Hair-Care Tips

Found: The Most Nourishing Conditioners for All Types of Curly Hair

Photo: Getty Images/Mint Images
Those of us with curls know that picking the right conditioner for curly hair is practically a science. Too oily, and curls can get heavy and weighed down, losing their shape by day's end. Not hydrating enough, and dry, coarse strands are left begging for even the slightest bit of moisture. Whether you have fine, delicate curls, or a head of natural coils, picking the right conditioner for curly hair has to be juuust right.

Best conditioners for curly hair at a glance

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 Curl Quench + Coconut Oil Conditioner — $10.00

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

What reviewers are saying: “I love this. It is very effective for thick hair. It helps lock in moisture and keep your hair silky and smooth. This product doesn’t really need to be improved. Affordable and cheap. I would totally recommend this to everyone that wants amazing hair!”

Pros

  • Moisturizing
  • Defines curls
  • Silicone-free

Cons

  • Too heavy for thin hair
Authentic Beauty Concept Hydrate Conditioner — $28.00

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

What reviewers are saying: “Hands down the best conditioner I’ve ever used and the only one I’ve used for the past 2-3 years. It’s leaves my hair so soft without weighing it down and leaves a really pretty fresh scent to the hair without being overpowering. It has a thick consistency with great slip and detangles with little to no resistance when I run my wet brush through my hair. I don’t even use styling products anymore because it air dries perfectly. Just a little leave in conditioner. For reference I have curly, fine, below shoulder, color treated hair I keep the bottle stored upside down to make it easier to get out the bottle.”

Pros

  • Moisturizing
  • Lightweight
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Small size
Oribe Intense Conditioner for Moisture & Control — $49.00

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

What reviewers are saying: “I noticed a difference in my hair from the first time I used this conditioner. It is keeps my curly, color-treated hair soft and shiny without weighing it down, as other conditioners tend to do.”

Pros

  • Helps repair damage
  • Good for thick hair
  • Detangles

Cons

  • Too heavy as a daily conditioner

Best conditioners for natural curly hair

Best for reducing breakage: Carol's Daughter Goddess Strength Fortifying Conditioner — $11.00

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

What reviewers are saying: “My hair loves this! It makes it super manageable and reduces breakage!”

Pros

  • Made with castor oil to fortify hair
  • Vegan and sulfate-free
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Scent may be strong for some
Best moisturizing: Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Conditioner — $12.00

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

What reviewers are saying: “This product is really good! I use it everyday in my hair and it lets me have curls that pop!! Definitely recommend for curly haired girls that need hydration :)”

Pros

  • Helps repair damage
  • Tames frizz
  • Clean and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Formula is thick
Best for natural hair: Pattern Intensive Conditioner for Tight Texture — $25.00

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

What reviewers are saying: I have 4a/b/c hair and for years been trying to figure out how to do my hair on my own instead of going to the salon all the time because I had no one to teach me growing up, so I made the decision to give up chemicals which led my hair to transition which led to having to buy all new products, to having my hair be it’s natural pattern *wink wink* this is what my hair has been missing my whole life, no tangles, super soft and defined curls.”

Pros

  • Made for tight textures
  • Moisturizing
  • Protects from breakage

Cons

  • Thick formula

Best conditioners for fine curly hair

Best budget: OGX Lightweight Coconut Fine Curls Conditioner — $7.00

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

What reviewers are saying: “This conditioner is sooooo creamy, y’all! I love the consistency of it. That’s the first thing that grabbed my attention. As soon as I applied it, I could feel the magic of it softening my curls and all the crazy knots. I could brush through my curls without adding a little bit of a hydrating mask (I always usually have to do this to get my curls completely detangled)! I was amazed by that because I usually have to add a little bit of a mask to even my high end conditioners! If you’re a curly girl, try it!!”

Pros

  • Lightweight and non-oily
  • Promotes curl volume
  • Defrizzes
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not as moisturizing as some others
Best volumizing: Odele Volumizing Conditioner — $12.00

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

What reviewers are saying: “My hair texture and volume has improved so much! I have my natural waves back and my hair feels smooth and full!”

Pros

  • Volumizing
  • Fortified with amino acids
  • Sulfate-free
  • Natural fragrance
Best cleansing: Ouidad Curl Shaper Double Duty Weightless Cleansing Conditioner — $36.00

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

What reviewers are saying: “This is the best cleanser conditioner I’ve found and I’ve tried them all. Very lightweight, great for fine hair. On days I use clarifying shampoo, I use this as conditioner and works great.”

Pros

  • 4-in-1 formula
  • Soften curls
  • Minimizes frizz
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • No lather, so harder to rinse out

Best conditioners for thick curly hair

Best scented: Pacifica Pineapple Curls Defining Conditioner — $10.00

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

What reviewers are saying: “It’s natural, smells great, and works well for wavy and curly hair. Curly girl method approved.”

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Reduces frizz
  • Clean formula
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Scent may be strong for some
Best for frizz: OUAI Thick Hair Conditioner — $28.00

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

What reviewers are saying: “This is going to be my go to conditioner from now on. I have fairly oily scalp, and this conditioner doesn’t weight my hair down or make my scalp greasy like some conditioners do. I only wash my hair once a week and my hair still feels clean by the end of the week, which is a huge plus.”

Pros

  • Locks in moisture
  • Doesn’t weigh curls down
  • Sulfate-free

Cons

  • Scent may be strong for some
Best for colo-treated hair: Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Shea Curl Defining Conditioner — $26.00

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

What reviewers are saying: “On the tiny bits of previously bleached hair I have left I’ve noticed an increase in strength and elasticity as well as greatly minimized breakage. It’s absolutely one of my favorite conditioners and works so well with the whole Curl Charisma line. It also seems to agree well with my Olaplex stylers and other leave-ins. I’ve even turned a few friends with straight-to-wavy hair onto this wash because it’s so great at addressing common issues with bleached and/or color treated hair.

Pros

  • Hydrating
  • Enhances curls
  • 96% naturally-derived and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Expensive

 

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