The 10 Best Curl Creams of 2024, Tested by Real People with Curly Hair

Define your curls without weighing them downIn This Article For curly hair types, a curl cream is a true multi-tasker —a one-stop shop for styling and nourishing benefits

Published Time: 24.06.2024 - 05:31:15 Modified Time: 24.06.2024 - 05:31:15

Define your curls without weighing them down

In This Article

For curly hair types, a curl cream is a true multi-tasker —a one-stop shop for styling and nourishing benefits. The right formula should smooth, define, and hydrate the curls without weighing them down, as well as encourage the hair’s natural curl pattern. TL;DR, the right curl cream should leave hair looking and feeling like the best, healthiest version of itself.

Over six weeks, the PEOPLE Tested team — including individuals with hair types from 2 to 4C — tested 22 different curl cream formulas. Our testers incorporated the creams into their haircare routines to evaluate each product’s performance, hydrating effects, consistency, and overall results.

Oribe’s Silkening Creme impressed our tester so much that after applying it for the first time, she nearly gasped; her curls looked and felt amazing, with better-than-ever structure, definition, and softness — all without any added weight. Throughout the six-week testing period, she also noted that the product helped her curls last longer between washes.

Our tester added that the medium-thick cream worked effectively on her type 2 hair (the brand formulated it with type 2 and 3 hair types in mind) and that a little went a long way — a plus that, for her, made its higher price point worthy of the investment. Bonus: it has a subtle, luxurious scent.

Key Ingredients: Avocado, apricot, and coconut oils I Size: 5 ounces

Our tester, who has 2b/c hair, said that this drugstore curl cream left her hair feeling nourished and voluminous — a huge win, especially given that she often struggles with dryness and frizz. After completing the six-week testing period, she felt excited about wearing her hair curly instead of straightening it.

In terms of texture, she felt this product was a true cream but was also slightly watery, which made it feel more lightweight than other creams during the application process. She didn't experience any leftover residue or flaking, though — it left her hair smooth and refined.

Her one sticking point, however, was scent. The product contains an added fragrance, which she said was slightly strong and unsavory — especially when using an ample amount on the hair.

Key Ingredients: Avocado, shea butter, and vitamin E I Size: 6 ounces

Our tester, who has type 4a/c hair, used Melanin Haircare’s Twist-Elongating Style Cream cream for the first time after washing her hair, when she was preparing to style it in mini-twists. Pre-application, she noted that her hair was dry and dull-looking, but afterward, her curls/twists were smooth, shiny, and moisturized. 

Over the testing period, she kept her hair in twists and used this cream, along with a leave-in conditioner, to rehydrate it whenever it felt dry. She noted that it made them feel as if they'd been freshly washed, moisturized, and twisted — that the product significantly reduced the visible frizziness of her hair while adding shine.

She also loved its thick, creamy texture — she noted it was possible to turn its jar upside down without any spilling — but even still, it left zero residue or flakes in her hair, and it layered well with the other moisturizing and styling products she used.

Key Ingredients: Shea, mango, cocoa, kokum, and cupuacu butters; avocado, sweet almond, and argan oils; vitamin E I Size: 14 ounces

Ouai’s curl cream was perfect for thick, coarse, curly hair, according to our tester — that it helped her reduce frizz and add serious shine to her type 3a/b hair. 

During testing, she found herself using a bit too much of the product — when she used any more than a pea-sized amount, her curls felt a bit weighted down — but after refining her application strategy, she said her hair felt smoother and a lot less brittle (a concern she often struggles with).

She also loved the product’s scent, which she described as light, floral, and lingering (but not obnoxiously so). Her boyfriend enjoyed it, too!

Key Ingredients: Coconut, babassu, chia, and linseed oils I Size: 8 ounces

Pattern’s styling cream added significant moisture and shine to our tester’s hair. It also didn't flake after drying, even when she used it with other products in her regular haircare regimen. 

Even though its texture was thicker than other curl creams, it wasn’t an issue; the product never left her scalp feeling itchy, greasy, or irritated. Our tester did flag that when she used too much, it made her 3c/4c hair feel crunchy, but the right amount — for her, a quarter-size dollop — left her with soft, touchable curls. 

Our tester also noted that it was an excellent value for the price (15 ounces for under $30) and that it had a pleasant clean, floral scent.

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, cacay, and sweet almond oils I Size: 15 ounces

The first time our tester used DevaCurl’s SuperCream, she noticed an immediate difference in her type 2 hair. Without the cream, her curls were wavier and had too much body; after just one application, they were tighter, more defined, and smooth — virtually no frizz in sight. 

The key, she said, was not to use too much product — it’s on the thicker side — and to distribute it evenly throughout the hair. (Regardless, the product never left any residue.) Overall, our tester felt that DevaCurl’s offering was one of the best curl-defining creams she’d tried and that she planned to continue using it in her haircare routine. 

Key Ingredients: Coconut oil, jojoba protein, and corn starch I Size: 5.1 ounces

For our tester, the thing that stood out most about Amika’s Curl Corps defining cream wasn’t just how hydrated her hair looked after her first application — it was how much healthier it felt after a full six weeks of testing. In particular, she noted that after testing, when she straightened her hair for a photoshoot, her 4c curls reverted much more quickly and were less brittle.

Also, during the testing period, she used this cream while styling her hair in Bantu knots; when she took them out, her hair felt smooth and soft when she combed it with her fingers. She plans to continue usi -

ng the Curl Corps Defining Cream during the summer months, for more natural styles and twist-outs. 

Lastly, she noted that the product (which had a creamy gel consistency similar to body butter) also came with a nice but not overpowering floral scent.

Key Ingredients: Tapioca starch, oat peptide, and sea buckthorn berry I Size: 6.7 ounces

According to our tester, Bumble and Bumble’s Curl Defining Cream 100 percent delivered on its promise to provide bouncy, flexible curls. After six weeks of using it, she said her type 3b curls felt nourished, hydrated, and more defined than before.

Another plus was that it worked incredibly well with her type 3b hair and that it melted right onto it but felt very lightweight — no crunchiness or stickiness in sight. It also had a light, clean scent that she said didn’t linger on her hair.

One thing to note: Although she said the Curl Defining Cream also helped make my hair smoother, it didn’t do much in the detangling department. (Not a game-changer for everyone, though.)

Key Ingredients: The brand’s proprietary HydraSculpt Blend; avocado, coconut, and jojoba oils; shea butter I Size: 8.5 ounces

After six weeks of use, our tester noticed that her 3c/4a hair was much smoother and noticeably softer. She also said the product made it easier to style her hair; this curl cream made her braid-outs, in particular, look and feel exceptional. The product made her hair feel less tangled, and she even noticed less breakage on a daily basis.

One drawback for our tester was the product’s texture, which she described as a wet, mucus-like gel, though she maintained the results made it worth the slight discomfort. Also, she noted that some people may not love its honey-like scent (although it fades quickly).

Key Ingredients: Coconut, sweet almond, and avocado oils; corn starch I Size: 12 ounces

Moroccanoil’s Curl Defining Cream was a pleasant surprise: Our tester’s wavy, 2c/3a curls looked more defined when she applied this curl cream versus her regular Act+Acre Cold-Pressed Curl Lotion. Her curls were bouncier and they also lasted longer, she said.

However, she did have to scrunch and flip her hair a bit more — otherwise, the heaviness of the cream (which felt almost like toothpaste when it came out of the packaging, she said) weighed her hair down at the roots. She also noticed a bit of flaking after a few days of wear, but it didn’t leave her hair crunchy or sticky.

Overall, our tester felt that this product worked seamlessly with her wavy hair texture — it never failed to give provide full, defined curls every time she used it.

Key Ingredients: Argan oil, polyquaternium-11, hydrolyzed vegetable protein I Size: 8.5 ounces

Aronson and Yates agree that the best curl creams should contain ingredients that nourish and hydrate the hair. “I would look for products that contain some natural oils — like coconut oil or shea butter — which help improve the hair’s suppleness and softness,” says Yates. “This type of ingredient also helps tame frizz.” 

Aronson also recommends avocado oil, which “replenishes the hair and deeply conditions.” (Many products on this list — including our Best Overall, Oribe’s Curl Control Silkening Creme, and our Best Budget, Marc Anthony’s Strictly Curls Curl Cream — contain certain combinations of these natural oils.)

Additionally, Yates says that a type of styling resin is essential for helping with curl definition. “If you’re leaning more towards natural ingredients, look for bamboo extract or some type of sugar complex,” she says.

No matter a product’s original texture, what’s important is to look for a formula that thins out easily in the hands. “You're looking for something that easily breaks down with the heat of your hands and with friction so that you can easily apply it — and distribute it evenly — in your hair,” Yates explains.

To identify the best curl creams on the market, our PEOPLE Tested team spent 396 hours with 22 formulas over six weeks, carefully investigating their performances and assessing their hydrating effects, consistency, effectiveness, and overall results. 

Each reviewer used their products 1-2 times per week during the testing period. In each application, testers applied a dime-sized amount to towel-dried hair, evenly distributing it from root to tip with their fingers before scrunching to encourage curl definition. They then allowed their hair to air dry or used a blow dryer or diffuser.

Avery Stone is a contributing writer for PEOPLE and was previously the Commerce Editorial Director for Byrdie and Brides at Dotdash Meredith. Her work has also appeared in The Cut (NYMag), The Hollywood Reporter, Bustle, Billboard, Elle, GQ, Vice, Eater, Nylon, Refinery29, and more. When covering the best curl creams, Avery thoroughly inspected the PEOPLE Tested team’s insights to learn more about their individual experiences and make note of any noteworthy results. She also connected with trichologist Kerry Yates and Carolyn Aronson, a stylist and the founder of It’s a 10 Haircare, to learn more about how curl creams work, their benefits, and what to look for in their formulas.

We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.

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In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.

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