How To Identify Heavy and Lightweight Curly Hair Products

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One of the main things I have struggled with since going curly is how heavy most products for curly hair are. Since I have such fine, low density hair I need lightweight products, and most products designed for curly hair are not lightweight. So I often opt for non curly lines making sure the ingredients are all approved.

After years of this, I have figured out how to quickly and easily tell if a product is lightweight or heavy.

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What are light products?

Lightweight products are usually water soluble and thinner in consistency than heavy products. They tend to have few or no sealing ingredients, which are ingredients like oils and butters. Sealing ingredients, also called emollients, are moisturizing but they sit on the hair and coat it, weighing it down. This is ideal for thick hair, but something you want to avoid if you have thin, fine, or low porosity hair.

Lightweight products have:

  • no or few oils
  • no or few butters
  • no silicones
  • no waxes
  • no petroleum/mineral oil

If you're following the curly girl method, then you're already avoiding silicones, waxes, and mineral oil so we will just focus on oils and butters.

Lightweight products would be products like serums, mousse, gel, shampoo, and some conditioners. It really depends on the ingredients as there are heavy versions of these types of products as well. So let's see how we can tell the difference.

Identifying Lightweight Products

There are a couple of steps to figuring out which products are lightweight. We are going to use the list from above to help us identify lightweight products.

1. The first ingredient should be water or aloe.

This is the most concentrated ingredient in the product so you want to make sure it's lightweight. Water is the lightest way to hydrate hair so that is usually the first ingredient in lightweight products.

Let's look at this curly styling serum from TreLuxe. It is marketed as lightweight and you can see the first ingredient is water so that checks the first requirement.

Treluxe brand Reflex lightweight styling curly hair serum and ingredient list with water highlighted

If you're looking for something lightweight and water or aloe are not the first ingredient, then put the product down.

2. Check the top 5 ingredients.

Since ingredients are listed in order of concentration, you want to avoid oils and butters in the top 5. Let's look at a few popular curly girl products and see the differences.

Let's look at the TreLuxe ReFlex Serum again. You can see the top 5 are all lightweight so this is a great choice.

Treluxe brand Reflex lightweight styling curly hair serum and ingredient list highlighting some of the first/top lightweight ingredients in curly hair products

Let's have a look at The Innate Life Leave-In Conditioner. We can see 2 heavy ingredients in the top 5 so this is not lightweight, although because it's not loaded with a ton of heavy ingredients it wouldn't necessarily be heavy, more in between.

Innate Life brand conditioner with ingredient list highlighting of the  ingredients that would determine if this is a slight or heavy curly hair product

Now let's look at the Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie. You can see just in the top 5 there are 4 heavy ingredients, all oils and butters. Even beyond the top 5 there are more so this would be considered a heavy product.

SheaMoisture Coconuts & Hibiscus Curl enhancing Smoothie's ingredient list that make it a heavier curly hair product

3. Look for lighter ingredients overall and make sure the product isn't loaded with a bunch of heavy ingredients after the top 5.

Once we've established the top 5 are not heavy, you want to see if the product is using mostly lightweight ingredients. Look for extracts, hydrosols, milks, and waters.

It's ok to use products with oils and butters, but you don't want it to have numerous. Scan through the full ingredients list and mentally add up the heavy ingredients. It should just be a few. Let's look at 2 examples below.

Again the ReFlex Serum wins here. It is full of lightweight ingredients all the way to the end of the list.

Treluxe brand Reflex lightweight styling curly hair serum and ingredient list highlighting of the top lightweight ingredients in curly hair products

Cantu Twist & Lock Gel on the other hand is loaded with heavy ingredients all the way down. It only has 1 heavy ingredient in the top 5 but the the middle and end are pretty much all heavy ingredients. So this is considered a heavy product.

Cantu Shea Butter Twist & Lock Gel  with a list of heavy ingredients in curly hair product

So as usual, you have to be an ingredient detective. It gets easier with practice and the good thing is that oils and butters are easy to spot on ingredients lists.

Check out my post on my favorite products which includes lightweight products I love using on my fine curly hair.

Is this curly hair product lightweight chart how to tell by looking at ingredients

Product Matching Guide

Looking for specific product recommendations for your hair type?

Check out my product finder, the Curly Product Handbook. This guide will show you how to identify your hair type and characteristics, provide some styling tips, and list exact products that will work on your hair type. Click here for more info.

Curly product handbook

If you want help with embracing your naturally wavy or curly hair, you can join my FREE email course and download my FREE pdf guide, THE QUICK START GUIDE TO MASTERING YOUR CURLS, full of everything you need to know to get started and bring out your beautiful waves and curls.

Check out my other popular posts on curly hair:

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  1. Your hair always looks so pretty. I love your new haircut. One would never know you have low density hair. Your blog and you tube channel have quickly become one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge with us!

    1. Hi Konni. Search the blog for a post on my favorite products and you’ll find what I use on a regular basis 🙂 At this point I rarely dc but I started off with weekly treatments and started tapering off after a few months.

  2. I was thinking if you could post some easy DIY leave in conditioners and also how to maintain wavy hair when doing a DIY routine. Basically DIY because sometimes it is just too expensive to afford the right products especially for students or the young who rely on their parents for pocket money.

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