Mousses, curl creams, gels are known to be the best curl defining products! With so much to choose from, where do you start? It’s important to understand that not all curl-defining products are made equally! Each formula has unique properties and benefits that set it apart. While it can feel overwhelming to navigate, it’s pretty easy once you understand your hair’s characteristics and your personal styling preferences.
I’ll help you navigate the difference between mousse, curl cream, and gels in today’s post! Ultimately, you’ll be able to choose the best curl-defining products according to your unique curl type and personal preference!
What’s best for curl defining– mousse, cream, or gel?
Honestly, there’s no right or wrong answer. The key to choosing the right one is understanding what type of look you’re trying to achieve.
A gel will be the best option if you prefer a stronghold and super-defined results. Gel typically will leave a cast on the hair, resulting in a crunchy feel. You can break the cast. However, it’s important to note that the cast provides style longevity.
Best curl defining products: Mousse
Mousse, also called curling foam, is an excellent liquid-based styling product that dries quickly into the hair and has a light to medium hold. It’s typically packaged in a component with a pump that turns the liquid into an airy foam texture that is easy to spread through the hair.
My favorite mousses
01 Curlsmith Bouncy Strength Volume Foam
This incredible mousse is highly airy and lightweight! It has a soft hold that will give your hair amazing volume and softly defined bouncy curls. It also contains protein which will repair any damage.
It works for all curl types and thicknesses. However, it’s best suited for damaged hair with medium to high porosity hair. If you have low-porosity hair, you should avoid this product.
Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
02 Shea Moisture Coconut und Hibiscus Frizz-Free Mousse
This incredibly rich mousse has an extremely medium hold making it suitable for thicker hair that needs more hold. It contains protein, so if you’re low porosity, steer clear! Brand: Shea Moisture Size: 220 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
03 Flora & Curl Sweet Hibiscus Curl Volumizing Foam
This incredible mousse provides a ton of volume to the hair! Almond oil, aloe vera, and hibiscus extract add moisture, elasticity, and shine. It does contain protein. However, it should be okay for lower porosity hair if used occasionally! Brand: Flora & Curl Size: 200 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
Who should use mousse?
Mousse is ideal for individuals who have the following:
- Fine hair that needs lightweight products
- Low porosity hair that quickly gets build-up
- Hair that can’t hold a defined curl for an extended period
If you have a tighter curl pattern, mousse may not be strong enough to give you the definition you want. Instead, you may want to opt for a styler with a stronger hold, such as a gel.
Now, based on your styling preferences, mousse is ideal if you’re looking to achieve the following:
- Fluffy, bouncy curls
- Volume and movement
- Frizz-free curls
How does mousse compare to cream and gel?
Between the three styler options, mousse has a light to medium hold. It’s stronger than curl cream but not as strong as a gel. Due to the airy nature of the product, it tends to have the least longevity of the three.
How do I use mousse?
You should apply mousse to freshly shampooed and conditioned hair that is still slightly damp. This technique will maximize curl definition and hold. The water will dilute the styler, allowing it to be easily distributed through your hair and allow your curls to clump together. Allow your hair to air dry, or use a diffuser to speed up the process. The key to frizz-free results is to leave your hair alone as it dries! If you have dehydrated hair that needs an extra shot of moisture, you can always use a leave-in conditioner or a curl cream before applying the mousse.
Best curl defining products: Curl cream
A curl cream is a hydrating cream-based styling product that increases curl definition and has a light hold. Don’t be confused by the name! Several haircare brands also refer to their curl creams as curl milk, curl activator, curling cream, or styling lotion.
My favorite Curling Cream
01 Hairlust Curl Crush Defining Cream
This curl-defining cream is formulated for all curl types. It’s also enriched with a ton of potent antioxidants that will protect the hair from environmental stressors. It’s formulated with pullulan, which is a natural starch that provides the formula with an excellent hold. It’s water-soluble and can easily be washed out without harsh shampoos.
Curls Girl Method Suitable: Yes
02 Curlsmith Feather Light Protein Cream
If you’re experiencing damage or breakage and want to enhance your natural curls, Curlsmith’s Feather Light Protein Cream will be excellent for you. It’s suitable for all curl types of any thickness but best for high-porosity hair. This unique formula combines a cream-based product’s hydration with a traditional gel’s hold. It’s enriched with a blend of hemp seed and rice protein, which will strengthen the hair and increase elasticity.
Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
03 Boucléme Curl Cream
Boucléme’s Curl Cream Is an excellent curl cream safe for curly hair. It’s also fragrance-free, which is excellent if you are very sensitive to fragrance. In addition, it’s lightweight in texture, so it will be suitable for all curl types, and you can easily use it to touch up your curls after styling.
Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
Who should use curl cream?
Curl creams are ideal for:
- Dry curls that need a boost of hydration during the styling process
- Curly hair that loses its moisture quickly
- Curly hair that can’t tolerate alcohol-based products
Any curl type of any porosity can use a curl cream. The key is to pick a curl cream appropriate for your hair type. For example, if your hair is extremely fine or has low porosity, choose an extremely lightweight cream that absorbs quickly and has light ingredients.
If your hair is dryer, has high porosity, or is extremely tight, it can handle a thicker curl cream with richer and heavier ingredients.
Now, based on your styling preferences, curl cream is ideal if you’re looking to achieve the following:
- Fluffy, lightly defined curls
- Frizz-free curls
- Soft, touchable hair without any crunch
How does curl cream compare to mousse and gel?
Out of the three options, curl cream will provide the least definition. However, it is the most hydrating and nourishing of the three options! The primary function of a curl cream is to infuse additional hydration into the hair during the styling process. However, you can use a curl cream as a primer for your gel or mousse! Just be sure to make sure that the products you want to layer are compatible. If you prefer to use one product and want super-defined curls and have fine hair, a mousse is a better fit. On the other hand, if your curls are tighter, a gel is better.
How do I use curl cream?
Curl creams should be used on freshly washed hair that has been shampooed, conditioned, and towel dried. After applying your leave-in conditioner, rake or smooth the curl cream through your hair strands to activate your natural curl pattern. Let it air dry or follow up with a diffuser!
If you desire more hold, follow up the curl cream with a compatible gel for additional definition, or leave it as is for a soft hold.
Best curl defining products: Gel
Gels provide the strongest hold out of all of the available styling products. The ingredients inside of the gel will coat the hair and harden, locking your styling into place! Gels come in varying degrees of hold, ranging from medium to strong hold.
My favorite gels
I choose gel as the best curl defining products for my curls. Here I show you some of my favorite gels.
01 Bouclème Super Hold Styler Hair Gel
The Bouclème Super Hold Styler Hair Gel is a protein-free gel that will give your curls excellent definition for frizz-free results! In addition, it contains a lot of nourishing ingredients such as chia seed, agave, and kahuna nut oil. It’s also alcohol-free. Brand: Bouclème Quantity: 250 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
02 Kinky Curly Curling Custard
This wonderful hair gel is entirely alcohol-free. It contains nourishing botanical ingredients such as aloe vera, chamomile, nettle, and marshmallow root that will impart moisture and shine! The texture is thicker, similar to flaxseed gel, and will provide an incredible hold for defined curls. Brand: Kinky Curly Size: 237 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
03 Innersense I Create Hold Hair Gel
Innersense’s I Create Hold Hair Gel is Curly Girl Method approved! It has an excellent hold that will provide beautiful shine and definition. It contains a rice grain alcohol emollient that will not strip the hair of its moisture. In addition, botanical ingredients such as nettle, eucalyptus, and rooibos tea provide moisture, shine, and flexibility. Brand: Innersense Quantity: 295 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
Who should use gel?
The gel is ideal for:
- All curl types
- Any hair porosity
- Hair that refuses to hold a defined curl
The gel will work on any hair type! If you have finer hair, opt for a gel that is lightweight in texture. You’ll want to reach for a thicker gel if you have thicker hair or a tighter curl pattern.
Now, based on your styling preferences, the gel is ideal if you want:
- Super defined curls
- Frizz-free curls
- Incredible style longevity
How does gel compare to mousse and curl cream?
Of the three options, gel boasts the strongest hold and will give you the longest style longevity. In addition, it can easily clump your curls together and lock them in place for extreme definition. Gels will also leave a noticeable cast on the hair once it dries down. This can easily be scrunched away, but it will not be as soft as the curl cream results. Because it tends to be thicker than mousse, it will not provide a lot of volume. Avoid applying to your roots as much as possible if you want volume.
How do I use gel?
You should apply gel to freshly shampooed and conditioned hair that is still wet! Rake the gels through your hair to get your curls to clump together. Then, leave it alone as it dries to avoid causing frizz!
How can I layer my curl-defining products to customize my style?
Why not mix and match? You have complete control over your hair this way, and you can get the best of both worlds by combining products. Typically, you can layer products from the same brand within the same collection. However, you can layer products from different brands if you like. The best way to apply is in this order:
However, remember that if your products are incompatible, it can lead to flaking! So it’s always best to test it on your hands before applying it to your hair. Mix the products that you want to layer in the palm of your hand. If the mixture forms chunky white clumps, they will not work well together.
What should I look for in my curl-defining products?
You should always look for ingredients that will provide additional nourishment and hydration. However, this will largely depend on the thickness of your hair and porosity. If your hair is extremely fine or of low porosity, look for ingredients that absorb quickly and are lightweight such as argan oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, and botanical extracts.
For thicker or high-porosity hair, you should look for heavier ingredients such as shea butter, coconut oil, castor oil, and mango seed butter.
Should I choose a curl-defining product that contains protein?
When choosing any haircare product, it’s important to note if it contains proteins. While proteins aren’t inherently bad for your curls, some hair types can’t handle additional protein. If you have damaged or high porosity hair, a curl-defining product with added protein can help strengthen the hair and repair the hair cuticle. Here are the most common protein ingredients:
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Hydrolyzed keratin
- Hydrolyzed collagen
- Soy protein
- Amino acids such as silk, wheat, and milk
If you have low-porosity hair or hair that isn’t significantly damaged, it’s best to play it safe and use products with an extremely low protein percentage or are protein-free.
What should I avoid in my curl-defining products?
Don’t always believe the claims that are made on the packaging. You can find the proof with your eyes if you look at the ingredients list. While it may seem tedious, it’s the quickest and easiest way to spot ingredients you should avoid.
Here are some of the things that you should avoid in your curl-defining products:
- Silicones: Silicone leaves a film over the hair shaft and can prevent moisture from penetrating. This can lead to excessive dryness and breakage! Common silicones are dimethicone and cetearyl dimethicone.
- Sulfates: Sulfates are cleansing agents that can be extremely stripping and drying to naturally curly hair. Avoid sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES),
- Drying alcohols: Some good fatty alcohols nourish the hair. You want to avoid the drying alcohols that will strip the hair of its natural moisture. The key ones to avoid are ethyl alcohol (also called “ethanol”), denatured alcohol (also listed as “alcohol denat”), and isopropyl alcohol.
- Parabens: Parabens are preservatives used to extend a product’s shelf-life. However, they can cause irritation and inflammation leading to premature hair loss!
- Mineral oil or wax: Similar to silicone, mineral oils, and wax can leave a film on the hair shaft that prevents it from obtaining the moisture it needs. These products can only be removed with a sulfate shampoo, which can dry curly hair if used too frequently. Avoid lanolin oil, mineral oil, paraffin wax, and petrolatum.
I've been a curly girl since I was little. 💝 But it wasn't until I discovered the right curl care for me that I learned to understand my curls. I'm happy to pass all this on to you - so that you too can learn to love your curls.