Ultimate guide: How to pick products for YOUR curls

Ultimate guide: How to pick products for YOUR curls

Choosing products based on the descriptive words on the label can end up with you having a whole cupboard worth of curly hair products yet feeling that none really work for you. That is a feeling we're all trying to avoid at all costs, for the sake of our mental stability and our bank accounts. We've all been there, picking stuff off a shops' shelf because it looks interesting and the label sounds promising. 

Here's how to pick out the keywords on products labels and use them for your curls' advantage! 

To begin with...

To be able to do this, you will firstly need to have at least a vague idea of what it is your hair needs. You can't give it everything with no insight and expect it to be healthy. Too much of certain stuff can actually make it worse! Yes, we are referring to moisture OR protein overload. That's a (good) topic for another day though!

What does your hair need and what are the signs?

Signs in needs moisture

- it feels/ looks/ IS dry: any of these 3 will do

- you have split ends

- angry frizz (isn't tamed by styling products)

- doesn't feel soft after you wash 

- gets tangled extremely easily


Signs it needs hydration

- prone to breakage or it breaks easily, eg. when brushing your hair or taking it down from a hairstyle

- feels brittle

- feels weak


Signs it needs protein 

-your hair is bleached: there's no room for doubt with this one, just give it some protein please

- hair is limp or flat (lack volume)

- feels stringy / straw like (curls don't clump)

- it feels "too soft" (overly moisturized, eg. can happen if you use both a deep conditioner and a conditioner in the same wash) 

- your curls drop quickly 

- your hair is any type of damaged. Protein is the main component in hair, so when it's damaged its only natural to restore the balance 


If you have a combination of these, you may need to experiment with having a bit of both in your routine. The easiest way to do this is to have one product with moisturising properties, and the other with protein. For a different wash day, try only moisturising, and for another, only protein. See how your hair likes it. 

Now that you *hypothetically* know what your hair needs, look for these keywords on the labels and associate them to your needs: 

Strenghtening / for stronger hair

- usually refers to some type of protein as it builds bonds in the hair, making it stronger

- Protein as ingredients can be: amino acids, yogurt, silk, keratin, collagen, soy, milk, wheat, rice, jojoba, quinoa, soy, etc. 

- Look at the ingredients and see if you can spot any of these anywhere. 


- usually features a type of oil, butter or other heavy ingredients, or comes as a cream

- usually refers to moisturising elements, beneficial for dry, brittle hair. Butters and oils are the best keywords for these

- most common ingredients are shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, etc. 

- refer to the ingredients list for better help



- First of all, hydration is different from moisture as it refers to the absorption of water into the hair strands. The ultimate hydration in when your hair is soaking wet in the shower. However, at some point your hair dries, right? This is when moisture comes in play, which helps retain the moisture in the hair strand. This is really important for curls. Have you ever wondered why there are products like shampoos and conditioner specially formulated for curly hair? Because they are moisturising, and curls THRIVE in moisture! 

- Let's think of it this way. What happens when you add oil and water together? The oil stays on top, right? Now imagine the oils and butters in your hair products "coating" the water in your strands. It literally blocks the moisture in so it cannot escape. That's how hydration and moisture work together and that's why they are not the same.

- Ingredients in hydrating products may be water, aloe vera, honey, seaweed, glycerine and other humectants (anything which draws moisture from the air into the hair).

-Pro tip: Sealing in with an oil works great for curls because it means you can trap that moisture in. This helps your curls last longer too!

Now this is where it gets slightly complicated. Of course, you need to meet your hair's needs to be able to keep it healthy and happy. To do this, you don't only need to pay attention to the key ingredients, but to choose them accordingly to your hair porosity and texture

Yes, that's right, it's not over yet! 

Here, texture refers to how much of your hair you can feel when you twirl around your finger one single strand of your hair. Literally, try it and take a note of it.


A bit about texture

If you can definitely feel it there, no room for questions - Coarse

You can somewhat feel it - Medium 

Can't really feel it that much - Fine 


Coarse and medium hair is physically stronger strands of hair. These will be able to hold the weight of heavier products such as oils and butters. 

Fine hair on the other side, is easily weighted down. It prefers lightweight products for this reason, eg hydrating/ water-based products, and lighter options of oils for moisture. 


A quick porosity recap - because it can be easily confused

High - needs protein, bleached/damaged hair, gets wet instantly, dries quickly too

Low - needs moisture, virgin hair usually, takes long to get fully wet, the water slips right off at first

Middle - ideal/healthy level.  Doesn't take long to get wet but it doesn't dry too quickly either. Likes a combination of both moisture and protein. 


Porosity and Texture equations

With that in mind, the associations are as follows:

Low porosity + Fine hair - Thrives on lightweight moisturising products

Low porosity + Medium/ Coarse hair - mix of lightweight and a moisturising (on the heavier side), eg. oils/ butters-based conditioner, and lightweight stylers. Or a heavier styling cream and a lighter gel or foam

High porosity + Fine hair - Prefers protein-based products, tolerates moisturising products and needs it occasionally, but benefits mostly of lightweight products as its very easily weighted down 

High porosity + coarse/medium hair - Generally likes heavy products like butters and oils. It highly benefits of protein to keep the balance between the two 


Lightweight vs Heavy 

Lightweight ingredients - water, aloe, milk, hydrosols, extracts

Heavy ingredients - waxes, oils, butters, silicones, petroleum


Now, I know we just said oils are heavy BUT there are some exceptions of oils which are on the lighter side and would be great for fine hair which also needs some moisture. 

Light oils - jojoba, almond, argan, grapeseed 

If you see these features on products and you have fine hair, you might just be okay. 

Heavy oils - coconut, castor, macadamia, avocado

If you see these and you have coarse/low porosity, you might find that you like them. 


Little recap

We know that's quite a lot to get your head around. The best thing you can do is go through it again and write it down. Write down what your hair feels like, what it needs, your texture, your porosity. You can even take a note of the combinations and refer to it later. Same for the ingredients and compare it later to your products. See if you can make sense of why your hair likes certain ones and why it doesn't so much the others. 

Now, let's have a little play! 

Imagine you're shopping for your curly hair. Your curls type is low porosity and fine hair. You have these 2 options in front of you. 

1. Mielle moisture Hawaiian Ginger Moisturizing Hair Butter

Key words: We don't exactly know what Hawaiian ginger is. We move on. 

We know: moisture, moisturizing, butter - indicating this is a heavy, moisturizing product

Let's check the ingredients:


Water (Aqua, Eau), Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Glycerin (Vegetable), Isopropyl Palmitate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Stearyl Alcohol, VP/VA Copolymer, Ceteareth-20, Diheptyl Succinate, Capryloyl Glycerin, Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Propanediol, Panthenol, Steareth-2, Caprylyl Glycol, Aminomethyl Propanol, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Disodium EDTA, Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Acer Saccharinum (Sugar Maple) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Fragrance (Parfum), Phenoxyethanol

 The First 5 are: Water, coconut oil, glycerin, isopropyl Palmitate, Caprylic Triglyceride 

We know that water is first in most products. The next one is very important: Coconut Oil, which means... heavy moisture! Great! It's a good idea to have a look below too just in case you're intolerant to any ingredients, or you're specifically looking for something without ANY protein in at all. 

Other ingredients we can see are: avocado oil, ginger root oil and some extracts. Great! This means the product is on the heavy side, with a good ingredient base. 

Our next product is: 

(One of our best sellers) 2. Curls So So Smooth Vitamin C Leave In Conditioner

The front label doesn't tell us much, apart from a bunch of vitamins listed. Let's have a look at the ingredients!


Water, Behentrimonium Methosulfate (fatty alcohol-emollient), Cetyl Alcohol (fatty alcohol-emollient), Certified Organic Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Glycereth-26, Certified Organic Pineapple Fruit Extract, Sorbitol, Certified Organic Aloe Leaf Juice, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Silk Amino Acids, Certified Organic Chamomile Flower Extract, Fragrance, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol


The first 5 are not telling us much of what we need to know in this case. If you want to look more into these, you can always give them a quick google! Buttt, we do have Coconut oil as 4th which is good enough. 

If we take a look further we have: fruit extract, aloe leaf juice, quinoa, silk amino acids and chamomile flower extract. 

Take a moment to compare your notes and see if you can figure out which product would be more suitable for you! 


Answer below when you're ready:

The second option! Although low porosity needs moisture, the molecules of heavy ingredients would be too large to be able to penetrate the strand, and it would weight down your fine hair too! Juices and extracts are a perfect combination of lighter moisture for your low porosity and fine hair. The proteins, which you hopefully spotted as quinoa and amino acids, are perfect to give your fine hair some structure. The proteins are on the bottom of the list which means they aren't that much in quantity of the product, which is safe for low porosity, as it doesn't need protein based products. 

Let us know if you found this useful, if you want more of these mini tests or if there is anything we can improve on! 

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