Sinking into a warm bubble bath, lounging on the couch with a soothing sheet mask, taking a trip to the nail salon—every self care ritual is different. But if you’re not including hair care in your self care routine, you’re doing a disservice to that exquisite crown of yours.
From loose corkscrews to dense ‘fros, every curl type needs hair care to bring out its natural shape & say Boy, Bye to frizz.
So, put on some cushy socks & grab a drink—we’re stepping into the world of sleek spirals with our guide on how to get defined curls.
What is Curl Definition?
When you see killer curls, you know it. But what exactly makes those curls so mesmerizing? How do we define defined curls?
Overall, defined spirals & coils come from a mix of healthy hair traits. Most curl-defining routines create visual qualities like:
- Minimal frizz – Minimizing frizz comes down to keeping your hair nourished & hydrated. This, in turn, makes it easier for you to define & show off your curls.
- Curl formation – To create a curl, you need individual strands of hair to form the same spiral or coil. This action is also called “clumping”. Most curly hair types have a steady curl formation pattern (this covers the curl type chart, from categories 2a to 4c).
- Curl separation – Nobody wants just one or two curls. Defined curls require separated & distinct spirals, starting from the roots & moving downwards.
Can I Make My Curls More Defined?
The quick answer? Absolutely.
Whether you have loose spirals or tight coils, you can make your curls pop. But first, you have to ask, “How to define my curls?”. The right treatment for you depends on the health, strength, & shape of your particular curls—there’s no one size fits all answer.
Identifying your curl pattern can lead you to your most bouncy & defined spirals yet. To start, identify your curl type off the standard pattern guide:1
- Type 2a – Fine hair with slight waves
- Type 2b – Medium to thick hair with loose S-shaped waves
- Type 2c – Thick hair with sharp S-shaped waves up to the roots
- Type 3a – Fine to medium hair with large, loose spiral curls
- Type 3b – Thick hair with tight & springy spirals
- Type 3c – Very tight, pencil-sized corkscrew spirals starting at the roots
- Type 4a – Dense coils with an S-shape, the size of a straw or smaller
- Type 4b – Very dense coils that can form angular shapes when styled
- Type 4c – Extremely tight coils, nearly indiscernible from each other
Many people have two curl types, so don’t be afraid to mix & match. Once you’ve determined yours, it’s time to create your personalized curl-defining routine with our 5 tips below.
1. Use Moisturizing Products
The key to defined curls & total hair health? Moisture, moisture, moisture.
Imagine your individual hair follicles as layered columns.2 When the outer layer (or cuticle) becomes dry or damaged, it begins to flake. This leaves the inner layer vulnerable & releases precious moisture—a recipe for natural hair breakage, frizziness, & poor curl definition. That’s where moisturizing steps in.
Hair Porosity & Moisture
So, how much moisture do you really need?
You don’t want your hair to become oily, but you do need adequate hydration, so take the Goldilocks route—find your “just right” amount, which comes down to your hair porosity.
The tightness of your cuticles determines how easily your hair absorbs & holds moisture—a.k.a., porosity. You can divide hair porosity into three categories:
- Low Porosity – Tightly bound cuticles, low absorption & high retainment
- Medium Porosity – Somewhat tight cuticles, medium absorption & retainment
- High Porosity – Loosely bound cutices, high absorption & low retainment
Typically, tighter coils have low porosity, while loose curls have high porosity. To know how to define your curls, you’ll have to determine the moisture intensity your porosity type needs.
Almost everyone has some sort of moisturizer in their routine. But if you want your curls to pop, you’ll probably need an extra hydration boost. Consider these curl defining moisturizers:
- Conditioner – No matter your hair type, you need a rinse-out conditioner. These light moisturizers are built for daily use, creating a softer texture & less friction between hair follicles. Dryer textures can use formulas with lightweight oils (think jojoba & olive oil), while looser curls may need oil-free conditioner.
- Leave-in conditioner – Rich & nourishing, a leave-in conditioner like PATTERN’s Leave-in Conditioner, will keep curls moisturized all day long. By sitting on the hair shaft, these conditioners deeply penetrate hair follicles for intense moisture. High porosity hair will greatly appreciate a leave-in conditioner.
- Hair masks – Push the moisture reset button with a curly hair mask. These concentrated formulas infuse your curls with rich moisture & strengthening ingredients (our mask uses moringa oil extract, a protein-rich moisturizer).3 Apply a hair mask on damp hair for 10–15 minutes & rinse out.
- Hair oils – At the end of the day, you should use what feels good on your hair. However, pure oils on wet hair usually hurt curls. Most oils are hair sealants, locking in hydration (a plus for high porosity hair) but blocking out other moisturizing ingredients. For definition, add our argan oil or jojoba scalp oil to dry curls to achieve shine & smoothness.
2. Try a Curl-Defining Product
Want to know a secret? Almost no one has perfectly defined natural curls. To reach those distinct spirals, you’ll need a curl defining styling product to take you there.
Depending on curl type & hair thickness, different products will better work for different people. Test out the below options to see what helps your curls spring into action:
- Curl gel – A popular option, a product like our modern Curl Gel provides structure minus the crunch. These clear products cause your ringlets to hold & define their shape. Types 2’s & 3’s may only need a medium-hold gel, while dense coils could take a strong, thicker gel. Just remember that less is more. Too much hair gel can easily weigh down curls.
- Style cream – Curl styling creams, are all the rage now—& they should be! From thin milks to thick butters, these products like our Styling Cream, balance the moisture of conditioner with the control of hair gel. Low porosity hair could use thicker styling cream, while high porosity hair may only need a lightweight formula.
- Curl spray – Prevent a midday curl slump (or more accurately, unraveling), with a hydrating curl spray, such as PATTERN’s Hydrating Mist. You can mist one of these activating sprays onto wet or dry hair. The extra hydration will bring out your curl pattern & tame any unwanted frizz.
- Curl mousse - Wondering, what does hair mousse do? To put it simply, mousse provides weightless volume and amplifies curl definition. A go-to that will never go out of style, look to a product like PATTERN’s Curl Mousse for ultimate sculpting power. All that’s left to do is learn how to use hair mousse properly for the best results.
3. Create a Solid Wash Routine
Products will be the key to springy, oh-so-defined curls, but before you lather on more curl defining cream, you must start with a clean slate.
This is because your scalp produces sebum (or natural oils) to moisturize hair from the roots down. If you don’t regularly wash your hair, excess hair oil can weigh down your curls. Add product buildup on top of that, & you’ve got a big curl definition no-no.
So, include regular washings into your hair care ritual. But, how often should you wash natural hair? To determine the best washing schedule, you’ll want to consider your unique hair type. Typically, looser curls require more cleansing, but everyone is a little different. If you’re unsure, start with this guide for your wash routine:
- Thin, fine, or wavy hair (Type 2’s) – 2 to 4 times per week
- Curly, thick, or spiraled hair (Type 3’s) – 1 to 2 times per week
- Dense, kinky, or coiled hair (Type 4’s) – 2 to 4 times per month
Another pro tip? Use a sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfates are a harsh surfectant—a.k.a., a detergent that wipes away a lot of grease & grime.4 This means shampoos with sulfates can overwash & leave you with dry & brittle hair. With so many different ingredients to avoid in shampoo these days, make sure to steer clear of sulfates & you’ll avoid any frizz.
4. Dry Your Curls Gently
High-heat blow dryers? Uh-uh. Paddle brushes? No ma’am. Defined curls require a gentle touch, especially during drying.
Poor drying habits not only ruin curl definition—they can also lead to damage, breakage, & thinning hair. Learn how to define curls & protect your scalp with this curl-friendly drying routine:
- Towel off – Use a microfiber towel like PATTERN’s Microfiber Towel, or cotton t-shirt to squeeze out excess water
- Comb – Detangle with our Wide-Tooth Comb (not a brush) & detangler spray
- Apply – Apply any wet hair product, dispensing thoroughly with hands or a comb
- Shape – Use fingers to clump, finger twirl, or lightly scrunch curls into shape
- Dry – Air-dry your curls, or blow-dry with a diffuser on low heat (after applying a heat protectant)
Does touching your wet hair create frizz? Stick with combs. Want voluminous curls? Try a product that’s sure to give your curls the extra bounce. By switching up your drying routine & finding the right hair care tools, you can make your curls shine.
5. Reduce Hair Damage
Dye jobs, tight braids, relaxers—all of these treatments can damage your hair over time, causing hair breakage & frizz.
Fortunately, all hair can recover from damaging habits. It just takes a little time & dedication. To fight back against frizz-inducing damage, stick with these healthy hair habits:5
- Avoid chemical treatments (perms, relaxers, coloring, etc.)
- Brush hair gently
- Rinse with cold water
- Wear protective styles when growing curls
- Reduce heat styling (flatirons, blow dryers, etc.)
- Get regular trims & haircuts
- Eat a nutritious & balance diet
Define Your Curls with PATTERN
With these 5 tips, you can boost your hair care ritual & give your curls, spirals, corkscrews, or coils the sleek spotlight they deserve.
Anothering curl-defining tip? Add PATTERN products to your bathroom shelf.
From extra-rich masks to curl mousse, our curly hair products bring natural power to natural curls. Whether you’re transitioning styles or mainting growth, you can embrace the beauty of your curls at any stage with PATTERN.
Bring on the shine, bounce, & volume by exploring our curl collection today.
- Amay, Joane. "How to Figure Out Your Curl Type." Allure. 31 December, 2021. https://www.allure.com/gallery/curl-hair-type-guide
- "Structure & composition of the hair." Activilong. https://activilong.com/en/content/95-structure-composition-of-the-hair
- Nadeem, Muhammad, and Muhammad Imran. “Promising features of Moringa oleifera oil: recent updates and perspectives.” Lipids in health and disease vol. 15,1 212. 8 Dec. 2016, doi:10.1186/s12944-016-0379-0
- Deena, Campbell. "When You Need to Use a Sulfate-Free Shampoo—and When You Totally Don't." SELF. https://www.self.com/story/sulfate-free-shampoo
- Adamiyatt, Roxanne. "11 Professional Tips for Healthy Hair." Town & Country Magazine. 23 January, 2021. https://www.town & countrymag.com/style/beauty-products/g35255030/healthy-hair-tips/