Beauty, Hair

The Best Curl Activator for Every Curly Hair Type 

By  Emily Konatella

LAST UPDATED - December 21, 2021

While a curl activator can't magically turn straight hair curly, it can do wonders to enhance any natural hair strand waves, curls, or kinks you already have. A good curl cream will add moisture, enhance shine, and prevent frizz, leaving behind clearly-defined curls.

But in order to avoid crunchy curls and greasy build-up, you'll need to find a curly hair product that's compatible with your hair type. So to help you find your next haircare holy grail, we've rounded up the best curl activators below. With everything from classic curl cream to lightweight gel to curl-refreshing spray to choose from, there's something for every texture.

The Best Curl Activator for Perfect Natural Hair

SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl-Enhancing Smoothie

This SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl-Enhancing Smoothie makes a great addition to any curly hair routine. The versatile curl activator cream is packed with ethically-sourced and sustainably-produced ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, aloe leaf extract, and hibiscus flower extract. Together, these nutrient-rich butter and oils help restore moisture, boost shine, and minimize frizz. Like all SheaMoisture's products, it's sulfate-free, color-safe, and never tested on animals.

Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Leave-In Defining Cream

Due to its cuticle shape, curly hair is more susceptible to frizz and dryness than straight hair. This Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Leave-In Defining Cream minimizes frizz without weighing down your curls or leaving behind a crunchy texture. The curl-defining cream offers soft, flexible control with a buildable, touchable hold that allows your natural texture to shine. Its clean formula is made using naturally-derived ingredients like rice amino acids, avocado oil, Mollis leaf extract, tomato fruit ferment, and a proprietary NOVA Complex. It's vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and fragrance-free too.


Out of 16

Best for Type 2 Wavy Hair

AG Hair Beach Bomb Tousled Texture

Traditional curl activators can weigh down wavy hair, leaving it looking stringy and greasy instead of hydrated and smooth. So if you've got slightly wavy hair to lose curls, try this Beach Bomb Tousled Texture from AG. Say goodbye to frizz and hello to soft, touchable hair with long-lasting sheen. The lightweight curl activator is formulated specifically with waves in mind, and it features AG's exclusive C3 Curl-Creating Complex infused with tomato extract and rice amino acids. In addition to defining curls and fighting frizz, it also offers thermal protection up to 320 degrees F.


Out of 16

DevaCurl Styling Cream Touchable Moisturizing Definer

This versatile DevaCurl Styling Cream Touchable Moisturizing Definer is designed for medium to coarse curls. It's super hydrating without weighing down your curls or leaving a crunchy texture behind. There's no gluten, sulfates, silicones, parabens, or animal-tested ingredients inside. Daily use helps tame frizz and encourage curl shape and definition. The key is to distribute it through soaking wet curls before drying at all.

Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream

If you've got Type 4 curls, you'll need a curl activator with a little more oomph. This Cantu Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream is designed with Black hair in mind. It's the perfect product for kinks, coils, and tight curls. The hair cream's key ingredient is all-natural shea butter, a moisturizer that won't leave behind a greasy residue. To activate your curls, scrunch a handful or two into wet hair, spreading the moisturizer evenly from root to tip. You'll be amazed at how smooth and bouncy your curls feel!


Out of 16

Best for Type 6-8 Coiled Hair

Mizani 25 Miracle Cream

For super-tight coils and afros, there's the 25 Miracle Cream from Mizani. Powered by nutrient-rich coconut oil, it's able to tame any curls. The creamy formula fights frizz, minimizes dryness, and defines tight kinks. Plus, it provides UV protection for color-treated hair. The versatile product can be applied to freshly-washed wet hair to reveal amazing curls or scrunched into dry curls for a quick pick-me-up between wash days.

Curls Creme Brule Whipped Curl Cream

When it comes to curl activators, few products smell better than this Creme Brule Whipped Curl Cream from Curls. Like all of the Black-owned brand's best-selling hair care products, it's made with a curly hair mind. Just one use will transform your curly hair style from unruly to enviously smooth and shiny. The curl activator leaves behind a deliciously sweet scent blended from all-natural, organic ingredients instead of synthetic fragrances. Its paraben-free, sulfate-free formula is made using shea butter, jojoba oil, and sweet almond oil for superior hydration and frizz control.


Out of 16

TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier

Define your natural curl pattern with this Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier from TIGI. Use it alone to boost volume and enhance softness or scrunch it into your hair with a bit of curl serum for even more smoothing power. In between wash days, smooth a bit onto dry ends to de-frizz, eliminate breakage, and define your unruly curls, kinks, and waves. The curl activator cream is packed with essential oils and thermal protectants for superior hydration and protection.


Out of 16

Bumble And Bumble BB Curl Reactivator

Give your curls the TLC they deserve between wash days with this BB Curl Reactivator from Bumble and bumble. The sprayable formula makes it easy to evenly distribute the product throughout dry curls to revive your second or third-day style. It's enhanced with a blend of oils and butter, including avocado oil, jojoba oil, and cocoa butter to moisturize and boost shine. The curl-friendly product is vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, and phthalate-free. Pack it in your suitcase, gym bag, or work tote to keep your curls looking their best when you're on the go.


Out of 16

Moroccanoil Intense Curl Cream

If you've got frizzy curls, it's partly due to dryness. But before you go blaming your shampoo and conditioner, it's important to remember that curly hair dries out easier than other hair types. That's why it can withstand heavier products like this Intense Curl Cream from Moroccanoil. The curl activator is packed with antioxidant-rich argan oil and vitamin E to fight frizz, define curls, and keep your natural hair soft and shiny. It's great for dry, damaged hair in need of serious moisture and frizz-fighting power.


Out of 16

Curlsmith Curl-Defining Styling Souffle

If you're not a fan of curl activator creams, try this Curl-Defining Styling Souffle from Curlsmith. While most curl gel ends up feeling crunchy, it only has a temporary crunch that goes away with a bit of scrunching. The vegan, cruelty-free product is made using natural ingredients like Irish moss, babassu oil, flax seed extract, shea butter, and resurrection flower. Aloe, sage, rosemary, pepper, and basil extracts— known for their antioxidant properties— add a sweet botanical scent.


Out of 16

Best Fragrance-Free Styling Product

OUAI Fragrance-Free Curl Creme

If you're sensitive to scented hair products, try this Fragrance-Free Styling Product from OUAI. The curl activator cream shapes and defines curls to highlight your natural hair texture. Chia and linseed oil help to form curls while controlling frizz and protecting hair from humidity. Coconut oil and babassu oil seal damaged cuticles to maintain proper moisture balance and boost shine. It's formulated without parabens, phthalates, silicone, and added fragrances. For wash and go styling, section damp hair and distribute evenly from root to tip.


Out of 16

JVN Complete Hydrating Air Dry Cream

Styling your curly hair has never been easier, thanks to the new Complete Hydrating Air Dry Cream from JVN. The curl activator creme creates a buildable, touchable hold on wavy, curly, and coily hair. It's strong enough to tame thick curls and lightweight enough that it won't weigh down fine waves. Just work your desired amount through damp hair and leave your hair to air dry. No diffuser or hairdryer is needed!


Out of 16

Best for Braids and Twists

PATTERN Styling Cream

If you like to wear your natural hair in braids, twists, or Bantu knots, you need a hair product that can do it all. Not only does this thick, creamy styling product help define curls, coilies, and tight textures, it can be used to set braids and twists. It's formulated without parabens, silicones, phthalates, and animal testing. Instead, it's packed with potent natural ingredients like neroli, rose, patchouli, and pure shea butter. Plus, PATTERN supports organizations and programs that empower women and people of color.

Alterna Haircare Caviar Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture CC Cream

This Caviar Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture CC Cream from Alterna Haircare can do it all! The versatile cream can be used on any hair type and texture. It perfects hair by boosting shine, adding moisture, increasing hair strength, and protecting against UV damage. Plus, it's clinically proven to reduce breakage by up to 92% and provides heat protection up to 450 degrees F.

Not Your Mother's Curl Talk Curl Activator Mousse

Though mousse often gets a bad reputation, it can be a great addition to your personal care routine. Unlike other mousse products, this Not Your Mother's Curl Talk Curl Activator Mousse is lightweight and won't leave behind a greasy feel. It provides long-lasting humidity control for hydrated, frizz-free curls with every use. To keep your hair healthy, it's formulated without dyes, gluten, sulfates, silicones, parabens, and drying alcohols. Starting at the roots, work the product evenly through your curls and air dry or diffuse as usual.


Will curl activator work on straight hair?

No, a curl activator will not make your straight hair curly. Curl activator is designed to be layered under a holding product, and it does not offer any hold.

What does the curl activator do?

Curl activator is designed to support and enhance natural hair strands that already have curl patterns, and it will help to emphasize the texture of the curls and waves.

Are curl activators bad for natural hair?

Curl activator can add shine and softness to your hair and help prevent breakage. Some even provide moisture to frizzy and kinky hair.

About the author

Emily Konatella

Emily is a fashion consultant, designer and creative director with more than 15 years experience creating, designing and developing clothing & jewelry. From managing pageant shows to turning concepts into actual designs, she has experience with almost all fabric types and jewelry designs and is in touch with the latest fashion trends.


Creative Design

Get a Weekly Dose Of Tomorrow's Trends & Best Products!

We don't share your information with anyone!

Didn't find what you were looking for?

Search to find more inspiration!