Style Strategy for Curly Hair

Keep your curls in tip-top shape with our experts' product picks.

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 19, 2012

Cindy Augustine, a freelance writer and editor in New York, needed some ringlet rescue for her day to day hair care. Michelle Breyer, president of, and Ron Robinson, cosmetic chemist and founder of, weigh in on perfecting curl maintenance and winning the war on frizz.

Q: How do I give my curls definition and hold without making them look and feel crunchy?

Michelle Breyer's Top Picks:

The key to defined curls without the crunch is product selection and application. Pick a styling cream such as Paul Mitchell Express Style Fast Form and disperse it into damp hair in sections, making sure to put a little more on the ends than at the roots. Don't forget the underside of your curls. If they're not coated in product, your risk of puffiness and frizz is greater.

After you've applied product, air-dry your tresses or use a blow dryer with a diffuser nozzle. If you still have a bit of crunch, rub a pea-size dab of John Frieda Frizz-Ease Secret Weapon Flawless Finishing Crème between your hands and run them through your hair from roots to ends to break up the crinkly texture.

Curly and kinky hair types love natural butters and oils like shea butter, jojoba, avocado, coconut milk, aloe vera, and honey because they instantly boost moisture. In addition, mixing the right products can be a great way to reduce frizz. Combining a moisturizing leave-in conditioner like SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style Milk with a defining mousse like Herbal Essences Totally Twisted Curl Boosting Mousse can foil frizz all day long.

Ron Robinson's Top Picks:

The crunchiness you have after using some hair products might be due to the polymers in the formula that provide hold and structure to curls. That means you may be treating your hair with the wrong product. The biggest mistake is not understanding there are different types of coils -- loose, tight, kinky, wavy. Applying products designed for a curl type other than your own may leave your tresses feeling crispy.

Generally, women with fine, curly hair may require a little more firmness to maintain their curls; those with thick, curly hair may not need as much hold. Across the board, however, curly hair needs a ton of moisture. Look for ingredients like argan, jojoba, and macadamia oils, all of which hydrate hair.

Shampoo and conditioner are just as important to the styling process. I recommend John Frieda Frizz-Ease Smooth Start Shampoo and Conditioner, which contains silk proteins and olive oil that moisturize and detangle strands, prepping them for easy styling.

For a leave-in conditioner, I like Mixed Chicks leave-in conditioner, which is pumped with jojoba oil, proteins, and amino acids that work to hydrate and protect the hair. For a gel, try Ouidad Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel with wheat protein, amino acids, and vitamin A, which work together to protect the hair from frizz-inducing humidity.


Types of Frizzy Hair

No two curls are the same, Breyer says. Curl types include:


How it looks: The wave or curl forms the letter "s" and typically sits close to the scalp.

How to treat it: While this hair type has a tendency to frizz, it's particularly versatile -- with the ability to quickly go from straight to curly.


How it looks: The large, loopy "s" pattern is well defined and springy.

How to treat it: In most cases this hair type is naturally super shiny, so you can skip the serums and spray sheens.


How it looks: The fine curls are tight, with lots of strands densely packed together.

How to treat it: Since blow-drying this texture takes a little more time and patience, be sure to use a heat-protection spray beforehand.


How it looks: Strands are very tightly coiled and can be prone to breakage.

How to treat it: This type has fewer cuticle layers than other textures, meaning it doesn't have as much natural protection from damage.

Bottom line: Always handle your curls with care.

The opinions expressed in this section are those of the experts and are not the opinions of WebMD. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Show Sources


Michelle Breyer, president,

Ron Robinson, cosmetic chemist; founder,

© 2011 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info