When it comes to styling your natural hair, knowing which hair product you can lean on is essential, and throwing the kitchen sink at your curls while you’re working on your style does more harm than good—too many products lead to build-up, which ultimately inhibits each strands’ ability to be healthy.
This guide will explore how to style curly hair to help you trade the hair-burdening heavyweights for curl-inspiring heavy-hitters. That way, you’ll know exactly which natural hair tools and curly hair products to reach for when you’re whipping up your next look.
Natural Curl Magic: Most Common Types Of Curls
Before we break into how to get breakout curls for your hair type, let’s review the four most common types of curl patterns found in natural hair.
Tight Textures (4A-4C)
Think of heavenly, gravity-defying tight curl textures as a permanent coronation. No other pattern has as much lift as this type of curl, thanks to its zig-zag pattern. Tight textures are usually composed of ultra-delicate strands thirsty for the royal conditioning treatment.
When prepping your tight texture styling arsenal, look for curly hair stylers that:
- Promise to keep your strands clean without stripping them of the moisture they crave
- Help to coax away knots and tangles to give you a supple, pillow-soft canvas to create your masterpiece
- Prioritize the long-term care of your hair
Tight textures’ unique ability to soar is partly due to the delicateness of each individual strand.1 To avoid breakage and inspire length, your hair care routine should prioritize moisturizing.
Coily Textures (3C-4B)
The hallmark sign of coily textures is high-energy, high-fidelity curls that spring back into their natural S or Z-shaped forms. Like their tight-textured cousins, coily hair adores being swaddled in lots of hydration.
While the scalp naturally produces oils of its own (like sebum), the curves and flourishes in 3C-4B hair keep these natural moisturizers from traveling down the hair shaft.2 That means the main thing to look out for when styling is dryness and making sure that your coils don’t get parched!
Curly Textures (3B-3C)
Curly and coily textures are closely related, with a few key differences:
- While coily textures have extra bounce-back, curly textures tend to be stretched more easily, creating sultry, languorous patterns when lengthened.
- Individual curly strands tend to be thicker than coily textures
- Frizz is not the enemy with curly textures—with proper care, frizz is nothing but flair
Curlies range from undulating waves to corkscrew curls that are just a touch more laid-back. Folks with 3B-3C textures may find a calico selection of hybrid or multiple curl shapes in their crown, which gives you tremendous versatility when it comes to styling to suit your mood.
Fearless, multidimensional locs speak for themselves. There are myriad ways to encourage hair to bind together, from plaiting to palm rolling. Plus, exploring your favorite ways to let your locs flow is a journey in its own right. Whatever curly hairstyle you go for, this type of curl pattern thrives when you prioritize your roots and scalp in your hair care regimen.
How To Style Tight-Textured Hair
Before you do anything else, know that tight-textured hair wants to be tenderly moisturized and lovingly detangled before you’re ready to twist, fluff and swoop it into its finest form.3 We recommend trying co-washing techniques between shampoo days and lightweight formulas for days when your hair needs a cleanse.
One of our favorite things about tight curl patterns is how it encourages tenacity and commitment. Few tight-texture wearers style their hair multiple times a week, which makes every self-care/hair care moment a ritual in its own right.
Twist-outs are a breathtaking way to embrace the loft and lushness of this curl pattern, but few would argue that they take effort (and arms of steel) to execute to the fullest. Before you break out this style, you’ll want to make sure that you not only have a good understanding of how to do a twist-out, but that you also have the right tools to accomplish the look. To get started, be sure you have a:
- A detangling brush (to be gently used in the shower)
- A rich, penetrating Styling Cream or Curl Custard for shine and greater styling control
- Sectioning clips
When working a twist out, make sure to start from the bottom of your hair and work your way up. When it’s time to unravel, it’s up to you whether you use heat or no heat to fluff it out—but if you do, be sure to use a heat protectant to protect the health of your tresses above all.
Fluff It Out
Afros are an iconic look that is particularly extraordinary when working with tight textures. To keep them fluffed to perfection, you’ll need to pair a reliable stream of hydration using a Misting Spray Bottle with water (or add a dose of your favorite leave-in conditioner for natural hair). Use a Wide-Tooth Comb for detangling and a flounce-inducing tool like our Hair Pick to keep it lifted until your next styling session. Learning how to pick your hair is as simple as 1-2-3 thanks to the right tools!
How To Style Coily Hair
Whatever style you go for, coily hair loves to lap up lots of hydration before you wind them up. That said, this texture has different levels of porosity (the ability to absorb and retain moisture), so it can take each natural hair wearer some time before learning the specifics of their unique pattern.
Before you style, detangling is key with the right coily hair products:
- In the shower, coat the coils in a luscious, fragrant Intensive Conditioner or Hydrating Hair Mask.
- Collect your coils in a conditioning cap and (depending on your porosity) let the hair mask treatment absorb for 20 minutes to 1 hour for hair that is experiencing more dryness.
- Finally, work out any tangles with a detangling brush, like our Shower Brush, while your hair is still wet. When it comes to learning how to brush curly hair, make sure to use the proper tools to protect your delicate strands from breakage.
Coily hair is built for embracing exquisite detail inherent in nature, so it’s no surprise we love buoyant, defined freewheeling coils. For how to style curly hair after shower, use a curly hair claw clip to parcel off your tresses and treat each one to a Curl Gel that will seal in buttery moisture while bringing your curl form into exquisite relief.
To add extra finesse to a wash-and-go look, give your baby hairs some TLC and lay them to your liking with our Edge Control solution alongside an Edge Tool.
How To Style Curly Hair
Soft, pliable naturally curly hair leaves plenty of room for creativity, but it does have its preferences for care. Before you style, know how to style naturally curly hair to keep your texture its liveliest and most defined.
We recommend lighter products, such as our Lightweight Conditioner, that will nurture your spirals with moisture without making them carry too much weight.
Using the pineapple method while you sleep is one of the most tried and true ways to prime your hair for styling. A few days after washing, loop your hair through a satin scrunchie that sits on the top of your head to protect your curl structure before settling in for the night. The next morning, spritz your tresses with a hydrating mist and voilà—curls, redefined.
Naturally curly hair gives a whole new meaning to braids. We love a curly hairstyle that starts with tight plaits near the crown of the head while letting curls bloom in the back. If you’ve got long curly hair to work with, try experimenting with long, loose braids and letting a few perfect tendrils spring free and feather-dust your temples.
How To Style Locs
One of the many blessings of locs is that you’ll be flaunting a regal look—no matter how intensively you want to style them.
Before styling locs, make sure your wash day routine prioritizes scalp care. Tending to your roots will help to:
- Reduce dandruff, hair loss and breakage
- Prevent hair product overkill, buildup and bacteria
- Make your locs feel, smell and look divine
To start, look for products that will exfoliate and moisturize the foundation of your look, such as our Curl Cleansing Shampoo and Scalp Serum.
Locs speak for themselves, but updos will turn the dial up on the volume.
There are infinite ways to sweep up your locs, but to style them with care, make an alliance with a spray bottle. Keeping your strands hydrated will make them even more amenable to whatever styling you do, while also adding a touch of gloss to the finishing look. If you’re using a headwrap to add a splash of color, be sure to let your locs air out before sweeping them up.
For days when you’re just feeling like letting your locs hang loose, we love incorporating jewelry into our strands. Simple metal bands are perfect for a minimalist look, while winding Velvet Scrunchies around a family of strands lends a casual ‘90s-inspired feel.
Before you deck them out, make sure your locs are moisturized with a serum rich in lightweight oils like argan, rosehip and jojoba.
Encounter Otherworldly Curls with PATTERN
The universe of natural hair leaves infinite room for freewheeling expression, celebration and adoration of the unique flair of every heavenly strand. At PATTERN, we’re committed to helping you learn to inhabit your unique texture and embrace each new opportunity to style your hair with joy and tenderness.
For an in-depth look at how our products are designed to meet your locks where they are and help them arrive at their next level of vibrancy, check out our full catalog and how-to tips for the best hair care products, tools and curly hair accessories for you.
Quaye, Priscilla. "The Beginner's Guide To Textured Haircare." Into The Gloss. https://intothegloss.com/2017/08/textured-hair-products-guide/
Lucero, Eunice. "3C Hair: A Complete Guide to This Hair Type and How to Care For It". All Things Hair. 17 September, 2021.https://www.allthingshair.com/en-us/hair-care/hair-types/3c-hair-love/
- Dodson, Tiffany. "7 Mistakes You’re Making When Doing a Twist Out." Self. 13 September, 2018. https://www.self.com/story/twist-out-mistakes