Best Drugstore Products for Curly Hair I The Ultimate Guide To Curly Hair Care On A Budget

When it comes to choosing products for curly hair, it can be a little overwhelming. Most people new to the curly hair world, aren’t sure what their curls need, and how to choose the right products.

Today I’m sharing some of my favorite affordable drugstore products that work well and are a great place to get started.

Don’t get me wrong, fancy high-end products have a place in a curly girl’s life for sure!

But when you first get started on your curly journey, there is a level of testing and experimenting involved.

And with that sometimes products get wasted.

I’m a firm believer in using affordable products early on in your curl journey and then making the switch to a higher-end product (if you want to) once you’ve learned what your hair likes and needs.

But before we dive into today’s topic on the best drugstore products for curly hair, I have a special gift for you.

Since choosing curly hair products can be a bit overwhelming, I put together a quick guide to help you choose the right products.

In this guide, I break down how to choose products in a way that is super easy to understand.

This guide is a simple download that you can save to your phone and refer to it any time you need it.

Are you feeling a bit alone on your curly hair journey? Like, no one in your life understands the struggles that come along with having curly hair?

Because having curly hair can feel isolating, I’ve put together a LIVE workshop followed by a 5 day curl challenge that will walk you through the process step by step and connect you with other curly girl’s along the way.

Best Drugstore Products For Curly Hair on A Budget in 2021

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning that at no cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you purchase through my link. But don’t worry, I never promote products that I don’t believe in or truly love <3 You can read my full privacy policy here.

When it comes to curly hair drugstore brands, there are a lot of options to choose from. 

After doing a lot of testing and experimenting with many different brands, I’ve listed my top three favorite drugstore brands below. 

Are you confused about your curl type and how to choose the right products? 

CLICK HERE to take the FREE curl type quiz!

Shea Moisture

This was one of the first products I used and fell in love with. Shea moisture is curly girl friendly, packed full of tons of delicious ingredients, and is super affordable.

I also love that this brand is female owned and has been operating since 1912! 

The products are naturally and sustainably produced which is important to me. 

Pros: This product is super affordable and easy to find.

Cons: Because this product contains butter and oils like Jamaican black castor oil, it tends to be on the heavy side and can cause build over time.

Be sure to incorporate a clarifying was once a month to strip down any product buildup.

Cantu Beauty

Coming in second is Cantu Beauty products. This product line is sulfate-free and offers a plethora of products including a kid’s line (which I use for my kids and love it!).

You can find various Cantu products at most drugstores and they are super affordable.

Pros: This is probably THE MOST affordable product on the market.

Cons: Like Shea Moisture, Cantu contains heavy ingredients like shea butter which can cause build-up.

Be sure to use a clarifying wash occasionally to cleanse product buildup.

Important note: Keep in mind that both Shae Moisture and Cantu Beauty are on the heavy side and can cause build up. Be sure to use a clarifying wash from time to time to limit the amount of product build up on your curls.

Not Your Mothers

Last but certainly not least is the Not Your Mother’s curly hairline.

This product line’s mission is to create the highest quality, salon comparable yet affordable product line.

And they’ve done a really great job doing just that.

Pros: In my opinion, this is THE BEST affordable drugstore product for wavy to curly hair. This product is lighter than the other brands mentioned above.

Cons: This product line isn’t moisturizing enough for my specific curl type. If your curls are very dry, you may need to add in a heavier deep conditioner to add moisture.

The Best Drugstore Shampoo for Curls

When it comes to a solid drugstore shampoo that is curl friendly and you can count on, I typically grab for one of the three listed below.

Shea Moisture Grow and Restore-This shampoo is best for thick curly hair that range from 2c-3c in curl pattern. This product promotes hair growth which is a bonus!

Product Highlights: Promotes hair growth with peppermint oil invigorates hair scalp and stimulates cells to make hair stronger and promote hair growth. Loaded with the goodness of Apple Cider Vinegar, this shampoo and conditioner set balances pH levels in your hair to keep them naturally healthy and shiny.

Natural oils present in the formulation, seal open hair cuticles and reduce the appearance of split ends

Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo – If you are looking for a good sulfate free cleansing shampoo this Cantu line will be a great fit for you!

Product Highlights: Gently cleanses and moisturizes helping to reduce breakage during shampooing. Award winning formula made with pure Shea butter to gently clean, moisturize, and prevent breakage. Creates a rich lather and removes heavy buildup.

Not Your Mother’s Naturals Curl Defining Shampoo Bundle – If your curls lean more toward the wavy side (2a-2c), the not your mothers line might be a better fit than those mentioned above.

Product Highlights: A luscious blend of Tahitian Gardenia Flower & Mango Butter preserves the natural curl so your hair moves with a beautiful bounce. This Curl Defining Shampoo will cleanse without weighing curls down and prepare hair for a definitive, vivacious style.

The Best Co-Wash on a budget

If your hair is very thick and dry, swapping out your shampoo for a co-wash might be a good way to add moisture to your thirsty curls. 

My favorite budget friendly co wash is As I Am Dry & Itchy Scalp Care Cowash

This co-wash does a really great job cleansing while adding moisture and reducing frizz.

Product Highlights: Fights Dry & Itchy Scalp and Dandruff. Helps Prevent Itchiness and Soothes Scalp with Olive Oil and Tea Tree Oil. Relieves Scalp Itch, Flaking, and Irritation associated with Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff. Hydrates Dry Hair for more Vibrant, Manageable Coils and Curls.

Important note: Keep in mind that co-wash’s are typically used on very thick and dry curls. I am only able to use a co-wash occasionally or else I’ll end up over moisture. Use with caution.

The Best Drugstore Conditioner for Curls


Conditioner is one of the most, if not THE MOST important product for your curls. 

Below are my top three drugstore conditioner choices for curly hair.

You’ll want a conditioner that adds a boost of moisture without weighing your curls down or making them stringy. So be sure to choose something that will compliment your curl type.

Shea Moisture Strengthen and Restore – This is a good option for 2c-3a and above curls. It packs a moisture punch but isn’t too heavy.

Product Highlights: Promotes hair growth with peppermint oil invigorates hair scalp and stimulates cells to make hair stronger and promote hair growth. Loaded with the goodness of Apple Cider Vinegar, this shampoo and conditioner set balances pH levels in your hair to keep them naturally healthy and shiny.

Cantu Shea Butter – This conditioner is a curl activator and does just that! The Cantu Shea Butter is a great option and is oh so budget-friendly. This one is a bit lighter than Shea Moisture.

Product Highlights: Smoothens and enhances natural curl pattern revealing frizz-free volume and is great for a quick wash-and-go. Activates curls revealing frizz-free, bouncy curls. Delivers volume and adds shine.

Not Your Mother’s Naturals Curl Defining – If curl products tend to weigh your curls down, this is a great option. It adds moisture but is light enough for wavy to curly hair.

Product Highlights: Mango Butter reduces frizz, restores hair’s elasticity and creates shine. Gentle formulas for everyday use. Plant derived ingredient alternatives Environmentally friendly formula.

Are you confused about your curl type and how to choose the right products? 

CLICK HERE to take the FREE curl type quiz!

The Best Leave-In Conditioner for Curls & Coils

A leave-in conditioner is used after your wash to help add and lock in a bit of moisture before you style. 

As with any moisturizing products, you always need to be careful that it’s not too heavy for your curls. Otherwise it can make them stringy and over moisturized.

My favorite leave-in conditioner’s are listed below

Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave In – I like this leave in conditioner because it helps to repair your hair while you’re wearing it. This is a good option for wavy-curly hair that is damaged and needs repair.

Product Highlights: Formulated certified organic blueberry extract, coconut oil, grapeseed oil and mango butter. Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave In Conditioner repairs, restores, and conditions overworked curls. Repair, restore, and condition your overworked curls with this uber softening leave in conditioner. Recommended for wavy, curly, very curly, and kinky hair.

Cantu Shea Butter Hydrating Leave in Conditioning – This leave in conditioner is a bit heavier than blueberry bliss, and is great for some wavy’s and most curlies. 

Product Highlights: Cantu hydrating leave-in mist is great for relaxed, texturized, colored and permed hair. Ideal for medium to thick textures. Hydrates instantly, Instantly shines, hydrates and conditions deprived hair. Made with pure Shea butter to replace vital moisture, revealing stronger, healthier hair with a natural shine. Repair damage and reduce breakage by hydrating.

Mielle Pomegranate & Honey Curl Refreshing Spray – This product was formulated for coiled curls that need extra moisture.

Product Highlights: Our Pomegranate & Honey Collection is a Prime + Define styling system formulated for thick, curly Type 4 hair, however perfect for ANY curl pattern. It’s water-based with essentials oils to rehydrate your curls with an illuminating shine and pleasant fragrance while delivering a soft, flexible hold to reduce frizz and re-define your curls.

The Best Drugstore Scalp Treatment

Gorgeous curls begin with a healthy scalp! It is so important that you incorporate a scalp treatment into your routine. 

Cantu’s scalp treatment is my favorite drugstore scalp treatment

Cantu Shea Butter Tea Tree – This treatment contains jojoba oil and tons of other amazing ingredients.

Product highlights: Great for weaves, extensions and braids. Made with pure Shea butter, tea tree and jojoba oil to replace vital oils revealing stronger, healthier hair with a natural shine while conditioning the scalp. Conditions and soothes the scalp while moisturizing strands and promoting healthy growth.

 The Best Curl Cream

Using a curl cream is probably my favorite product. There is just something about finding the perfect curl cream to style your curls with. 

My Favorite curl creams are listed below

Cantu Coconut Curling Cream – A little bit of this product goes a long way. It does a great job defining your curls without making them crunchy. 

Product highlights: Moisturizes and strengthens strands with pure Shea butter to define curls without weighing them down. Rated Naturally Curly Best of the Best in 2013. Defines, conditions and adds manageability revealing soft, elongated curls.

Not Your Mothers Kinky Moves Hair Cream – This is another great curl cream to apply before you use gel.


Product highlights: Infused With Grape Seed And Jasmine. Helps Encourage Natural Curls. Eliminates Frizz And Flyaways. Adds Extra Bounce.

The Best Curl Refresher for Extra Bounce

Adding a curl refresher is a great way to add extra bounce to your curls without having to do a full wash. 

With the right curl refreshing spray, you can oftentimes refresh your hair without using water. And when you refresh your hair without using water, you don’t to wait as long for it to dry. 

Cantu Comeback Curl Next Day Curl Revitalizer – This product is great for the days you are rushing out of the house but need a little extra bounce to your curls. 

Product highlights: Refreshes Curls. Reduces Frizz. Revives and refreshes curls, coils and waves with every spray.

Garnier Fructis Style Curl Renew Reactivating Milk Spray For Curly  – This product isn’t quite as heavy as the one listed above. If your hair is easily over moisturized, this would be a better fit for you. 


Product highlight:  Instantly redefines natural curls without weighing down the hair; Our no crunch, non drying, alcohol free formula smoothes frizz, leaving curls soft and shiny

 

The Best Drugstore Products for Frizz Control

One of the top questions I get from people is how to control frizz. Below I’ve linked my favorite product to help fight and smooth frizz.

John Frieda Frizz Ease Dream Curls Spray, – This is a great product to help smooth and tame unwanted frizz. It is light in texture and helps to add a bit of control to unwanted frizz. 

Product highlights: Infused with magnesium enhancements and glossing agents, this daily frizz ease spray will give you soft hair with a light, flexible hold.

The Best Curl Serum for extended shine

If you want extended shine, you’ll want to keep all “eyes on me curl perfecter” on hand. 

Not Your Mothers All Eyes On Me 10-In-1 Hair Perfector – This is a great product to add extended shine to your curls.
Product highlights: Transforms Unmanageable Hair, Infused With Natural Keratin, Adds Body And Control Frizz.Seals Cuticle And Detangles.

The Best Drugstore Products for Humid Weather

When it comes to humid weather, oftentimes our hair starts to act up because of the glycerine and protein imbalance the weather causes. 

For this reason, I like to switch to glycerine free products during humid months. you can read more about glycerine here.

Jessicurl is my favorite glycerine free product line.

The Best Drugstore Products for More Definition

If you are looking to achieve more definition with your curls, then you are going to want to use a strong hold gel. This helps hold your curl pattern and lock in moisture which will result in better definition. 

My favorite affordable drugstore gel’s are listed below:

Aussie Instant Freeze Sculpting Maximum Hold Hair GelI always keep this gel on hand because it’s my go to for adding definition to my style. 

Product highlights: Gives hair a strong hold without flaking. Australian jojoba oil & sea kelp

ECO Styler Professional Styling Gel, – There is nothing fancy about this gel but it is super affordable and works really well to add definition. 

Product highlights: Eco Styler olive oil Styling Gel contains 100% pure olive oil for deep conditioning while maintaining maximum hold, no flaking, no tack and anti-itch, contains 100% pure olive oil.

CLICK HERE to save your spot in the Curly Hair Challenge!!

The Best Mask on the Cheap

Treatments are essential for maintaining healthy curly hair. You should incorporate a deep treatment or mask anywhere from a week to once a month. How often will totally depend on your curls needs. In order to find your curls needs, you should be tracking how your hair responds to each treatment and adjust how often you are washing accordingly. 

My favorite affordable drugstore masque is SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Treatment Masque. This treatment is packed full of moisture and promotes hair growth. 

Product highlights: A deep conditioning and hydrating hair masque that helps to strengthen and restore damaged or chemically processed hair.

The Best Drugstore Products for Thick, Curly Hair

If you have thick curly hair, and you’d like to find the best products that are affordable, then you should start with the Shea Moisture collection. 

This product line is designed with ingredients that will deeply moisture thick curly hair. 

Shea Moisture Strengthen Grow & Restore Combo Bundle – This bundle is the best bang for your buck because it contains all the products you need to get started caring for thick curly hair. 
Product highlights: Cleans Deep Down to Remove Dirt & Residue; Black Castor Oil & Apple Cider Vinegar Promote Growth & Prevent Breakage

The Best Drugstore Gels For Coils

When it comes to gel for coils, you should choose something that has light to medium hold because your curls will most likely hold their curl pattern without any extra help. 

As I Am Curling Jelly – this product will add moisture and shine to your beautiful curls without flaking. 

Product highlights: Coil & Curl Definer. Defines and Adds Shine To Your Curls. Hi-Definition Coils and Curls For Days. Curls with Buoyancy and Vibrancy!

Aussie Instant Freeze Sculpting Maximum Hold Hair Gel – This is max hold but still does really well in coily hair. 

Product highlights: Gives hair a strong hold without flaking. Australian jojoba oil & sea kelp

The Best Oil for a moisture boost

Oil is another great way to add moisture to thirsty curls. Oil is used in as the final step in the styling process to lock in moisture.

Cantu Shea Butter Tea Tree & Jojoba Hair – This is the most affordable oil to add a boost of moisture to your curls. 

Product highlights: Made with pure Shea butter, tea tree and jojoba oil to replace vital oils revealing stronger, healthier hair with a natural shine while conditioning the scalp.

Aussie Total Miracle Restoring Oil – This oil adds moisture and restores damaged curls. 

Product highlights: Locks In Hydration. Seals Hair Cuticles. Paraben-Free.

Did you enroll in the LIVE Workshop? Click here to save your spot!

The Best Drugstore Mousse for an all Day Hold

If you struggle with your curls falling out throughout the day, mousse is a great option for all day hold. 

Dove STYLE+care Curls Defining Mousse – This product does wonders for holding your curl pattern in place all day.

Product highlights: Nourishes for well-defined, touchable soft curls. Lightweight formula with a whipped cream texture helps curls retain shape. Touchable soft hair without the crunchy feel.

John Frieda Frizz Ease Curl Reviver MousseThis is another great option for all day hold. 

Product highlights: Creates defined, bouncy, shiny ringlets with touchable hold

The Best Drugstore Products For Knots

Detangling curly hair can often bring a challenge. There are a few different ways to detangle curly hair without damaging it. 

Using a curl specific brush helps to break up tangles while not damaging your curls. 

The Behairful brush – This is my favorite brush when it comes to detangling and brush styling your curls. 

Product Highlights: Gently glides through knots creating less friction. The natural boar bristles help to evenly distribute oils throughout your hair. Evenly distributes your products throughout each curl strand creating soft defined curls.

You can read my full review here.

SoCozy Curl Spray – This is a detangling spray that helps loosen up any knots and makes detangling curly hair easier. 

Product highlights: Detangles and Restores Curls. No Parabens, Sulfates, Synthetic Colors or Dyes.

The Best Natural Based Products for us Crunchy Gals

When it comes to using natural products, My favorite product line is called EVOLVh. 

EVOLVh is a high-end curly hair product line that is committed to formulating innovative products that heal your hair from the inside out. 

Many companies fill their products will harmful ingredients that act as a band-aide for your hair but don’t deal with the root issue. Long term, this causes your curls to become dependent on harsh ingredients.

EVOLVh’s products are formulated with clean ingredients that are friendly to the environment. Their goal is function and performance. 

A couple of things I love about EVOLVh

  • The products have a light pleasant smell – Strong smells in products give me a headache after a while
  • Formulated with clean ingredients – It’s a great way to swap out your toxic hair care line with a clean toxic free line
  • The products last a long time – A little bit goes a long way 
  • Free from: Sulfates, gluten, parabens, propylene glycol, silicones, phthalates
  • Hydrates, without weighing down – It’s the perfect amount of moisture for my 3a curls 
  • Medium hold – I love the super defining cream because it offers the perfect amount of hold
  • I love that they keep their products simple. You don’t have to try to choose from dozens of different products

I use and highly recommend EVOLVh. My curls are loving these products! I recommend getting started with the curl bundle. It has everything you need to get started on your curly journey.

>>>>>Click here to shop the curl bundle – Use code COLLEEN for 15% off

You can check out my full EVOLVh product review here.

In Conclusion

When it comes to choosing curly hair products, it’s important to know what to look for in a product line and to understand your curls needs. You can read this post for a more in depth look on how to choose the right curly hair products.

I put together a quick guide to make choosing products easier. This will help empower you to know how to choose the right curly hair products.

xoxo

Colleen

P.S Don’t forget to get your FrEE guide on how to choose curly hair products! CLICK HERE!

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