Holy Grail Products (Staples)

Updated: August 12, 2014

The following list contains products that I consider staples, meaning, my hair likes them and I get consistent and beneficial results. I have the following hair properties:
  • Texture: Medium/Coarse with some fine areas by my nape and hairline
  • Density: Thick
  • Porosity: Low-normal (has normalized a bit most likely due to the age of my hair and my experimentation with color)
  • Priorities: Frizz Control and Moisture, Length Retention (Not growth necessarily)
  • I do not type my hair using Andre Walker’s system, nor do I know what type my hair falls under (it would most likely be a mix though). By the Curly Girl system, I have fractal and corkscrew curls.
Please, do not blindly buy everything on this list just because I like it, ESPECIALLY if you have differing hair properties from me (and don’t buy things just b/c you think our hair “looks” the same). I encourage you to listen to/read/watch the reviews to determine if the product sounds/looks like something your hair would like. Also, if asked, I will not provide you with a list of products to purchase. It is your hair, your money, and your decision. I hope you find the info on this page helpful, but ultimately, it is up to you. Enjoy!
xoxo

Shampoo 

Deep Conditioners

Protein Treatments/Conditioners

Cleansing Conditioner

Rinse Outs

Leave-in Conditioners

Without Glycerin
Hair Milks

Stylers

Gels (for Wash and Gos)

Finishers

Twists/Twist Outs

Pomades/Sealants

Oils

  • Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil
  • Rosemary (EO)
Straightening Products
Refresher Sprays
Beauty Products

A few notes:

  • These are all products I consider to be holy grails, and do not include products that I will simply rebuy due to a sale, if I’m bored, etc…I buy lots of things on a whim or if I’m in a bad mood (lol).
  • VITAMINS: I do not take vitamins to grow my hair. But, I do like vitamins in general and take hair/skin/nails vitamins for overall health. My fave was previously Viviscal (this vitamin also contains iron), but I am currently looking for a new staple vitamin (the Amazon seller I bought Viviscal from kept selling out and it was difficult for me to find a place to buy it and not have to pay full price). Also, please remember that no matter what you try to get your hair to grow, it doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t using proper hair care practices to RETAIN length. Check out my playlist on Health/Growth & Retention for more information on vitamins and healthy hair practices.
  • FORMULATION CHANGES: If I remove a product from my HG list due to a formulation change, it does not mean that the new formulation is bad. It just means that I have not tried the new formula, and I can’t have something on my list that I haven’t tried. That’s one of the benefits of having several staples – I don’t cry when I have to remove something!

Comparing ProductsI am often asked to compare two products in the same category (for instance KCCC vs. UFD, UFD vs. Pattern Pusha, etc). Truthfully, the best way to compare products is to view the review for each product and make your own comparison – I try to be very thorough in my reviews and go over several objective details in addition to how they performed on my hair. When the initial review is done, the thoughts are fresh in my head, so that is when you will receive the most information. Sometimes, the result is so similar (like with KCCC and UFD) that I may do a video/photo comparing them side by side in my hair, but this will not be a common theme of the blog because there are just too many possible combinations and I often mention some similar products in the reviews.

Honorable Mentions – These are products I rebuy on sale or with free shipping. Most of my HGs I can either buy on the ground or am able to do hauls with multiple products and get a discount and/or free shipping. Mainly, things I can buy from AveYou, Vitacost, Sage, iHerb, etc. These other products are not as readily available and I can live without them (while pouting), but I still like them a lot.

Thanks, lovies! xoxo

240 thoughts on “Holy Grail Products (Staples)

  1. I love, love, love your hair ( not sure if you’re still wearing it curly) but I would love to know what you used/use on your wash n go…I know the products may not render the same results but I just wanna give it a try =)

    • Hey Beverly , the products are listed on this page – and check out my regimen page which lists my diff wash and go combos. There is also a tutorial on there. Hth!

  2. I bought the Amour de Cacao because at all times I absolutely have to smell like I dived into a vat of cake batter. This is perfect! It smells amazing with my body shop chocomania body butter. Sounds like chocolate overload, but it’s actually quite subtle. Thanks Elle!

  3. Hi Elle, I just wanted to say how thankful I am for your YouTube channel and your blog…I don’t know where my hair would be without it. I am 11 months natural. I transition for about 5 months then big chopped almost a year ago. My hair is low porosity with coarse strands and some fine strands, so our hair is very similar. I am trying my best not to buy everything on your holy grail list for budget reasons, but everything that I have tried thus far that you recommend has worked great for me. I use Deva Curl no poo to cleanse, shea moisture black soap deep condition as a pre poo and deep condition, I also use organicals as pre poo and deep treat (my daughter is addicted to organicals for herself and her one and three year olds, gotta lock the stuff up or I will never have any for myself…lol) tresemme naturals to rinse and detangle, Darcy’s botanicals pumpkin seed leave in conditioner and coconut oil to moisturize and seal, then I style with super wet natural look gel. I have never gotten so many compliments in my life and I am in love with my hair. She is so healthy and happy. I want to try some of the curl junkie products too. I have the ciab on order as well as the curl rehab ( strawberry ice cream scent) and I can’t wait until they get here…long story short thank you for sharing your journey and what works for you it has really helped this curly girl. You’re the best keep doing what you’re doing!

    • That’s awesome, thank you so much for sharing your story with me! Those are all yummy products, so I’m glad you are also enjoying them along with your hair!

    • When my hair started touching my back, I took it off b/c it always leaves a film on me. But I’ve started using it again b/c KMF is off the list (ingredients change).

  4. Hi Elle, thanks so much for your informative blog and videos. I only use gel in the summer and used to use KMF upper management gel, but due to the repackaging I stopped. I seen Max Green Alchemy Scalp Rescue styling gel at TJ Maxx and decided to give it a try. Wow, it holds and gives a sheen to my hair. This is now my HG gel! Yes to Carrots anti frizz serum is what I use in the winter. Have you ever tried these two products?

  5. Hi Elle,

    Im thinking of replacing my shampoo with a cleansing conditioner and I am torn between Curl Junkie Daily Fix and Ouidad. After reading several reviews it seems as though the Curl Junkie Daily fix is more moisturizing however I am not sure if it can replace shampoo permanently. I noticed on your list you didn’t add the Curl Junkie as a shampoo, do you feel that It doesn’t cleanse well enough?

  6. What made you prefer the Knotty Girl finisher over the CIAB? When you mention CJ now I noticed that you don’t really count it as one of your fave products by them anymore. I love the Knotty Girl but I can’t buy it near me anymore and it’s kind of hard to order…so I was thinking of switching to CIAB instead, but I’m kind of worried it might not be as good as the Knotty Girl.

    • If I recall correctly, it was really just the smell and I believed that I liked the KG ingredients a little better. I still use CJ products – I have three of them on my HG list but removed a lot only because I had too many products on there, so I removed a lot of products overall.

  7. I have very thick low porosity hair. I can get really nice wash and gos but my hair is really dry even on the first day if I use Eco because of the protein, but a little more moisturized if I use super wet gel. I don’t believe it is my product combination bc this same combination leads to a very moisturized twist out that stays moisturized up to seven days. I currently use knot today as my leave in, followed by grapeseed oil, and as I am moisturizer. Why doesn’t this work for my wash and go? Do I need heavier products on low porosity hair to keep the moisture levels up?

    • It could be several things, but IMO you shouldn’t need heavier products on low porosity hair b/c it has problems getting moisture in, not really getting it out. The LOC method could have too many products on your hair (it looks like you’re using four for each styling session?) or it could be how you refresh your hair styles. I recommend playing with some product combinations after DC’ing your hair to ensure it’s properly moisturized to begin with and go from there.

  8. Hi Elle,
    I’m thinking about using Curl Junkie Curl Rehab but I’m confused because it’s a hair treatment and seems like a product that should be rinsed out.. although it says that it can be used as a leave-in…
    …the thing is that other times when I’ve used a conditioner as leave-in, the conditioner would make my hair dry and weird after a couple days of not rinsing it out; because of this I’m skeptical of products that claim “rinse out or leave-in”.
    How is your experience with this? Have you found this (what I experienced) to be a problem using the Curl Junkie Rehab Curl? Have you tried other Curl Junkie products that can only be used as a leave-in? If you have, is that product as moisturizing as the curl rehab?
    I’m just looking for a real moisturizing leave-in because I have major shrinkage and my hair get dry soo fast and snaps easily :(
    Please help me :(

    • Hey Nalie! I’ve never had an issue leaving Rehab in and actually prefer it that way. I’ve also tried several Curl Junkie leave-ins and reviewed them, but haven’t used them lately. Now I mainly use the Rehab and Daily Fix.

  9. Hi Elle! First off, love the blog and videos. Your reviews are so helpful. I am wondering if you’ve had the opportunity to try the reformulation of UFD Curly Magic? I was so dissapointed that they changed something that in my opinion wasn’t broke, and am kicking myself that I didn’t stock up ont the old formula before the change. If you’ve tried it, would you mind sharing your thoughts? thanks!

    • Hey there! Glad you like the blog and vids and find them helpful. :) I haven’t tried the new formula and I don’t plan to because of the glycerin – I don’t know why they’d change something that was so great, I used to love that stuff! I was really annoyed that they changed it.

    • Curly Kinks Curl Factor seems to be a very nice substitute! Also, I get much better multi day hair than I ever did with UFD. Definitely worth a try. It’s sold at Curlmart now :)

      • Alexandra, its funny that you mention Curly Kinks Curl Factor because I am waiting on my shipment of this product as we speak lol…I’ve also tried Coil Jam which works similarly to KCCC despite the glycerin.

    • No…I just cannot use products heavy on glycerin all year round, which is why some were removed. Some I removed for other reasons. Also, please keep in my mind that my list is a reflection of products that work for me, and the ones in the Honorable Mentions also work. However, you may have different results.

      • Hi Elle,

        I have been experimenting with Carol’s Daughter Smoothing Chocolate conditioner. I used it once for a rinse out, the slip was minimum to little. I thought I would give it another shot and attempted a twist out on wet hair. The end result was hair that had a filmy coating. Can you tell me if this is a result of using too much product or is the conditioner best used on dry twist outs?
        Thanks in advance!
        L

    • I’ve said in the past that I do not like glycerin products unless they are inexpensive because I cannot use them year round. I only had one up there and moved it to my honorable mentions.

  10. =( So sad to see you cross off KMF Upper Management Gel due to the ingredients change. *sheds single tear* I’m curious what gel you will be reaching for the most when your supply runs out (assuming you have a bit of a supply of the old formula like me).

    • I don’t have one. :( The only other HG gel I really have now that I consistently use year round is AV gel, and sometimes that’s too light if it’s really humid.

      • Gotcha ='( thanks for responding. My hair doesn’t even respond well to aloe so it’s really tough for me… if i find anything that caters to super picky hair, I’ll holla!

    • I did them sometimes in summer, but they didn’t look good. I wouldn’t have considered them “doing” my hair. When I was relaxed, my hair was a variety of lengths. It was around BSL, then I cut it to my chin, and throughout the years with hair cuts it was chin length to about APL.

  11. Hey Elle, have you seen the new ingredient list on the KMF website? Seems the Upper Management gel now has Glycerin (second ingredient) and the formula looks to have been completely revamped. Pinged their Facebook page inquiring as to why the change, but so far no response. :(

    • Omg noooooo! My hair doesn’t like aloe or glycerin and this is literally the only gel that agrees with me. Say it ain’t so :'( I ordered my first bottle from drugstore.com after big chopping. It’s weird because I ordered a 3-pack on Amazon and even though these ingredients listed are the same, the one from Amazon makes my hair more dry. I wonder if they had already tweaked it. Elle or Chicago, have you noticed inconsistency in results from different bottles of the formula? Omg. So sad still. My hair isn’t long enough to twist or otherwise style yet and I rely on gel for my wash and gos.

      • Hey Jali, I’ve never actually used the bottle with the newer design, so I can’t say. I’ve only gotten the older bottle with my orders.

      • Justjali, I haven’t tried the new formula. I accidentally stumbled upon the product change. I’d recently purchased a bottle and noticed a ‘scent’, that’s the best way I can describe it, was emitted from my hair while under my hooded dryer….this ‘scent’ made my eyes quite irritated. I thought it was odd because I’d never had that experience with KMF before. I compared my recent bottle to a few others I had on stock and the ingredients were the same. At this point I figured it must be in my head; however it happened again the next time I used KMF. Again, on the hunt I went, because in my previous search the KMF site ingredient list was a duplicate as on my bottle, but this time I noticed things had changed drastically, i.e glycerin. I don’t believe the new formula has rolled out to many of the online vendors since many still list the old ingredient list. I ordered 8 bottles from Vitacost and confirmed with them ingredients on their site in fact matched the bottles (didn’t want any surprises). Not sure how long before the new formula takes over.

      • ugh. What a mess! Thanks to both of you ladies for responding. Elle, I know what you’re talking about. I think all of my bottles have had the newer design. Do you use Vitacost as well? I might try ordering from them but I think I’m just going to stick to my last 2 1/2 bottles and CJ Pattern Pusha which hopefully will get me through to being able to do twistouts. Not cool, KMF! Not cool. Don’t they know people love this stuff and that glycerin is so incompatible with a lot of people’s hair? I would think they are going to see a drastic decline in their sales. If anyone knows of any other medium-hold glycerin and aloe-free gels, please shoot me a reply. Thanks again.

    • Just kidding, I totally just ordered 4 bottles from Vitacost. Thanks a lot for your research chicagocutie… knowing that you called and confirmed ingredients allowed me to order enough that will hopefully last me until I’m at a length where I can start twistouts and move away from gel for the most part. *sigh* why are they doing this?! They seem so shameless on their Facebook page about it too. It would be nice to show some care about your loyal customers’ reaction and input about these things. Jeez.

  12. Hi! Elle I have really important questions to ask. I’m not natural but transitioning to natural. It has been about 6 months w/ 1 1/2 – 2 inches of new growth!My new growth is coily and quite dry. I’m really proud but my hair is still quite frizzy and damaged! I wanted to know if you have any advice on how I can control this frizz and heal the damage. Also do you have any tips to help me grow length without protective hairstyles

    • Hi Gabbi! Have you browsed the blog at all or searched the site/YouTube? This is a common issue, especially with transitioners, so I have done several Question of the Day posts and FAQ videos about frizz, damage, and retaining length without protective styling (because I don’t protective style). I also wrote an article called, “Retaining Length Without Protective Styling” or something to that effect. There can be several different reasons for frizzy hair or dryness though, so I always encourage people to review my posts then try to apply it to their hair – it’s impossible for me to give folks one on one advice about their issues without knowing their full routines, products, etc. The Transitioning Movement site by Carol’s Daughter is also a great resource for transitioners – there is an “Ask the Experts” section that includes lots of information on the topics you’re interested in.

  13. Elle, thank you so much for sharing this list. I just did my bc last Saturday after transitioning for 16 months! I wanted to do a wash and go so bad!!! So after reading your list I tried the Oyin hair dew and Kiss my Face Upper Management. The results were awesome. Plus the drying time is so fast. No “wet cat look” either :-) Thank you so much. Hopefully, I will be able to get 2nd, 3rd, and hopefully 4th day hair with this style!

  14. Advice PLEASE!!! (((((DYE DEBACLE = LIMP/THIN HAIR)))))

    Hi Elle, this is a serious “What would Elle do?” plea for help.

    Yes, I just very well may have destroyed my hair and I’m gonna try not to bawl on this keyboard.

    I don’t know if you answer from the general messages in YouTube but my question is too long to post as a comment under your “Dye Aftercare” video.

    I’m really struggling with something and always look to your vids for advice, though our textures are vastly different.
    I just subscribed to your blog and learned how you describe your hair. Well, mine is quite different (looking), though yes, curly. I suppose this is how I’d describe my hair, and maybe from this you can help with my issue?

    Texture: Medium/Fine, more on the Fine side
    Density: Medium/Thin. Definitely not thick
    Porosity: Low-normal, but I’m not quite sure on this one
    Priorities: Moisture, Frizz Control and full looking hair, length retention (strengthening/non-breaking)

    Here’s what’s happened. After using Henna for about 3 years, every six months, I decided I wanted to give it a rest for a little over two months (to have it fade a bit and a little new growth). I did this because I was dying (no pun) to lighten my hair and as you know, close to impossible to do over henna. So, I reluctantly went back to box dye, trying the non-ammonia HerbaShine and Natural Instincts. Both in medium browns. I have done this about 3 times and all seemed fine though I swear, it’s like I woke up one day (about two weeks ago) and I had less hair!!! Not from breakage, just thin, pitiful strands of hair. No bouncy curls – even though my hair is really thin, at least I could create the illusion of full curls before the box dye. I am so discouraged. I use the Curl Junkie repair every 6 weeks, but nothing has helped. I’m don’t know if there is even a quick fix or have I ruined what I’ve beed trying to nurture for years (haven’t had a relaxer since something like 2001). I’ve never, (even with really moisturized, protected hair) grown long hair but I did achieve healthy hair with what I think is a normal amount of breakage/shedding, to my shoulders when dry. I liked what was going on and maybe it was the Henna that was giving me the texture of curly fullness? I know how some people say Henna loosened their curl pattern and that wasn’t the case for me. However, it’s almost completely straight now that I’ve used the non-ammonia dyes.

    My main question is, should I go back to henna? Will that revive my texture and plump up my hair? It’s not appearing dry, just utterly deflated and stringy. Is it only possibly to have the new growth return to the texture I liked and worked so hard to achieve and hopeless for the dyed strands (which is all of my hair, ARGG!!!). Can pathetically limp hair be resuscitated?

    Please help me diagnose this disaster. I would be FOREVER grateful!

    Thanks and LOVE all that you do.

    KMJ
    New York City

    p.s. if I can figure out how to write to you elsewhere (blog?) I will, in case you don’t read your messages here. Yeah, I’m desperate, have you noticed?

    • That stinks your hair is acting up, I know how crappy it is to feel like you messed up a ton of progress. Overprocessing your hair can easily allow you to lose your curl pattern and thin out hair significantly. However, unfortunately :(, I can’t really answer whether you “should” henna or not, because I have never been in your situation. There are certainly pros and cons – henna coats your strand and may thicken your strands up, but it can also weigh your hair down and won’t give you the bounciness you desire. Also, since henna is permanent, I’m not sure it would be as easy to deal with if it didn’t work like you planned. Another idea would be to explore other ayurvedic herbs to assist with thickness, like cassia or amla. You may also want to increase the frequency of your protein treatments and use more products with strengthening proteins in your everyday routine.

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