A highly moisturizing formula that works on all types of hair, even coily and color treated. Does a good job controlling frizz, even when you use a hair dryer. No harsh ingredients such as phthalates and parabens. You don't have to use a lot to get amazing results.
Can feel somewhat heavy if you use too much, but this is hardly a deal breaker.
Moisturizes curls with a paraben-free, sulfate-free formula that's enriched with coconut oil. Works best on tight curls and coiled locks. Gives curls definition. Also adds volume to fine hair. A small amount delivers maximum benefits.
Slightly sticky. Although it controls frizz for most users, a few have reported that it didn't tame their hair as expected.
Earns praise for how well it protects hair from the drying effects of blow drying. Made without parabens, phthalates, and other harsh chemicals. Makes hair feel soft, and tames frizz and fly-aways. Suitable for loose and tight curls.
Although many users love the scent, some find it a bit overpowering. Tends to feel oily if you use a lot.
Formulated with plant oils and polymers that protect, moisturize, and leave curls soft and bouncy. Smells great and has a creamy consistency. Doesn't contain parabens, phthalates, or other potentially harmful or drying additives.
Feels heavy on fine, thin hair. The definition it gives curls doesn't last all day, especially in humid/wet weather.
Hydrates and defines waves and curls, thanks to the rich formula that contains argan oil. Doesn't weigh hair down and makes it soft and shiny. Has a pleasant scent. No parabens or phthalates.
Doesn't define tight curls and coils as well as other products on our list. Doesn't tame all frizz as expected.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Sometimes all you need is a lightweight, moisturizing product to manage and define your curls. Whether your curls are loose or tight, wavy or coily, chances are you’ll get results you love by smoothing the right styling cream through your locks.
Styling cream is in the same family as gel, wax, and mousse, but differs in that it has a creamy, lotion-like consistency. Creams that are formulated for waves, curls, and coils are made with a blend of moisturizers, plant oils, and polymers that control frizz and keep flyaway hair in place without feeling greasy or crunchy. Some styling creams can also protect hair from the damage caused by heated styling tools and chemical treatments, and some may even strengthen hair and repair dry, brittle ends.
There are lots of things to consider as you shop for styling cream for your do, such as the available brands and formulas, your type of curls, and the texture of your hair. But you don’t have to stress about finding the perfect product for your needs because we’ve showcased our favorite brands here and compiled this handy shopping guide to help you choose.
Styling cream vs. other products
When you use styling cream on your curly locks, you can expect your hair to feel soft and manageable and less frizzy. However, there are some differences between styling creams and other styling products. Here’s a comparative look at the popular types and what they can and can’t do for your curls.
Cream: As mentioned above, styling cream offers many benefits. It can be used on almost any type of hair, so if you want moisturized, defined curls without frizz, chances are you’ll love what it can do for your hair. In addition, many brands are formulated with ingredients like plant oils, vitamins, and proteins that tame frizz and add shine without leaving your hair feeling stiff or crunchy. However, you’ll only get minimal hold from these products, so the frizz may return in wet or humid weather, and your curls may not keep their definition.
Gel: Hair gels have been around for a long time because they’re easy to use and provide long-lasting hold. Using a gel will also control frizz, add definition to your curls, and give hair a shiny finish. These products can be a bit drying, however, because most formulas contain fairly high concentrations of alcohol. Gels may also make hair feel somewhat crunchy and heavy.
Wax: You can gain a lot control over your locks by styling it with hair wax. Not only does it put frizz and stray strands in place, but it can also be used to create defined shapes that stay put all day. Hair wax isn’t drying, but it’s on the heavy side and can weigh down hair and leave it looking oily. Most consumers with fine, thin hair find that wax doesn’t work well for them.
Mousse: On the other end of the spectrum is lightweight hair mousse. It adds volume to fine, thin hair and leaves curls bouncy. Mousse also controls frizz, but it only provides light to medium hold, so the results you get may not last in wet or humid conditions.
Choosing a styling cream for your curls
Just like any other product you put on your hair, not all styling creams are the same. The right one for you will meet your needs and improve the look and texture of your curls. The answers to the following questions will help you find the product that suits your hair.
What type of curls do you have?
Some styling creams are formulated for curls and coils, while others work best for waves and loose curls. Some products are made to adjust to the needs of almost any hair type. The information you need to choose the best cream for your hair will be included in the product description.
What is the texture of your hair?
Most styling creams are suitable for different types of hair, but coarse hair often requires special ingredients to soften hair and help it look its best. Many styling creams are made with ingredients that smooth the raised cuticles on hair shafts and soften hair texture.
Is your hair damaged?
Styling creams that also double as hair treatments are perfect for consumers who have dry, brittle hair and split ends. Some brands also put extra moisturizing ingredients in their products to address these concerns.
Do you use heated styling tools and chemical treatments?
If so, consider a styling cream for curly hair that offers thermal protection or one that’s designed to be used before blow-drying hair to eliminate frizz.
Oils extracted from plants and seeds, vitamins, minerals, polymers, amino acids, and proteins are important ingredients that make styling cream effective at protecting and moisturizing hair while controlling frizz and defining curls. It’s also important to take into consideration what ingredients a styling cream doesn’t contain. Quality products by premium brands are typically made without parabens, phthalates, silicones, and sulfates that can dry out or weigh down hair.
One of the most appealing features of these products is its light, creamy consistency. Think about hand lotion and how soft it feels when you apply it. Styling cream has a similar feel. Most products don’t feel extremely heavy, sticky, or greasy, resulting in bouncy curls that feel soft to the touch.
Most styling creams for curly hair have a pleasant scent that isn’t too harsh. Expect a floral, citrus, or fruit fragrance that isn’t likely to clash with your perfume or cologne.
Styling creams come in containers that are quite similar those that contain lotion. Although they vary from brand to brand, you’ll find tubes, jars, or bottles with flip-top, screw-on, or pump tops.
Quality styling cream for curly hair made by top brands typically ranges in price from $20 to $40. Cheaper products are available, but they aren’t likely to pamper your curls as well. Keep in mind that some premium brands come in smaller containers than lower-priced options. For example, a four-ounce bottle by a top luxury brand may be about the same price as an eight-ounce bottle by a brand that doesn’t offer the same quality ingredients or results. To understand what you’re really paying, figure out the price per ounce.
Inexpensive: Styling creams that range in price from $7 to $20 may contain harsh or synthetic ingredients or not do much for frizz or tight curls.
Mid-range: You can find styling creams for $20 to $25 formulated for waves, curls, and coils. Many in this price range also have natural or highly moisturizing ingredients.
Expensive: For about $25 to $40 and up, you’ll find styling creams with top-quality ingredients that are made to address issues specific to curly hair, such as frizz and dryness.
Blot wet hair first. If you’re applying styling cream to your curls after shampooing, blot your hair with a towel first. Removing the excess water will keep the styling cream from dripping off your hair and allow it to absorb into your hair more effectively.
Apply the cream evenly. You’ll get the best results by applying the styling cream evenly on all of your curls. To make sure every strand is covered, start at the top of your scalp and work your way to the ends of your curls.
Try different brands. Don’t be discouraged if a styling cream doesn’t work well for your curls. There are many quality brands to choose from, so try some others until you find the one you love.
Scrunch your hair with your hands after you apply styling cream. This will help spring your curls into shape as your hair dries.
Take styling cream along with you to the pool or beach. After you swim, wash and rinse your hair before applying styling cream. You’ll be adding conditioners and moisturizers that help counteract the drying effects of chlorine, salt water, and sun.
Styling creams for curly hair can deliver amazing results, but not all products work for all types of curls. Fortunately, there are many quality styling creams available, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that’s perfect for your hair. In addition to our top five favorites, we also like the Amika First Base Moisturizing Styling Cream because the highly moisturizing formula hydrates and protects against heat styling. It smells fantastic, too! The Living Proof No Frizz Nourishing Styling Cream earns high marks from customers who say it tames frizz while also adding shine and volume. It helps curls keep their shape without feeling sticky. The O&M Style Guru Styling Cream is the one to get if you prefer using natural products because it’s made with “clean” ingredients. We’re impressed that it contains amino acids that are known to strengthen hair and includes coconut and macadamia oils that produce noticeable shine. It also leaves curls feeling soft and manageable.
Q. Can I apply styling cream when my hair is dry?
A. Styling cream works best on wet hair because it smooths hair shafts before frizz has a chance to develop. However, applying it to dry hair can also put frizzy strands in place and add definition to curls. Simply rub a few drops evenly through your hair with your hands, shaping your curls with your fingers as you go.
Q. My curls tend to be dry and brittle. What ingredients should I look for in a styling cream?
A. Natural oils that are derived from plants do a great job of moisturizing locks. You’ll find many different types as you read the ingredient lists of the products you’re considering, but coconut, argan, avocado, and almond are a few of the most effective. In addition, plant-based proteins and vitamins are also great for nourishing and hydrating curls.
Q. Can I use other types of hair care products with styling cream?
A. Because styling cream is fairly lightweight, it’s easy to use with other products. You can use it after washing your hair with your favorite shampoo and conditioner, and you can even pair it with other styling products like gel or mousse on days when you need a bit more hold.