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curly haircare review
Courtesy of the writers

Reviewing the best (and worst) curly hair shampoos and conditioners

Two Dazed writers test out haircare catering to their curls to find out what products are really the best for curly hair

Jessica Langton: “Growing up mixed-race in the English countryside – which was, needless to say, extremely white – presented some hurdles. As you might imagine, one of the biggest hurdles came in the form of haircare. With little to no connection to my black heritage, trying and testing various hair products was part and parcel of growing up. From the dark days of Aussie’s ‘Calm the Frizz’ to discovering black hair shops, I can quite confidently say I’ve put my hair to the test more than a few times. 

For context, my hair type is 4C, about shoulder length, and prone to being very dry. I wash it once a week, and what I’m looking for in a product is something super hydrating and moisturising. I usually wear my hair tied back, so curl-defining products aren’t a top priority, although it is a bonus.”

Dominique Sisley: “I’ve come to view my hair as an entirely separate entity, with her own needs, moods and hormonal cycle. Inconsistent is the key word. She wafts between loose 2b waves to tighter 2c curls; between sizzled, frizzy ends to flat, greasy roots.

My curls can very easily get weighed down – giving me a real cocker spaniel vibe – but, confusingly, they also need A LOT of moisture to reverse the damage from years of bleach when I was younger. So, somehow, I need a shampoo and conditioner that will volumise, moisturise, cleanse, heal my past trauma and respect my curl pattern. How is that so hard?

Davines LOVE CURL Shampoo + Conditioner

Jessica Langton: Out of all the products, this was probably the one I was least excited by. I hadn’t actually heard of it before, and me, being completely obsessed with how things will look in my bathroom, was put off by the branding. But this is a lesson in never judging a book by its cover (or a shampoo bottle by its label).

Davines’ LOVE CURL shampoo and conditioner is a no-fuss wash with great results. Its natural ingredients – packed with proteins and vitamins B to give elasticity and volume – left my hair feeling soft and my curls defined and springy. Coming with a protective spray for blow-drying your hair post-wash, this was by far my top product. 10/10 will be using again!

Dominique Sisley: This is great, I can’t really fault it. It comes a close second for me. The only downside was that it was a little too moisturising for me, and left my hair a little heavier than I would typically like. That said, I took it on holiday and it saved me: in the blazing sun and thrashing ocean my hair would have been like straw, but Davines made it feel like silk. People with finer, wavier hair might be better off swapping out the shampoo with one from their VOLU range.

Buy it now: Davines Love Curl Shampoo (£19.50) and Conditioner (£21)

Bouclème Curl Cleanser + Conditioner

Jessica Langton: This is a brand I’ve been using for a little over a year, having been introduced to me by my hairdresser (whom I’d probably trust with my life). Having previously only used their curl-defining gel, I was intrigued to branch out into the brand’s wash range. Like Davines, this is another no-frills product. “Enough of the judgement,” Bouclème writes on its website, “there’s no right or wrong. Wear it any way you want it.”

Black female-owned, and you can tell, these products are for curly hair specifically. What is really great about this brand though, is its accessibility. Getting Afro hair products on the high street is a rarity, but Bouclème can be found in most local drug stores at an accessible price point. Perhaps not as nourishing as I would have liked, the shampoo and conditioner still left my curls feeling refreshed and looked after. All in all, this is a brand I will return to mostly for its simplicity and convenience. 

Dominique Sisley: This is unhelpful, and I’m sorry, but these products gave me both the worst and best hair of my life. There’s no consistency, I can’t explain it. The first time I used this, I’d honestly never experienced anything like it: I had mermaid hair! It was thick, silky and voluminous, with cascading waves. I got compliments from strangers, actual engagement on Instagram, and requests to divulge my secrets. “Bouclème!!!!” I screamed. I then rushed to my shower, eager to wash and begin the cycle again, only to come out looking like a maimed scarecrow. My hair was limp and dry and the curls had vanished. Are the glory days gone forever? Also, minor qualm, but the lack of lather makes it really hard to know what’s been distributed where.

Buy it now: Bouclème Curl Cleanser (£15) and Conditioner (£17)

Iles Formula Haute Performance Shampoo + Conditioner + Curl Revive

Dominique Sisley: OK so, for me, this was the clear winner. Curls were defined and silky, hair was big and bouncy – maybe a little prone to frizz, but nothing that a deeper weekly conditioner wouldn’t fix. The smell was subtle, almost fragrance-free. The curl reviver spray, as an additional styling product, did exactly as it promised – rejuvenated curls the next day, with just an added spritz of water. The only downsides were the actual bottles, which are seemingly designed to make it impossible to get anything out. Please, think of the weak! Otherwise, I wholeheartedly recommend.

Buy it now: Iles Formula Haute Performance Shampoo (£37), Conditioner (£46) and Curl Revive Spray (£48)


Jessica Langton: “Basic hair care for non basic hair” is BREAD’s tagline, and one which immediately captured my attention. Afro hair care is, much like people’s perceptions of Afro hair, condemned to be this ‘crazy’ thing. Afro hair is particular in its maintenance, yes, but having a basic hair care routine should not be something reserved for cuacasion hair only. And, having a brand that champions simplicity is great!

I was particularly impressed by the brand’s hair-wash, which is a co-wash meets cleanser. This was nowhere near as stripping as a traditional shampoo, with its milky foamy consistency a big winner for me. Following up with BREAD’s hair mask resulted in my curls feeling light, bouncy and deeply moisturised. Overall, this is a brand with style and substance.

Buy it now: BREAD BEAUTY SUPPLY Hair Wash (£18) and Hair Mask (£26)

Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Shampoo + Conditioner

Jessica Langton: You may have heard of Charlotte Mensah. She has styled hair for the likes of Indya Moore and Michaela Coel, written a book, and been dubbed “The queen of black hairdressing” by the Evening Standard. I was determined to like these products, but was left feeling somewhat disappointed. All in all, it was a fine experience, but really nothing to write home about. My hair didn’t feel moisturised or looked after in any way, just quite stripped and a bit dry. Perhaps this was a bad day and I will be trying this again (just to double check!) But, for me, this was sadly pretty average.

Dominique Sisley: A truly luxe experience. This creates an opulent lather, and exudes a fragrant, heady scent of nut oil and tropical flowers. I also loved the results – admittedly it wasn’t all that nourishing, and my hair was a little (/sometimes very) frizzy after using. But it was also really light and made my curls look defined and bouncy. I would recommend if, like me, your hair is on the finer side. But if it’s moisture you’re looking for, this probably isn’t it. Also the bottle is plastic, and really hard to use (?). Maybe it’s just me, but squeezing out the last quarter felt nearly impossible.

Buy it now: Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Shampoo (£24) and Conditioner (£26)

Oway Curly Potion + Hair Bath + Hair Mask

Jessica Langton: I was immediately drawn to this one, mostly because of the packaging, which, as my friend aptly pointed out, looks like Aesop (you know the one). However, the product did not live up to its alluring branding (please see previous point about judging a book by its cover etc). I used the curly hair bath and curl potion, followed by the curly hair mask, which I left on for about 10 minutes before rinsing out.

The shampoo was completely stripping and I needed to go through multiple rounds of conditioning to have my hair feeling somewhat hydrated. The hair mask did redeem the experience, but, all in all, this felt like a product which wasn’t suited for Afro hair – a point made clear on Oway’s website wherein they keep referring to ‘Anti-Frizz’ (quite triggering for me considering my aforementioned Aussie Hair days). Anyway! This is a product for the #shelfie arena of the Instagram explore page, and sadly not much more for me.

Dominique Sisley: The first couple of times I used this I loved it. My curls came out fairly defined, it didn’t weigh my hair down and the frizz was gone. But I think using it every other day, which I tend to do, made it start to lose its magic. My hair started to feel heavier, and the curls grew steadily looser. I feel like I abused it; I love bombed; I went too far too fast, when really it’s made for once-a-week cleansing. On the plus side, the bottle is glass, which – in an industry overrun by turtle-killing plastic – you simply must respect. The ethical choice! 

Buy it now: Oway Curly Potion (€39.50), Curly Hair Bath (27) and Curly Hair Mask (30)