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Do curling shampoos really work?

Charlotte Comments: I’d love to believe that those curling shampoos will really shape my thick hair. What do the Brain’s Believe?

The Right Brain Responds:

Well, Charlotte, this is an easy one. Curling shampoos do NOT make your hair curly. In fact, if you read the labels carefully, some of them don’t even SAY they’ll make your hair curly! Let’s take a look, shall we?

What do curling shampoos claim?

Even the most flagrant offender of the truth, Wash n’ Curl shampoo, only IMPLIES that it will make your hair curly just from shampooing. Read the label carefully – it says it provides “the most beautiful curls with body, bounce and resilience after styling.” Well, duh! If the shampoo only makes your hair curly AFTER you style it, it’s not really doing much for you is it?

What else does Wash n’ Curl say? “Your hair will be extremely curl responsive…Even dry, damaged, color treated hair will have the staying power of thick curly hair… Its special Curl Enhancers infuse hair with the Holding Power of naturally curly hair.”

The chemistry of curling shampoo

The only piece of truth in this claim is that the shampoo does contain something that could be called a “curl enhancer.” Looking at the ingredient list we see that it does contains a polymer (Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer), that COULD provide some styling benefits. But that would only work if it wasn’t rinsed out! Remember, just because a product contains an ingredient that does something, it doesn’t mean that it does something in that product!

The rest of the claims are pretty much made up, as far as we can tell. There is no shampoo technology that will measurably improve the holding power of your hair.

What about other products, you ask? Well here’s two more:

KMS Curl Up Shampoo and Marc Anthony Strictly Curls. Neither of these shampoos make strong curling claims. KMS only promises to be your “curl’s best friend, ” to ” start your style in the shower,” and to “boost boisterous curls while adding moisture and shine.”

Marc, on the other hand, offers to protect color; repair dry, frizzy areas, and repel humidity to define shiny, soft, curls. (“Define” curls is not really a very emphatic claim.) Aside from a little polyquaternium (a conditioning ingredient) neither of these products have any curling technology either.

We could go on and on, but you get the picture. These shampoos don’t have anything in them to make your hair curly. They don’t even really do anything to prepare your hair for styling, other than getting it clean. If you want to see more, click the carousel below.

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The Beauty Brains Bottom Line:

If you really want curly hair, go buy some mousse. Or, God forbid, get a perm!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ellie Sampson December 22, 2014, 2:04 pm

    Why wont my hair curl?

    • Randy Schueller December 22, 2014, 4:40 pm

      Hey Ellie. That’s a bit of an open ended question!

      Is your hair so fine that it won’t keep a curl?
      Is it so coarse that it’s touch to curl in the first place?
      What styling tools are you using to create curls?
      What products are you using to lock in your curls?

      If you can give is some additional details maybe we (or someone else in the Beauty Brains community) can help.

      • Blonde Brain July 30, 2015, 5:08 pm

        Wash ‘n curl is very effective for straight, thin, blonde hair, but it was marketed to thick straight asian hair, which is very hard to curl. Too bad it is not made anymore. Natural Blondes are left with nasty mousse type additives.

  • Luciano D. Muzzatti October 9, 2015, 5:20 pm

    You mentioned some curling shampoos with the “curl enhancer” contains a polymer (Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer).
    I was using Puritan’s Pride Hair Curling Shampoo by Temptique. I would only use this for “special occasions” because it did give my wavy hair some curl and bounce but now they stopped carrying this. Can you tell me where I can get this product or would you suggest any similar product with the above ingredients. Thank you. Luciano

  • Donna A. Cox May 24, 2016, 12:58 am

    Some shampoos DO help to curl hair better than most. Temptique Hair Curling Shampoo is one of them. Most shampoos seem to strip a possible better curl right out of your hair.

    • Randy Schueller May 24, 2016, 6:38 am

      That’s probably because those shampoos provide too much conditioning which can soften curls.

  • Allyana June 27, 2016, 7:24 pm

    I have very curly hair. My sister has very straight hair. She uses curly shampoo….nothing. I use it and my hair looks like a million dollars worth of ringlets. In short…if you have curly hair, yeah they work. If you don’t, no they don’t work.

  • Caris May 9, 2017, 7:35 pm

    Back in the 80’s I used a wash and curl shampoo on my bone straight, thick hair. It actually did give a slight bend to my hair and once styled using a curling iron or brush made it much easier to get the desired results and helped my hair to hold a curl for longer than an hour.

  • AMANDA KAY RUMBAUGH September 7, 2017, 10:02 pm

    i mean, i used wash n curl only once on accident… and lemme tell you… whatever was in that… was amazing… and i have been chasing that curl for the last 2 years. i used it once when i was maybe 8 or 9. i washed my hair with my moms wash n curl by accident and when my hair dried…. it was insane. i have naturally wavy hair but with that stuff, i had tight curls… TIGHT. but they dont make to original formula anymore… tbh they dont really make much of any wash n curl products anymore. a bottle on amazon costs $99…. if i had to guess their old secret ingredient… it probably had some perm chemical in it… not enough for you to notice… but enough to give you temporary curls… BUT THATS JUST A GUESS.

  • Mrs O'Malley September 8, 2017, 11:44 pm

    Frankly, I have fine, rather thin hair with a pretty decent amount of body. By mixing some strong-hold hair gel with a bit of leave-in conditioner into damp hair I can get a lasting style.

  • Carol Walker October 2, 2017, 2:18 pm

    I have slightly wavy/straight hair. (It’s a mix, blah!) When I used Wash n Curl, it really enhanced the body of my hair and put tighter waves all throughout. My hair was so much more easier to style with a curling iron afterwards. Probably because I didn’t have to curl as much.
    I found it very effective! Was sad to see it not carried in stores anymore at just a couple dollars a bottle. Even sadder to find it for sale online with crazy huge price tags.

  • Edda de Muralt October 7, 2017, 12:30 pm

    My experience with Temptique Hair Curling Shampoo is excellent. Unfortunately it does not seem to be on the market at the moment. What is the problem? I used to have very straight hair, and Temptique did the trick, or is it just that one’s hair changes over the years?

  • Bea October 15, 2017, 11:46 am

    You are a genius! I love your honesty about Curling shampoo’s. HA! Forget about it. Seriously, it is soooo refreshing to read an honest comment for a change. Thanks for saving me money. Take a bow…TaDA!

  • Cindy Gabriel April 11, 2019, 8:44 am

    I have been using Temptique Hair Curling Shampoo from Puritan’s Pride for years and I still have one full bottle left because I bought it in bulk. I am extremely disappointed they no longer sell it and it seems it is no longer sold anywhere. It definitely helps my wavy hair curl. I’m at a loss for what to use next. So disappointing. Wish I had known, would’ve purchased even more!

  • Kathy December 12, 2019, 7:53 pm

    I actually never tried any of the curl shampoos but I may. I do know that I have thick heavy hair and it’s usually long. Being that its also normally just wavy with slight curl. When I actually let someone get ahold of my hair and they take some length and weight off every finds out I actually have alot of curls. A good thing I learned is that don’t brush your hair wet and let it air dry. You will have maximum curl, bounce and volume.