Welcome to I Tried It Month, where we’ll be publishing a new fashion, beauty, or wellness article every day in January that features a first-person account of shaking up an old habit, pushing beyond a comfort zone, or simply trying something new. Follow along for 31 days of storytelling, including everything from going without a cellphone for 40 days to trying the polarizing low-rise pants trend.
As any woman with curly hair can attest to, finding the best curly hair products can be a never-ending journey. While it may seem like testing new products for your coils would be easier than embracing a makeup routine, that’s not the case. Your curl texture and where you’re at in your curly hair journey dictate everything. Transitioning to your natural texture requires a whole different set of products than finding the best everyday styling routine. It can feel as if your curls require submission to the never-ending test-driving of products.
If reading that sentence alone drained the effort out of your body, I’m here to tell you that I tried 32 curly hair products in one month and survived. If I can survive it, my friends, I promise you, too, can find the perfect curly hair products for you. Still not convinced? Ahead, you’ll find my honest account of what I’m dubbing my curly hair trials—a detailed report of my pre-test product lineup, the products I did try, and products that became my new favorites.
My Lineup Before
Before I share what hair products I tried, it’s worth noting that I have a mix of 3b/3c curl patterns, normal elasticity, and low porosity. I share this tidbit because it’s essential to know your curl pattern and porosity before discerning which products need to be injected into your life, as everyone’s curls have different needs. For me, before my little hair experiment, my typical hair routine included the following…
Whether you’re getting into a curly hair routine or already have one, knowing the frequency of your washdays and what products to use are essential for maintaining your curls' moisture. I like to use a buildup-breaking serum once every two weeks and use a wash-and-go product in-between as my curls need more hydration. I’ve loved DevaCurl’s Cleansing Serum thus far because it will remove any dandruff and product buildup without leaving my coils dehydrated.
At least twice a week, I use a deep-conditioning mask for moisturizing my curls. I typically leave it in under a shower cap for 20 minutes while I’m bathing and then wash it out. I do this once before I braid my hair up for a few days and once before I wear my curls down. With low-porosity curls, you want to keep the strands as hydrated as possible, so after much trial and error, I’ve found masks to be the most effective way of nourishing my strands. This deep-conditioning mask from Curls Dynasty is excellent because it’s Black owned, and the mask is packed with various hydrating oils.
After I’ve done a mask on my hair, I like to massage in scalp oil and braid my hair. The oil, mixed with my braiding ritual, encourages hair follicles to maintain moisture and grow by proxy. Since the beginning of quarantine, this hair ritual has resulted in my curls growing exponentially, which is exciting.
When I’m not wearing my hair in braids or back in a sleek bun, I like to use a daily wash-and-go product. I’ve always low-key despised the concept of two-in-one hair products, so I prefer a thick conditioner for my washdays.
Before my experiment, I always paired a curly custard with a leave-in conditioner for everyday styling. I love this curling custard from SheaMoisture because it always feels like it's moisturizing my curls without weighing them down or making them crunchy.
Product Trial #1
For the first two days of my product trial, I decided to stick to one line of products from the curly hair brand Imbue Curls. Here’s the full lineup I test-drove, my thoughts, and which products ended up being my favorites.
Imbue’s conditioner wasn’t moisturizing enough for my curls. If I had high-porosity curls, this would probably be my new favorite, but because my hair struggles to retain moisture, this conditioner’s formula fell a bit short for my thirsty curls. I would recommend this to anyone who has high-porosity hair or even curl patterns below type 3.
After testing out Imbue Curl’s shampoo and conditioner, next was the Curl Empowering Crème Gel. This is the brand's hybrid version of a styling gel and everyday cream—it redeemed my initial feelings about the conditioner. It’s thick enough to feel like it’s moisturizing each curl without weighing my hair down. Of course, I still wanted the consistency to be a little bit thicker because my curls are always thirsty, but the cream does a great job of keeping coils frizz-free and is an excellent option for anyone with normal/high porosity.
Since I spread out the Imbue lineup over two days, I didn’t get to test out the Intensive Mask until the second day. This Intensive Mask makes all the difference in terms of hydration. If you do end up buying Imbue’s whole product lineup, you cannot skip this mask, as it ensures a solid moisturized curl base for the rest of the products to take hold.
Confession: Even as a product fiend, I’ve never tried a hair serum. But honestly, I was obsessed with Imbue’s Hydration Serum. The other products from the lineup may not have satisfied my curls’ needs to the full extent, but this serum helped frizzier parts of my curls meld together like they were meant to be. For readers struggling with that one patch of coils that will not retain moisture, always stays frizzy, and hates to be a part of the poppin’ curl party, give ‘em this serum, and I promise you’ll be speaking their love language.
Oils are the most underrated product that can change your curls in an instant, and I was obsessed with Imbue’s Shine Oil. It’s not heavy like a traditional oil because it’s made with avocado, coconut, cupuaçu, and grapeseed oils and still gives that salon shine.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Overall, each Imbue product does exactly what the product claims. My only qualm is the fact that my hair follicles still require more moisture than most, but for anyone who doesn’t suffer from notoriously dry curls, I highly recommend you give this lineup a try for yourself.
Product Trial #2
Next, I decided to try Bounce Curl’s product lineup. I used the products for about three days, as I was unsure how I felt about them. Here’s the full lineup I test-drove, my thoughts, and which products ended up being my favorites.
I started first by testing out Bounce Curl’s Pure Silk Moisturizing Shampoo. This shampoo does a great job of removing product buildup, but I didn’t feel like my hair was super moisturized afterward. For higher or even lower curl types that typically use thicker hair products or suffer from oily curls, this might be an excellent shampoo choice. But because my hair struggles to maintain moisture, this shampoo did not meet my needs.
I really wanted to love Bounce Curl’s conditioner. It has a thick consistency similar to the brand’s Defining Butta, and it smells divine, but it still didn’t hydrate my curls as much as I need my conditioner to after my hair was thoroughly air-dried. While I still wanted my curls to be more hydrated, it is worth noting that this conditioner does contain safflower oil, which is excellent for promoting hair growth and is ideal for dry, relaxed, or colored hair.
Usually, I find hair butters are not thick enough, but Bounce Curl’s Defining Butta gave a whole new meaning to the idea of thickness. While it’s a bit too heavy for my curl pattern, I highly recommend this product for anyone with low-porosity hair and type 4 curls, as this product is like ice-cold water on a summer day—so refreshing.
I hate to admit it, but I’ve never liked hair gels. This is primarily because I don’t have elasticity issues (when I stretch my curls out, they return to form rapidly, and they hold their patterns), so gels have never really been a necessity. I also love to be able to play with my curls, so feeling a crunchy curl is one of my biggest pet peeves. But with Bounce Curl’s Light Creme Gel, there is no crunch. It’s lightweight, smells excellent, and does a great job of keeping curls in line. For anyone who struggles with curl elasticity, I recommend you give this gel a whirl.
On my third day of testing out Bounce Curl’s line, I decided to swap out the Cream Conditioner for Ayurvedic Deep Conditioner, and honestly, I was so happy I did. The baobab oil (an omega-3 fatty acid) made all the difference for my curls, as this oil is known for retaining moisture and promoting hair growth. I highly recommend trying this conditioner to anyone who’s been wearing their hair natural for some time and is no longer dealing with extensive hair damage but still has issues retaining moisture in their hair.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
While I am still searching for the perfect product to keep my ever-thirsty hair hydrated, that doesn’t mean that Bounce Curl’s products aren’t great. They’re not a fit for where I’m at in my curl journey but can be a superb option for others for a few different reasons. The brand's heavier oil, deeply moisturizing deep conditioner, and Defining Butta are made for tighter curl patterns like 3c-4c. And the shampoo and Creme Gel are excellent for women trying to heal their hair’s elasticity or give their curls bounce. As with any curly hair product lineup, you have to take what works for you and keep it bouncin’.
Product Trial #3
After wearing my curls down for a few days, I decided to break from the wash-and-go and switch to my go-to in-between curly hairstyle: braids. For my braiding routine, I wanted to give a few different products a test run to see how hydrating they were for my hair. I didn’t stick to one line. Instead, I mixed the Black-owned brand Bomba Curls' products with a tester I had from Pattern to see how I felt about each. Here’s the full lineup I tried, my thoughts, and which products ended up being my favorites.
Before braiding your hair, it’s important to make sure that you’ve used the most hydrating products available, as it will ensure the braids don’t end up causing breakage. Opting for a hair mask that includes castor oil is a great idea. It combats potential dandruff, and the fat found in the oil increases your hair’s flexibility and elasticity and prevents breakage. When it comes to how Bomba Curls' hair mask held up, I was thoroughly impressed. Upon washing it out of my hair, I could immediately feel my curls perk up. I would highly recommend testing this hair mask out if you’re in the market for a new product.
When I tell you that Pattern’s Leave-In Conditioner did the damn thing, I’m not exaggerating. I had a travel-size bottle that a friend had gifted me, and I figured I’d pair it with Bomba’s line, as it doesn't have a leave-in conditioner yet and leave-in conditioner is an essential part of my hair-braiding routine. Let’s just say I ended up using the whole bottle rather quickly. It not only smells delightful, but its Goldilocks formula also satisfied my need for a leave-in that’s not too heavy but still hydrates.
If you take nothing else away from this story, let it be the power of hair oil. I thought that I already had this covered in my life, but Bomba Curls’ Dominican Forbidden Oil was the thing I didn’t realize I was missing. Containing rosemary oil, soybean oil, castor oil, coffee-seed oil, and black cumin–seed oil, it’s a hybrid of all the best possible oils for your hair, making it magic in a bottle.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I loved, loved, loved every product in this lineup, which is a reminder to all (myself included) that the best curly hair routines don’t always stick to one product line—hero products can come from anywhere. Furthermore, having easy curly hairstyles to rely upon while you’re in-between washdays is just as important as finding the products that will ensure you’re protecting your curls at the same time.
Product Trial #4
After wearing my hair in braids for a few days, I decided to switch it up and test out a loose bun with curly bangs. If I’m being honest, I typically switch to buns when I’m over oiling up my braids every night but am not ready for the full routine that is wash-and-go styling. For this trial run, I wanted to revisit a product from Sachajuan and pair it with a new product to see if that made any difference. Here’s the full lineup I test-drove, my thoughts, and which products ended up being my favorites.
Unfortunately, Sachajuan’s daily conditioner was not as effective as it used to be for my hair. This might be because it’s winter, and my curls are extra dehydrated at the moment. But don’t let that deter you. For readers who have typically oily hair or have curls looser than type 3 coils, this conditioner just might be your favorite new product.
I’ve always associated the term “beach hair” with people who don’t have natural curls. Needless to say, I was a bit dubious about how this Ocean Mist Hair Cream would work for me. At first glance, the blue color is a bit off-putting, but the smell is divine. After washing my hair, I applied it from my scalp to ends and then threw my hair back into a bun. I don’t struggle with curl holding, but for readers with looser curl patterns, this product does a great job of maintaining curl structure. And if you’re into the beachy-wave look, it gives that "I just jumped in the ocean" look without the excess frizz.
I’ve tested Sachajuan’s shampoo before, but like anyone with curly hair knows, sometimes products we once stanned can stop being as effective as they were before because our texture has changed over time. Luckily, that’s not the case with this shampoo. It’s still one of my favorite shampoos (not just because of the smell), but it rivals some buildup-specific shampoos in terms of its ability to remove all my layered products.
Rating: 4 out of 5
I still love Sachajuan’s products because they live up to their claims. This is definitely a product lineup I’d recommend for women with a 1-3a texture, oil-prone hair, high-porosity hair, and/or low-elasticity hair, as these products are made for you. As for me, I’ll revisit the line when summertime rolls around, but for now, my curls are too thirsty for a beach day.
Product Trial #5
Feeling rejuvenated again, I decided to dedicate curly hair trial number five to getting back into a wash-and-go routine. I devoted three days to testing two various lines, the first being Rucker Root’s full lineup. Then, I mixed in The Doux’s products to see how I felt about each. Here’s the full lineup I test-drove, my thoughts, and which products ended up being my favorites.
The first day in my trial, I started with Rucker Root’s Sulfate-Free Shampoo. This shampoo didn’t leave my hair feeling stripped but actually made my coils feel softer, and it definitely has the same cleaning power as the other shampoos I’m used to. I’d recommend this shampoo over what I usually use for anyone with severely heat-damaged hair, as its formula contains turnip root oil and carrot root oil, which strengthen hair and promote growth.
I was pretty disappointed in the Rucker Roots Daily Leave-In because I don’t typically opt for spray leave-in conditioners, as my hair’s porosity requires a level of moisture that most spray-ins just can’t provide. If you don’t struggle with maintaining moisture in your hair and prefer spray leave-ins, then this is worth trying, but for me, it wasn’t it.
I was most excited about testing Rucker Roots' Curly Hair Cream, but I have to preface this by saying that I was not a fan of the smell. (I’ve never been a fan of ginger.) I extended the trial run of these products because I wanted to like this cream, but it wasn’t as hydrating as I need a styling cream to be, and I could not get over the ginger smell to save my life. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this product. For readers who love an all-natural haircare line and ginger, this is a great pick, but it didn’t earn a permanent place in my haircare lineup.
While I wasn’t a massive fan of some of the other Rucker Root products, the Styling Mousse is excellent. It holds curls exceptionally well and doesn’t have the sticky residue feel that many other mousses have. But it wasn’t hydrating enough for my coils—they genuinely are the neediest.
On the third day of this test-drive, I decided to mix in two The Doux products I hadn’t gotten around to trying out yet. I figured maybe the problem was the styling products and that the other products were phenomenal, so I tried styling my curls with The Doux’s Big Poppa Defining Gel. The first thing you should know about this product is that it smells divine and will do the job of defining your curls. But as I’ve previously mentioned, I don’t like when gels make my hair feel crunchy, and this gel does that with my texture. Overall, the product does what it’s supposed to do, but I am genuinely put off by crunchy-feeling hair.
While I could not get over the overpowering ginger scent, I will say that Rucker Roots' Detangling Conditioner is, by far, one of the best detangling products I’ve ever tested. I usually detangle my hair in the shower, and it can take upwards of 30 minutes, but this product cut that time in half. If I paired this with some of my other hero deep conditioners and styling products, it might become a mainstay in my curly hair routine.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I’m giving this trial lineup this rating because I’m extremely picky about how I want my hair to smell and feel and how hydrated it should be. But please remember that everyone’s hair is different. While this lineup didn’t do it for me all the way, if you’re not as particular about scent or texture, then I’d recommend testing this out, as the products do have a lot of great formulations for making your hair be the healthiest it can be.
Product Trial #6
I decided to test-drive Hairstory’s signature hair cleansers and its balm on my sixth product trial. I also ended up throwing Mylon’s Natural Hair Care System's deep conditioner into the mix, as I hadn’t tried it yet. Here’s the lineup I test-drove, my thoughts, and which products ended up being my favorites.
I’m generally not one for two-in-one products. I may have previously gawked at partners for using any type of two-in-one hair product. But this isn’t your typical double-duty haircare product. First, the consistency of the wash feels like the creamy hair butter and leave-in conditioners that I hold dearly. My hair felt incredibly soft and smelled great after washing it out, which is a good sign in my books.
For the next step, I only used the cleanser and this hair balm on the first day. The balm has the feel of a moisturizing lotion and smells divine, but it was not cutting it when it came to maintaining my curls’ moisture. If you want to add this product into your routine, you have to either have a loose curl pattern or be prepared to pair it with other styling products. Although it claims to be for all hair types, it wasn’t a fit for my hair.
On the second day, I tested Hairstory’s New Wash Rich formula, which ended up being one of my favorites of this lineup. For anyone with lower porosity or coiler curls, this is the formula to test-drive out of the two, as it applies like a conditioner and leaves your hair way more nourished than the other formula. Anyone looking to simplify their wash-and-go routine should test this product out for themselves.
In addition to the Rich New Wash, I decided on the second day to add in Mylon’s deep conditioner to see if the product worked better with my texture by pairing it with a more traditional nourishing product—and my instinct was right. Pairing this conditioner with Hairstory’s Rich New Wash formula left my curls feeling incredibly soft and hydrated. I love this deep conditioner for anyone suffering from dead ends, as it will give them new life.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I never thought I’d be potentially endorsing a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner product, but here I am. Hairstory’s line is worth giving a go for anyone looking for a new wash-and-go conditioner. Just don’t be afraid to pair it with some of your other favorite products to get the most out of it and to make it work for your hair.
Product Trial #7
Fellow editors have hyped up Olaplex for a minute, but my product trials were the first time I could get my hands on the brand. I tried two signature bond-building Olaplex products along with two styling products from the small Black-owned haircare brand CurlDaze. This was, by far, the best hair day of all the trial days I went through. There were no hero products because I was obsessed with every single one of them, which is significant given all the curly hair products I’ve tested lately. Here’s why I loved them.
After what amounted to a month of testing products and putting my curls through it, Olaplex’s Intensive Bond Building Treatment came in clutch. It’s a light, serum-like feel that you leave in your hair while you shower. Olaplex recommends pairing it with the No. 3 Hair Perfector, but what’s great about this product is that it uses chemistry to bond hair that’s been heat damaged, is brittle, is dyed, or is suffering in the cold. It also happens to help people with low-porosity hair (ahem, me). Because our hair’s inability to retain moisture can lead to dryness and breakage, this helps combat that at the roots.
After using the bond-repair treatment alone, I decided to pair it with CurlDaze’s moisture bundle, and I was not disappointed. CurlDaze’s Ultra Moisture Cream not only smells heavenly, but it was also the first cream of all the trials that did what I needed it to, which is to keep my curls hydrated. Unlike most curly hair creams, CurlDaze’s formula features kukui oil, which doubles as an effective leave-in conditioner, combats frizz, and leaves the hair shiny.
Curl Daze’s Shine Gel also contains the same oil, which is why it’s one of the best gels I’ve tried in a hot minute. It left my hair shiny and didn’t leave the crunchy residue that most gels do. I’ve never been in love with a hair gel before, but I think this is love at first squeeze.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Clearly, the last day of my curly hair trials was my favorite. It wasn’t just because I could finally stop vigorously searching for the best curly hair products. It was also because, through the process, I found a few more products I loved and learned a lot more about my hair. Ultimately, knowing what your hair needs and not being afraid to test things out to find out what works for your hair is essential. You can’t get to the good hair days without a few bad hair days, fumbles, and test-driving a ton of hair products. So don’t be afraid to take the time to figure out what the best curly hair products are for your hair type because it will be worth it. I promise.