Robert Kamau/GC Images
Robert Kamau/GC Images
When it comes to reaching Rihanna-level curls, products are everything. Any celeb pro or beauty blogger will tell you that finding the right products for your unique curl pattern is half the battle.
In comparison to the few popular African-American hair products in the early '90s (think: Pink Lotion, Just for Me, Blue Magic and African Heritage oil), thankfully, today's beauty industry is a lot more inclusive. Curly hair has become a legit subdivision of the hair market with companies like DevaCurl, Shea Moisture and Gabrielle Union's Flawless using science to create beauty products specifically for curly hair. These brands, as well as the larger beauty manufacturers, are also much more natural than their early '90s counterparts. Shea butter, coconut oil, argan oil—for the most part, you know what you're putting in your hair.
While there's more products for everybody to find their must-haves, everything doesn't work for everybody. Also, most people have more than one curl pattern, so finding the right products is a personalized journey that no one can complete for you. But, it's nice to have a comprehensive list of reviews from someone that learned through trial and error.
So, I tried fifty plus products to bring you the resource I wish I had when I went heat-free for three months. Check out my must-haves below!
Disclaimer: My hair features tight curls, somewhere between 3C and 4A (Check out our celebrity hair graph here), so the products below were best for my texture of hair.
A wide tooth comb is a must, but you don't want to use it all of the time. As I transitioned my curls were...well...delicate, and by combing out my hair I would easily lose my curl pattern. According to hairstylist Angela Stevens, using your fingers to get conditioner through is fine. Save combing for when you're styling your hair.
Moisture was by far my biggest obstacle. My soaked up everything like a sponge, and by noon, it would be crispy—not cute. This thick (but not too thick) formula has a few of favorite things: avocado, shea butter, coconut oil and sunflower oil.
If you're edges aren't laid, then your hairstyle is pretty much ruined. I keep a toothbrush, specifically for my hair, in my bathroom, car and makeup bag.
When you're styling your hair, you'll need to rewet your stands, making a spray bottle a must-have.
Salon Care 360 Mist Sprayers, $6.99
Ah, gel, the saving grace to my hairline.
When it comes to shampoo and conditioner, I was looking for a formula that made my hair soft and smelled amazing (because your pillow will most likely smell like it). Pro tip: When I switched to conditioning with cold water, the conditioner was more effective.
I followed my biweekly wash with this conditioner. I washed my hair first, then applied this deep conditioner to my hair, while I washed my body.
Angela was right: Co-wash changed my life. As my hair was struggling to retain moisture, washing it with regular shampoo was only making it worse. This product's lightweight formula and subtle scent made it my go-to.
Ever heard of pre-poo? While it sounds unappealing, prepping my hair with this pre-shampoo treatment increased the elasticity of my curls—crucial for the transition.
This family owned brand has a great coconut oil-based line, which feature this leave-in that smells amazing.
Myth: Sleeping in conditioner will improve your hair's health. "I'll be the first to tell you that any deep conditioner will stop working after 15, 20 minutes max," Vernon Francois revealed to me. "It's about finding products that will penetrate your hair the right way, for the right reasons"...not extending the time of wearing conditioner.
Any time I twisted my hair, I applied this oil before the styling cream to increase the moisture. Plus, it has luxurious feel that produces a sheen that you'll instantly notice.
Gabrielle Union is on to something. Her hair brand's hair mask made my curls soft and strong.
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The Briogeo Curl Charisma line smells great, but has a light hold that kept me from using for wash 'n gos. Instead, I used when I wore a bun or up-do for a soft finish.
This brand is a go-to for Nai'vasha Johnson (Yara Shahidi and Logan Browning's stylist), and now a must-have for me. Perfect for twist outs, wash 'n gos and everything else.
Remember when I said a spray bottle was a must? Vernon created the upgrade that features a nourishing blend that will wet and moisturize your hair at the same time. It's worth every penny.
Like the nourishing water, I used this energizing spray for twist outs as my hair dried.
Hair accessories make a world of difference, really. On those days that you can't manage more than a bun, a bun cuff or a headband will make you look chic and not feel bad for spending 60 seconds on your hair. Stock up.
H&M Velour Hairband, $4.99
While this diffuser is affordable, it's very effective. When I complained about my shrinkage (my hair went from mid-back while straight to touching my ears while curly), Nai'vasha suggested I used a diffuser, since air drying causes more shrinkage.
This makes a difference, believe me. A regular towel creates too much friction, which results in frizzy hair. Opt for a microfiber towel to keep your strands smooth after conditioner.
I hadn't heard of a hair steamer until I began my transition, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. I used it to increase the absorption of my deep conditioner, but many use it to refresh they're curls. If you can't afford the tool, I'd suggest working out with conditioner in your hair, which helped with moisture in a similar way.
Q-Redew Hand-held Hair Steamer, $69.95
Most people use a shower cap to keep water away from their hair, but I found a different use. This shower cap, which feature an elastic band, doesn't slip or fall off. So, I used it for overnight oil treatments. No more wet pillow!
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