Great hair-styling tools and products can be transformative—they can take your tresses from eh to exceptional, and take your day from so-so to so amazing. The key is choosing hair-styling tools and products that enhance your hair’s texture and type (curly, straight, fine , or natural ), not just grabbing whatever you can from the beauty aisle as you dash toward the cashier. With hundreds of jams, jellies, creams, butters, and oils lining the shelves, we guarantee there are ones formulated to meet your exact needs—whether it’s pumping up the volume on thinning hair; bringing moisture back to dry, brittle locks; reviving damaged or color-treated hair; or getting rid of build-up on an overly oily mane. But we also understand that you don’t have the time (or budget) to test everything that’s out there.
That’s where our group of at-home testers comes in. For this year’s Healthy Beauty Awards, we tasked 70 judges—with a wide variety of hair types and concerns of their own—to plow through the market’s newest hair products and tools—straightening, smoothing, spritzing, and styling their strands. (We know, tough job!) These 11 products are the ones that seriously wowed and, where applicable, met strict ingredient criteria set by our expert panel of dermatologists. Keep scrolling for our 2020 SELF Healthy Beauty Award winners.
Reviews have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Best Hair Dryer: GHD Helios Professional Hair Dryer
Don’t let its lightweight packaging fool you—this professional-grade ionic dryer has major drying power thanks to three temperature settings, two speed settings, and a cool-shot button, plus a contoured nozzle for concentrated air flow. What’s more, it’s quieter than most dryers on the market—and okay, the colors are really cool too. See full product details here .
Just so you know: Experts advise that those with dry, fine, or thinning hair should limit heat styling.
One tester said: “Of all the hair dryers I tested, this was my favorite! While it didn’t have all the bells and whistles that some of the other dryers boasted, the Helios was by far the most powerful and easy to use. The model I received was a pretty matte plum color with shiny rose-gold accents and came with a cute and functional hang tab. The body is relatively compact and sleek, but it had a solid feel. This packs some serious power: It took less than five minutes to get my towel-dried hair 90% dry. The speed and temperature controls, placed on the back of the handle, were easy to use and change mid-dry without getting in the way. Overall the only criticism I had was that the dryer was definitely heavier than the others, but at least seemed as though it would hold up to the inevitable tumble from counter to bathroom floor.”
Best Flatiron: CHI Lava Ceramic Hairstyling Iron
A combo of ceramic plates infused with volcanic lava derived from lava rocks (seriously!) straightens strands without damaging heat effects from this high-heat styler. With its longer plates, you can smooth and straighten more of your tresses at once for an overall reduction in styling time. See full product details here .
Just so you know: Experts recommend limiting heat styling on your hair.
One tester said: “I’m so impressed with this flatiron! I had one of the classic Chi flatirons in high school and through college, and I was so sad when it died. But this is a really amazing replacement and feels like a huge upgrade. It has a longer iron to get more hair at once. It also has a digital adjustable temperature, which is HUGE! It also performed super well—I was able to straighten and add waves to my hair very quickly without having to go over the same sections of hair over and over. It heated up quickly as well! All around, this is a great straightener and does everything I need it to very well.”
Best Curling Iron: Revlon Long Lasting Curls Titanium 1" Curling Iron
Testers loved the tangle-free cord that lets you easily move from one side of your head to the other. The adjustable temperature control as well as the titanium technology, which leaves hair smooth and shiny, are also pretty nifty, as they ensure you don’t overheat your strands during styling. See full product details here .
Just so you know: Experts recommend limiting heat styling on your hair.
One tester said: “Clear winner here. It made my dirty, frizzy hair look soft, sleek, and shiny while still adding a structured curl. It heats up quickly and was very simple and user-friendly. There’s not much more to it—simply did its job incredibly well, without too many frills.”
Best Brush: Conair The Knot Dr. Pro
Spaced, flexible bristles easily maneuver through any hair type—wet or dry—to painlessly smooth out knots and unsnag tangles. The soft bristles also mean you don’t have to worry about snapping any strands as you tame your mane. Also noteworthy: the ergonomic handle, which testers loved. See full product details here .
One tester said: “I love this brush—it’s my new go-to! It’s so gentle on my scalp, which can be sensitive. It gets any knots out within two brushes, meaning you don’t have to keep going back in and overbrushing. The bristles are firm enough to go easily through wet hair and flexible enough not to cause breakage. It even came with a little zip case for the brush head, which is possibly unnecessary but could be useful if you travel frequently.”
Best Styling Product for Fine, Thinning Hair: Ouidad Going Up! Volumizing Texture Spray
Testers love that this product lived up to its name, saying it pumped up the volume, leaving behind a full, luscious mane that you could still run your fingers through. They also noted that the blend of mongongo oil, manuka honey, raw silk powders, and carob tree protein felt nice on their hair compared with other products. See full ingredients list here .
Bonus points, per the experts: This product contains dimethicone, which our derms say you want to look for if your hair is fine or thinning. It also offers thermal protection, which is key because experts suggest limiting heat styling.
Just so you know: This product contains alcohols that derms say can be drying.
One tester said: “Postpartum hair loss presents two challenges: Your hair gets noticeably thinner, and as it grows back in, you get a halo of short wispy hairs that always escape from your hairdo. This product solved both problems. It gave me a ton of volume and held everything in place. And the texture was perfect. It left my hair feeling soft, and I could easily run my fingers through it.”
Best Styling Product for Dry, Damaged Hair: John Frieda Detox & Repair Care and Protect Spray
Testers reached for Detox & Repair not only for its nutrient- and moisture-rich formula, which helped quench and protect their parched strands, but also because the smooth texture made their hair feel super silky. They were also big fans of the subtle scent. See full ingredients list here .
Bonus points, per the experts: Our derms give the thumbs-up for products like this one that are formulated with dimethicone and olive oil, which plump and moisturize dry hair. It also has hydrolyzed proteins, which can boost the strength of natural hair.
Just so you know: This product has fragrances, which may be irritating to some.
One tester said: “Smooth texture, made my hair feel so silky. Already love John Frieda products and this one is awesome. Smells so incredible.”
Best Styling Cream for Natural Hair: Cantu Avocado Hydrating Curling Cream
A creamy texture that went on smooth and left curls defined, moisturized, and frizz-free was what kept testers continually reaching for this product. Plus, it’s packed with oils, butters, and hydrolyzed proteins, making it an exceptional hydrator. See full ingredients list here .
Bonus points, per the experts: It checks off several boxes when it comes to must-haves for natural hair, including deep conditioners (jojoba oil) and scalp-soothing ingredients (aloe vera and shea butter).
Just so you know: If you have thinning hair, you may want to steer clear of the olive oil in this product. The formula also contains alcohols which can be damaging for natural hair.
One tester said: “I love this Cantu cream. I’ve been using it to refresh my curls on my non-wash days, and it works wonderfully. I have pretty tight curls, so I’ve been applying it to my hair in sections; it keeps my hair frizz-free, and my curls are defined all day. I also love this product because it doesn’t flake up and doesn’t leave an oily residue that I have to wash out the next day. Amazing product, I’ve unintentionally shelved my other hair gels/creams and I’ve been using it daily!"
Best Hair Oil: Earth Supplied Strength & Length Anti-Break Shine Oil
Even if testers were not fans of hair oils before using this product, they certainly were after, saying it really quenched their hair without adding excess weight. Other fan-favorite features: the generously sized bottle, convenient pump applicator, and tropical cocoa butter scent. See full ingredients list here .
Bonus points, per the experts: This product is formulated with coconut oil, which offers various benefits from almost all hair types.
Just so you know: This product is chock-full of oils, which may not mesh well with hair that is already oily or fine.
One tester said: “I love products with castor oil and was excited to use this in between washes. It is light but leaves my scalp and hair looking moisturized and clean. I usually have dry hair that is exacerbated by oils, producing more dandruff—but this oil wasn’t heavy and kept my roots shiny.”
Best Hair Mask for Curls and Coils: Bomba Curls Dominican Forbidden Hair Mask
When curls become tired and lifeless, testers say this deep conditioning treatment works to bring them back to life. It’s formulated with moisture-rich cupuacu butter to restore curl elasticity as well as pistachio oil, turmeric, and cinnamon extract to combat hair loss. See full ingredients list here .
Bonus points, per the experts: This product avoids drying sulfates as well as silicones that can weigh hair down. It includes moisturizing cetearyl alcohol as well as hydrolyzed keratin.
Just so you know: This mask is formulated with fragrances, which can be irritating.
One tester said: “What a great hair mask! I love how this mask smells and applies, and it’s super easy to use. I also loved that it left my hair feeling moisturized and looking super shiny and healthy—I will definitely be using this mask again. I used it without heat, because I typically go heat-free when I treat my hair, but it worked very well underneath a shower cap with the steam heat from the shower. I love how natural the product is and how it kept my hair moisturized after I washed it out and went about the rest of my hair-care routine. Love it!”
Best Hair Mask for Color-Treated Hair: R+Co Television Masque
R+Co is no stranger to our awards, winning for a second time this year with this mask that majorly overhauls color-treated hair, according to our reviewers. Formulated with snow mushroom extract, coconut oil, and murumuru butter, Television Masque works to restore moisture, add hydration, and strengthen hair while combating frizziness and boosting manageability. See ingredients list here .
Bonus points, per the experts: It contains cetearyl alcohol , which unlike other alcohols can be moisturizing, plus another big moisturizing ingredient: olive oil.
Just so you know: This product contains fragrance and fruit extracts, which may be an issue for some.
One tester said: “As the name cutely suggests, this product promises camera-ready hair, and damn, did it deliver for my Zoom calls. I have dry bleached hair, and I’m always scared that one day my hair is just going to fall out from all the damage, so hair masks are a necessity for me. I’ve had a couple in my rotation that I’ve been loyal to, but R+Co’s was the first that felt as if it had come straight from a salon. Once my hair was done air-drying, I was shook by how amazing it looked. I didn’t even use any styling products or hot tools, but my wavy hair was looking extra curly and intact with no frizz—as if I’d just got it professionally done. The texture of my hair also felt thick and strong, which is always a relief when you have bleached hair that can feel as weak as cotton candy. I’m definitely adding this to my rotation.”
Best Hair Mask for Dry, Damaged Hair: Cake The Whip Smart Hair Mask
Testers couldn’t get enough of the pretty pink packaging and cake-like smell, which kept them digging in this tub of goodness day after day, be it as a preshampoo, a regular conditioner, or a leave-in conditioner. They loved how the mask’s thick texture coated hair in hydrating coconut and sweet almond oils to soften and detangle curls. See full ingredients list here .
Bonus points, per the experts: It avoids sulfates, which can be drying, and instead contains dimethicone to prevent moisture loss. It also has coconut oil, which is not only a hydrator and moisturizer but a yeast controller (buh-bye, flakes!) as well.
Just so you know: It’s formulated with fragrances, which can be irritating, and alcohols, which are known to be drying.
One tester said: “I am 100% here for this whole cake gimmick. The bright pink container, the name, the part where it looks, feels, and smells like icing? Perfection. It says you can use it multiple ways, so I tried once on dry hair while sitting in a bath and once after shampoo. Both times it rinsed out quickly, smelling like a kid’s birthday cake all the way. After drying, my hair stayed soft and looked healthier than it has in a while! I’d definitely recommend this stuff.”
Best Edge-Control Product: Hairitage by Mindy McKnight Fixed on You Edge Control
Designed with a bevy of curl textures in mind (3A–4C), this product reins in frizzy edges with baobab, a rich oil that protects against heat styling and environmental issues (think sun and pollution), making it look sleek but not greasy, according to testers. Another win: The subtle vanilla-scented jelly comes in cute packaging—you’ll never guess the price. See full ingredients list here .
Bonus points, per the experts: This product side-steps drying ingredients such as sulfates.
Just so you know: This product is formulated with fragrances, which may be irritating to some.
One tester said: “Overall, I am now a huge fan of this edge control. Though I wouldn’t use it on my hair when it is pressed and straightened, this is perfect for the days when I’m rocking my natural hair in a style or simply out in a curly ’fro. The texture is water based but more similar to a custard than to a gel. It applies easily and lasts all day. One of the best things about this edge control is that it doesn’t leave a white residue that a lot of gels and edge controls do! The packaging was really cute too.”
Best Scalp Scrub: Oribe Serene Scalp Exfoliating Scrub
This treatment is like a spa day for your scalp, using a blend of fruits and sugars to exfoliate, chamomile to soothe, and a hint of caffeine to energize. And testers all agree that this scrub left their scalps feeling clean, soft, and loved. See full ingredients list here .
Bonus points, per the experts: This product includes glycolic acid, a favorite exfoliating ingredient for those with oily hair.
Just so you know: This uses a blend of AHAs to exfoliate the scalp, but derms note that this compound can be harsh and irritating to those with sensitive skin.
One tester said: “I *loved* this scalp scrub a lot. This has a mix of physical (little exfoliating polymer beads) and AHA exfoliators, giving it a deeper experience than a regular scrub. It’s not super gritty. It smells good too. It washed out really easily with no residue, and my scalp did feel better after each use. Definitely no flakes, especially toward the front of my scalp, which is a big problem area.”
Best Curl-Defining Cream for Curls and Coils: R+Co Turntable Curl Defining Crème
Despite its being lightweight, testers reported that this creamy styler packed a huge moisturizing punch thanks to a mix of rice protein, flax, and chia seed extracts, plus coconut oil. It also won high praise for defining curls for a full day of wear. See ingredients list here .
Bonus points, per the experts: This cream has deep conditioners and hydrolyzed proteins, both of which our experts say moisturize and strengthen natural hair.
Just so you know: This product is formulated with fragrances, which may be irritating to some.
One tester said: “This is a pretty ideal styler for me. It had good hold and made my curls look bouncy and defined. It felt moisturizing without being heavy, and my hair still felt like hair (which is very important to me). It distributes easily through my damp hair and smells amazing—clean and floral. There wasn’t a lot of trial and error involved, which I also liked; if I used too much or too little, it didn’t take much to course-correct and make my hair look good.”
Best Styling Spray for Curls: Wella Professionals EIMI Nutricurls Fresh Up
A stellar spray nozzle along with a nourishing antifrizz formula infused with jojoba oil and wheat-bran extract earned Fresh Up high praise from reviewers. Also noteworthy: how just a few spritzes made this the perfect product for a midday curl refresh. See full ingredients list here .
Bonus points, per the experts: This product contains strand-strengthening hydrolyzed proteins and deep-conditioning oils.
Just so you know: If you have oily hair, derms suggest you limit your use of products formulated with oils, like this one.
One tester said: “Never would’ve picked this product for my hair, but it ended up being stellar. I sprayed it and then blow-dried my hair with a diffuser. The ringlets! The shine! The lack of frizz! Love how it made all my curls very defined but still maintained body and movement. My curls stayed fresh a lot longer than they usually do. The product is a nice weight, and it sprays evenly. Would def use again.”