The Best Conditioners for Curly Hair
Using the right conditioner is essential to any curly hair routine, as it largely determines how much moisture your hair gets. Well, hydrated hair is key to healthy curls; therefore your conditioner can make or break the way your curls look. A quick trip to the drugstore or supermarket will show that there are many conditioners available for purchase; however, if you have curly hair, you can’t just pick any old conditioner.
The scalp produces natural oils that are intended to hydrate the hair and keep it from drying out. However, if your hair has a curl pattern, it is extremely difficult for these oils to travel from your scalp to the ends of your hair. The result is that those with curled hair struggle with dryness, frizz, and a less-than-optimal curl pattern, thanks to the lack of hydration.
The solution is to use an ultra-hydrating conditioner to tackle any problems that curly hair might bring. Not all conditioners are made with sufficiently hydrating ingredients, so you must do your research when choosing a product for your curls. It is the most essential step for anyone with curly hair and if you get it right you will have gorgeous, defined, and manageable curls or waves that will last for days between washes.
To help figure out what product is right for you, we have rounded up the 10 best conditioners for curly hair. This list includes both leave-in and wash-out conditioners to help you decide what the best product for your curly routine is.
Types of Conditioner
There are two types of conditioner recommended for those with curly hair: leave-in and wash-out. You’re probably familiar with a wash-out conditioner. Paired with shampoo, wash-out conditioners are used in the shower to provide hydration and to add back any moisture that might have been stripped away by washing with shampoo.
You should leave this type of conditioner in your hair for 2-10 minutes before rinsing it away in the shower. It is the key step to any healthy hair routine—without it, your hair will easily become dry and damaged.
Leave-in conditioner is an additional step to a wash-out one. As the name suggests, this type of conditioner is meant to be left in throughout the day rather than rinsing it out. You typically apply it after you wash your hair and allow it to dry slightly.
Leave-in conditioner is extremely useful for those with defined curls, tight coils, and any hair type in between. It actively provides the extra moisture throughout the day that tighter curls need, and it locks hydration into the hair cuticle to prevent further damage.
Leaving the conditioner in your hair also allows enough time for active ingredients to repair existing damage. This type of product comes in many forms, including oils, creams, and butters. While it is not 100% necessary, experts do recommend using leave-in conditioner regularly to help maintain happy and healthy curls.
Choosing conditioner for your hair type
No two curls are the same—it’s important that you remember this when shopping for conditioners. What works for your friend’s tight coils might not work for your loose waves. Here’s a general guideline to keep in mind when shopping for a curly conditioner.
Loose waves to loose curls
If your hair falls between these types, chances are your hair is quite fine and frizzes extremely easily. Due to the fineness of the hair, heavier products will likely weigh the curls down, and could also give your roots a greasy and unwashed appearance.
While your hair certainly needs extra hydration, try to avoid any products that are extremely rich and heavy. This means you should steer clear of conditioners (leave-in or wash-out) that are extremely thick and creamy, as well as any leave-in conditioning oils. Instead, look for lightweight moisturizers that will nourish your curls without weighing them down.
If your curls are defined, bouncy, and thicker at the root, you can go for products slightly heavier than what is recommended for looser curls. Your hair likely dries out quite easily due to the curl pattern; it’s important that you maintain adequate moisture levels by using the right conditioner.
Look for products that feel more like a cream, as this often means they have heavier hydrating ingredients. You can also use a leave-in conditioner or oil when your hair needs that extra hydration boost.
Tight coils or coarse curls
If this is your hair type, you need the maximum moisture that a conditioner can give you. Due to how tight your curls are, it is extremely hard for your natural hair oil to travel from your scalp to the ends of your hair. This means you need to substitute lost moisture with hydrating products instead, and you should probably be using a leave-in conditioner regularly.
Look out for thick, heavy creams, either in a leave-in or wash-out conditioner. You can also use leave-in oils as they will nourish the ends of your hair, allowing your curl pattern to perform at its fullest potential.
1. Blu Atlas Conditioner
Conditioner type: Wash-out
About the product: At number one on our list of the best conditioners for curly hair is Blu Atlas’ Classic Conditioner. While it is technically a conditioner for all hair types, it is the ideal formula for those with curly hair. The formula has been enriched with argan and avocado oil to provide intense hydration, which will restore your curls and allow the curl pattern to properly set itself in place after washing. Additionally, the argan oil helps to repair existing damage and provides brilliant shine and luster to your curls.
Blu Atlas has also used barley protein in this conditioner, which fortifies the hair cuticle, making it much stronger and resistant to future damage. It is extremely lightweight, making it a great product for those with loose to tight curls, and its moisturizing properties will have your hair looking t
About the brand: Blu Atlas is a trailblazer in the hair and skin care industry by providing high-quality products that are good for you. Their goal is to reduce the number of chemicals we use on our bodies, and instead look to natural sources when it comes to hair and skincare. All of their products are formulated with ingredients that are at least 96% derived from natural sources. Not only that, but all of their products are clean, vegan, and cruelty-free, so you don’t need to worry about the conditions they were made in.
Blu Atlas also ensures that every formula is preservative-free, paraben-free, synthetic dye-free, and phthalate-free, so you can rest assured that there’s nothing nasty in your products. If you’re wanting to make a positive change to your hair care routine by using more sustainable products, then Blu Atlas is the way to go.
2. Cantu Hydrating Cream Conditioner with Shea Butter
Conditioner type: Wash-out
About the product: Cantu’s Hydrating Cream Conditioner with Shea Butter is an ideal product for those with defined or tight curls due to its deeply moisturizing properties. Shea butter is a powerhouse beauty ingredient, known for its moisturizing and soothing properties for both skin and hair. This conditioner utilizes this to help soften and hydrate the hair. Shea butter also acts restoratively by repairing any split ends that may have been caused by dryness, which also restores the natural curl pattern.
To further the hydrating properties of this conditioner, olive oil, coconut oil, and jojoba seed oil have also been included in the formula—your curls will never dry out again. Not to mention, it smells fantastic! If you want curls or coils that look and smell amazing, then we highly recommend this product.
About the brand: Cantu is committed to helping your curls reach their full potential. Designed specifically for naturally curly hair, their products contain everything you need to restore, protect, and define your curls. Enriching their formulas with shea butter, their main focus is ensuring that your hair gets the hydration it needs, as this is the key to healthy curls.
Cantu understands that curly hair can’t be exposed to certain ingredients that work for other hair. They formulate their products without harmful ingredients, such as mineral oil, drying alcohol, sulfates, and parabens. The best part? The products are extremely affordable, making great-looking curls accessible to everyone.
3. SheaMoisture Papaya and Neroli All Day Frizz Control Conditioner
Conditioner type: Wash-out
About the product: SheaMoisture is the go-to brand for curly hair care products. This comes as no surprise—their conditioner is one of the best out there for curly hair. This conditioner is especially effective if you have loose curls or fine curls, as these tend to frizz up easily—something that this conditioner aims to remedy.
The formula contains papaya to hydrate the hair, smoothing it down and reducing the amount of frizz that forms. It is supported by fair trade shea butter to give curls the hydration they need to shine. The hydration from this conditioner lasts between washes, which reduces long-term frizz as well. It has been formulated without parabens, phthalates, or mineral oil, so you know this conditioner only does good things for your hair.
About the brand: Established in 1912, SheaMoisturehas a long history of providing high-quality products for those with curly hair. They understand the unique needs and problems that those with curly hair face and aim to create products to tackle these issues.
All of their products are cruelty-free, which means that they don’t test any ingredients or products on animals. The main ingredient of shea butter is handcrafted by women in Africa, with proceeds from the company’s sales reinvested in these communities to ensure sustainably within the business.
4. Balmain Hair Couture Moisturizing Conditioner
Conditioner type: Wash-out
About the product: If you want to add a little bit of luxury into your everyday routine, why don’t you try out the Balmain Hair Couture Moisturizing Conditioner? This lightweight formula has been infused with pure argan oil—an ingredient that is an all-rounder for curly hair. Argan oil exclusively comes from Morocco, derived from the argan tree fruits. It is intensely moisturizing, so not only does it restore existing damage to the hair, it seals in moisture and fortifies your strands against future damage—it’s the perfect product for curly hair.
In fact, argan oil is so moisturizing that it also combats frizz and flyaways, with effects that last for days between washes. This conditioning formula has also been enriched with provitamin B5, which penetrates deep into the hair cuticle and improves its elasticity and moisture retention.
About the brand: Established in 1945, Balmain is a luxury fashion house based in France. The brand used their intimate backstage beauty knowledge of catwalks and photoshoots to create Balmain Hair, sharing these secrets with the rest of the world. While the products are certainly more expensive than your average drugstore brand, you are getting value for money.
Balmain Hair Couture ensures that you are getting the luxury treatment with their products, enriching them with only the finest ingredients that have been thoroughly researched and developed. If you want a product that will truly pamper you, look no further than Balmain.
5. Pattern Beauty Lightweight Conditioner
Conditioner type: Wash-out
About the product: If your fine, thin curls are becoming unmanageable with frizz, we suggest trying out the Lightweight Conditioner from Pattern Beauty. Designed “for curlies, coilies and tight textures,” this formula will have your curls bouncing back (quite literally) in no time. This conditioner was created without any heavy ingredients so your curls won’t become weighed down. However, despite how lightweight this product is, it is still deeply moisturizing.
It contains coconut oil to nourish and hydrate your curls, allowing them to form into their correct pattern. The formula has also been enriched with Irish moss and biotin to strengthen the hair and prevent further damage from occurring. Plus, this conditioner has been designed to be extra slippery, which makes it a great product to help you detangle your hair while in the shower. Additionally, if it sounds like a product that you may like, but your curls are on the thicker side, Pattern Beauty offers a slightly heavier conditioner designed for your hair type.
About the brand: Nowadays, we seem to roll our eyes when a celebrity comes out with a beauty product, as just about everyone famous seems to have a brand. However, Tracee Ellis Ross’ Pattern Beauty is nothing to roll your eyes at, as her products are some of the best on the market today. Tracee has designed this line specifically for people with kinky, curly, coily, or wavy hair, as she understands that typical haircare products just won’t cut it. The result is a line of beautifully designed products that will deliver results at an extremely affordable price.
6. Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Shea Curl Defining Conditioner
Conditioner type: Wash-out
About the product: If you want to define, nourish and pamper your curls, look no further than the Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Shea Curl Defining Conditioner from Briogeo. Its nourishing and hydrating ingredients make this a great option for all curl types. Rice amino acids are used to seal the hair cuticle, staving off frizz and protecting the hair from harsh external elements. Tomato fruit ferment and mollis leaf support the rice amino by assisting with the cuticle seal, which allows for a consistent curl pattern and maximum definition.
Shea butter helps to soften your curls, allowing them to be bouncy and beautiful. Finally, almond oil creates shine and improves the overall look and texture of your curls. Overall, this will leave your curls looking more defined than they have ever been, with the definition lasting well between each wash.
About the brand: Simplified hair care is at the heart of Briogeo’s mission, as they aim to provide you with a simple routine that caters to your specific hair type. This anti-one-size-fits- all model has made the brand a go-to for many when it comes to hair care, as they allow you to target the unique problems and needs that come with your specific hair type.
Briogeo also cares about what goes into their products, conducting extensive research to find ingredients that will work for your hair, while still aiming to keep these ingredients as natural as possible.
7. Bumble and Bumble Curl 3-in-1 Conditioner
Conditioner type: Multi-purpose
About the product: Bumble and Bumble’s Curl 3-in-1 Conditioner is one of the best conditioners for curly hair, as it has multiple uses and functions. Not only can it be used as a wash-out conditioner, but it can also be used as a co-wash and as a leave-in treatment. This is because it utilizes highly moisturizing ingredients that are also lightweight, so your hair can be exposed to a large amount of the product without becoming weighed down.
It contains a special oil and butter blend made up of jojoba, avocado, and coconut oils as well as cocoa and shea butter. This allows essential omega fatty acids to be delivered deep into the hair cuticle while smoothing and defrizzing your strands.
About the brand: Born in a New York City salon, Bumble and Bumble has emerged as one of the leaders in high-performance hair care. Since its inception in the 1970s, their products have become a staple in many people’s hair care routines as well as the go-to product for many professional salons around the world. They have an extremely wide range of products catering to all hair types and concerns, and use premium ingredients that have proven results.
8. Kinky-Curly Knot Today Leave-In Conditioner/Detangler
Conditioner type: Multi-purpose
About the product: The Kinky-Curly Knot Today Leave-In Conditioner/Detangler is another one of the best conditioners for curly hair. While its official title is a leave-in conditioner, it can also be used as a wash-out conditioner as well. The formula features highly moisturizing ingredients, such as organic slippery elm, marshmallow root, and mango fruit extract to help seal in moisture and support a healthy curl pattern.
For extremely thick and curly hair, this heavy product can be used as a leave-in treatment for lasting hydration and as a preventive against any frizz that can occur as the day goes on. For loose curls, this formula is ideal as a wash-out conditioner, repairing and restoring your curls on wash day. Additionally, this product is a great detangler and can be used in the shower to remove the knots and tangles from your hair.
About the brand: Kinky-Curly wants to help you embrace your natural hair. They aim to create products that will allow your curls to look so good, you’ll never want to pick up a heated tool again. Their products are made with natural ingredients and no SD Alcohol 40, drying alcohols, silicones, petroleum, or mineral oil. This means you’re not using any harsh chemicals on your curls and you’ll have the confidence to flaunt your natural hair.
9. Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner
Conditioner type: Leave-in
About the product: Ouidad’s Moisture Lock leave-in conditioner will have your curls looking and feeling fabulous all day long. Arnica and prickly pear have been added to this formula to help curl formation post-wash, defining them and sealing them in place all day long. Green tea and vitamin B5 are also included to deliver key antioxidants and nutrients straight to your hair.
This leave-in conditioner also doubles as a detangler, providing a great solution to those knots and tangles that can occur throughout the day. The formula is relatively lightweight, so it’s suitable as a leave-in treatment for all curl types
About the brand: Ouidad are experts in curly hair, having dedicated their entire brand and business to this hair type. For the past 30 years, they have worked tirelessly to bring their salon techniques and formulas into our at-home hair care routines. They understand that no two curls are the same and have developed a line of products catering to every curl type, from the tightest of coils to the loosest of waves. Their formulas are packed with research-backed ingredients that deliver proven results and salon-quality care.
10. Mizani 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner
Conditioner type: Leave-in
About the product: Mizani’s 25 Miracle Milk Leave-in Conditioner is aptly named, as the results it will give you are truly miraculous. This hydrating formula will deeply nourish your hair right down to the follicle to restore and repair the damage. The ingredient list features stellar additions, such as fennel seed oil and coconut oil to give your hair the hydration it needs.
The oils also make the formula very slippery, allowing this to be an effective detangler treatment. It is also a protective formula—it will create a protective shield around the hair shaft to prevent heat damage from hot tools and environmental elements. It is truly an all-in-one formula that supports your curly hair routine.
About the brand: Mizani wants you to love and embrace your textured hair and will provide you with the products to do so. No matter what type of curl you have, Mizani has you covered with their highly researched and effective products. They source natural ingredients that work with your hair, not against it, so your curls can look and feel their best.
Frequently asked questions
Can I use these products with wavy hair?
If your hair is anything other than straight, you will benefit from using a conditioner that is suitable for curly hair. You might also find that properly caring for your waves will help to repair any damage, which may reveal that you have more defined curls than you initially thought!
The natural hydration process will still be interrupted if you have wavy hair, as the oils can’t travel straight down the shaft, so using products that are deeply moisturizing will nourish and hydrate your waves. Properly caring for your waves will help to define them and fight off any frizz that might occur as well, leaving your hair bouncy, shiny, and the healthiest it has ever been.
Is it okay to skip my conditioner on hair wash days?
If you are using shampoo, you realistically should also be using conditioner. The shampoo is great for cleaning any excess dirt and oils out of the hair, but it often strips all of the moisture from your hair too, leaving it extremely dry and prone to breakage. If you don’t want this to happen, then you need to use a conditioner. Forgoing this step prevents your hair from receiving the moisture it needs and will make your curls frizzy, dry, and hard to manage.
How often should I condition my hair?
How often you condition your hair is entirely up to you and your specific hair type. Based on the previous answer, your question should be, “How often should I wash my hair?” It is largely up to you to use trial and error to see what works best for your hair, however, we can give you a general guideline.
Waves and looser curls can handle a hair wash two to four times a week, as they don’t dry out as easily as other curl types. If you have very tight curls, then a wash every couple of days should be appropriate for you. If you have tight coils, you should leave as much time in between your washes as you can, so you don’t dry out your curls. We recommend that you wash your hair anywhere from every few days to just once a week.