Learn the most effective strategies to bring out natural curls. This post will teach you everything you need to know about frizz reduction, curly hair tools, and hair care methods for strong healthy hair.
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Defining your natural curls is easiest when your hair is healthy. If you are still transitioning to curly hair after using chemical relaxers it will take some time before you see the definition you’re looking for. If your hair is transitioning click here instead to see the best hairstyles for transitioning hair. Your hair care routine will change as your hair becomes healthier and your natural hair pattern becomes more defined. Here are a few simple, yet vital, tips to help you bring our your natural curls.
1. Protein Moisture Balance
If your hair is extremely brittle or looses definition quickly after styling, you might have to rebalance the ratio of protein and moisture in your hair. “Over conditioned hair” is an issue that affects many curly girls. If you condition too often, your hair will not have enough protein to maintain its shine and structure. If you use too much protein, you could end up with dry hair that breaks easily.
If you think protein moisture balance is the issue, see Protein Moisture Balance: A Complete Curly Girl Guide and you’ll be on your way to reviving your curls in no time.
Also, please remember that for a hair treatment to work properly, it’s all about time and your application technique. Less is more. Layering on conditioner until your hair is coated with product (a popular technique in the curly hair community) doesn’t necessarily benefit your hair. More often than not, that product gets rinsed down the drain because your hair can’t absorb that much conditioner. It is important to follow the instructions for hair masks and conditioning treatments, especially with using a new product.
2. Tight Hair Styles
Wearing slicked back hair styles, tight buns, and intricate braids create tension by pulling on the hair at the root. This can cause thinning because it places stress on the entire scalp.
Tension from tight styles also pulls on your curls. Although stretching your hair briefly after styling to elongate your curls won’t damage your hair, consistently wearing tight styles can affect your curls. The front of your hair can also loose definition because it is manipulated the most.
It’s common for the curls near the base of your scalp to be healthier because the top layer of your hair protects the rest of your hair. Remember to properly moisturize the top section of your hair and pay careful attention to styles that pull or stretch the top layer. (Some people naturally have more than one curl pattern in different sections. If this is true for you, having a proper hair cut is important for an even look.)
If you love sleek styles and braid outs, see a specialist who can properly install your braids and twists to prevent damaging your scalp. You can also try a variation on the loose bun style below by using a large clip:
Note: It’s important not to pull back your hair too tightly or you can create tension which will stretch your curls. Too much tension can disrupt your pattern over time.
Tip: If you’re worried about tangles, you can apply a tiny amount of oil to your hair clip like the one shown above.
3. Hair Tools
Using quality hair tools and investing in sturdy brushes can completely change your hair. If your hair tools are tearing out your strands, then investing in a good brush will change the game for you. A popular styling brush called the Denman Brush is long lasting and ideal for reducing frizz.
Detangling doesn’t need to be painful.
There are plenty of hair tools for you to make the detangling process easier. Please remember that your detangling technique matters. Even with the best quality brushes, rough handling of your hair can create damage.
If you are pressed for time, use more water and a detangling product with slip. Products with slip allow your fingers and styling tools to glide easily through the hair.
You can also finger detangle in the shower to break up bigger tangles before you use detangling tools. Start detangling your hair from the bottom up.
Microfiber towels are extremely effective, but if you don’t have one you can use a t-shirt to dry your hair.
Microfiber towels cause less frizz and reduce tangles because the microfiber material doesn’t cling to your hair. Hair towels are designed to be gentle on the hair shaft, which is especially important after coming out of a hot shower.
Note: Always rinse your hair with cold water to close the cuticle before detangling or using a towel to dry it. Closing the cuticle makes the hair shaft stronger and less prone to breakage.
I use the Luxe Beauty Essentials Microfiber hair towel for my 3C hair (below is the exact microfiber towel I use). Kitsch also came out with an eco-friendly micro-fiber towel that I can’t wait to try.
4. Styling Technique: Curl Training
There are a few ways you can style your hair to bring out your natural curls. You can trail your curls to form spirals with a technique called finger coiling.
You can also use a Denman Brush to train your curls to lay a certain way and bring out definition. Other methods such as scrunching your curls after applying products or plopping the hair will also work to define looser curl patterns. Curly girls with 4A hair and coiler patterns may find that finger coiling is more effective.
The LOC and LCO methods are also great styling options. To decide which one works best for you, see The LCO vs LOC Method: Tips Every Curly Girl Should Know.
5. Hair Products
The ingredients in your hair products have a major impact on the health and definition of your curls. You may have heard about silicones and parabens, controversial ingredients that are common in hair products. Silicones can be misleading because they are promoted as a way to define curls.
However, using silicones over long periods of time can coat the hair and cause curls to become limp. Many curly girls use silicones and love the defining effect they have at first. Silicones are a temporary solution if you are trying to define your curls. If you can’t do without silicones, it’s best to try to take a break and to clarify the hair often. See Insane Curly Girl Clarifying Shampoo Tips for more information about how to properly clarify your hair and remove product buildup.
You may also want to see Protein Moisture Balance: A Complete Curly Girl Guide to learn more about moisturizing your hair. In addition to silicones and parabens, using heavy oils and thick products can also weigh down the hair and create product build up.
If you think your hair is losing definition from heavy products, clarifying your hair will help you get your curl definition back. Parabens are preservatives that are best avoided due to negative health effects. If you are interested in parabens, the EWG has an article that explains the effects of parabens in depth here.
Using clean beauty products that nourish the hair are ideal for bringing out your natural curls. If you’re not sure how to find clean products, see Where to Find Clean Beauty Products for a complete guide or review the recommendations below.
I find that Innersense does a great job of defining my 3C/4A hair and it keeps it moisturized. I still do a protein treatment since these products are very moisturizing and I find that I need protein treatments to maintain my protein moisture balance.
For the LCO Method, I use the Quiet Calm Curl Control, the Hair Ceremony Oil, and the Texturizer. If it’s really humid, you could use the gel instead of the texturizer. (The texturizer from Innersence enhances your natural curl pattern, it doesn’t relax your hair or change your curl pattern.) For a complete guide on the LCO method click here.
Innersense Organic Hydrating Cream Conditioner
6. Sleep Habits
One of the best ways to bring out natural curls is to change your sleeping habits. Sleeping in loose styles, wearing a hair wrap, and using silk or satin pillowcases prevent your hair from losing moisture overnight and reduce friction.
For everyday, a silk or satin pillowcase is a good option for those of you who don’t want to wrap your hair. If you prefer high ponytails or messy buns at night, a silk pillowcase will prevent frizz and will keep your strands moisturized.
Satin bonnets are ideal for traveling or for keeping your hair contained at night. If you are on the go, these are perfect to keep in your bag for a brief stay at a hotel.
You might be surprised by how long your curls last between washes when you try a bonnet or hair wrap overnight. It saves time in the morning and prevents the hair from drying out.
After the hard work you spent conditioning, detangling, and styling your hair investing in a bonnet is a wise choice. There are several options for wraps depending on how you like to style your hair.
Kitsch Hair Wrap
The way you style your hair at night affects the way your hair looks during the day. If you sleep in tight buns this will stretch your curl pattern and will not bring out your natural curls.
Remember that comfort is key.
You can also try satin scrunchies if you aren’t ready to try a pillowcase or bonnet.
Kitsch Pro Satin Scrunchies
Note: Deciding between a satin pillow case and a hair wrap is a personal preference. There are some moments when you might not want to wear a wrap based on your style. Maybe you want to change it up for a date night or the wrap keeps falling off your head. You’ll need to think about what fits your lifestyle and personal preference.
7. Protective Styles
This may seem counterintuitive, but wearing protective styles can help you bring out your natural curls by protecting your hair from environmental damage. This seems like a small thing, but as a curly girl who lived in the snow for years, I know it makes a difference. Curly hair tends to be drier than other hair types, and environmental factors have an impact.
However, you don’t want to style your hair too tightly or the tension on your curls can cause damage.
Exposing your hair to snow, rain, and intense heat can dry out your curls. Although it can be tempting to throw on a hat and leave the house, if you leave the ends of your hair out during a winter storm or an intense heat wave, you will likely dry out your hair.
In the winter, pulling your hair into a protective style like a low bun or a braid can save your hair from harsh weather conditions. Using oils to seal in the moisture and prevent the weather from drying out your hair can also help. You can also buy hats with a satin lining so you don’t have to worry about frizz if you live in a cold climate.
Defining your natural curls is simple with a few strategies. Remember to consider your routine carefully:
- Protein Moisture Balance
- Tight Hair Styles
- Hair Tools
- Styling Technique
- Hair Products
- Sleep Habits
- Protective Styles
As your hair becomes healthier from following healthy hair habits, you will see your curls become even more defined.
Healthy Curls Checklist
If you feel like you’ve tried a million products and you still can’t get the curl definition you want, try this free guide to help you build a routine that works for you.