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Shea Moisture vs Cantu 2024 (The Definitive Guide)

If you live with wavy or curly hair, chances are you’ve at least heard of Shea Moisture and Cantu. After all, both brands have been haircare staples as early as 2003.

Which is better, you ask? That's what we'll be finding out today as we compare the two side-by-side. Shea Moisture vs Cantu - let’s get into it.

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Shea Moisture vs Cantu Curling Cream

The job of a curl cream is to both condition and moisturise from the inside out, and the nature of the ingredients will affect how well it does this. A good curl cream will enhance the natural pattern of the hair by encouraging curl formation, allowing them to be the best version of themselves.

Two of the *best* curl creams around are the Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie and the Cantu Coconut Curling Cream.

2024 update: Cantu's Coconut Curling Cream has a new look! The formula doesn't seem to have changed, though.

Both products have an intoxicatingly delicious scent and roughly the same consistency. They also claim to be ideal for curly, wavy, and coily tresses. (Note: Cantu’s curl cream calls out that it’s most ideal for type three curls and type four coils.)

They’re formulated without sulfates, parabens, silicones, or phthalates. We’re also happy to report that they’re cruelty free. However, neither appears to be vegan, nor do they seem to be hypoallergenic. (Both brands do have hypoallergenic products, though!)

Shea Moisture highlights Silk Protein, Neem Oil, and Coconut Oil as some of their superstar ingredients, which help hair to retain moisture and definition without weighing it down. Cantu also gives a shout to Coconut Oil, along with pure Shea Butter and several essential oils that define, strengthen, and lengthen curls.

As someone with 3A hair* that’s fine, low porosity, and frizzy, I typically apply mousse in sections while my hair is damp and follow that with gel. I then scrunch with a cotton t-shirt, twirl various sections into ringlets, and let it air dry.

*Editor's note: This article was originally written for FemmeNordic by esteemed guest author, Hanna Mallette, who has 3A hair. (Just in case you were wondering how I tested this product with my blonde, straight hair!)

I tried the Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie as directed, followed by my usual scrunching and twirling. When my hair dried, it was incredibly frizzy. I can say, though, that my day two hair was more defined after a refresh (with a different product).

On my next wash day, I used the Cantu Coconut Curling Cream as instructed and went on with the rest of my styling routine. The results? Not great.

Upon drying, my curls were totally limp, and some sections also had a greasy-crusty finish. So, I rinsed it out later that evening.

While neither product was effective for me, they’re likely more ideal for thicker, curlier/coily strands that require more moisture. And though both are crowd favorites in the curly community, we do favor one over the other: Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie.

Sure, it was a better fit for my hair, but beyond my experience, Shea Moisture ethically sources and sustainably produces their products. Additionally, they’re a family-founded, Black-owned company that continues to formulate their products with fair trade shea butter and raw shea butter handcrafted by women in Africa.

On the other hand, less seems to be public regarding the history of Cantu and their approach to haircare.

Cantu’s curl cream has racked up a larger number of ratings on Amazon, but Shea Moisture’s transparency and commitment to ethics and sustainability ultimately won us over.

This article was originally published on August 9th 2022, but it has been reviewed and updated with the latest available information on February 12th 2024 by Sara Mckay, MA.

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