The trick is that fine hair (between 3B and 3B) requires liquid leave-ins, and that thicker hair (between 4A and 4D) often crave a creamier formula to moisturize their usually dehydrated curls. Regardless of the thickness of each type of hair, the leave-in should have to have water listed as the main ingredient.
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Of course, in addition to your hair texture, the best leave-in for you depends on how you want to shape it, as well as how you treat your curls. Curly hair tends to be dry and requires more hydration because — unlike those with straight hair — most often the oil produced by our scalp doesn't reach our ends. If you wear your curls tighter, than you'll benefit from a heavier, creamier leave-in. But, if you prefer a ton of volume, sticking to a lighter formula that's spritzed on (rather than applied manually) might be a better option.
If the hair is visibly dry, seek conditioners with emollients like extra virgin olive oil or shea butter. These ingredients will help restore your curls without totally weighing your dehydrated mane down — especially if you avoid applying it directly to the root. One of my favorite tips is to apply a full concentration of your favorite leave-in the day you wash your hair, and on the following days, freshen up your curls by spritzing them with an oil-and-water solution. I prefer castor, coconut, or olive.
While a good leave-in doesn't have to be expensive, there are so many brands that are specially formulated for curly hair, like Deva Curl or Miss Jessie's, so experiment to find what works for you. Of course, no leave-in will work miracles on your hair unless you take care of it every day, but with these tips, you'll have a head start on finding the right product for your hair type.
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Ana Rita D' Almeida and Denise Sonnemberg — two Lisbon-based twenty-somethings behind the blog Curly Essence — know that you are not your hair. Still, there's no reason not to celebrate the natural hair movement, and now, the ladies are bringing their expertise in everything from the best leave-in conditioners to the top travel spots straight to R29.