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I Test Hair Products for a Living and Here are 11 Items That Every Naturalista Should Try

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It’s been seven years since I decided to go natural and rock my curly hair. Throughout the journey, I tested dozens of products to find ones that work for my 3C texture and I found a few that have actually improved my curls. Whether you’re just starting your natural hair journey or you’re looking to spruce up your routine, here are 11 items you should definitely try. Seriously, would a curly gal ever steer you wrong?

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I’ve been using this shampoo for years. Whenever my scalp is super dry or flakes start to reappear, I reach for this bad boy asap. The shampoo soothes and nourishes the scalp with a blend of zinc pyrithione, olive oil and tea tree oil, which also reduces dryness and clears up dandruff after one wash. Plus, the peppermint oil lends a tingling sensation that makes wash day such a calming experience.

This Carol Daughter’s shampoo was one of the first products I tried early on in my journey. My curls can get super dry, but this sulfate-free formula cleanses my scalp, while giving the rest of my strands a boost of hydration. With ingredients such as coconut oil, murumuru butter and mango butter, the mixture leaves your hair soft and hydrated. 

When it comes to conditioners, this one by Aunt Jackie is a must for my hair. It features a grapeseed, castor and tamanu oil blend that repairs dry locks and make your curls shiner and more defined. I primarily use this as a conditioner, but it’s also helpful as a hair mask every other week. Once I rinse it off, my curls are tangle-free and prepped for the next steps of my routine.

Any curly-haired person (or naturalista) will tell you how important deep conditioner is in your wash routine. I have plenty of favorites, but this one is at the top of the list. The nourishing blend (aka sunflower seed oil and superfood oil) softens, conditions and moisturizes your hair without leaving it too greasy or heavy. I apply it once a week, let it sit for a few minutes (or longer if I have time) before rinsing it out for silky results. It’s definitely a game-changer. 

A styling routine should always start with a good leave-in conditioner. This one has been in my collection for years. It repairs dry and damaged locks, while also encouraging new hair growth. When my hair starts to soak up all the moisture from a wash, I apply this leave-in conditioner to replenish my locks and keep them tangled-free. Oh, and the blueberry scent is the icing on the cake. It’s a pleasant scent that’s not overpowering, which is a bonus for me. 

It’s no surprise this hair milk made the list (just look at my whole review on it). It’s been a daily staple for hydrating my curls and adding back definition wherever I need it. The organic avocado oil, shea butter and jojoba oil in the formula help to soften, smooth and style my hair without weighing it down. 

I’ll admit, I’m a bit hesitant to use hair oils. I’ve always had a tough time finding one that wasn’t too heavy for my curls. That’s where this Bread Beauty pick comes in. This silicone-free oil is lightweight and keeps curls soft, glossy and smooth, making this a staple in my styling routine. The key ingredients—kakadu plum oil, safflower oil and capryl capric triglycerides—reduce frizz, prevent tangles and improve shine. All you need is a few drops to get the job done. 

Recently, I’ve been rocking knotless box braids and this scalp serum has been a lifesaver. If you have a protective hairstyle or wear tight looks (i.e. ponytails, top knots), this relieves any tension instantly. The soothing formula includes biotin, avocado oil and liquid proteins, which offers a cooling effect and cuts down on dryness. Seriously, my scalp feels so refreshed and calm every time I apply this, which has allowed me to extend the wear of my braids. 

My Felicia Leatherwood Detangler brush has a special place in my heart wash routine, but I reach for this Prose bristle brush to style and define my curls. After taking the brand’s quiz and testing all the products customized for my hair, I found this brush to be a standout. The wire bristles are designed for thick and curly hair, so I’m able to brush through each section easily and get better definition than when I just use my fingers or another brush. 

Finding a blow dryer that dries and straightens natural hair can be a struggle. I found this Conair one to be helpful (and my mom is a big fan, too). It comes with three style attachments, which makes it easy to dry and smooth my hair. When I want to show off a voluminous blowout, I can always rely on this heat tool to cut down on dry time and keep my hair tangle-free and shiny for the rest of the day. 

If you don’t own silk pillowcases, then you’re missing out. This one is made with 100 percent mulberry fabric to reduce frizz and friction (which is great for a bed tosser like myself). It feels incredibly gentle against my hair and skin, so I can catch some zzz’s knowing I won’t wake up with major bed head in the morning.