5 Best Curl Activators for Natural Curly Hair

hair with curl activator

Ever seen a natural with curls that made you stare in amazement and wonder: “What type of jerry curl activator did she use”? Did you know that with a curl activator, you can also get your curls to pop and shine in a way that will turn heads? In this article, I will be showing you all you need to know about a curl activator. Furthermore, I will provide you with the 5 best curl activators you can use for your naturally curly hair.

What is a Curl Activator?

A curl activator is a hair product that is applied to wet hair before styling to moisturize, soften, and hold your curls in shape. Simply put, they give your curls definition. Curl activators often contain humectants like glycerin which draw in moisture from the air to your natural hair. Curl activators are also called curl enhancers, moisturizing creams, or moisturizers.

What are the Benefits of Using a Curl Activator?

  1. They give your kinks, coils, or curls more definition
  2. They improve the shine of your natural hair
  3. They hold the curls of your natural hair in place
  4. They prevent frizz (which happens when your hair lacks moisture and so, loses its natural curl definition)
  5. They add volume to your hair

Frequently Asked Questions About Curl Activators

Will Curl Activators Make My Hair Curly?

The job of a curl activator is to help add more definition to your natural curl pattern. If your hair pattern is straight or wavy, curl activators will not be able to turn them into curls.

Will Curl Activators Weigh Down My Hair?

This depends on the product: while some are heavy, some are lightweight.

Will a Curl Activator Cause My Hair to Go Dry?

Yes. Some curl activators contain humectants that can cause your hair to experience something called “flash drying”. Flash drying happens when your hair loses moisture quickly after you have applied a hair product, causing it to become dry and brittle.

Curl activators can also cause your hair to experience dryness if you apply too much. To avoid dryness, simply apply a moisturizing cream (that is not a curl activator) to your hair before applying the curl activator.

Are All Moisturizing Creams Curl Activators?

No, not all moisturizing creams are curl activators. Usually, it is specified on the label of the product if they are or are not.

Is A Curl Activator Spray the Same As A Curl Activator Cream?

As their names suggest, there is a difference. The curl activator creams come in a solid form (the consistency of this could be thick or runny) and you need to rub it in your hair with your palm. On the other hand, the curl activator sprays come in liquid form and are usually in a spray bottle. All you have to do is spray it and massage the content into your hair.

What is the Best Curl Activator for My Natural Hair?

Later on in this article, I will be giving you a list of 5 of the best curl activators and honest reviews by users. This should help you in determining which curl activator suits your hair best.

How to Use a Curl Activator

This YouTube video by OnlyOneJess will show you how to apply a curl activator to your natural hair:

What you need:

Step-by-step Instructions

Step 1: Moisturize and Detangle

(It is advisable to start with clean, well-detangled hair. This makes it easy for you to work with.)

woman applying leave-in conditioner on natural hair
woman spritzing and brushing hair
  • Start by applying the leave-in conditioner all over your hair. Next, spritz with water and brush with your Denman brush.

Step 2: Apply Curl Activator and Gel

woman applying curl activator
woman applying hair gel on natural hair
  • Scoop a moderate amount of your curl activator onto your fingers and massage it in your hair from roots to tips, one section at a time.
  • Apply your gel using the same process.
  • Repeat for all the remaining sections of your hair.
curl activator finished look

Well done! Your curls are activated and well-defined.

5 Best Curl Activators for Natural Curly Hair

Here are 5 of the best curl activators and some honest reviews from naturals who have used them:

1. Creme of Nature with Argan Moisture & Shine Curl Activator Crème

Creme of Nature with Argan Moisture & Shine Curl Activator Crème

Product Claim: Moisture & Shine Curl Activator Cream is rich, creamy formula that will define and smooth your curls while leaving them bouncy and springy.

  • Instantly Revives Dry Curls
  • Anti-Frizz
  • Great for Detangling

Honest Reviews by Users

“Love love love !! this product is the only thing that made my curls pop ,but if your into products with a smell you could all ways add extinct oil to it cause it doesn’t have much of a smell.” – Starr on Amazon

“I love this stuff. Make my coils pop. Leaves my coarse hair feeling softer and moisturized for much longer than any other product that I’ve tried. I will buy this repeatedly.” – Neo on Amazon

“Yes, it's thick but the end results are what matters. At first I was like - it's too thick !- but I put a bit in each section, comb thru n let my hair air dry. Made my hair extra soft, curls last, smells great , did a little touch up mid week ( very small amount - refresh curls), and my hair was good throughout the week. Will add any additional observations as I use it.” – Butter on Amazon

2. AG Hair Curl Re:coil Curl Activator

AG Hair Curl Re:coil Curl Activator

Product Claim: Rich in our exclusive Curl Creating Complex (C3), RE:COIL separates and holds without stiffness or stickiness, even in high humidity.

  • Defines, maintains and moisturizes curls
  • Separates and holds hair without stiffness or stickiness, even in high humidity
  • Silicone-free
  • Intense moisture and frizz-controlling nutrients

Honest Reviews by Users

“Simply amazing!!!! I have curly curly frizzy hair and a friend at work told me I needed to purchase this product but I just couldn't justify the price. Finally after realizing i need to spoil my hair if I want to embrace its natural beauty I bought it. IM AM SO UPSET I DIDN'T LISTEN SOONER and I made sure to tell her! The product is light and soft and it does not stiffen your hair! my curls are amazing! I have the shampoo, conditioner, and leave in conditioner in my cart as I type!” – Larida Fortenberry on Amazon

“I have very curly, dry, hair and I have been looking for something that helps keep my curls looking soft while also taming frizz and making it feel moisturized. This is that product. I need a very small amount on wet hair to get the job done. As for it being crunchy, yeah, MOST curl products that add definition will create a cast on your hair (make it feel crunchy). Once it's dry you are supposed to scrunch it to break the cast. After you do that you are left with extremely soft, defined, gorgeous curls.” – Crystal on Ulta Beauty.

“I use it after using the spray. It leaves my curls soft and never frizzy.” – JBD on Ulta Beauty

3. Carol's Daughter Coco Creme Curl Perfecting Water Coco Mist Spray

Carol's Daughter Coco Creme Curl Perfecting Water Coco Mist Spray

Product Claim: Carol’s Daughter Coco Crème Curl Perfecting Water Coco Mist instantly activates and controls curls and coils, to perfect their natural pattern, whenever they need it. This lightweight, non-sticky, styling formula sets wet curls with soft, flexible hold as you define and re-wets dry hair just enough to re-set curls between washes, extending the life of your styles.

Honest Reviews by Users

“This was absolutely amazing to my hair. I have very dry hair right my crown and those curls very rarely stay pretty but this mist kept my hair hydrated and looking pretty. This was my 1st time ever using Carols Daughter products and I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed this and will definitely repurchase.” – Melemelissad on Walmart

“The bottle is def a good value size. This product is simple to use and sprays on evenly. When I used this product I used it on freshly washed hair. My hair looks amazing I didn't have to use any other product except this one and the cream. My curls popped as it dried. This wasn't sticky and didn't make my hair hard! This is my new go to product!!!!! ❤️❤️❤️ here is my before and after ❤️❤️” – Ashleyleah on Walmart

“I think the packaging is very important when doing hair. This is very easy to use with wet hands. It comes out the pump nicely and gives really good hydration and care to the hair. I used it with a gel and my curls were poppin! It met my expectations far and beyond!” Arosario on Walmart

4. Smooth ‘N Shine Polishing Curl Activator Gel

Smooth ‘N Shine Polishing Curl Activator Gel

Product Claim: Create your own unique style with Smooth 'N Shine Curl Activator Gel Extra Dry Hair. It's made with glycerin and aloe vera to help define and smooth curls. Smooth 'N Shine Curl Activator gel also works to condition dry and damaged hair. The added proteins help to strengthen and repair extra-dry hair. This product provides flexible hold and is made with an alcohol-free formula.

Smooth 'N Shine Polishing Curl Activator Gel with Aloe Vera:

  • For extra dry hair
  • Curl activator
  • Be smooth, be shiny, be noticed
  • Create any curl style
  • Unique blend of glycerin and aloe vera, curl activator gel helps define and smooth curls while conditioning and softening dry, damaged hair
  • Provides flexible hold
  • Added proteins help strengthen and repair extra dry hair
  • Helps define and smooth curls while conditioning and softening dry and damaged hair
  • Alcohol-free
  • Package contains 10.5 oz of Smooth 'N Shine gel

Honest Reviews by Users

“I love this product. It holds my hair in place and gives it a soft sheen. Will keep on buying it.” – DMAN on Amazon

“I decided to go natural not too long ago. I did the big chop and wanted the curly look but could never to get it curly plus my hair was very dry so I couldn't really do much with it. When put this curl activator in my hair, it immediately turned curly plus it kept my hair super soft. I definitely recommend this product!” NattyPatty345 on Walmart

“This was the 1st product I used that gives my natural hair beautiful curls that last for days without applying a lot daily. After, I wash my hair I saturate my hair with it and twir my fingers in a circular motion for about 3-5 minutes to bring out the curls.” Beautiful on Walmart

5. Lustrasilk Curl Max Curl Activator Moisturizer


Lustrasilk Curl Max Curl Activator Moisturizer

Product Claim:

  • Gives dramatic definition, shape and control
  • Prevent stubborn flyaways and frizz
  • Enriched with argan oil

Honest Reviews by Users

“I love love love this product. I’ve never achieved a better wash n go then with this (pic is 1 day old). The consistency is perfect with amazing slip- I exaggerate not. I 1st used the Kinky Curly Knot Today leave-in, then this, followed by Fruit of the Earth aloe vera gel. My curls were SO soft, moisturized and shiny w/volume. I added a little oil to my roots the next day. I will definitely get at least a week out of this wash n go. I highly recommend this product. It comes in a HUGE container.” – NaturallyNikita on Amazon

“This is by far my favorite product to use on my hair for damn near everything now. I had extremely DRYYYY hair. I mainly use it for wash n gos because this thang works like magic, keeping my hair moist for almost 2 weeks. I have used every product under the sun to moisturize my hair and this here actually works. I put it on my hair in smalls sections til foam appears, then apply a little of curling cream and gel on top if I want it to last more than a week. My hair is bouncy and my curls pop! I tried the LCO method before and that has worked but it only last for a day. I am convinced this is what I have been missing and the price is nice. Try it if you've been struggling to maintain moisture like myself, struggle no more!!” – Sinamen on Amazon

“This bottle is WAY bigger than i thought it was going to be which is a plus honestly. Smells great my curls are super defined. I saw this product in a youtube video and combined it with coconut ecostyler and it worked so nicely! I have 4b/4c low porosity hair” – Khalia Hamilton on Amazon


Curl activators are one of the best ways to get your curls popping more noticeably. Simply select any from the list above to get started.