“I get my most defined wash and gos using the praying hands method on soaking wet, freshly cleansed, moisturized and detangled hair. After finger detanglig in the shower with a slippery conditioner (like Aussie Moist), I rinse thoroughly and step out of the shower. I then apply my leave-in and/or styling cream (preferably a thin, slippery, easily distributed product) of choice to the left side of my head and then the right, using the praying hands method. I do my best not to disturb the curls that formed during the finger detangling process earlier. Finally, I carefully finger curl any frizzy pieces (especially in the front) and allow my hair to air-dry un-manipulated. For shrinkier definition, applying the product with my bass brush results in great curl definition. It’s all about what’ you’re going for!”
Most curls, whether loose or tight, can be defined with a few techniques and lots of conditioner, gel, custard, or pudding. Products preference and performance will vary depending on your hair’s porosity, density, length, and tendency to frizz. Here are the top 6 curl defining techniques that will help you achieve a more defined loose styles.
1. Curly Girl Method
CGM was created by Lorraine Massey and has liberated many curlies from feeling their curls were a hindrance. The method works on all hair types, but in varying ways according to your curls. The basics are to use botanical products or eliminate shampoo from your regimen in exchange for a cleansing conditioner or a botanical, sulfate-free shampoo. After applying a conditioner or your moisturizer of choice as a leave in, you can follow up with applying a styling gel with your fingers before air-drying.
Using your fingers to apply the gel versus comb following the application will help to reduce frizz. Once your styling products are applied do not touch your curls! This will only induce frizz. Also avoid brushes, as they tend to create frizz and are not necessary. This is a critical step in allowing the curls to form and set on their own. CGM encourages curl hydration without your hair feeling heavy.
TCM is similar to the curly girl method, as it agrees that a cleansing conditioner can replace shampoo. Created by Teri LaFlesh, a curly girl who struggled for years with your own hair, the key to this method is tons of conditioner and a brush. Conditioner is slathered onto your tresses to point of squishing through your fingers. Once that’s been applied, section the hair and use a brush (usually with a Denman brush) to smooth out your curls and allow them to clump.
Once the entire head is complete, reinforce the definition by finger combing and smoothing or twirling each curl. Just as in the CGM, allow your curls to dry without touching. Many curlies using the tightly curl method rave of super hydration to their hair and the curls stay distinct and happy.
After hair has been cleansed and conditioned, part the hair into sections and from there create smaller sections using your fingers according to your liking. This is great for a TWA but may be more challenging if the hair is longer. Just as it sounds, you are taking small sections of hair and curling or twirling it around your finger to help the hair form and hold a uniform clump. Once the clump is created, move on to the next section. This technique is great for curlies with multiple curl patterns, as it will make all the curls uniform. Just as the methods mentioned above, once the hair has been completed, leave it alone so it dries without any disturbance.
This method is simply a concentration of product to each strand of hair. You are simply using your fingers, a brush, or a wide toothcomb to evenly distribute product before smoothing your hair in a shingling method. Once your hair has been cleansed and conditioned, section it into four sections. Start with the first section and create an even smaller section before applying conditioner to your fingertips and rake it through, making sure to elongate the curl and smooth it as you go. Lay it down and continue on to another finger part and repeat. Once your entire head is completed, do not touch during the drying process.
Begin to section freshly washed, conditioning, and detangled hair. Starting with one section, run your hands down the hair and smooth the curls into the same direction and pattern. If you want tighter, more separated curls, then smooth in smaller sections. For bigger curls, smooth the hair in bigger sections. Once all the sections have been smoothed, leave your hair alone as it dries so the curl will not be disturbed.
These techniques are used for curlies that have less distinct curls, even when the hair is in a wet state. For extremely defined curls, the twist can be done on wet hair in small sections. For more volume and elongation, twist on dry hair. You pick the size of twist and make sure each twist is as uniform as possible. Finger comb each individual section, apply a holding agent, like a styling cream or gel, and take each section into two parts, and begin twisting each section around the other. Twist all the way down and add some oil or the butter to the ends to ensure they are soft and smooth.
You can add a flexi roller to the end or twirl the end around your finger to create a curl. Continue the whole head and allow the hair to completely dry before unraveling. Applying a small amount of oil or butter to your fingers and palms before unraveling will help to reduce any frizz your dry hands can induce.
Braid outs are created in the same fashion as two-strand twists, but the sectioned hair is braided instead of twisted. For more polished ends, use a flexi rollers or curling the ends around your finger to ensure the ends are smooth and soft. Make sure the braids or twists are 100% dry before releasing in order to avoid frizz.
It’s not necessary to create a perfect curl, but rather perfect your own curls, coils, and waves. Once you have accepted this, then you can strive to define your own curl, coil, or wave for your hair.
This article was originally published in May 2014 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.