Ask Wikipedia, and it’ll tell you that a cocktail is “an alcoholic mixed drink.” Ask a hairstylist, and they’ll tell you that a cocktail is the secret to moisturized, defined, frizz-free curls. And not in a “wash your hair with beer for shine” kind of way — there’s no liquor or a crafty hack involved here. Rather, a hair care cocktail consists of mixing and matching leave-ins, stylers, and curl creams until you find the perfect combination for your strands. As for how to cocktail your hair products? That’s mostly a matter of trial and error… but a little expert input can point you in the right direction.
For starters, cocktailing is a technique that works best on natural, curly, or coily hair. “It’s a great choice for curls because you’re able to address each need by making one ultimate concoction,” Alexander Armand, a celebrity hairstylist who works with Skai Jackson and Justine Skye, tells The Zoe Report; noting that these hair types tend to crave more moisture and hold. The most common product categories to cocktail include conditioners and stylers. “If you want a little more hydration, softening, or moisture, you can achieve it by mixing different types of conditioners,” Kiyah Wright, a stylist known for her work with Jennifer Hudson and Ciara, tells TZR. “Styling products are also good for product cocktailing because you can mix curl cream, a curl gel, and a leave-in curl putty — because sometimes you need a softener as well as a set.”
Creating the ultimate cocktail also depends on the season, and with the weather warming up, it’s time to break out your most hydrating products. “For the spring and summer months, it’s imperative to moisturize to prevent the outdoor elements from drying your hair out,” Armand says. It seems counterintuitive — isn’t summer notoriously sweaty? — but the heat and humidity levels actually draw hydration out of the hair cuticle. (And yes, your hair gets sun-damaged, too.) He suggests stocking up on butters, creams, and oils for the season ahead.
You can’t just throw an assortment of random products together and expect to make mane magic, though — cocktailing requires a little strategy. Typically, curl cocktails include between two and four products. How you combine them is up to you: You can create one super-formula by hand-mixing them together before applying, or you can layer each product on individually. “If the products don’t mix well you may be left with buildup in the hair,” Armand warns. To avoid this issue, he notes it’s helpful to stick with a single product line and mix and match products from within that line. “Most brands encourage you to cocktail their products with one another, so that will make for a seamless blend,” he tells TZR.
“Make sure that the products are working in tandem and not against each other,” Guy Tang, the founder of #Mydentity hair care, adds in an email to The Zoe Report. “For example, when you mix oil and hairspray together you are weakening the hold of the hairspray.” Basically, it’s best to keep your cocktail ingredients within the same category, and always save setting products for last.
Ahead, the five summer cocktails curl experts swear by.
A Frizz-Free Cocktail
“Right now, my favorite curly cocktail includes the Soultanicals Frizz Whiz Curl Defining Leave In, which for me is the product that provides moisture and hydration,” Franchelli Rodriguez, a beauty influencer know as @ChellisCurls, tells The Zoe Report. “This product mixes well with a bunch of different products as well but currently, I love mixing it with the Soultanicals Can’t Believe it’s Not Butta styling cream. It helps enhance my curls without the frizz and provides perfect amount of shine and moisture to my curls. The last product I use for this cocktail is the WetLine Xtreme Gel — oh, my god, this gel is my favorite. It works with any product and holds my curls in place for the entire week! That’s when you know you created the perfect curly cocktail.”
A Hydrating Cocktail
“Curly hair needs hydration, so it’s great to start with leave-in conditioner to detangle and soften,” Wright says. “You can mix in a gel to set the curl, and if you want a lighter set, you can do a cream. Whether you have softer hair or kinkier hair will determine how much product you need and how much you need. On softer hair, you’re going to use a cream set and a leave in conditioner, and it will give you a softer set curl. For kinkier hair, you want to soften and set so I’ll use a creamy curl cream and then a curl gel to set it.”
A Blowout Cocktail
“I really like to cocktail #mydentity #MyHairLube with #MyStardust Spray, applied to damp hair for extra shine and moisture as well as controlling frizz and flyaways,” Tang says. “This is perfect for someone with coarse, thick hair — or even someone that blow drys their hair everyday — for some added moisture and control. Just keep in mind after adding moisture to the hair, you want to follow up with hairspray to ensure your style lasts.”
A Shine Cocktail
“I start with the Maui Moisture Curl Quench Curl Milk, which is a silicone-free product that has the ultimate hydration properties to leave the hair moisturized,” Armand tells TZR. “Then I use the Maui Moisture Curl Quench Curl Smoothie to add control and definition and eliminate frizz. Lastly, I use the Maui Moisture Coconut Milk Mist Spray for a finisher shine spray, and to add a yummy coconut scent.”
A Beach-y Cocktail
“Another combination I like for piece-y textured hair is cocktailing #MyHairLube and #MyControl Spray,” Tang tells The Zoe Report. “Work this combination through the ends of curled hair to achieve that carefree, beach-y texture. This is great for summer since #MyHairLube provides humidity resistance and #MyControl Spray offers movable hold without your style collapsing throughout the day.”