Skip To Content

    I Tried Budget Curly Hair Products To See If They Actually Worked

    Can something that costs so little really fight my frizz?

    Jessica Vander Leahy / Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

    Most days, when I wake up I'm definitely not Becky With The Good Hair. In fact, I usually feel quite the opposite.

    Jessica Vander Leahy

    And growing up with two parents who had hair that was absolutely nothing like mine made life pretty interesting.

    Jessica Vander Leahy

    By interesting I mean I spent a great deal of my childhood locked in my mother’s vice-like grip as she dragged a comb through my hair, attempting to contort it into something that resembled a ballet bun – ambitious, I know.

    Since I started doing my own hair I've been undertaking one experiment after another to get softer, smoother ringlets. And like most curly-haired ladies, I've become quite the connoisseur of all things hair.

    But each of these experiments comes at a cost, so I decided my next mission would be an investigation into products that wouldn't ruin my bank account.

    Basically, I wanted to know if cheap products could actually cut the mustard with a wild mane like mine.

    Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

    - Each product I tested would have to cost less than $20AUD.

    - I would trial each product over three consecutive days.

    - I'd let my hair dry naturally after applying each product.

    Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

    1. OQX Quenching Coconut Curls Hair Butter, $17.99

    Jessica Vander Leahy

    First impression: Aptly, this treatment looks like butter, feels like butter, and smells like coconut.

    Application: While this product is a "butter", it's creamy, without being greasy. In fact, it's really light. I needed to use a fair whack on moist, warm hair for it to really soak into each strand.

    Pros: If you do get the application amount just right, this butter can give you a really great voluminous result. If your hair is curly and fine (unlike mine) you could use this in the shower as a rinse-out conditioner rather than a leave-in treatment.

    Cons: It's not very moisturising in the long-term. When I used it and rinsed it out my hair was super fluffy. I think this is because it's so thick it doesn't really ~sink into~ the hair. Instead it tames the curls by coating each strand, which isn't ideal on dry hair like mine.

    Overall rating: 3/5

    2. Garnier Fructis Seek and Shine Anti-Frizz Serum, $7.99

    Jessica Vander Leahy

    First impression: Looks like a clear serum, smells like gummy lollies. Tbh I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not.

    Application: The directions say: "Dispense one pump of serum, or as much as needed for your hair type". I say: If your hair is thick and thirsty like mine you'll need a helluva lot more.

    Pros: Yes, your hair will be shiny. It will sparkle like a unicorn's coat in the sun.

    Cons: While this one made my hair look shiny it made it dry darker and took away my highlights. Bye.

    Overall rating: 2.5/5

    3. Lee Stafford Here Come the Curls Curl Creme, $8

    Jessica Vander Leahy

    First impression: Very thick and creamy. Smells like summer in a bowl, basically.

    Application: On the tub it literally says it "weighs curls down" so I used sparingly.

    Pros: The heavy texture is effective in eliminating frizz and fly-aways, which is great for fighting humidity.

    Cons: It dries kinda crunchy. I ended up shampooing more than usual to get the stuff out. I don't think this is an every day product.

    Overall rating: 2/5

    4. Vo5 Smoothly Does It Frizz Free Creme, $6.99

    Jessica Vander Leahy

    First impression: Light cream with a lot of fragrance.

    Application: A few dollops worked into damp hair.

    Pros: It's light and it soaks in fast, so the hair dries quickly.

    Cons: I think its strength is as a heat protectant. I wouldn't really use it if you were going for a natural dry as it adds a lot of definition, as you can see.

    Overall rating: 2/5

    5. Creightons Frizz No More Activator Cream, $9.99

    Jessica Vander Leahy

    First impression: A cream with a slight smell of Argan oil.

    Application: I would comb this one in gently.

    Pros: This one's got good holding power for the curls and it doesn't dull down the hair's vibrancy. Most days I'm after a product that is going to hydrate my locks and help my hair look good when it dries naturally. This did just that.

    Cons: I seriously need more than just 100ml for daily use so a bigger bottle would be swell.

    Overall rating: 4/5

    6. John Freida Frizz Ease 6 Effects Serum, $16.99

    Jessica Vander Leahy

    First impression: Judging by the super spacey packaging I was expecting this thick serum to smell clinical but it just smelled like strawberries.

    Application: Just a few pumps of this is all that's needed.

    Pros: The serum's consistency means 50ml can go a long way if you put it on freshly-washed, wet hair.

    Cons: A few hours into this trial my hair did fluff up on the ends, while the roots stayed smooth, which made me look a bit business on the top, party on the bottom.

    Overall rating: 3/5

    7. L’Oreal Elvive Smooth Intense Anti-Frizz Serum, $11.99

    Jessica Vander Leahy

    First impression: A standard serum with an Argan oil scent.

    Application: Work several pumps into freshly-washed hair.

    Pros: Because of the Argan oil this serum is super hydrating, super glossy, and great smelling.

    Cons: There wasn't much in terms of definition and you gotta to use a shittonne on thick hair, which isn't ideal since the bottle is teeny-weeny. This one might be a good size for weekend travel but in terms of bang for your buck I think you could spend your money a little better.

    Overall rating: 2.5/5

    8. Schwarzkopf Deep Repair Extreme Serum, $10.99

    Jessica Vander Leahy

    First impression: A creamy serum with a sweet floral scent.

    Application: This serum is creamy enough to comb through moist hair.

    Pros: It was really easy to apply and was super hydrating. This was by far my favourite of the serums.

    Cons: Once again, as with most serums, you have to use a lot if you have thick hair. They aren't the thriftiest of options.

    Overall rating: 4/5

    Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

    - If you're into serums, try out the Schwarzkopf product.

    - If you're more into curl creams, try out Creightons.

    - In the end, if you've got curly hair, you already know that one day you can wake up with full, lush curls and the next day wake up limp af. Sadly, none of these treatments did much to change that random cycle.

    - There isn't a single product that can help you with every curl struggle, despite the promises the packaging might make. (Yes, John Frieda, I'm lookin' at you!)

    - While all of the products I tested were in the supermarket price range, none of them were that much better than good old coconut oil in terms of hydration, gloss, and hold.