Ingredients 101 - Curl Definition


A curly girl’s life can be dominated by curls and hair products that are able to discipline, control and showcase the beauty of their natural hair. It can be a hard quest since the market is literally bursting will thousands of products and navigating through them can be a minefield.

Of course, having the proper knowledge of curly hair, your individual hair needs and of product ingredients can help a lot when the time comes to choose your curl defining product.

A lot of the times choosing the right product feels like a hit and miss mission. While years ago a gel was the obvious choice, these days things are a bit more complicated as there are curl creams, gels, smoothies or custards all promising to define or enhance your curls.

The key, again, is in looking at the ingredients’ list and spotting specific ingredients in the formula meant to help your curls clump, keep them in position and fight frizz away, hopefully.


Here are some of the ingredients you can find in your gels or curl defining products that will actually help you tame your curls:

Marshmallow Root (Althea Officinalis) - a conditioning ingredient which mucilage provides slip to help detangle curly hair. The gooey substance will dry to help your curls stay in place

Flaxseed/Linseeds- very rich in Omega 3, these seeds also produce a gelatinous substance that eases tangles and knots and set your curls in position

Slippery Elm (Ulmus Fulva) - another slimy substance you’ll find in your hair products to help smooth, condition, detangle and work like a hair gel

Aloe Vera - the pulp of this plant is sticky and can be used in hair products to help define and moisturise the hair. It provides a light hold

Guar Gum - derived from the guar bean it reduces static, smoothes and provides hair shine. It also provides viscosity to formulas

Xantum Gum - increases the thickness and slip in hair product formulas

VP/VA Copolymer - provides a soft hold, helps the hair feel soft and resist humidity

Polyacrylate-2 Crosspolymer - provides a strong hold and is resistant to humidity

Polyquaterniums (+ number) - ingredients that create a film and provide hold and resistance to humidity in hair products

Carbomer (+ number) - provides thickness and viscosity and helps fix the curls in place


Knowing about these ingredients gives you an advantage reducing much of the guessing game and saving you money when buying your products. However, you density, hair texture and even your climate can also dictate if a product will work for you or not.

So, for instance, if you have thick, high-density hair you may prefer a product that provides a strong hold and will give you more day-afters whereas fine, low-density hair can get the same results using a product with soft hold. Of course, if you love a bit of frizz or the 3-day look on day one than go for the soft hold product.

Additionally, if humidity is your ‘Achilles Heel’ and you want to desperately control that variable then look for ingredients that resist humidity in your hair product.

In the end, you’ll never know what works for your hair unless you try it. Two products can have approximately the same ingredients but their formulations will be different and so will your results. Additionally, you may also like a specific product to achieve soft curls and another one for strong definition. It will depend on what look you’re trying to achieve. Either way, I hope this little ingredient list will help you!

Our mission is to arm you with the best products for textured hair and to guide you in finding the best routine for YOU.

Winnie Awa, founder of Antidote Street