Choosing the Best Wax for Curly Hair

The happy medium: shiny and not-so-pasty.

Hair wax is a truly ingenious product: It provides texture, personality, control and that lived-in feel—all without looking like you tried too hard. When it comes to looking for wax for hair for curls, the challenge lies in finding formulations that define your ringlets without deflating them or imparting a prissy, crispy look that just screams “done.”

The Best Wax for Hair For Curls

best wax for hair for curls red middle parted waves
Hair wax for curls can aid in giving a wavy look some structure. Photo credit: Dvora

First off, how do you know whether you need a wax (or a gel, or a mousse) as a styling product? Well, it all essentially boils down to how much time you have to style your hair, and what look you’re going for. Gels and mousses can be applied to wet hair almost directly after towel-drying; waxes and putties, on the other hand, are harder substances that are more effective on damp-to-dry hair.

In terms of end results, gels give a wet, slick-back finish with the ability for extreme, all-day hold, whereas waxes and pomades are more pliant and malleable throughout the day, giving a more matte or velvety-looking finish. They also don’t make hair feel sticky, which is one of its main advantages.

What to look for in a hair wax

Those who like enhancing the natural texture and shape of their curls usually turn to a curl-defining cream or even just simple leave-in conditioner instead of wax. Since curly hair is often on the drier side, creams and conditioning products can provide this hair type with much-needed moisture. These formulations also help seal down its cuticles and protect it from frizz, especially when the weather changes or when humidity spikes.

Although considered a more unusual choice, using wax on curly hair isn’t unheard of. Mostly used by men, or women who want a more controlled look with their updos, wax can give curls a controlled, more manageable look.

The best wax for hair for curls is one that is more rubbery or tacky in texture rather than hard or pasty. Look for formulations that separate easily between your fingers, with a slight stickiness, but with an overall lightweight feel—anything that looks and feels too much like lard in a tin might drag on your spirals and give them a half-baked, almost limp shape. We adore the feel of a whip, such as Nexxus New York Salon Care Exxpand+ Volumizing Whip, which is lighter and more spreadable on ringlets, yet with the tack of a soufflé. For more streetified looks, we like the matte consistency of Bed Head by TIGI Manipulator Matte Cream, which texturizes and gives edge to either wet or dry hair without too much traction.


best wax for hair for curls like a shaggy dark mullet
Wax that imparts shine on curly hair also offers much more bounce and movement. Photo credit:

If you’re in the market for a hair wax that also imparts shine, look for formulations that have an oilier feel. We have to caveat: These won’t provide as much hold and control as a harder, more matte wax will, so best preserve these latter formulations for the guys or if you want to keep a shorter hairstyle under tight rein. Bed Head by TIGI Manipulator Cream has an awesome, fiber-like slip that also gives a modern finish.

Bonus: Hard wax hacks

If you really want to get some mileage out of your hard hair wax, it’s best to take a finger-swipe of the product and rub it between your palms so it warms up and effectively softens. Concentrating the product more on your fingertips, coil sections of curls around your fingers, coating them with the product as you do so. You can also scrunch hair with your fingers, lightly packing on the product as you texturize your coif.

You can also employ this trick when you want to refine and smoothen down the base of a curly updo. After gathering your hair into a ponytail or bun, take a small amount of warmed-up wax in your palms and pad down any frizzies or stubborn flyaways that go against the grain for a pristine, locked-and-loaded finish.

Which wax for hair for curls or wavy hair would you try?