I Tried the Top Upvoted Curly Hair Product Routines From Reddit—Here’s What Worked (and What Didn’t)

To the casual Internet user, Reddit can seem like an endless den of threads, fandoms, and people posting pictures of cute animals. And it is—the R/Aww subreddit is often the thing that keeps me going. But on the beauty side, the site also holds the key to crowdsourced product reccs, the craziest new, under-the-radar products, and answers to most of your beauty woes. As the owner of a head of 3b curls, I have a long history of issues. We’re in a good place now, but to give you some idea of my hair growing up, picture Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in the first Harry Potter movie. Now, double her hair width by two. I’ve burned some pictures.

After many years of trial and error, I finally found what I believed to be the ideal hair routine a few months ago. Most curly-haired people—or anyone with hard-to-please hair—can probably relate: once you find your styling routine, you generally stick with it for good. Trial and error sucks, as does always wondering if the day will bring great curls or a poofy nightmare. That said, the hair selfies people post on r/Curlyhair are magnificent—and never one to stick with the “good” in case there turns out to be an “even better” (it’s a character flaw), I logged on to Reddit and went down the rabbit hole.

PHOTO: Jennifer Mulrow

With each person’s current routine listed along with the photos, it’s a feast of curly hair porn that you could theoretically replicate at home—so I did, testing out each of the sub’s top upvoted routines. I’ll be honest, I was expecting to run into a few bad hair days, but I was wrong to doubt. Across the regimens, Reddit uniformly delivered the defined, ideal curls above. My hair looked seriously identical every day—which wasn’t the rollercoaster of results that I was expecting. Sorry, but also not sorry, I love good hair days and Reddit knows its stuff. It wasn’t a wash (eh) by any means, though: here, your guide to the best and worst parts of each routine, with defined curls guaranteed.

Routine One: Laptop Next to the Shower

PHOTO: Jennifer Mulrow

I started the adventure off with a riddle of a routine: only three products were involved, so by all accounts it should have been easy. But the accompanying instructions were seven steps and eight paragraphs of vernacular, and for my 7 A.M.-showering soul, not easy to remember. So with my computer literally balanced on my toilet seat, I hopped in shower and got started. A did a quick shampoo with DevaCurl Low-Poo Shampoo, and then we were onto the technique that changed everything. It’s called “squish to condition” A.K.A. “squish to condish” A.K.A. “s2c.” It means you keep on scrunching in DevaCurl One Condition Decadence until your hair makes a very pleasing, squelching sound when you squeeze it, and in the words of redditor Curlysueee, it feels like “squishy noodles.”

After you reach the squelch point, you let it sit and brush out your hair with your fingers or a wide tooth comb (I used a comb). Step under the shower head and “drizzle rinse,” which Curlysueee describes as stepping under the water for 10 seconds to rinse conditioner from the top of your head. You don’t want conditioner at your roots, which will weigh your curls down, but you still want a lot of it left for the hydration benefits. While still in the shower, you then “build your cast,” which is a fancy way of saying “put gel in.” Slather your hair in DevaCurl Ultra Defining Gel, reach the squelch point again, wrap your hair in a microfiber towel, and air-dry from there.

Best for: Beginners trying to get the lay of the curl land. It’s beyond thorough, and it taught my curl veteran self some good tricks.

Worst for: Not going through conditioner at a mile a minute. After one shower, I’d made a noticeable dent in the bottle. If you have early morning meetings, also beware: the conditioner mixes with the gel and leaves a goopy white coating while it’s drying. It’s not crazy noticeable, but don’t be surprised.

Total cost: $66

Routine Two: The Hit Maker

PHOTO: Jennifer Mulrow

It’s named as such because with over 20,000 upvotes on Reddit, this routine went incredibly viral a few months ago. At the time, people were in awe of both her curls, and the thorough regimen she’d developed to get them. I’ve gotta say, though, this routine actually turned out to be one of the simplest of the bunch. Shampoo and condition how you please, then squeeze out water with your hands, and then with your head flipped over, run a dollop of Cantu’s Shea Butter Leave in Conditioning Repair Cream through your hair. Scrunch in a generous squirt of Miss Jessie’s Multi-Cultural Curls Cream, tie up your hair with a cotton T-shirt (I used a microfiber towel again), and let it sit for 10 minutes. Reddit user Capslockramen recommends using a diffuser for 20 minutes while scrunching your hair with the towel to help it dry faster, but I’m an air-dryer through and through, and didn’t miss it.

Best for: People with easy access to Miss Jessie’s (i.e., a Target). This routine gives great results (as they all do), but it took me three drugstore visits to find one that carried the Miss Jessie’s cream.

Worst for: People who don’t have half an hour to dry their hair in the morning; people with thin hair. The Cantu was great for me, but as they say online, it’s thicc.

Cost: $21.99 (not including shampoo and conditioner)

Routine Three: The Cruelty-Free

PHOTO: Jennifer Mulrow

As someone who’s never met a too-strong gel, I was wary heading into the Aveda routine. Per Reddit user anxietygirl13 (an anxietygirl after my own heart), you use the brand’s co-wash and conditioner, then comb and rinse. Squish to condish with the same conditioner, flip over your head, and run a few pumps each of Aveda’s Be Curly Curl Controller and Style Prep through your hair. Up until this point, I’d been intimately familiar with all the product categories on my head. Cowash, conditioner, leave-in, gel—the mileage varies, but you generally know what you’re getting. The Curl Controller, on the other hand, was way thinner than I was expecting, while the Style Prep was also a squirty little guy. Bottom line, I was nervous—but the combo gave good curl, and if you’ve ever walked past an Aveda, you know what my head smelled like all day. Would recommend.

Best for: Cruelty-free curlies, and anyone into the Aveda smell.

Worst for: People who need a seriously heavy product. The routine worked well for my 3b hair, but any kinkier and you’d probably need some more heft.

Cost: $96

Routine Four: The Deva Advanced

PHOTO: Jennifer Mulrow

Reddit loves it some DevaCurl, and when you see the beautiful Jon Snow hair it gives people like Reddit user bludog89, it’s easy to understand why. That hair comes via a twist on the first Deva routine: wash with the brand’s No-Poo Shampoo (which is non-lathering, as opposed to the low-lathering Low-Poo above), then condition with Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree Special Conditioner, which gave my scalp a crazy tingle. It’s supposed to—that’s the scalp exfoliation. Follow with DevaCurl’s Styling Cream applied in sections, topped with DevaCurl’s Light Defining Gel Soft Hold No-Crunch Styler.

Best for: Dry-haired, dandruff-prone curlies who want a routine that’s more sexy-effective than clinical-efficient.

Worst for: People who want to wash and go.

Cost: $104

Routine Five: The Drugstore Dark Horse

PHOTO: Jennifer Mulrow

God, I was anxious before this one. I can handle a long routine, but this short one gave me a cold sweat and visions of poofy hair. The directions only said to shampoo and condition with Garnier’s Curl Nourish line, and post-shower, run some of the line’s leave-in through your hair. Top with Suave’s Captivating Curl Mousse, and you’re done. According to Redditor Waderboddle, the routine was born of effort lost. She wrote, “I used to complicate it with so many different products and techniques, but the results just were not worth it.” And damnit, she was right! The shorty delivered the same defined ringlets I’d cautiously come to expect. Although, a confession: after many years of horrific hair thanks to mousse, I only trust Dove’s Nourishing Curls Whipped Cream Mousse, and solely because it was recommended to me by the Olsen twins’ hairstylist, Mark Townsend. I subbed it in. The routine worked great. (And I’m sure I would’ve been fine without the swap.)

Best for: A short, sweet, and cheap routine.

Worst for: People with mousse PTSD. Trust doesn’t come easy.

Cost: $15.34

My overall takeaway

Reddit knows its curly hair routines backwards, forwards, and up a double helix. I was mentally prepared for a week of bad hair, but from the elaborate, thousand-word routines to the quick, easy, and dirt cheap, the experiment proved that across price ranges and effort levels, curly hair products have stepped it up. Across regimens, the consistent trick to 3b hair turned out to be giving it moisture and hold; with that in mind, I’ve been flipping through the routines ever since, with only a few trips back to my tried and true. Curly hair products were a toss up back in the day, but—hand held by Reddit—if you’re not totally satisfied with what you’ve got, excellent options exist.

Related Stories:
28 Fresh Takes on Pinterest’s Most Popular Curly Haircut
The Cleansers and Enhancers That’ll Make You Love Your Curls Times Infinity
Scalp Exfoliation Sounds Gross, But It’s Given Me the Shiniest, Bounciest Curls Ever

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