Best Curl-Defining Products for Natural Hair

The ultimate goal with curly hair is definition. Achieving your ideal level of smooth, bouncy, and frizz-free spirals has a lot to do with the curly hair products you use and how you layer them in your routine.
Curl definition also depends on your natural texture since different curl types naturally come with various levels of definition. Some are more visible than others, and often times the tighter the curl, the more difficult it may be to see definition—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Some people may even find that certain parts of their hair take to curly hair-defining products a lot better than others.

Thankfully, there are several styling hacks and ways to best use your hair products to make your curl definition more pronounced. If you’re wondering what is the best curl-defining product for natural hair, read on to find out how to choose and use a curl enhancer that will help you meet your definition goals.

What Are Curl Definers?
Before diving into which products to use, you may be questioning what is a curl-defining cream (or any other curl-enhancing product) in the first place? It’s exactly as it sounds. A curl-defining cream is a leave-in product that defines and helps add moisture to seal and smooth your hair. The opposite of smoothness is frizz, which comes from friction, humidity, and touching your hair too much before your style dries. Curl definers step in to help impart moisture and smooth hair to eliminate frizz, earning them a spot as a natural hair care essential.

Aside from frizz control and providing your hair with lasting moisture, curl-defining creams and products go a long way in helping curls spring into their natural shape, so your curls can look healthy, tight, and bouncy. A curl cream can also provide more hydration than defining gels and leave your curls with less product buildup, flakiness, and stiffness. This will enhance the look of your curls and improve manageability to make your desired styles easier to achieve. Once you find the right curl definer for your spirals, you’ll be able to see quite the difference in how your hair looks and feels.

What Products Can I Use To Define My Curls?
The key to getting the maximum level of curl definition is to always pick your curl definer based on your curl type. Looser, more wavy textures in the 3A to 3C bracket should use a lightweight hair cream or liquid leave-in conditioner that won’t weigh hair down and leave you with limp or dull curls. This curl type should also avoid heavier oils, like castor oil for styling, as they will likely have the same effect. Thicker textures in the 4A to 4C range do best with a curl-defining butter and more oil-based curl activator formulas that will not only provide moisture but will also seal the cuticle and help this drier texture look and feel more hydrated.

Super dry hair can also benefit from weekly treatments with hair masks and deep conditioners. While many stylers aren’t necessarily one-size-fits-all, these picks below work on various curl patterns. Here’s how to pamper curly hair using our best curly hair-defining products.

1. Hair Milk Nourishing & Conditioning Styling Pudding: Puddings are one of the best product types for providing hydration and holding your style in place, and this one is no exception. Formulated with agave, avocado oil, and shea butter, this curl definer helps to smooth strands and deliver long-lasting moisture at the same time.

2. Pracaxi Nectar Style & Hold Foam: Layer this lightweight foam in between your leave-in and cream to set your hair for even more curl definition and a soft hold without frizz. If your hair is more on the wavy side, make this curl enhancer your last step.

3. Black Vanilla 4-in-1 Combing Creme: Use a combing creme right after your rinse-out conditioner to help get rid of any leftover knots and prep your hair for smooth and manageable styling.

4. Hair Milk 4-in-1 Combing Creme: This multipurpose moisturizer can double as both a leave-in and a definer. Apply the curling cream before or after your oil to help separate and smooth curls.

5. Sacred Tiare 4-in-1 Combing Creme: With this combing crème, coconut oil and coconut water add another level of moisture that’ll help thirsty curls thrive.

6. Hair Milk Curl Defining Butter: Apply this curl-enhancing styling butter, which is enriched with agave nectar, avocado oil, and honey, to help moisturize any curl type and keep curls defined all day. That’s right, no more losing definition by midday.

7. Coco Crème Coil Enhancing Moisture Butter: This hair butter is packed with moisture and softness to help you enhance your coils and curls. The result is lasting definition, maximum shine, and an amazingly soft feel.

How To Define Curly Hair

Once you’ve gathered the best curly hair products for your pattern, you’ll need to know how to define curls. The way that you apply a curl activator matters just as much as the actual product. Follow these steps from shower to styling to achieve smooth, defined coils.

Step 1. Detangle. After cleansing your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo or curl cream cleanser, detangle it thoroughly with a creamy conditioner like the Goddess Strength Fortifying Conditioner with Castor Oil. Hair that hasn’t been properly detangled can look knotty and rough and lack definition once it dries. Use a wide-tooth comb and make sure your hair has enough slip from your conditioner to comb through without too much tugging.

Step 2. Use a leave-in. Once your hair is knot-free and moisturized, apply a leave-in conditioner like the Monoi Repairing Leave-In Conditioner to damp hair. Part your hair into four quarters and work the conditioner through your strands from root to tip. Go a little heavier on the ends of hair, which tend to be the driest, to help lock in moisture. Mist hair if it starts to feel dry as you add your leave-in. The more water you leave on your hair, the easier it will be to work your curl definer through.

Step 3. Apply hair oil. Follow your leave-in with a hair oil. This will help to seal in the moisture you just added. Finger comb the Goddess Strength 7 Oil Blend Scalp & Hair Oil With Castor Oil through your four sections. It will help to create some definition before you even get to the next step.

Step 4. Define your curls. Once your hair is oiled, you’re ready for the cream or definer. Use the same finger-combing technique to apply your cream. You can do a pass through each section using a wide-tooth comb to make sure you got all of the knots out of your hair.

For the most definition, apply your cream to small sections from the roots to ends. Separate strands that don’t look smooth and coil them around your finger to help stretch and smooth. You can also use a wide-tooth comb or the right hair brush to achieve curl definition. Follow the tips in our article on How to Brush Curly Hair before trying the latter method.

Step 5. Shake it out. Once you’ve thoroughly applied your curl-defining cream, flip your head upside down and give it a good shake. This makes for even more separation between curls, which helps your hair look more defined.

Step 6. Dry your hair. It’s up to you whether you air dry your curls or use a blow-dryer with a diffuser attachment for faster drying. Keep in mind, if you blow-dry, the diffuser is a must. It will get rid of excess moisture without interfering with the shape and definition of the curls you just created.

Next: Hair and hydration go hand in hand, and that’s especially true for textured hair. Learn How to Moisturize Natural Hair with this helpful guide.