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- Conditioners, mists, gels, and creams are just a few of the options for leave-in treatments that are suitable for use on curly hair.
- The best ones hydrate and revitalize strands while cutting down on frizz.
- Our top pick is Miss Jessie’s Pillow Soft Curls, a multi-use product that detangles and styles all different types of curls.
A lifetime spent with curly hair has taught me a few things. Mostly, that I’m too lazy to do much with my hair after a shower. But I’ve also learned that a little effort and the right products make me 10 times happier with my style.
In my opinion, getting a good haircut is the single most important thing you can do. I go to Devachan in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, but there are many curl specialists located throughout the United States. Once you have your ideal cut, you can focus on using the right styling products and treatments to enhance your curls.
I never use heat on my hair, so I’m always looking for gels, creams, and serums that will cut down on frizz and add definition to my curls on their own. But there are countless leave-in treatments for curly hair that will help you get your desired effect, whether you air dry or not. I’ve researched the most beloved curly hair products on the market for this list of favorites you’re guaranteed to love.
Here are the best leave-in treatments for curly hair in 2019:
- Best leave-in treatment for curly hair overall: Miss Jessie’s Pillow Soft Curls
- Best gel for curly hair: DevaCurl Light Defining Gel
- Best drugstore leave-in treatment for curly hair: Kristin Ess Air Dry Creme
- Best leave-in treatment for dry curls: SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
- Best conditioning spray for curly hair: Briogeo Rosarco Milk Reparative Leave-In Conditioning Spray
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
The best leave-in treatment for curly hair overall
Why you’ll love it: Miss Jessie’s Pillow Soft Curls is a do-it-all styling lotion that softens and defines curls without weighing them down.
Miss Jessie’s Pillow Soft Curls is one of those amorphous hair products that seems to do everything (besides cleanse) all at once. Described as "a super soft styling lotion," the product combats frizz, defines ringlets, and prevents the "ramen noodle" effect some products have on curls.
Per the brand’s instructions, Pillow Soft Curls should be applied to damp, clean, detangled hair before styling. Afterwards you can air dry or diffuse curls. The product itself is quick-drying and promises not to leave a detectable film or make your hair crunchy and stiff. You can also use Pillow Soft Curls to refresh your strands between washes.
"I have been a hairdresser for 31 years,this is, by far the BEST PRODUCT I’ve ever used," writes one shopper. Keep in mind that a little of this will go a long way. This is also a fantastic option for replenishing color or heat damaged hair.
Pros: Free of sulfates, mineral oil, petroleum, and paraffins, vegan and cruelty-free, multiuse
The best gel for curly hair
Why you’ll love it: Get hold minus the crunch with the DevaCurl Light Defining Gel, a flexible, nourishing styling product.
Gels used to remind me of the tight, hard styles I wore for dance recitals growing up. Armed with AquaNet hairspray and globs of gel, my mom would mold my fly-aways into submission. And so I was initially hesitant when a stylist handed me a bottle of DevaCurl Light Defining Gel after my first cut at the brand’s salon in New York City.
I decided to give it a try the next time I washed my hair, and I was impressed. This product defines my ringlets and locks without drying my hair out. I apply a nickel-sized amount to sopping wet hair and scrunch toward my scalp, following up with a microfiber towel to absorb excess moisture.
Light Defining Gel comes in two sizes, 12 ounces or 32 ounces. The smaller bottle has lasted me a long time, because I only use a tiny amount. If you have longer or thicker hair, you may want to grab the larger size.
"This has been my holy grail styler. My 2B/3C waves and curls respond so nicely to it — no hard, heavy cast — just light, bouncy curls. Cut my morning routine in half, as it also allowed my low-porosity hair to dry super quickly," writes one Ulta reviewer.
Pros: Lightweight gel, doesn’t crunch, a little goes a long way
The best drugstore leave-in treatment for curly hair
Why you’ll love it: Kristin Ess Weightless Shine Air Dry Creme is the only product you need for a quick and easy wash-and-go style.
I love when my hair looks good but I don’t love actually doing my hair. If I could roll out of the shower and have my strands dry perfectly on their own, I’d be forever happy. Ever since I discovered the Kristin Ess Weightless Shine Air Dry Creme, which I’ve written about here before, I’ve gotten a tiny step closer to that goal.
I’ve loved every Kristin Ess product I’ve tried so far — other faves include The One Signature Hair Water and Frizz Management Cleansing Conditioner — but this one really stands out. I apply this silky, floral-scented creme when my hair is still damp but not soaking.
It eliminates frizz, defines my curls, and keeps them looking better for longer in between washes. Target shoppers seem to agree: The Air Dry Creme has 4 stars at the retailer, based on 53 reviews.
One customer writes, "My wavy/curly/frizzy hair loves this stuff. I’ve been looking for a product to give me wash and go hair that tames frizz and this is it! It has just enough weight to tame my hair but not enough to make my hair greasy or flat. I’ve found that not touching your hair too much after putting in this product is also super important."
Pros: Cuts down on frizz, paraben-free, aluminum-free
Cons: Has a strong scent
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