What’s the Best Curl Activator for Straight Hair?

best curl activator

I’m going to show you the best curl activators for straight hair.

Are you ready to step into this summer with bouncy, beautiful curls? I thought so! Time to get yourself a curl activator to bring some bounce to your straight hair.

But choosing the right product can be so difficult! Choose the wrong one, and you can end up weighing down your strands. If you’re not careful, you could even end up damaging your hair!

No worries, girl! I have done a bunch of research, so you don’t have to! Taking into account different hair types, styling processes, and of course, the ever-important formula, here is a list of my top five favorite curl activators for straight hair.


My top recommendation for curl activators is Oribe Curl Control Silkening Crème. Its moisture-rich formula reduces the frizz and amps up the definition of your curls. 

Here Are the Best Curl Activators for Straight Hair

#1 Oribe Curl Control Silkening Crème
  • For dry hair
  • Contains avocado oil
  • Protects and strengthens
#2 TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier

  • Formulated with hydrolyzed keratin
  • Contains silicone alternatives
  • Provides hold and control over curls
#3 Cake Beauty Curl Friend Defining Curl Cream

  • Moisturizes hair in a feather-light formula
  • Paraben-free
  • Sweet fragrance
#4 SGX NYC Curl Power Curl Creme

  • Provides lightweight hold and conditioning
  • 2019 Allure Best Of Beauty Winner
  • Free of parabens and phthalates
#5 OGX Locking + Coconut Curls Air Dry Cream

  • Heat-free styling cream
  • Made with coconut and shea butter
  • Contains natural silicones

The following curl activators for straight hair cover a range of hair types and styling choices so that you can find the perfect one for you.

1. Oribe Curl Control Silkening Crème

Every curly girl needs curl activators, but what if your hair is dry? I’m not talking about regular dryness — I’m talking about Sahara Desert-level dryness. If your hair currently resembles something closer to straw, you need Oribe Curl Control Silkening Crème.

Key Features

  • Made for dry hair
  • Made with avocado oil
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Sometimes hair loses its curl due to dryness and damage, and that’s where Oribe Curl Control Silkening Crème comes in. Oribe Curl Control Silkening Crème uses an ultra-hydrating blend of natural oils to lock moisture into your hair, transforming it into soft, touchable curls.


  • Moisturizes dry hair without weighing it down
  • All-day frizz control
  • Creates ultra-soft, touchable curls


  • Price point is a splurge

If you are struggling with dry, damaged hair, this is the miracle product for you. Oribe Curl Control Silkening Crème transforms lifeless hair into beautiful curls.


2. TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier

Starting off the list, TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier is a wonderful and highly versatile formula. Apply it to wet hair and towel dry for a boosted natural look, or use it with a curling iron for even better curl definition.

Key Features

  • Hydrolyzed keratin formula
  • Contains silicone-alternative conditioner
  • Formulated to protect from heat and fight humidity

So, a lot of women looking for beautiful voluminous curls bristle at the word “silicone.” I get it — the Curly Girl Method clearly states no parabens, no sulfates, and no silicones. Personally, I don’t think silicones should be on that list because not all silicones are created equal.

There are multiple kinds of silicones when it comes to hair products. A manufacturer could use petroleum-based silicone or a natural water-soluble silicone. Natural silicones do not cause buildup on the hair and help hold your style against humidity without weighing down your curls. All the silicone-containing products on this list are natural silicones or silicone alternatives, including TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier.


  • Versatile formula works with heat-based or no-heat curling methods
  • Keratin and silicone-alternative formula holds up against humidity
  • Repairs split ends, making curls even shinier


  • Can weigh hair down if you use too much

If you’re looking for a great curl activator that can be used with or without heat, reach for TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier.


3. Cake Beauty Curl Friend Defining Curl Cream

Who doesn’t love cake? Cake Beauty Curl Friend Defining Curl Cream is made with as much love as your grandma pours into her cakes. This lightweight formula contains avocado oil, soybean oil, and shea butter. Cake beauty leaves out any parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and animal products. And it smells great!

Key Features

  • Lightweight formula
  • Paraben-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cake Beauty Curl Friend Defining Curl Cream can be used on wet or dry hair. For second-day hair, use a small amount to redefine and smooth the hair.


  • Enhances curl definition and smooths frizz
  • Feather-light formula does not weigh curls down
  • Delicious sweet smell


  • Smell may trigger scent sensitivities

In addition to being an excellent curl activator that defines curls without weighing them down, Cake Beauty Curl Friend Defining Curl Cream comes in a super cute pink package. I just can’t get enough cake!


4. SGX NYC Curl Power Curl Creme

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option that is still nourishing for dry hair, try SGX NYC Curl Power Curl Creme. This ultra-nourishing curl activator can define curls and condition the hair. It contains no parabens or phthalates and is not tested on animals. It also has a wonderful vanilla-floral scent.

Key Features

  • Ultra-nourishing formula
  • Paraben-free and phthalate-free
  • Vegan-friendly

I’m not the only one who thinks SGX NYC Curl Power Curl Creme is great; the public does too! SGX NYC Curl Power Curl Creme is a recipient of the 2019 Allure Best of Beauty award.


  • Provides a lightweight hold
  • Nourishes and moisturizes the hair
  • Fights humidity


  • Fragrance may trigger scent sensitivities

If you want a curl activator that moisturizes your curls, reach for SGX NYC Curl Power Curl Creme.


5. OGX Locking + Coconut Curls Air Dry Cream

If you’re looking to experiment with the Curly Girl Method, you will want to use curl activators that are made for heat-free styling. OGX Locking + Coconut Curls Air Dry Cream is formulated specifically for air-dry hairstyling. If you’re looking to turn your tresses into beautiful natural waves or curls, this OGX cream is the curl activator for you.

Key Features

  • Air-dry formula
  • Made with coconut oil and shea butter
  • Contain natural silicones

Because it contains natural silicones, technically OGX Locking + Coconut Curls Air Dry Cream is not Curly Girl Method approved. That said, if you didn’t scroll past my earlier soapbox moment about natural silicones, you know that I think silicones get a bad rap. Natural silicones, like the ones in OGX Locking + Coconut Curls Air Dry Cream, will not leave buildup on the hair.


  • Helps hold curl bounce with no crunchiness
  • Water-soluble silicones fight humidity without creating buildup on hair
  • Very light coconut scent


  • Technically not Curly Girl Method approved

If you’re looking to get away from blow dryers and heat styling, OGX Locking + Coconut Curls Air Dry Cream is the perfect curl activator for you.


How to Pick the Best Curl Activators for Straight Hair

These are all great curl activators for straight hair, but how do you choose the right one? It can be hard to choose, so I’ve put together a simple checklist of things to consider when purchasing a curl activator.

Hair Type

Do you know your curl pattern? Even supposedly straight hair often has a slight wave to it, and with a little love and curl activation, you may discover your “straight” strands are actually lovely 2A or 2C waves.

In addition to knowing your curl pattern, hair thickness and density are important factors to consider when choosing a curl activator. If you have fine, low-density hair, you will want a lighter product not to weigh your strands down. If you have thick, dense hair, you’ll want a more moisturizing product to give your curls definition.

Hair Health

In addition to your hair’s natural type, its health determines how much curl it can achieve.

Damaged hair has trouble holding its shape, which can make the hair look deflated. If your hair is damaged, restore your hair’s health with a weekly hair botox treatment in addition to using a curl activator in the styling process. When your hair has the nutrients it needs, your curls will be bouncy, full, and strong.

Styling Process

How you style your hair is also an important factor when choosing a curl activator. If you are using hot curlers or a curling iron to style your hair, be sure to select a product that offers heat protection. I

f you prefer no-heat styles, such as braiding, twisting, or plopping, heat protection isn’t necessary. Still, you want to make sure you use a product that does not weigh down your strands or dry out your hair.

Allergies or Other Ingredient Sensitives

No one would knowingly use a product they are allergic to, but sometimes allergic reactions are mild and go unnoticed. For this reason, any time you are using a new product, dab a bit on your inner forearm and wait an hour.

If you feel no itching or see no redness, the product probably is not triggering any allergic reactions. Bear in mind that only a dermatologist can run an official allergy panel with your beauty products, so contact your doctor if you think you have an ingredient allergy.


When it comes to curl activators or any hair products in general, it is all about that formula! If you’re following the Curly Girl Method, you know to avoid parabens, sulfates, and phthalates because they can build up on your hair and weigh down your curls. Think about what you need your product to do. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, make sure to get a curl activator that offers UV protection. And of course, if you’re vegan, get a curl activator that contains no animal products and is not tested on animals.

best curl activator


Do curl activators work on straight hair?

That depends. If you expect to use one product on your naturally straight hair with no styling and see bouncy, voluminous curls, that won’t happen. A curl activator will simply boost existing waves and curls so that you can elevate them by styling with or without heat.

How can I make my naturally straight hair curly?

If your hair is naturally straight, only a perm will make it curly. However, a lot of ladies out there think they have straight hair but actually have wavy hair that’s just too damaged to curl. If you suspect your hair might secretly be curly, give it some love! Wash it only two to three times a week using cold water, use a diffuser on your blow-dryer, and give your hair a keratin treatment to restore its natural curl.

How do I use a curl activator without heat?

You should always, always, always read the directions on the bottle of the product you are using before you use it. That said, most of these curl activators work the same way. Apply a dime-size amount to the fingers, work through damp hair,twist or braid the hair, and allow it to air-dry. Voilà, you now have gorgeous natural-looking curls!

Go Forth and Be Curly

When it comes to curl activators for straight hair, there are a lot of great products to choose from. My personal fave from this list is the Oribe Curl Control Silkening Crème because its luxurious formula delivers an unparalleled level of moisture and creates soft touchable curls.

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