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 oftentimes 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 curl-defining styling hacks and ways to best use your hair products to make your curl definition more pronounced. But first, it’s important to understand why your hair may be lacking definition. If you’re wondering what the best products for curly hair are, read on to find out how to choose and use a curl enhancer that will help you meet your definition goals.

Why Are My Curls Not Defined?

Texture

There are several reasons why your curls may not be defined, the first of which is your natural hair texture. Products can help you to elongate or reduce the amount of frizz in your hair, but no non-chemical product is going to entirely change your curl pattern—so be sure not to stress over it! Choose to embrace your natural texture and love your coils for all they are. Whether you have loose curls and waves or tight curls and kinks, learning to love your hair will make you much happier with your results. With this in mind, know that no matter your texture, you can get the best curl definition for your unique hair by considering the following factors.

Porosity

Your curl-defining experience will vary according to your hair’s porosity. Highly porous hair has raised cuticles that allow moisture to get into the strands easily, so this hair type is more prone to frizz and may become limp. Porous hair also loses moisture just as easily as it gains it, which can lead to dry, brittle hair. Using a protein treatment can strengthen the cuticles and allow for more curl definition. By learning your hair porosity, you will be able to better understand your hair and consequently provide better care for it.

Routine

The methods used in your wash day routine and the ways in which you maintain your hair in-between washes could be holding you back from your most defined curls. Even wash and go styles require a bit more than “washing” and “going”. Every single step of your natural hair care regimen, from the products you use to the techniques you apply while styling and drying, can affect your curl definition. Finding the curl-defining routine that works best for you will allow you to have more predictable results every wash day.

Damage

If your hair is damaged by heat or chemicals, you are not going to get the curl definition that you desire. Damaged hair is limp, brittle, and frizzy—making curl definition quite the upward battle. Be patient with your hair and limit the use of heat products to watch your curls come back to life. Still not seeing results? It could be time for a trim or a cut. Getting rid of the weight of lifeless ends can help bring back bounce and definition to your curly hair.

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, smooth hair, and 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?

If you’re on the hunt for the best curl-defining products for natural hair, first consider what your curls need most. To determine which are the best curly hair products for you, make sure to factor in your hair’s frizz, porosity, texture, and length.

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 hair 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. Coco Creme Curl Quenching Deep Moisture Mask: Even the curliest hair gets flat and lifeless when dry or damaged, so regular treatments are key for healthy, defined curls. This hair mask deeply hydrates to leave your hair stronger and softer.

2. Hair Milk 4-in-1 Combing Creme: All curls need to be detangled in order to reach their full potential. This works wonders as a leave-in conditioner that hydrates your hair while providing slip for easier detangling. It also controls frizz and enhances curl definition.

3. Hair Milk Refresher Spray: If you have finely textured waves and curls, you might find that your curls need a refresh on day two or three after wash day. This refresher spray redefines and renews your curls for beautiful definition without weighing it down.

4. Pracaxi Nectar Wash n’ Go Leave-In: Bouncier curls are on the way with the help of this lightweight leave-in conditioner. It softens and makes hair more manageable while adding long-lasting moisture and definition.

5. Hair Milk Nourishing & Conditioning Styling Pudding: This styling pudding is a go-to for type 3 or type 4 curls. It’s full of hydrating ingredients and offers the perfect long-lasting, touchable, flake-free hold to help your curls last longer.

6. Coco Creme Curl Shaping Cream Gel with Coconut Oil: This gel is perfect for 4B and 4C curls. Use it for increased definition for wash and go styles, twist-outs and braid-outs—plus, it provides a long-lasting hold while moisturizing dry strands.

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 your 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: Cleanse and detangle

Curl definition is not all about what you use, it’s also about what you do. If your hair is very prone to tangles and breakage, you might find it necessary to take the time to detangle your hair with product before you shampoo and apply conditioner to your hair. Gently detangle with your fingers first and then a good detangling comb or brush if necessary.

It can also be helpful to then braid or twist your hair so that you can wash and condition your hair in small sections. If you don’t desire to take the time for this extra step, simply use your fingers or a brush to detangle while your curls are drenched in a creamy conditioner, like Sacred Tiare Fortifying Conditioner, that fortifies and smoothes frizz. Make sure you remove all knots and tangles until your fingers glide easily through your hair.

Pro tip: Traditional bath towels don’t promote curl definition. To avoid unwanted frizz, use a microfiber towel when drying your hair.

Step 2: Use a leave-in conditioner

Applying a leave-in conditioner is the first step of the LOC method, which makes hydrating products in this category some of the best products for curly hair. 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 strands into four quarters and work the conditioner through them from root to tip. Go a little heavier on the ends of your hair, which tend to be the driest, to help lock in moisture. Do this while your hair is still wet; you can mist it 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 a hair oil

Follow your leave-in with a hair oil. This will help to seal in the moisture you just added. Finger comb the Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Pure Hair Oil through your small 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. If you desire even more volume, you can pick your curls at the root or finger-separate them once completely dry.

How Do You Get Defined Curls Overnight?

Maintaining curly hair overnight can take a bit of trial and error. Different methods work for different textures, but the key is always to protect your hair from unwanted frizz. One of the main culprits of this is friction caused by your curls rubbing against your pillowcase. If you have loose waves, you might find that a satin pillowcase is enough to maintain your curls. For those with tighter coils, we recommend pulling your hair up into a pineapple hairstyle and wrapping it with a satin scarf before you go to sleep. Pineappling your curls allows them to sit out of the way, on top of your head, so they don’t flatten or frizz overnight.

What Is The Best Product To Make Your Hair Curly?

Curl definers help shape existing curls. But there are also products to help make hair without much curl appear, well, curlier. If you have wavy hair or loose curls that you wish to define and make fuller, try using the Coco Creme Curl Perfecting Water Coco Mist Spray on your damp hair. Scrunch the product through your locks with your fingers and allow them to air dry or use a diffuser for added volume. Once your curls are completely dry (and not a moment before) gently separate them for a fuller look.

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.

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