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4 curly girl-approved leave-ins to use for bouncy, defined curls or to slick back your strands

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I’m not a particularly high-maintenance person, but when it comes to managing my curly hair, I can’t help it. Keeping these strands soft, healthy and defined requires so many products!

I live in a fairly small apartment, so I’ve been on a mission to cut back on everything, hair products included. I recently did inventory, and I had three different shampoos, two different conditioners and a whopping seven different leave-in products. I needed to do better.

So, for the last few months, I’ve been experimenting with products that work for different curly styles, and I’m happy to report I found four winners. As I said earlier, I’m pretty simple when it comes to styling my hair. I usually alternate between two styles: a slicked-back bun or loose curls. At one time, I used different products for each style, but the four below miraculously work equally well to achieve either style. That means I only need one or two in my shower at any given time instead of, well, seven.

If you’re struggling to keep your curls looking and feeling their best without using a ton of products, I highly recommend the four below. Not to brag, but I frequently get compliments on my hair, and it’s not because I’m especially good at styling it. The magic is all in the products below.

P.S. In case it’s helpful, my hair type is probably somewhere between 3c and 4a.

Best Leave-In Conditioners for Curly Hair

adwoa beauty Melonberry Hair Milk Leave-In Conditioner, $24

$24 at Sephora

I just started using the adwoa beauty Melonberry Hair Milk Leave-In Conditioner in the last few weeks, and I really like it. The scent is a little sweeter than I normally like, but it does a really great job keeping my hair super soft whether I wear it loose or pulled back, so I deal with it. And for what it's worth, other people love the smell of this product. Folks on the train have told me how nice my hair smells when I use it. I also really like the spray bottle feature. It means I never get leave-in stuck under my nails, and I can apply it directly to my hair if I'm in a hurry.

PATTERN by Tracee Ellis Ross Styling Cream for Curly & Coily Hair, $25

$25 at Sephora

I first started using PATTERN by Tracee Ellis Ross Styling Cream for Curly & Coily Hair to slick back my hair, and my friends all thought I'd used gel. That's the kind of hold this cream offers, without the drying crunchiness, of course. When I used the styling cream on my loose hair, I was so surprised that it defined my curls so well and kept them soft and bouncy. It's a real winner and a great value. This jar is huge, and you don't need to use a lot, so it lasts a long time.

DevaCurl SuperCream Rich Coconut-Infused Definer, $31

$31 at Amazon

I used to only use DevaCurl SuperCream Rich Coconut-Infused Definer for loose curls. It offers seriously amazing weightless definition and hydration. My hair is pretty fine, and this cream is thick and nourishing but never weighs it down. I tried using the SuperCream for a slicked-back style when I was traveling, and it did a great job keeping my curls and frizzies in place. Whenever this product goes on sale (which isn't often), I always stock up because it's definitely one of my faves.

SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, Pack of 2, $19.94

$19.94 at Amazon

Last but not least, SheaMoisture's Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie is my favorite drugstore pick. It gives my hair great shine, whether I use it to slick my strands back or to define them when I'm wearing my hair loose. This one also has a really nice scent, so be prepared for compliments when you use it.

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