Mar 25, 2023

The 12 Best Mousses for Curly Hair of 2023

Whether you have loose waves or tight coils, these mousses will deliver bouncy, shiny, and frizz-free curls.

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InStyle / Brian Kopinski

Though mousse isn't the first product you may think of for a curly hair routine, it's an unexpected favorite that adds greater volume and dimension than your typical gel or curl cream. For years I only used curl creams to detangle, moisturize, and define my 3B curls, and while they looked healthy, they lacked the body I've only been able to achieve with mousse.

I've tried out countless mousses specifically developed for curly hair textures over the past few months, and I've discovered some favorites that keep my curls looking fresher, fuller, and frizz-free for longer. Whether you have fine or thick hair, loose waves or even 4C coils, there's a mousse out there for you. Read on to find the 12 best mousses for curly hair that hold up against heat and humidity, and deliver soft, bouncy, and voluminous coils.

Violet Grey

What We Love: This innovative brand is using new technology to repair dry, damaged hair while styling.

What We Don't Love: Several online reviewers note issues with the dispensing nozzle, though it worked fine for us.

Virtue is one haircare brand that should be on everyone's radar. Celebrities, including Jennifer Garner, swear by the products because of the proprietary ingredient Alpha Keratin 60ku: A specialized protein that's naturally found in our hair and works to repair damaged strands. And while there are so many products that we love from the line, the Curl-Defining Whip is our favorite for those with curly hair.

The luxurious whipped formula hydrates, smoothes, and de-frizzes (even in heat and humidity) on a surface level, while contributing to hair's overall long-term health from the root. It has a lightweight, non-sticky feel that won't leave strands with that dreaded crunchy texture, creating bouncy and shiny curls. Plus, we think the scent is divine (it smells like peppery grapefruit with notes of driftwood).

We use this almost every wash day and are consistently impressed with how defined our ringlets look — and we love how long the bottle lasts. Some online reviewers have mentioned that the nozzle gets jammed after a few weeks (which is something to keep in mind), but we haven't experienced any issues after months of use.

Price at time of publish: $38

Size: 5.5 oz | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Wavy and curly


What We Love: The lightweight formula beautifully defines curls and gives hair an impressive volume boost.

What We Don't Love: It contains silicones, which can cause product build-up.

We were immediately intrigued by this innovative formula, which the brand bills as "part cream, part foam." When you first dispense the mousse into your hands, the consistency feels thin and liquidy, but as you work it into your strands, it begins to expand and emulsify into a creamy texture that creates beautiful volume. A little goes a long way here!

Coming in at under $15, this product gives you a lot of bang for your buck — providing long-lasting moisture, frizz-control, and curl definition to wavy and curly manes. Though, keep in mind that silicones are included on this ingredient list, which can contribute to product build-up — so be sure you’re using a clarifying shampoo once a week to really deep clean your scalp.

Price at time of publish: $11

Size: 7.9 oz | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Wavy and curly


What We Love: This mousse is a leave-in formula that adds density and volume to fine or thinning hair.

What We Don't Love: The fragrance may be too strong for some.

This Kérastase product may be pricey, but it's so much more than just a typical mousse. It's a leave-in formula that almost acts like a reparative mask and a styling product in one. Ingredients include hyaluronic acid and ceramides to actually strengthen and thicken hair follicles, preventing further damage and promoting new growth. Whether you just have fine curls or your hair has been thinning for a number of reasons like age, stress, or postpartum, this product works to add volume and density. Although, if you’re sensitive to scent, be warned that this one is on the stronger side.

Price at time of publish: $45

Size: 5.1 oz | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Fine, wavy, and curly


What We Love: Beyond moisturizing and defining waves and curls, it also works as a heat-protectant.

What We Don't Love: While this mousse is ideal for wavy hair or very fine curls, we don't recommend it for those with thick hair or tight curl patterns.

If you’re looking to enhance your loose waves with mega volume and long-lasting hold, look no further than this Oribe Shaping Mousse. This product performs best on fine hair (often the most difficult texture to hold a curl!), offering shape and body with a lightweight, non-crunchy feel to make the loose waves of your dreams.

Featuring amino acids, strengthening proteins, and sweet almond oil (plus, a subtle jasmine and sandalwood-infused scent), it nourishes strands while creating a protective barrier against heat. Though we don't believe this is a true "curly" hair product (we don't recommend it for those with level three or four curls), it made the list because it can create bouncy, shiny curls for those who’ve always wanted them.

Price at time of publish: $39

Size: 5.7 oz | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Wavy


What We Love: This mousse feels super lightweight, while still providing necessary hold for up to 3C curls.

What We Don't Love: While the brand specializes in curls and tight textures, this mousse isn't strong enough for 4A—4C hair.

All curly girls will know that Shea Moisture is one of our absolute favorite go-to brands, and we love that their products can be picked up during your regular drugstore or Target runs. They use high-quality ingredients, with dreamy scents and effective results that protect natural curls and lengthen the life of your wash.

This mousse provides a frizz-free hold with a super lightweight feel (which is very hard to find), and works incredibly well for curls in the C level. It's perfect for air-drying, leaving your hair exceedingly soft and volumized with no sticky residue or flakiness. Just wash, apply, scrunch, and you’re good to go!

Price at time of publish: $13

Size: 7.5 oz | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Wavy & Curly


What We Love: This mousse will bring dry, damaged curls back to life.

What We Don't Love: If you have fine hair, this formula will feel far too greasy for you.

Ouidad Weightless Curl Defining Mousse lives up to its name — it defines curls and protects against frizz with an impressively soft and lightweight feel. Its frizz-control can withstand the heat, whether you live in a humid climate or cherish your diffuser.

We recommend this product for thick hair because its ingredients (like Japanese camellia and sunflower oils) specifically target dryness and stretched-out curls in need of revitalization for a return to moisturized, bouncy goodness. And though the formula excellently works its way through thick strands, it will feel too oily and greasy for those with finer hair.

Price at time of publish: $26

Size: 5.7 oz | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Thick and curly


What We Love: This mousse creates effortless beachy waves — without the need for hot tools.

What We Don't Love: Because it provides very light hold, it won't work well for those with level three or four curls.

This lightweight mousse is ideal for those with wavy hair — its soft hold won't weigh your strands down, but it still provides volume and long-lasting definition. For the perfect, sought-after beach waves, apply the mousse, scrunch hair from the bottom up to the roots, and let it air-dry for a look that's both structured and free-flowing.

With high-quality, naturally-derived ingredients like abyssinian oil and Black Polynesian volcanic sand, the formula provides deep nourishment, styling prowess, and protection from heat and color damage. Enhance your waves without the stiffness and crunch typically associated with curl-specific products, and enjoy the delectable scent which features notes of juniper berries, blood orange, and rhubarb. Keep in mind that because it provides very light hold it probably won't be strong enough to tame and define type three or four hair — it's definitely best reserved for those with looser curl patterns.

Price at time of publish: $36

Size: 5.6 oz. | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Wavy


What We Love: Heading somewhere humid? This mousse will actually keep you frizz-free.

What We Don't Love: If you use even slightly too much product, your hair can feel sticky and heavy.

Looking for a mousse with serious frizz-control capabilities? This pick is it. Not Your Mother's Curl Activation Mousse defines and enhances curls while providing heat-tested and long-lasting anti-frizz benefits. For the best results, apply the product to wet hair (the wetter, the better!) and let it air-dry or use a diffuser. You’ll see overall enhanced volume, but individual curls that are shapely and defined. It won't have the softest feel compared to other formulas on this list, but that's the price to pay for heavy-duty frizz-control. Your hair will retain bounce and shine even in tropical climates — as long as you don't use too much product. Anything more than a small dollop can leave you with sticky strands.

Price at time of publish: $9

Size: 7 oz | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Curly and coily


What We Love: It works great for loose curls and protective styles alike.

What We Don't Love: This product performs best alongside a leave-in conditioner or other moisture-rich styling products.

We’re big fans of most products in the Pattern Beauty lineup (what can we say, Tracee Ellis Ross knows what she's doing), and the brand's Curl Mousse exceeded our expectations. Formulated with a mix of marshmallow root and caster oil, it has a fluffy, foamy consistency that yields curl definition, frizz-free volume, and shine.

We love that the weightless mousse was designed to provide strong hold for those with loose curls and protective styles like locs and braids. A few online reviewers found the formula to be drying, but we were impressed by how soft and moisturized our curls felt. Though, we do think the product performs best in conjunction with the brand's Leave-In Conditioner or Styling Cream.

Price at time of publish: $20

Size: 8 oz | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Curly and coily


What We Love: This mousse offers full heat-protection — so you can use all the hot tools for even greater volume!

What We Don't Love: It can leave a sticky-feeling residue behind.

If you're seeking mega volume, this Thickening Mousse will be your new BFF. The innovative formula utilizes a patented technology that affixes microscopic thickening dots in between strands to create the look of lasting fullness. Despite its thickening effects, the consistency is surprisingly lightweight, offering flexible hold for touchable, natural-looking curls. Though, be warned, it can feel a bit sticky once applied and can also cause build-up on the scalp. Like other volumizing products, just be sure you’re cleansing regularly to allow your hair and scalp to breathe.

Price at time of publish: $30

Size: 5 oz | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Straight, wavy, and curly


What We Love: Powerful curl-definition without the crunch? Count us in.

What We Don't Love: The bottle is on the smaller side and might not last as long as you'd hope.

Moroccanoil Curl Control Mousse creates ultra-defined curls without the crunch. We know it's hard to believe, but the moisture-rich formula (featuring ingredients like argan oil and strengthening vegetable proteins) delivers touchable softness and serious shine.

The frizz-control benefits are long-lasting — surviving humidity and sleep — to keep your curls looking fresh for days. We especially love using this alongside the Moroccanoil Intense Curl Cream for maximum hydration and the ultimate air-dry routine. Just note that depending on the thickness of your hair, you may need to use an extra dollop — and the bottle might not last as long as you'd hope.

Price at time of publish: $30

Size: 5.1 oz | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Curly and coily


What We Love: This mouse provides the curl-definition of a gel with the lightweight feel of a foam.

What We Don't Love: If you’re sensitive to scent, this one is strong.

Just like the OGX mousse mentioned above, this Carol's Daughter product also combines multiple formulas into one. Melding the curl-definition of a gel with the quick-drying and easy spreadability of a foam, this formula provides moisture, styling hold, and shine for those tight curl patterns ranging from curly to coily and kinky.

It works just as well as a wash day styling staple or as a reviving pick-me-up to keep those in between days feeling fresh. Plus, with nourishing ingredients like aloe and glycerin, you’re sneaking in long-lasting hydration benefits too. Just be warned, though the aloe scent is fresh, it is very strong and can linger.

Price at time of publish: $25

Size: 8.5 oz | Scented: Yes | Hair Type: Curly, coily, and kinky

"Mousse is generally lighter in weight compared to gels and curl creams," explains Denver-based curl specialist Natalie Kaleel, making it an excellent choice for wavy hair or those with curly hair that happens to be on the fine end. That said, different mousses will provide differing levels of holds and definition. For those with looser curl patterns and wavy hair, opt for a very light mousse, like R+Co Chiffon Styling Mousse. It won't give you super defined ringlets, but rather envy-inducing beachy waves.

On the other hand, if your hair is thick or if your curl type is tighter, you’ll need to look for a mousse that's designed for a stronger hold. For our thick-haired friends, we love Ouidad VitalCurl + Weightless Curl Defining Mousse, and for 4C curls, we recommend Carol's Daughter Wash Day Delight Gel to Foam Styler Aloe.

The product that will be right for you depends on more than just your hair type — it's also important to take into account the way you like to style your hair, plus how you want it to look and feel. Is volume your main goal or is frizz-control? Are you the air-dry type or is the diffuser your go-to?

"If I’m ary-drying curls, I tend to gravitate towards lightweight products. The longer it takes your hair to dry, the longer gravity has to pull your curls down," explains Kaleel. We love the Pattern Curl Mousse for air-drying, because it feels weightless and manages to give us perfectly defined curls every time.

"If I’m diffusing, I use slightly heavier products and make sure that one of those products has a good [built-in] heat-protectant to keep curls juicy and healthy," adds Kaleel. The Living Proof Full Thickening Mousse (for fine hair) and Ouidad VitalCurl + Weightless Curl Defining Mousse (for thick hair) both offer heat-protection and styling power for diffused curls.

Mousse is unique as a curly hair styling product — it might not provide the same taming prowess as a gel, but it does offer greater volume and buildability. It's quite versatile and works well alongside gels and curl creams to create bold impact and long-lasting results. "Mousse will provide a strong hold to help maintain a tighter curl pattern and maximum volume," explains Kaleel. "Plus, it encases the hair and therefore holds moisturizing [ingredients] in the hair for longer periods of time, keeping your curls healthy," she says.

It can — if you don't select the right product for your hair type or if you apply too much. For fine hair or looser waves, be sure to look for an ultra lightweight formula that won't weigh down your strands. The goal with mousse is to create a voluminous and bouncy curl. If applied correctly, the products listed above shouldn't leave you feeling sticky or crunchy.

They achieve different effects, but can also be used together. Typically, gel provides a stronger hold, while mousse creates shape and body. "Gel can make your hair look stiff and crunchy, where mousse is soft on the hair," explains Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist, Dimitris Giannetos.

Personally, I like to use mousse as a styling base and finish it off with a touch of gel (always mixed with water) to ensure maximum frizz-control. An extra tip? "If diffused until fully dry, a lot of times the curl cast created by mousse will turn soft, leaving you with light and airy curls," says Kaleel.

According to Kaleel, it's best to apply mousse on wet hair. She advises starting with a leave-in conditioner, styling with a Denman or other similar brush, and then scrunching in your mousse, fully coating the hair from the roots to the ends. She finishes by using the plopping method with a microfiber towel. And if you opt for the diffuser, Giannetos says, "Half way through drying, use a little extra mousse for a better hold."

Linne Halpern is a freelance beauty, fashion, and lifestyle writer. She is a member of InStyle's evergreen commerce team where she extensively researches and reviews countless products. As the proud owner of natural 3B curls and a lifelong experimenter with various curly hair routines, she used her personal expertise on the topic to aid this story, bolstered by commentary from unparalleled professionals. To provide tips and tricks of the trade, she sought insights from LA-based celebrity hairstylist Dimitris Giannetos and Denver-based curl specialist Natalie Kaleel.

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