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The Best Curly Hair Moisturizer | 2023

Last updated on January 9, 2023

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Our Picks For The Top Curly Hair Moisturizers

Show Contents
Our Take
  Top Pick

Maui Moisture Coconut Oil Leave-In Curly Hair Moisturizer

Don't Waste Your Money Seal of Approval

Maui Moisture

Coconut Oil Leave-In Curly Hair Moisturizer

Overall Take

For Thicker HairUse this moisturizer to tame frizz in the summer months.

  Runner Up

Cantu Shea Butter Activator Cream Curly Hair Moisturizer

Cantu

Shea Butter Activator Cream Curly Hair Moisturizer

Overall Take

No Oily ResidueThis product is just the thing for tight curls.

  We Also Like

OGX Anti-Frizz Defining Cream Curly Hair Moisturizer

OGX

Anti-Frizz Defining Cream Curly Hair Moisturizer

Overall Take

Fights Frizzy HairKeep your locks in place even on humid days.

  Strong Contender

tgin Vitamin E & Shea Butter Curly Hair Moisturizer

tgin

Vitamin E & Shea Butter Curly Hair Moisturizer

Overall Take

Keeps Curls IntactHeal your hair with this well-balanced cream.

Guide written by Tod Caviness
Last updated on January 9, 2023

If you’ve got curly locks, you know there’s one thing that your hair can’t get enough of: Moisture. Hair with a natural curl tends to be dry to begin with for a host of reasons. When you combine that with windy or humid weather (or even a climate that’s too dry), it’s a recipe for instant frizz.

The solution, of course, is a good moisturizer, but thinner formulae that work on straighter hair won’t always do the job on curls. Finding the one that keeps your frizz in check can be a matter of trial and error, but understanding how moisturizers work can help you narrow it down.

Left on its own, each strand of hair gets its natural moisture from sebum glands in the scalp. This sebum makes its way from the follicle into the hair shaft, but the shape of a curl can make it hard for that oil to make its journey all the way down. That’s where you can end up with dry, flyaway strands, and that’s why a moisturizer can be almost essential.

There are two basic types of moisturizer. Depending on your hair type you might need both, but conditioner and leave-in moisturizers work in two different ways. Conditioner is meant to be applied in the shower, right after you shampoo. They are massaged into the scalp, then rinsed out. Leave-in moisturizers are used after you towel off your hair, though it’s usually best to keep your locks a little damp. You work it in thoroughly, then leave it on as you style your hair. If you’ve got thicker hair, you’ll probably want to go with a cream formula. Thinner hair can get away with a spray, which is nice because you can take it on the go for a quick touch-up.

Whatever type you use, the main ingredient in any moisturizer is usually a no-brainer: Water. It doesn’t get more natural than water, and it’s exactly what dry hair is craving. Aloe vera can also be an effective base, but for the most part you’ll want H2O at the top of your ingredient list. Anything that’s completely oil-based will never be as effective as something with at least a significant percentage of water.

You’ll also need humectants, which are ingredients that add to that water by drawing in moisture from the surrounding air. Glycerin is a common one, but it can have a frizzing effect on especially dry hair. You might also find sorbitol, sodium lactate or propylene glycol on the ingredient list, and these can all be effective humectants. If you’re going a more natural route, look for moisturizers with honey or agave nectar, which can also do the job.

Finally, a good moisturizer will have emollients to help lock in all that added water. These ingredients are usually oils that form a protective layer around the hair strand, and the right balance of emollients will make sure you don’t have to re-apply your moisturizer every other hour. Some good natural ones include soybean, sunflower or grapeseed oil for thinner hair. Those with thicker strands might want emollients like avocado, oilve or jojoba oil. Shea or cocoa butter are some other heavy-duty emollients.

The Best Curly Hair Moisturizers

1
  Top Pick

Maui Moisture Coconut Oil Leave-In Curly Hair Moisturizer

Beat the frizz and the fraying with this mixture. The texture is creamy and it blends in quickly, leaving behind a pleasant coconut scent. There's no need to use a ton, even on the largest 'dos.

Features


Specifications

Brand
Maui Moisture
Model
2
  Runner Up

Cantu Shea Butter Activator Cream Curly Hair Moisturizer

This moisturizer goes on clean thanks to the blend of natural ingredients. There's no alcohol or parabens to harm your follicles or scalp, and it works particularly well on medium-thick hair. It leaves a welcome shine along with a hydrated feel.

Features


Specifications

Brand
Cantu
Model
3
  We Also Like

OGX Anti-Frizz Defining Cream Curly Hair Moisturizer

Even in humid climates, this cream can work wonders on curly locks. It's a good solution for those who don't want to combine products in their hair care routine. Just work in a generous amount and let dry.

Features


Specifications

Brand
OGX
Model
4
  Strong Contender

tgin Vitamin E & Shea Butter Curly Hair Moisturizer

Natural curls will love this one. Just work it in after your shampoo and conditioner to get lasting moisture that helps hair keep its bounce. The vitamin E can even help restore damaged strands and promote growth.

Features


Specifications

Brand
tgin
Model
5
  Also Great

Marc Anthony Sulfate-Free Conditioner Curly Hair Moisturizer

Just spritz hair, comb it through and you've got hydrated hair that will stay shiny for hours. It's a solid solution for those who need a quick moisturizing fix that they can take anywhere. It goes on smooth and leaves behind a subtle lemon scent.

Features


Specifications

Brand
Marc Anthony
Model

Our Curly Hair Moisturizer Buying Guide

If you’ve got curly locks, you know there’s one thing that your hair can’t get enough of: Moisture. Hair with a natural curl tends to be dry to begin with for a host of reasons. When you combine that with windy or humid weather (or even a climate that’s too dry), it’s a recipe for instant frizz.

The solution, of course, is a good moisturizer, but thinner formulae that work on straighter hair won’t always do the job on curls. Finding the one that keeps your frizz in check can be a matter of trial and error, but understanding how moisturizers work can help you narrow it down.

Left on its own, each strand of hair gets its natural moisture from sebum glands in the scalp. This sebum makes its way from the follicle into the hair shaft, but the shape of a curl can make it hard for that oil to make its journey all the way down. That’s where you can end up with dry, flyaway strands, and that’s why a moisturizer can be almost essential.

There are two basic types of moisturizer. Depending on your hair type you might need both, but conditioner and leave-in moisturizers work in two different ways. Conditioner is meant to be applied in the shower, right after you shampoo. They are massaged into the scalp, then rinsed out. Leave-in moisturizers are used after you towel off your hair, though it’s usually best to keep your locks a little damp. You work it in thoroughly, then leave it on as you style your hair. If you’ve got thicker hair, you’ll probably want to go with a cream formula. Thinner hair can get away with a spray, which is nice because you can take it on the go for a quick touch-up.

Whatever type you use, the main ingredient in any moisturizer is usually a no-brainer: Water. It doesn’t get more natural than water, and it’s exactly what dry hair is craving. Aloe vera can also be an effective base, but for the most part you’ll want H2O at the top of your ingredient list. Anything that’s completely oil-based will never be as effective as something with at least a significant percentage of water.

You’ll also need humectants, which are ingredients that add to that water by drawing in moisture from the surrounding air. Glycerin is a common one, but it can have a frizzing effect on especially dry hair. You might also find sorbitol, sodium lactate or propylene glycol on the ingredient list, and these can all be effective humectants. If you’re going a more natural route, look for moisturizers with honey or agave nectar, which can also do the job.

Finally, a good moisturizer will have emollients to help lock in all that added water. These ingredients are usually oils that form a protective layer around the hair strand, and the right balance of emollients will make sure you don’t have to re-apply your moisturizer every other hour. Some good natural ones include soybean, sunflower or grapeseed oil for thinner hair. Those with thicker strands might want emollients like avocado, oilve or jojoba oil. Shea or cocoa butter are some other heavy-duty emollients.

DWYM Fun Fact

There are a lot of reasons to love your curly hair, and less need for shampoo is one of them. A scalp with curly locks doesn’t produce as much oil as that of a person with straight hair, simply because there are less strands to lubricate. The average curly head of hair has roughly 100,000 strands, which is 20,000 less than a straight-haired scalp.

The Curly Hair Moisturizer Tips and Advice

Who doesn’t like a nice hot shower? Sadly, your follicles. You might think that any kind of shower would help to hydrate your hair, but temperature does matter. Excessively hot water will wash the hair’s natural oils out faster, and when combined with shampoo it can even contribute to hair loss over time. To mitigate the damage, limit the amount of times per week that you use shampoo, and keep the water lukewarm — at least when your hair is under it.


About The Author

Tod Caviness 

Tod Caviness has been a features journalist and writer for the past 20 years. He took the easy route to grooming and shaved his head decades ago. Little did he know it would open up a whole new world of expertise in razors, hats and suntan lotion. He is still learning how to braid his daughter's hair.