You learn a whole lot of things when you transition to
natural hair. Like the fact that you'll spend more time watching natural hair vloggers' YouTube videos than spending time with your actual family... or that wash day is really more like wash morning, afternoon, evening, night, and next day. But the most important learning, at least in my book, is that moisture is paramount.
And it makes sense. Most of the curly and coily folks I know only shampoo every few weeks, since the name of the game is to retain all of your natural oils.
Co-washing keeps your hair nice and hydrated, and in between washes, curl creams replenish your strands and give you more definition.
Because everyone on the Internet has an opinion about what products work and in what order, we decided to cut through all the clutter and get to, well, the crème de la crèmes. Ahead, find the picks that pro hairstylists and curly-hair experts rely on every single day to moisturize, style, and define twist-outs and braid-outs.
Felicia Leatherwood recommends
"shingling" to apply this whipped-up product. That is, take half-inch sections, scoop up some cream with your index and middle fingers, glide down each section from roots to ends, then repeat.
Bonita Afro Balm Texture Cream ,
"I use Oribe on all my clients,"
, who works with Yara Shahidi and Uzo Aduba tells us. "I use it because it has all the nutrients necessary to give my clients’ tresses a luxurious experience. A while ago, a colleague of mine had the products on his station — I was so obsessed with how beautiful the packaging was that I wanted to immediately try it. I’ve been hooked ever since."
Johnson likes to diffuse this cream into Shahidi's curls for maximum moisture and hold. "She can go days with her curls still intact," she says.
Curl By Definition Crème,
"Even though I try to 'pineapple' my hair at night, my wash-and-go doesn't have much longevity," Rissa Papillion, Junior Video Editor at
R29 says. "To avoid drying out my hair from product buildup, I use this product in the morning to define my curls."
At the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards, Vernon François used his own styling cream to define and separate Sydelle Noel's gorgeous ringlets. Bonus:
It works in protective styles, too
Shahidi also wore her natural texture at the SAGs, enhanced it with one of Taliah Waajid's bestselling stylers. "I wanted her beautiful texture delicately brushed out," Johnson explains. To do so, Johnson moisturized Shahidi's hair with the Taliah Waajid
Green Apple and Aloe Nutrition Leave-In Conditioner
, misting from root to tip before brushing it through with a Mason Pearson brush. She dried the star's hair with a diffuser and used the cream for definition and shine.
Curly Curl Cream,
To truly wash and go, you can work
favorite shine-and-shape enhancer generously throughout wet hair. “From there, rub it in using a circular motion to help define the curl pattern, then allow hair to dry naturally,” she says. Tip: Keep a spray bottle with water handy just in case hair starts to dry up as you’re applying product.
Defining Custard, $15.50, available at
When it gets cold again, be sure to stick by your heavy winter curl cream a bit longer. "It's not a good situation to [wear] your liquid leave-in conditioners and gels in the cold," says Leatherwood, who notes that they tend to make wet hair hard. Instead, she recommends this leave-in cream for curly, coily, and kinky textures.
Twist N Shout Cream,
If you can't go without your gel, though, Obia Naturals offers a moisturizing cream that gives the same results. "It's like having a gel and a cream mixed together," Leatherwood says.
Curl Enhancing Custard,
Like the Obia Moisture Cream, this product
gives you gel-like hold — with the added bonus of Shea butter, sunflower oil, and other moisturizing natural extracts.
Curl Legend Curl Sculpting Cream Gel, $28, available at
This cream is a favorite among the West Coast set. "[It] enhances my natural curl pattern and leaves my hair full and soft, while still having enough weight to hold down random frizzy pieces," L.A.-based celebrity makeup artist Tasha Reiko Brown, who works with Jill Scott and Shahidi,
. "There's zero residue, so product doesn't catch in my hair [and] it's an invisible curl-booster.”
Coconut and Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie,
"This works for mostly coily and kinky textures," Leatherwood says. And I have to agree — this rich concoction does wonders for my 4c twist-outs and braid-outs.
Shea Butter Coconut Curling Cream, $7.79, available at
But for looser curls, Leatherwood likes this, which can be applied on wet hair to scrunch curls
on dry hair to smooth and define them.
Curl La La Defining Curl Custard, $10.98, available at