Updated October 24, 2020 by Taber Koeghan

The 10 Best Curl Activators

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This wiki has been updated 12 times since it was first published in March of 2018. If years of using hot appliances, coloring, and just living in a polluted world have drained the life out of your hair, try one of these activators. They will enhance your locks' natural shape and volume and allow you to maintain beachy waves, ringlets, or any other style you choose. Whether your curls are tight and coarse or thin and loose, there's a solution here for you. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Cantu Shea Butter

2. SoftSheen-Carson Care Free

3. Luster's S Curl

Editor's Notes

October 22, 2020:

It can be a pain figuring out how to style curly hair, not just because it's often a high maintenance (and high cost) endeavor, but because there are few one-size-fits-all products and routines out there. Curls vary widely in size, texture, and tightness, so it's important to seek out formulas that are designed with your hair's unique combination of qualities in mind. This list includes many options for people with dry to oily strands, in addition to selections that are crafted specifically for Black hair textures. Of course, if you don't have the natural ringlets to work with in the first place, a curling iron might be what you need to add to your hair care arsenal.

With regard to updates, Smooth 'N Shine Extra Dry has been removed due to fulfillment concerns, while Luster's S Curl has been added to the list. Luster's S Curl was chosen because of its glowing reviews from users with a variety of curl types and styling experience levels. Cantu Shea Butter has been bumped up to the top spot thanks to its growing popularity and reliable performance across hair textures. Another product that got a promotion is SoftSheen-Carson Care Free, which now occupies the number two slot.

November 11, 2019:

Curl activators are formulated specifically to keep natural curls defined and frizz-free. They also protect hair from the elements and can help keep it moisturized and healthy. In this list, we've included a variety of formulas that have been crafted to target specific hair textures, and some can be used on coarse or fine locks. Of course, if you don't have a natural wave to your hair, you'll have to invest in a curling iron to achieve the look you're after.

Sofn'Free 2 in 1, Luster's No Drip, and Worlds of Curls Original have been removed due to complaints about effectiveness and excessive greasiness. Ampro Pro Styl Enhancer is a new addition to the list, included because of its ability to tame coarse locks, and MopTop Custard and Kinky Curly Original were awarded the top two spots thanks to high-quality ingredients and popularity among users with many different hair types.

Special Honors

AG Hair Re:Coil Containing rice amino acids and tomato extract to give curls a boost in definition, AG Hair Re:Coil is a good choice for individuals with loose ringlets and waves. It's a very moisturizing formula, so don't be surprised if your hair feels slightly heavier than usual. ulta.com

Worlds Of Curls Sheen A budget-friendly option, this gel formula is designed for extra dry hair. It's also versatile: to use it as a hot oil activator, brush it through from root to tip and cover with warm towels. It protects against heat damage, so you don't have to avoid the blow dryer or curling iron. walgreens.com

Not Your Mother's Curl Talk This mousse is designed to add shine and bounce to unruly, frizzy hair. It's free of dyes, phthalates, parabens, and sulfates, which should put you at ease if you're concerned about ingredient quality and safety. Those who prefer a stronger hold will need to look elsewhere, however. target.com

4. Kinky Curly Original

5. MopTop Custard

6. Ampro Pro Styl Enhancer

7. Lustrasilk Max

8. Twisted Sista Creme

9. Long Aid Aloe Vera

10. Hawaiian Silky Texturizing


Taber Koeghan
Last updated on October 24, 2020 by Taber Koeghan

Taber is a writer from Santa Monica, CA, with a bachelor of arts in political science from the University of California, San Diego. After completing her degree, she began writing and editing copy for a host of high-traffic e-commerce websites. Her areas of expertise include the beauty, style, pet, and home products categories, and she has plenty of experience covering literature and art, too. Her personal interests in crafting and decorating inform her writing and -- she hopes -- add a good bit of insight to her work. Outside of copywriting, she is a reporter and columnist at a Los Angeles community newspaper and is currently pursuing a master of fine arts in creative writing.


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