afraid to spritz a bit of extra product in there. 

If you're using a cream leave-in, it might be best to avoid the root area. I do this because my hair is thick and can accumulate buildup easily. I also like to use a lighter hand with those types of formulas because they are a bit thicker and can weigh down the hair if you use too much.

Pay attention to this next tip from Korab—especially if you have thick, curly hair. "I recommend applying in small sections from roots to ends, distributing the product evenly throughout the hair," she explains. "Using your fingers and a large tooth comb to 'rake' through your hair, working in the product."

For a few of my favorites, along with Korab's rec, keep reading below.

Best Overall: Davines Oi All in One Milk

Kérastase Curl Manifesto Curl Enhancing Leave-In Cream

Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Leave-In Defining Crème

Aussie Miracle Curls Detangling Milk

Mielle Organics Pomegranate Honey Leave-In Conditioner


(Image credit: @amaka.hamelijnck)

Not Your Mother's Curl Talk Leave-In Conditioner Spray

Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner

Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Moisturizing & Detangling Leave-In Conditioner

Oribe Styling Butter Curl Enhancing Crème

Miss Jessie's Pillow Soft Curls

Shawna Hudson
Associate Beauty Editor

Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.