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When it comes to caring for our curls the conditioning part is the most important bit. Keeping our curls hydrated and moisturized is the key to unlocking frizz-free luscious and defined curls. The curly hair type tends to be the driest, leading to frizz. 

But since we buy a new conditioner what feels like every few weeks, do we really need to spend an arm and a leg?

Absolutely not! There are some pretty incredible and mega moisturizing drugstore conditioners for curly hair on the market, you just need to know what ingredients to look out for and avoid nasty ingredients like silicones or waxes.

I have tried many drugstore conditioners for curly hair and let me tell you, some are brilliant while others you can tell are cheap. So, I’m here to guide you through how to find the good ones from the bad ones so you’ll know what’s worth it and what’s not. 

There are some pretty great drugstore conditioners that are staples in my routine when I’m on a budget. 

Here’s a pro tip before we get started: when looking for a drugstore conditioner make sure that you’re finding the right one for your hair porosity, while coconut oil is great it is sometimes too heavy on low porosity curls, so look out for ingredients that work for you. 

But enough of me rambling on, let’s jump in!

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The Best Drugstore Conditioners For Curly Hair

1.

SheaMoisture Curl and Shine Coconut Conditioner

SheaMoisture is the holy grail, affordable, sustainable, and high-quality curly hair brand. Their products almost always make my curly hair guides because they’re brilliant for the price point and have major benefits on curls. 

But let’s talk about their Coconut & Hibiscus Curl and Shine Conditioner.

This conditioner was designed for thick hair; it instantly softens and detangles dry, thick, coarse curls while infusing your curls and coils with intense moisture. It gives curls a real hydration kick without weighing them down. 

This intense hydrating conditioner is blended with coconut and neem oils along with silk protein; it leaves hair feeling smooth, soft, silky while adding shine. Anyone with tight curls, coils, or kinky hair will be sure to benefit from this hydration boost. 

Sheamoisture’s products are formulated with Fair Trade Shea Butter which has major benefits on curly hair because of its emolliating qualities, making it excellent for locking on moisture without leaving your curls greasy or heavy. 

But that’s not all. 

This conditioner is also infused with coconut oil which helps heal protein loss, add moisture and make hair stronger over time; it even helps make curls more manageable and decrease frizz. 

Hibiscus is also brilliant for curls; it helps reduce frizz, prevent hair loss, it even promotes hair growth. It coats the curls and infuses them with moisture to boost shine and bounce, helping them retain their natural shape. 

The top thing I love about SheaMoisture is that they are free of all the nasty chemicals you’d find in other drugstore brands. You heard me no silicones, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, or petroleum. 

Women in Africa handcraft the shea butter; with every purchase, profits are reinvested into local communities. To top it all off, this brand is completely cruelty-free, so not only is it high quality, but it doesn’t test on our furry friends. 

SheaMoisture is a winner!

Pros
  • Hydrating, moisturizing, and nourishing
  • Encourages natural curl shape
  • Free of all the harsh chemicals 
  • Cruelty-free and profits go to local communities
Cons
  • None

Latest deal: SheaMoisture Curl and Shine Conditioner

2.

Maui Moisture Curl Quench Conditioner

Here is yet another brilliant curl defining that is high quality and free of all the nasties. This conditioner by Maui will deeply quench, nourish and soften dry, damaged curls with the brilliant blend of coconut oil, papaya, and plumeria extract. 

This conditioner is for frizzy, unruly hair; this natural blend of ingredients can help hydrate, smooth, and defrizz your curls while enhancing softness and body so you can count on bouncy curls, coils or waves. 

For starters, coconut oil is seriously beneficial for curly hair. The high vitamins and fatty acids penetrate deep to help moisturize and provide a protective coating to seal the hair. It also helps seal split ends and strengthens hair to prevent breakage.

Papaya is another creamy ingredient that detangles on contact while moisturizing and defining curls; papaya is rich in nutrients to help add shine to dull, lifeless hair while strengthening strands and promoting hair growth. 

But these aren’t the only benefits. 

Plumeria extract is yet another brilliant moisturizer. It leaves hair feeling smoother and softer while protecting hair from UV ray damage. It hydrates your hair and scalp while reducing the risk of flaky scalp and dandruff. 

This conditioner even includes aloe vera, which is a brilliant humectant. It has many active ingredients that work to strengthen your strands. It can even promote hair growth by stimulating the scalp and strengthening the ends.

So does it get any better than this? Well, yes, actually. It is free of silicones, sulfates, parabens, and it is also vegan, making it super safe for curls and sustainable. For the environment. 

It is a brilliant way to add shape to tightly textured curly or coily hair. I cannot fault it!

Pros
  • All-natural derived ingredients
  • It contains papaya, coconut oil, and aloe vera
  • Free of harsh chemicals and vegan
  • Ideal for tight curls and coils
Cons
  • None

Latest deal: Maui Moisture Curl Quench Conditioner

3.

Not Your Mother's Naturals Curl Shampoo and Conditioner

 best drugstore shampoo and conditioner for curly hair

We love curly hair products, but it’s not all about hydration and moisture; we want the bounce, definition as well as yummy hydrating properties that will nourish our curly hair strands. Not Your Mother’s other incredible drugstore curly hair products.

This set comes with a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner but if you’re like me and get through conditioner as quickly as you do socks, then buying the two-pack of conditioner is ideal, then you’ll never need to worry about keeping your curly hair hydrated.

Not Your Mother’s is infused with Tahitian Gardenia Flower and Mango Butter which offers some serious benefits for curl definition as well as keeping curls soft. Tahitian Gardenia Flower is brilliant at nourishing both the scalp and hair.

My favorite ingredient within this conditioner is mango butter; it has deeply moisturizing and has a regenerative effect on both the strands and scalp; it fortifies strands from the inside out, greatly softens dry hair as well as reduce breakage and smooth split ends.

The perfect ingredient for those with damaged curly hair.

But what I love about this conditioner is that it is made of 98% natural ingredients, which work to define curls without weighing them down and without leaving the hair greasy. This conditioner is perfect for all curlies, from fine hair to thick hair.

It is even safe to use on color-treated hair! To top it all off, this set is curly girl method approved, free from sulfates, silicones, parabens, phthalates, gluten, dyes, and it is even cruelty-free and vegan. After using this drugstore shampoo and conditioner, you won’t believe that it is a drugstore brand!

This shampoo and conditioner are changing the curly hair market!

Pros
  • Nourishing ingredients
  • Great for fine high porosity hair
  • Curly girl method approved
  • Strengthens hair from within
Cons
  • None

Latest deal: Not Your Mother’s Shampoo and Conditioner

4.

Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Moisturizing Conditioner

If you have tight type 4 naturally curly hair and struggle to infuse and retain moisture within your strands, then you need a bit of Meille in your routine to help with all your hair woes. For my tight coilies out there, this intense moisturizing conditioner by Meille is for you.

Think about this– intense hydration and silkiness, oh to live the dream!

Mielle Organics Pomegranate Honey Moisturizing and Detangling Hydration Conditioner provides everything you need for curl definition, moisture retention, and detangling those wild locks. It gives your curls that silky soft texture all coilies crave.

But here are the key benefits of the conditioner; for starters, it helps lock in moisture, and since high porosity and thick, tight coils go hand in hand– moisture retention is crucial. It also works to strengthen and detangle thick curly hair and prevent breakage.

So no need to fear; there will be no more of that comb being stuck in your curls as you contemplate life.

Honey is a legendary ingredient; it is the holy grail for curly hair. It has both humectant and emollient qualities, which go hand in hand to deeply moisturize then naturally create a seal over the hair shaft to lock in moisture within the cuticle.

Honey also helps to replenish moisture that is lost and fuse vitamins and minerals into our hair strands, keeping our curly hair healthy and strong. It strengthens, hydrates, and infuses goodness into every hair strand.

Pomegranate has natural UVA and UVB ray blocking qualities, so this protects the hair from being stripped of moisture and being damaged by the sun. When out in the sun all day, the rays strip the natural moisture and break down the protein in the hair.

Pomegranate also has the brilliant qualities of restoring elasticity in the hair. It even has pH balancing properties which make it a brilliant clarifier in curly hair shampoos, too, as it helps deeply cleanse pores and remove buildup.

Both ingredients work brilliantly together to replenish and help retain moisture within dry hair- no wonder these drugstore curly hair products by Mielle are a favorite amongst those with tight coils.

Just apply to wet hair and detangle in the shower- easy!!

Pros
  • UVA and UVB  protection
  • Honey is a natural humectant and emollient 
  • Deeply moisturizes
  • Perfect for type 4 curls
Cons
  • None

Latest deal: Mielle Organics Moisturizing Conditioner

5.

Carol’s Daughter Coco Creme Curl Quenching Conditioner

Whether you have curly or coily hair, we all need a bit of a hydration kick when it comes to our hair. Carol’s Daughter was specifically designed for curls, and their Cocoa Creme helps quench the thirst for dry ends. 

It provides instant, intense moisture to soften and restore shine to the hair. 

Whether you have short, coily 4c curls or loose waves, the ingredients in this Coco Creme conditioner will be sure to revive those dry ends. Your curls will look bouncy with the perfect blend of Mango Seed Butter, Shea Butter, and Coconut Oil.

But that’s not all.

Shea butter is frequently found in curly hair treatments because of its emolliating qualities. It softens and smoothes the cuticle to lock in moisture and deeply nourish curls.

Coconut oil is also extremely beneficial thanks to the fatty acids and high vitamins, which penetrate deeply into the hair shaft to moisturize and provide a protective coating to seal hair. 

Mango Seed Butter has strong moisturizing and regenerative effects on both the strands and scalp. It works to fortify strands inside out, soften dry hair, reduce split ends, and smooth split ends. 

To top it all off, Carol’s Daughter’s products don’t contain silicones, sulfates, parabens, petroleum, mineral oils, or artificial colors; it is basically free of all the nasties that are a no-no in curls. 

Your curls will never feel so hydrated!

Pros
  • Contains mango, shea butter, and coconut oil
  • Intense moisture kick
  • Restores shine and bounce
  • Works well with the shampoo 
Cons
  • None

Latest deal: Carol’s Daughter Coco Creme Curl Quenching Conditioner

Best Drugstore Conditioner For Curly Hair-- A Buyer's Guide

You don’t need to spend an arm and leg on buying curly hair products, especially products that you go through like the bucketload– cough cough conditioner. There are some pretty incredible drugstore curly hair products, especially conditioners when you know what to look for—knowing what ingredients work well with your hair and ones that don’t are also helpful too.

As we all know, silicones should be avoided in all drugstore curly hair products, as they’re likely to be non-soluble. When seeing silicones in professional brands like Olaplex, they use water-soluble silicones, but many drugstore brands use non-soluble ones.

But what’s the difference?

Well, non-soluble silicones tend to build up on curly hair as they can only be removed using sulfates. They create a film over the ends of the hair, which helps with moisture retention to begin with, but after a while, no moisture can penetrate through this barrier, so hair becomes very dry and brittle. Water-soluble silicones, however, aid hydration and wash out with water.

Check out my full guide on everything you need to know about silicones for more details.

But all you really need to know is to check the ingredients for drugstore conditioners for curly hair. Check to make sure the ingredients work for your hair porosity and they are free of any hidden nasties (check for the word “cone” on end).

That being said, Carols’ Daughter is great, but it does contain silicones–water-soluble, don’t worry.

Enough of me rambling on; let’s delve into how to condition curly hair and everything you need to know when buying drugstore curly hair conditioners. After all, we want to keep our curls soft and hydrated, so moisturizing in every step is key.

How To Condition Curly Hair

Conditioning your curls on wash day is pretty straightforward for straight hair, but for curly hair, it is slightly more complicated.

We should condition our curls every time we wash our hair. We can condition the ends of our curls every day if need be and rinse our heads with water to help get rid of excess oils.

The first thing you’ll want to do is wash your curls twice with shampoo. Remember you should only really shampoo once a week unless you have quite fine, greasy hair, and it MUST be with a sulfate-free shampoo.

Sulfates can be very stripping to the hair and can really damage the ends of the hair, causing curls to dry out frizz and even loss of definition in the curls. Once you’ve shampooed twice with a low-poo shampoo, you’re ready to go in with the conditioner.

Apply conditioner and start detangling:

With curly hair, you are brushing your curls while dry is a no-go. Instead, you have to detangle while wet, being extra careful as your hair is most fragile while wet.

This is why I recommend detangling with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb while the ends of your hair are soaked with conditioner; this will give your hair slip and help easily detangle knots.

Be patient and do this step in sections, starting underneath and working your way to the top; I do a rough detangle while the conditioner is on, then thoroughly after rinsing out and applying my leave-in conditioner.

Combing your hair while the conditioner is on the ends also helps encourage as much moisture as possible to enter the cuticle– which is ideal if you have low porosity hair.

As I said earlier, you have to be sure to avoid silicones in your conditioners, these leave a plastic film over the ends of your hair, and while your hair will look shiny, it will lead to buildup and can be quite drying.

Silicones can only be removed with a sulfate shampoo, so if you accidentally use silicones, be sure to do a ‘reset’ wash with regular, clarifying shampoo.

Apply styling products to sopping wet hair:

After showering, I prefer to work in sections when applying my styling cream or gel. Instead of applying them in the shower, I use a water spray, soak each section before applying my gel, and then style with my Denman Brush.

Most curly girls prefer to apply all their products in the shower before drying their hair, but I find I have a more defined curl when I use this technique.

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Ingredients To Look Out For In Drugstore Conditioners

When buying any products for curly hair, we all know there are some key things to look out for and key things to avoid. We curly girls have learned to be very ingredient savvy when on the hunt for new products, but if your have knowledge, don’t worry, I’m here to help!

Humectants: 

When buying any conditioning product for curly hair, the top thing you should keep an eye out for is whether the ingredients are humectants. Humectants are the common moisturizing agent found on most conditioners, shampoos, treatments, leave-in products.

Humectants rate best known for their ability to draw in moisture to the hair shaft while also retaining moisture and preventing loss of moisture. They’re also known to retain moisture while preserving the properties of products.

They are ideal for dry, damaged curls as they help prevent moisture loss which also helps combat issues like frizz. Those with thick, tighter curls tend to have the driest curl types, so adding humectant ingredients like honey can help combat moisture loss, and honey especially can help with moisture retention as well as it is a humectant and emollient.

Emollients:

Emollients are another super important thing to look for when looking for any conditioning product for curly hair; they work hand in hand with humectants. Humectants draw in moisture while emollients create a natural film to lock in moisture.

They are usually hydrophobic oils that form films over the hair’s surface; they help soften and smooth the cuticle to create this film over the strands. They are lubricants and provide extra slip making detangling a dream. 

This is crucial for curly hair as curly hair can only be combed through while wet, detangling properties play an important role in preventing breakage and help ease singles to prevent snagging or pulling. 

Occlusives:

Occlusives are another type of moisturizing agent, while humectants can help pull in water occlusive act as a barrier (similar to emollients) to hold in moisture. They are usually oil-based. 

Occlusives tend to be much heavier ingredients or sealants than emollients, which can help lock in moisture, such as olive oil. Olive oil provides a water/oil barrier, so water cannot escape the cuticle, and the cuticle cannot swell from the environment. 

Avoid silicones:

So we know that we must avoid sulfates when doing either the Curly Girl Method or just caring for your curls in general. Sulfates can be very stripping for the hair, especially curls; they can dry them out, cause damage, and even frizz. 

But there are a few other ingredients that you must avoid when caring for your curls, as, without sulfate shampoo, they cannot be removed, and silicones are the top ingredient you should avoid. 

Silicones are like plastic, and they’re used in conditioning products to smooth down the cuticle, make your hair feel softer reduce frizz. However, without a sulfate shampoo to remove them, it can lead to product buildup, and over time, this makes hair frizzier look limp and lifeless. It will also lose the life of your curl.

Silicones can only be removed with sulfates, and without sulfates, it causes buildup– not ideal, so it is best to cut it out completely. But don’t worry, you can still achieve silky soft hair without silicones; some people will tell you it’s even softer too!

Here are the silicones you should avoid:

  • Dimethicone.
  • Cyclomethicone.
  • Amodimethicone.
  • Phenyl Trimethicone.
  • Cetearyl Methicone.
  • Dimethiconol.
  • Stearyl Dimethicone.

Basically, anything that ends in ‘cone’ at the end. I like to buy all my products on my desktop rather than my phone, so I can use the find button to catch out any silicones that my eyes may have missed. 

But that being said, these are only non-soluble silicones; water-soluble silicones are much better for curly hair. Hence the name, water-soluble silicones tend to wash out with water and actually aid with hydration. They are super lightweight too.

Mineral Oils and Waxes:

Mineral oils, petroleum, and other waxes, which are also commonly found in conditioners, just like silicones, cannot be broken down without a harsh sulfate shampoo which is a no-no for curls. 

They can also weigh down your hair, and without sulfates to remove them, they build up like silicones. 

Some waxes use natural ingredients which are safe to style curly or kinky hair. However, most waxes are s non-hydrous, meaning they won’t wash out with just water or co-washing. 

If you find yourself accidentally using waxes or silicones, then you can use your reset shampoo to remove them, then go back to the Curly Girl Routine.

Finding A Conditioner For Your Hair Porosity:

Hair porosity also has a lot to say when it comes to how well products work on your hair. Since the cuticle is different on different hair types, some ingredients are either too heavy or not heavy enough to seal in moisture.

For high porosity hair, the cuticle is raised, so moisture leaves the cuticle as quickly as it enters. For high porosity curls, you should focus on using sealing oils and heavier ingredients to help seal in moisture within the hair.

Ingredients like coconut oil and olive oil are brilliant for creating seals over the ends of curly hair, they create a water/oil barrier so moisture is retained within the cuticle rather than lost 30 minutes after conditioning.

For low porosity hair, moisture has a hard time being absorbed, so heavier ingredients like coconut oil may be too heavy for this hair type as it is difficult to penetrate into the hair strand and just sits on top instead.

Instead, you should look at formulas packed with emollients like shea butter, jojoba oil, or argan oil. Argan oil is a personal favorite of mine for low porosity curly hair as it has a low molecular level, making it perfect for penetrating the flat-lying cuticle.

Argan oil is also great for those with fine curly hair as it is super lightweight and penetrates deep into the cuticle so if you have fine, low porosity hair, then using a conditioner with argan oil is a great alternative– so look out for this in drugstore brands!

Summary

So there you have it, who said you needed to spend an arm and a leg on something you use a bucketload of. When it comes to buying conditioner, if you know what works for your hair and what ingredients to look out for, there is no reason why you can’t go for drugstore brands.

I use so much conditioner it feels like I am buying a new bottle every month– my tight coilies will understand this struggle, so I find that purchasing a drugstore brand is my great alternative so I can use as much as my thirsty curls need.

Give some of these drugstore brands a go next time you’re looking to buy a new conditioner; you’ll be shocked by the results!

jess rowley

Jess Rowley

Cheif Editor & Nail Technician Expert

ABOUT

Jess Rowley, a veteran nail tech, has been studying beauty over the last 11 years and has completed the nail technology program in California. Watching the latest trends in beauty, Jess searches for the highest quality products that make your nails feel loved.