That's because wavy, curly, and natural hair requires a bit more maintenance compared to that of straight hair. Sharleen St. Surin-Lord, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and hair specialist at Visage Dermatology in Maryland, explained that usually, curly hair requires a bit more moisturizer than other textures.
"Straight hair grows straight out of the scalp, having ample opportunity to be bathed by the oil secreted by sebaceous glands in the scalp," she explains. "Curly, coily, kinky, or textured hair on the other hand, twists, turns, and coils, so the entire hair shaft doesn't make contact with the sebum secreted. This is why these hair textures require added hair moisturizers, leave-in conditioners, and oils."
That's why conditioner is so important for curly hair. However, too much moisture can leave the hair droopy and oily, so it's important to pick the right ones.
Generally, Dr. St Surin-Lord recommends looking for all-natural ingredients in both your shampoos and your conditioners to avoid risk of over-and-under-hydration. Ingredients like avocado oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, Argan oil—these are all a good bet. "Stay away from sulfate as it will cause dryness," she says. "Avoid phthalates and siloxanes (a type of silicone) as they are hormone de-stabilizers and endocrine disrupters."
Those with natural, Black hair, may have to double-down on moisture with a super-hydrating conditioner. "Having thicker coiled hair means more time detangling, more hair product, and more elbow grease," Dr. St. Surin-Lord says. "Some products for curly hair include DermHairDoc—an all-natural line, and yes, a shameless plug by yours truly—Design Essentials, QP Elasta, and Bronner Brothers Curl Enhancer. These product lines enhance moisture. Remember, that the onus is on you to read the labels to avoid harmful chemicals."
12 of the best conditioners for curly hair
Want some more suggestions for keeping your curls happy, healthy, and hydrated? Scroll to find the best conditioners for curly hair, based on hair type.
Best conditioners for dry curly hair
Maui Moisture’s ultra-hydrating curl conditioner is practically a tropical fruit smoothie for dry, thirsty curls. Made with ingredients like coconut oil, aloe vera juice, papaya butter, and plumeria extract, your hair will relish in the extra moisture and bounce back to life in just a wash.
Smells like: Coconut oil, orange, and tonka bean
Authentic Beauty Concept’s Hydrate line uses antioxidant rich ingredients, like basil and mango extract, to rejuvenate tired locks. It also uses guar instead of silicone for naturally sleeker, shinier hair. It’s free of parabens, silicones, pthalates, sulfates, animal byproducts, micro plastics, and is available in two sizes: 8.4 and 33.8 ounces.
Smells like: Clean, fresh cotton
Like its name suggests, Oribe’s conditioner is intense, formulated to nourish dry and damaged curls by sealing in moisture for instant rejuvenation post-thermal or chemical treatment. While some deep conditioning conditioners can be too heavy for daily use, Oribe’s is lightweight enough to be used every wash or just occasionally—whatever your curls prefer.
Smells like: Light floral and citrus
Best conditioners for natural curly hair
For only $11, Carol’s Daughter’s strengthening conditioner is a budget-friendly option for fortifying weak, brittle strands. It’s formulated with both castor oil and black seed oil that rejuvenate weak or broken strands from the root, without leaving it greasy or weighed down.
Smells like: Earthy herbs with a hint of flowers
This luscious conditioner is designed to deeply condition hair, leaving it smoother, more moisturized, and healthier. As its name suggests, its packed with coconut oil and hibiscus extract, as well as other naturally soothing botanicals like olive oil, mango seed butter, and shea butter.
Smells like: The beach
Tracy Ellis Ross’ extra-hydrating conditioner is designed specifically for tight, natural coils. It’s loaded with seriously nourishing ingredients, like avocado oil, safflower oil, and shea butter, that seep deep into hair follicles and nourish from the inside out. Available in two sizes: 13 oz and 29 oz.
Smells like: Neroli, rose, and patchouli
Best conditioners for fine curly hair
This budget-friendly conditioner is moisturizing enough to define and condition delicate curls without weighing them down. It’s infused with airy hydrators, like flaxseed oil, coconut water, and a touch of citrus oil, leaving fine curls happy and healthy, never oily or lackluster.
Smells like: Coconut and citrus
If your fine curls have trouble holding volume, check out Odele’s blend. Like all of the brand’s products, it’s formulated with all-natural, sustainable ingredients that are designed to give your locks a weightless boost of volume and shape. It’s also fortified with amino acids, strengthening your strands as you wash.
Smells like: Cucumber, oakmoss, and ylang-ylang
If there’s any brand known for its curl savvy, it’s Ouidad. This featherlight formula replaces greasy oils with lighter, gentler ingredients for effortless curls that’ll stay light and bouncy, even if you skip a wash. It can also be used as a shampoo that removes dirt and grime without ever stripping your natural oils.
Smells like: Clean, fresh powder
Best conditioners for thick curly hair
Pacifica’s conditioner is an affordable option for taming thick manes. It’s infused with all the goodness your hair wants for effortless shape and volume, like argan oil, hyaluronic acid, and of course, pineapple.
Smells like: Juicy pineapple
OUAI’s ridiculously hydrating conditioner is formulated specifically for thick hair, aiding in detangling without stripping away the natural oils or damaging the follicles. Even the thickest, densest curls can’t resist its all-natural, vegan ingredients, like marshmallow root, avocado oil, and shea butter. Yum.
Smells like: Lemon, musk, and fresh florals
Briogeo’s silky conditioner is great for wavy, curly, and coily hair types. It’s a favorite amongst W+G editors for its superpowers on thick, frizzy curls. Thanks to its natural ingredients, like rice amino, tomato ferment, and mollis leaf extract, moisture gets locked in, keeping frizz out while promoting full, flawless curls.
Smells like: Crisp tropical fruit
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