Christina's Choice 2016: Best Curl Definers for Natural Hair

Christina's Choice 2016: Best Curl Definers for Natural Hair
The hardest category by far to narrow down!
Thisssssss is always theeeeeee most difficult, yet straightforward category for me each year. There are a lot of cool, good, and even great curl definers out there - and brands seem to create more and more every year. But when it comes to curl definers, I'm very particular about who gets that HG designation. My holy grail curl definers are typically thick, heavy, gel-gels that form a legit gel cast and have my curls poppin' for days on end. Here's why:

1. My hair is a multi-textured beast. I don't have baby smoove 3c curls out the gate like the perfectly positioned selfie would suggest. The back half of my hair is somewhere between 3b and 3c (its wavy and loose when wet, and dries into legit ringlet wavy curls with minimal product and manipulation). The crown of my hair has yet to be captured by any chart I've ever seen -- there might be a curl deep down inside somewhere, but with the amount of frizz and shrinkage, the world will never know. The front/middle section is the most disrespectful of the bunch. Where the crown is absolutely not here for my shenanigans, my front/middle section is that friend who don't never listen. You told them to meet you at Starbucks at 7, and they show up to Coffee Bean at 4. Just all kinds of loud and wrong. When wet, my front/center hair looks all wavy and sleek, very similar to my back half. But let that sucka go 2 seconds without water or product and it's poof city. It frizzes and shrinks like nobody's business, and doesn't even really "curl" except for the ends. The vast majority of it is some deep wave that might have wanted to be a curl in life, but dropped out of school 3 semesters shy of the degree.

2. I'm a gel kind of girl. The thicker and heavier, the better. In particular, I love gels that contain the thickening agent carbomer -- because it tends to make for a heavier gel that laaaaaaaays the frizz. Plus, I've discovered that no matter the application technique, some botanical gels don't allow my curls to "open up" and become juicy, full-looking curls, and I'm absolutely not here for ramen noodle teas.

3. I LOVE protein. My curls are protein junkies, and have zero interest in rehab. In all my years of transitioning and natural-ness, I've NEVER experienced protein overload. My hair looks at jars and bottles like hey, hey, got some protein? Knowing this, I seek out products with proteins and amino acids along every step of wash day. Curl definers are no exception. Gotta give the curls what they want, right? GIVE THE CURLS WHAT THEY WANT!

The perfect curl definer for my hair texture is a delicate dance between science and nature. I've discovered over the years that too much botanical action leaves me with sticky, stringy curls that never expand, while curl definers with too many ingredients that I can't pronounce will leave me with hair that is dull, rough, and dry.

These curl definers have been top performers in 2016 - and in the end, there could only be 3. You'll notice that one rather large tub is missing from the photo op, and well, that's because if I'm honest, I jussssst started back using Eco Styler gel toward the end of the year. Although I loved it in 2015, toward the beginning of 2016, my hair was far too damaged to deal with the weight of the gel - and it's just now bouncing back. We'll see what 2017 holds - but for now, my beloved Eco Styler Argan Oil Gel fares as an honorable mention.

Christina's Choice 2016: Best Curl Definers for Natural Hair
This is it ladies (and gentlemen!)
Up North Naturals 8-Oil Defining Gelly, 8oz/$14.99
If you're a gel girl like me, but also protein sensitive, 8-Oil Defining Gelly is the way to go for sure. I've used this product for well over a year - and it consistently delivers shiny, defined curls that last for days. It's packed with avocado, grapeseed, and jojoba oils so you know what that means - tons of moisture and shine. 8-Oil Defining Gelly is the only protein-free hair gel that has consistently performed for my curls!

Read More: Up North Naturals Review

Obia Naturals Curl Enhancing Custard, 12oz/$14.99
Obia blew my mind back in 2013 when I did my first review as a transitioner. 3 years later, I'm still ordering 2-3 jars whenever a sale pops up...or when I stroll into a Target, because that totally happened in 2016 and was another LifeAlert moment. Some products just have staying power, and I mean that both ways. Not only is Obia's Curl Enhancing Custard pH balanced for maximum curl poppage, it delivers shine, definition, and softness without leaving curls stringy or dry. Curl Enhancing Custard is honestly responsible for some of my best wash and go's in 2016. Need proof? Peep my empties video.

Watch: My Empties (Summer/Fall 2016)
Read More: Obia Naturals Review Part 1 and Part 2

New to the rotation for 2016 (but not new to me) is the Wonder Curl Get Set Hair Jelly. I loooooooooved this stuff down to the last drop. Gave me epic, multi-day curl poppage. Wonder Curl is perfect for difficult to define, frizz-prone curls. Get Set Hair Jelly is a gel's gel. Thick like EcoCreamy (but not as creamy) like Obia. SKRONG. I don't know what it is about this mixture, but it holds up. If your curls poof out 30 minutes after using gel, try Get Set Hair Jelly. If your curls won't clump together, try Get Set Hair Jelly. If you want curls that pop for consecutive days in a row without needing to reapply product, try Get Set Hair Jelly. The proof is in the pictures!

Read More: Wonder Curl Review

Deserted Island Pick
Christina's Choice 2016: Best Curl Definers for Natural Hair
This year, I HAD to give the win to Obia Naturals Curl Enhancing Custard. I've literally been rocking with this stuff since 2013. And it's never failed me. And it's epic levels of bomb. AND IT'S AVAILABLE ON THE GROUND. excuses. Obia for the win.

What curl definers are winning with you as we go into 2017? Any on this list you're anxious to try?Let me know in the comments below!

Stay tuned - best NEW products are next!

Keep up with all Christina's Choice 2016 pick here!
Check out Christina's Choice 2015 winners here!


  1. I love reading your product reviews! I have cabinet full of products but so far I've found that the following works for me: Curl Junkie Smoothing Lotion (as a leave-in), Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie (as a moisturizer) and Uncle Funky's Daughter Curly Magic (as a curl definer). Have you tried Uncle Funky's Daughter? It's definitely on the botanical side so curious as to what you think. I want to like Eco Styler but it just doesn't work for me - the next day my hair is super dry. My hair sounds similar to yours: loose in the back, what the hell frizz and shrinkage on the sides and pretty much zero curl in the front unless I twirl it. Where do you find Wonder Curl? It's been on my list to buy forever (I think because I read it on your blog) but can never find it. And the you use that like a gel? What is your whole routine when you use it (leave-in, etc)? It's been almost 2 years since I combed out my locs but I'm still learning!

  2. Love reading Christina's Choice of the year! Have you ever done a wash day with the winner of each category? I would love to see a best combo of the winners wash and go series on your youtube channel.