The Curl Cream That Turned My Hair Routine Into A 1-Step Process
As those with curly or wavy hair know, cocktailing is your best friend. And while I do love a finely made cocktail on a Friday, cocktailing in this reference means mixing and layering hair care products. The idea is that by layering different textures, holds, and ingredients, you can better achieve the pattern and look you want—while also getting the hydration curls so often need.
And everyone has a different routine. Some swear by the LOC method, layering liquid to oil to cream. Others swap the cream and the oil around. Still, others add in a spray for heat or antioxidant protection. Some mix two or several creams together, in their palms, before applying. And even if you have a routine you simply adore, there's a good chance you have to make tweaks to it to account for the weather, seasons, and for countless other reasons.
This is all to say: Your best cocktailing routine is one that works for your hair, lifestyle, and product preferences. And for me, after years of experimenting, I've found my best cocktail routine is a one-step process. Apparently, I like my cocktails straight-up and neat.
The curl cream that transformed my hair care routine.
My wavy, curly hair ranges from anywhere from stretched-out S-waves to tighter spirals (so, let's say a curl type range of 2b to 3a). When my hair is particularly springy—like when it's humid and there's tons of moisture in the air—those patterns are tighter and curl with more oomph. When my hair is dry, or when I'm desperately in need of a trim, they feel looser and longer. Read: My hair, like for many women with curls and waves, changes on a daily basis. I don't always know what I'm going to get.
But one product that I've found helps keep them consistent is Miss Jessie's Pillow Soft Curls. This curly-girl brand—founded, formulated, and curated by hairstylists Miko and Titi Branch in 2004—makes a plethora of products that are specific to various curl types. Essentially: Their products run the gamut, so no matter where you fall on the curl spectrum, you'll find something. Their heroes are the curl creams, but you can also find shampoos, conditioners, co-washes, scalp treatments, and various other hair care categories.
The brand has always had a large and dedicated following among the curly-haired community, and for good reason: The stuff works. When I was first given a few cream options a while ago, I could tell just how different these were. They were formulated with precision, thoughtful ingredients, and clearly by people who knew their curls.
But like any beauty editor, I went about my sampling-and-testing business. Over the years, I consistently and constantly switched up my routine to try out the newest mousses, serums, sprays, creams, you name it. And to get my curls just right, I often found myself layering several options in the hopes that the recipe would get my waves and curls in shape.
Then, just before quarantine about a year ago, I got my hands on another bottle of Pillow Soft Curls. And after my first reintroduction with the cream, I remembered just how delightful the formula was—and just how much my curls responded to it.
So when we went into lockdown, I edited my routine down to one product—this product. It just made sense: I wasn't seeing as many people, I kept my restock of products at the office and so didn't have an arsenal of options to take home with me, and honestly, editing down my routine just sounded nice.
A year later, this is the only curl cream I've used. That's not an exaggeration. The formula sinks into hair, provides just enough hold—while also giving me the volume and lightness I crave. (Since my hair is a blend of waves and curls, it looks best when the hair feels airy and effortless—too-tight curls can read crunchy.) It also stays hydrated, largely thanks to the blend of plant extracts and oils, like safflower, avocado, and wheat germ oil. A not-so-inconsequential bonus? When hair is hydrated, it better reflects light. Read: My curls are shiny, too.
Once out of the shower, I towel dry my hair (with a microfiber towel, of course) just a touch so it's still damp. Then I go through and squish my hair with the lightweight cream, starting from the ends and working my way up to just under the root. I most often let my air dry, but if I plan to see someone (a big deal these days), I'll add a blast or two with my diffuser so the hair really gets some lift.
As anyone with waves or curls knows: Not all routines are made the same, nor are they made for everyone. This all-in-one curl cream works for me since it provides lift, weightless hold, and hydration.
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Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.