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Are Hair Products For Curly Hair Different From Those For Other Hair Textures?

Back in the late 1990s the hair care market had very few products specifically devoted to different types of hair textures.  As a quick reminder, hair texture refers to whether your hair is naturally straight, wavy, curly, kinky curly or a combination.

(Actress Alex Kingston is famous for her natural curls - image from TV's ER finale - - All Rights Reserved).

Why do I say combination?  In reality many people have mixed texture on their head.  As an example, my own hair is naturally wavy but has a strong curl pattern intermingled with my waves.  I also have strong curls at the nape of my neck.

Some people with stick straight tresses may have a few natural waves that show up near the nape of their neck, around their hairline or at the crown.  It is not uncommon.

However, hair texture generally refers to the majority of the texture your hair manifests as.  So if 80% or more of your hair is stick straight, you have naturally straight hair.  The same is true with naturally wavy, curly and kinky curly.

As the late 1990s merged into the 2000s hair manufacturers started flooding the market with products that were marketed as being designed specifically for naturally curly hair.  The question both hair professionals and hair consumers asked was - are these products really different from products for straight hair? If so, how?

Very good questions that not all hair manufacturers could or would answer.  However, the hair manufacturer party line was that the key difference between products designed for straight hair and products designed for naturally curly hair (wavy and kinky were often lumped into this category) was the specific ingredients and composition.

Ingredients And Composition Differences

When the professional hair manufacturers who were first introducing all the naturally curly products explained the difference between naturally curly haired products and straight products they would explain that the formulations did indeed differ.  How?


All hair care products designed for curly hair were marketed as having a much higher ingredient concentration of moisturizers, moisture enhancing, moisture enriching and moisture balancing ingredients than non-curly hair products.  The key phrase of moisture was also specifically tied to humectants.

Humectants Based Ingredients

Humectants means that the ingredients are formulated to pull moisture from the atmosphere thus contributing to ultimate curl formation.

Among the most common humectant ingredients incorporated into hair care products for moisture include Glycerin, Propylene Glycol and Panthenol. Hair products with high concentrations of calming botanicals such as chamomile and sea kelp also are designed to moisturize.

Silicone Ingredients

Another key ingredient difference between products formulated for naturally curly hair and other hair textures are silicones. Due to the shape of ringlets, curly hair as a rule does not shine as much as straight hair.  Because the hair shape also does not completely curl, natural curls have a tendency to frizz, especially in very humid and hot climates.

Products infused with specific silicones are designed for curls to add extra shine and to assist in the ultimate control of flyaways without adding excessive weight.

Magnesium Sulfate

Another key ingredient to look for is additives which supply additional strength for the curls and ultimate curl definition. Magnesium sulfate is based from magnesium salt and it helps to reform and strengthen the salt bonds in naturally curly hair.

Other Ingredients

Yes, there are other ingredients that are also sometimes used specifically to assist natural curls.  These ingredients will vary by manufacturer.


Hair care products have a wide rage of compositions ranging from liquid to gel.  With regard to hair products and natural curls, a gel base composition is considered better than other forms.

Hair products with a gel base will bind more with water so that the basic curl shape is maintained when the hair is wet.  Since water breaks hydrogen bonds in the hair when it is wet, natural curls will become more curly.

Are Hair Products For Curly Hair Different From Those For Other Hair Textures?

The answer is yes and no.

A good example of how hair products are customized is a recipe for homemade chili.  After the chili is made the chef might customize the individual bowls that are served.  One person might want extra onions added on top.  Another may wants a lot of cheese while someone who is lactose intolerant may not want any cheese.

Everyone starts with the basic bowl of chili but has different ingredients added to customize and top off their bowls.

The same is true with hair care products for naturally curly hair.  All hair care products start with a similar base of ingredients designed to accomplish some hair care related task ranging from cleansing (shampoo), adding back moisture (rinse-out or leave in conditioners) providing intense moisture (deep conditioners), styling (gels, creams, liquids) or providing hold (hair spray) or shine (silicone drops, gels or similar).

While it is definitely true that some hair care lines do customize their products to crank up the moisturizing ingredients which natural curls need, those products may or may not be all that different from products created to smooth or soften but are not marketed as specifically by texture.

Do naturally curly products work well for those with natural curls?  This would need to be determined on a case by case basis.  Generally speaking if someone has natural curls which are very dry and hard to control, products advertised for natural curls may be helpful for many, but not everyone.

When it comes to hair texture, the products which work well for one person with natural curls may not work well for everyone with natural curls.  Do hair products formulated for curly hair differ from those for other hair textures?

If pressed for any answer I would say all hair products include the same basic ingredients with a higher concentration of certain types of ingredients to assist with moisturizing and managing curls.

Bottom line, every hair consumers must judge for themselves.  One thing is definitely true, every hair manufacturer is different and testing similar types of products for natural curls such as styling gels or defrisants created by different manufacturers will almost always results in very different hair experiences.

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To combat cowlicks apply pomade or setting gel to the spot & blow dry w/ nozzle aimed downwards. Longer hair helps weigh down cowlicks as will tiny barrettes or clips. Pulling hair into a ponytail or braids will tighten down the cowlick. Experiment until you get results.
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