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I'm Verna,
Your Curly-Haired Friend.

Curly hair is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. It could be super-defined one day and a frizzy concoction the next day – and it's never exactly the same from one head to another. Our mission is to equip you with the necessary tools for restoring and maintaining healthy locks and celebrating the hair you were born with! 

How To Get Defined Curls: A Step-by-Step Guide

January 30, 2023


Verna Meachum

Photo showing well defined curls.

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Curl care

With extensive experience in the beauty industry, I specialize in writing for curly hair care brands, websites, and magazines.

Not only do I have curly hair, but my children, friends, family members, and even friends who are professional curly hairstylists, each with their unique curly textures.

 You get the point :) 

I also partner with a friend who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and works as an R&D Chemist, ensuring our content is scientifically accurate and help us navigate through the misinformation around curly hair care. 

Hi,I'm Verna

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Last Updated on April 6, 2023 by Verna Meachum

Ask any curly-haired person what they wish to achieve most with their hair, and the universal response is usually one thing: defined curls.

If you are one of the many curly-haired friends out there with a seemingly impossible goal—getting beautiful, well-defined curls, don’t worry – we have your back!

Getting defined curls is no easy feat though — it takes patience, product choice, and knowledge of the right techniques.

As Oprah would adeptly say, “You can do this!” – and yes, you really can create defined curls at home by following this step-by-step guide.

Let’s dive right into this curl-tastic journey together! So grab yourself a coffee and carry on reading – it’s time to learn how to get defined curls.

Achieving Defined Curls

Establishing a routine that will help define your curls begins with recognizing the type of curly hair you possess.

There are several different curl types; wavy (Type 2 hair), curly (Type 3 hair), and coily (Type 4 hair). Understanding your curly hair type is the essential first step in achieving defined curls.

From wavy cascades to tightly coiled spirals, each curly hair type has its exclusive aesthetic that may require a tailored regimen and styling products.

In general, those with curly hair are all too familiar with difficulty in defining their curls. The biggest obstacle to achieving well-defined curls is an absence of hydration.

Curly hair is typically drier than its straight-haired counterparts due to the difficulty in distributing scalp oils (sebum) down its spiral strands.

However, when you learn how to provide ample moisture for your curly mane, defined curls will be yours!

Defined Curls for Naturally Curly Hair

There are several methods you can use to achieve defined curls. One of the most popular methods is the CurlyGirl Method.

The CurlyCurl Method is a unique hair care system that has revolutionized how we care for our curls. It is a blueprint for achieving healthy hair, teaching you the best techniques for styling and preventing damage.

The CurlyGirl Method is based on chemically untreated and low-manipulation styling, inspired by Lorraine Massey’s book “Curly Girl: The Handbook.”

The principles of the CurlyGirl Method are simple: only use a cleansing conditioner (aka co-washing) in place of shampoos, limit heat styling, and avoid brushing, and other harsh treatments.

Lastly, there are a few no-nos when using this method, such as no silicones, no mineral oils, and no drying alcohols.  

It’s easy to identify defined curls. Here is what they should look like:

• You have achieved defined curls when your curls are bouncy, well-formed, and have a clear shape and pattern.

• They should be smooth and have minimal frizz or tangles. 

• Additionally, the curls should be defined and separated from each other, rather than clumped together or looking stringy

When your curls are in their optimal condition, they will retain their natural shape and pattern.

If we disturb our hair’s natural curl pattern by brushing, blow-drying aggressively, bleaching or using hair dyes, or over-styling, our curls can become damaged and may never return to their original defined state. It then becomes more difficult for the strands to clump together and achieve curl definition.

If the CurlyGirl Method is not for you, there are other ways to nurture defined curls. The key to defined curls is finding the right regimen and products for your hair type and using them correctly.

12 Awesome Curling Techniques To Get Defined Curls

Start with Clean Hair

The number one rule for creating long-lasting natural curls is to start with clean hair. It is the foundation of all defined curls.

After you shampoo, sometimes product build-up can remain in your hair and stop styling products from working their magic. This is because the residuals are blocking moisture from penetrating the strands, making it difficult for curls to clump together.

To avoid this, you can use a clarifying shampoo once or twice a month to clear away any build-up and keep your curls defined.

On days you are not clarifying your hair, use a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner specifically formulated for curly hair. This will help keep your hair hydrated and make it easier to style.

It also helps prep your strands for products you’ll be using that day. Your favorite shampoo and conditioner combination should do the trick!

Moisturize Your Curls

To create that perfect definition of natural curls, hydration and moisture are absolutely necessary. When your curls become too dry they can easily turn into frizz!

To combat this, it’s essential to use a moisturizing product to nourish your hair. Enter: deep conditioners.

Instantly revitalize your locks with a deep conditioning treatment. Deep conditioners are designed to penetrate the hair shaft and give your curls the extra TLC they need. It will also help keep your defined curls moisturized for longer periods.

After rinsing out the deep conditioner, try using cold water to help “close” the cuticles and lock in moisture.

Leave-in Conditioners And Other Styling Products Should Be Put On Wet Hair

When styling defined curls, the order of product application is extremely important. The key is to layer products from lightest to heaviest.

Depending on your personal preference, this means that leave-in conditioners and other styling products should be put on damp (or wet) hair.

Applying leave-ins, curl creams, and mousses to damp (or wet) hair seals in moisture and helps shape curls into unified clumps.

Top it off with gels for a longer hold throughout the day. One your hair is fully dried, you can also add a light touch of hairspray or oil to help tame any flyaways or frizz.

Sectioning Your Hair

Sectioning your hair is key to defined curls, as it ensures each strand is defined and defined from one another. Each time I style my curls, this is the process I go through.

Taking a few extra seconds to separate your hair into smaller sections can make a difference in the defined curls you want to achieve.

Parting your hair into sections gives you more control and makes it easier to style each one individually, so you can ensure each curl has a defined shape and pattern.

1) Start by splitting your hair into two parts on either side of the head. Then, create additional sections at the top and back of the head.

2) Once you have those six sections, apply whatever product you’re using directly to each section one at a time. This allows you to ensure that all areas are evenly covered, and no spots are missed.

3) This will give you a better overall curl definition, but it’s also more efficient since there’s no need to go back and reapply products where necessary.

4) Additionally, sectioning off your hair helps you to see better how well the products work or if they need any touch-ups or adjustments for them to look perfect.

By taking an extra 20 to 25 seconds to section off your hair before applying products, you’ll end up with more defined curls every time!

Shingling Method

The shingling method is an incredibly meticulous hair styling technique that creates defined, beautiful curls. This method might take some extra time and effort, but the results are worth it!

This particular method is especially beneficial for curly hair that is tightly packed together and goes through a lot of shrinkage, such as type 3 hair and type 4 hair.

Creating definition in your curls demands focus and precision. As opposed to just rubbing, raking, or smoothing product on top of your curly hair, shingling necessitates that you separate, stretch, and gently smooth the products onto every curl for maximum effect.

Here is a step-by-step visual guide to the shingling technique:

Video credit: Shawntas Way

Finger Coil Method

If you are transitioning from damaged hair, the finger coil method is a great way to make sure defined curls stick. When I first started my healthy hair journey, this was one of the methods I used to help define my wonky curls.

The method is simple and effective – all you need is a little bit of moisturizing leave-in conditioner, curl cream, or gel.

1) On clean hair, start by separating your hair into small sections, then apply the product of your choice to each section.

2) Once it is fully saturated, start by twisting each section from the root to the end with your index finger and thumb. You can also use a gel or hairspray to ensure that each curl holds its defined shape.

3) After each section is fully twisted, let it air dry until the defined curls are complete.

With just your fingers, a bit of product, and some tenacity, you can create bouncy finger coils that resemble tight spirals.

Here is a visual guide to the finger coil method:

Video credit: Jewellianna Palencia

Bantu Knot

Heatless and effortless, Bantu knot-outs create beautifully defined curls in natural hair.

All lengths of hair can be styled this way – simply section out the coils to a size that’s suitable for your length; smaller sections for shorter tresses, bigger ones if you have longer strands.

Follow these simple steps to create stunning Bantu Knot-out curls:

  1. Start with small sections of your hair and begin to twist them against each other like you would a screw.
  2. Make sure the ends are tucked securely at the base close to your scalp and secure with pins if necessary.
  3. Now leave it to set overnight before unraveling for beautiful, voluminous curls in the morning!

Here is a visual tutorial on how to achieve defined curls with the Bantu knot method:

Video credit: Naturally Curla

Twist or Braid Outs

For the most straightforward and quickest paths to achieving definition on your natural hair, look no further than twists and “braid outs”—the perfect option for getting beautiful texture quickly!

Give your hair a voluminous makeover by applying some curling custard, mousse, or gel, then twist and braid each section. When the sections are dry, release them to reveal beautiful curls that you can tease for even more fullness.

Here is a step-by-step visual on how to do a twist-out/braid-out mix:

Video credit: Mini Marley

Detangle Each Section

Curls come with tangles! It’s an inevitable part of having curly hair.

Spending a bit more time carefully detangling your hair will lead to smoother, better-defined strands and create a great foundation for your product application. You can thank us later for the extra effort!

Take extra special care when brushing your curly hair.

1) Wet it first with a spray bottle.

2) Then, apply a leave-in conditioner or detangler to ensure your brush or wide-tooth comb glides through easily.

3) Slowly and gently start from the ends of your hair and work your way up toward the scalp. Don’t rush or be too rough, as this could lead to breakage and damage.

4) Once all tangles are gone and curls are defined, you can move on to the next step.

Choose the Right Styling Products

For an optimal look, search for a product that gives you curl definition while providing your hair with hydration and moisture.

We prefer products designed specifically for curly hair that help clump our curls together and create defined curls, spirals, coils, or waves.

It’s also important for us to choose a product that fights frizz effectively.

To achieve the best results, gently rake the leave-in conditioner, curl cream, or other styling product through your curls and then scrunch upwards. 

The amount of product used depends on the specific type of curls you have, but it’s best to start with a smaller amount and add more as needed to get defined curls.

Avoid Touching Dry Curls

Once you’ve gone through the process of styling and drying your curls, it is important to avoid touching them. Doing so can cause the product layers that give your curls definition and shape to rub off and make them frizzy.

Inadvertently running your fingers through your curls throughout the day can also mess up the defined curl pattern you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Therefore, it’s best to keep your hands away from your dry curls once styled. Doing so will help preserve your work in taming and defining your curls.

Allowing the products to work their magic without interference will ensure maximum results every time.

Note: Use a diffuser or let your hair air dry, but don’t touch those curls.

Protect Your Curls While You’re Sleeping

To preserve your natural hair shine and curls overnight you must protect your hair before bed.

Pineapple, or creating a small bun on top of your head, is one of the best ways to do this – it helps keep the curl shape while reducing frizz.

Secure the bun with a satin bonnet, and make sure to sleep on a satin pillowcase to avoid excessive friction and moisture loss.

In the morning, all you have to do is take out the bun or pineapple and fluff your defined curls. If your hair has somehow flattened out, check out my blog, ‘How To Refresh Curls In The Morning: 4 Easy Ways!’

Taking these simple steps nightly will help keep your curls hydrated, bouncy, and healthy!

Final Thoughts

Achieving well-defined curls doesn’t have to be complicated – with the right steps and products, you can make it an easy and enjoyable part of your hair routine.

Start by prepping and choosing the right products for styling; then use a diffuser attachment on low speed/heat setting while simultaneously scrunching each section with your fingers. 

Finish off by lightly misting with hairspray or seal in moisture with a gel spray – then enjoy those beautiful bouncy curls! 

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I had to listen to what my hair curls are finally ready to take in some moisture again!!!


- renee, Stylist Liaison

- renee, Stylist Liaison

“I truly couldn't have gotten through this without her knowledge, advice and support...after suffering from Hygral Fatigue and getting tons of advice @themestizamuse.”

“@themestizamuse: for ESSENTIAL information you will NEED TO KNOW in order to see results.”

See how easy the topics are to find on her page (a few posts screenshot)? There is no topic Verna hasn't covered.

- dominique P, wavy hair enthusiast


- dominique P, wavy hair enthusiast

“I have learned a whole heap of knowledge from @themestizamuse.”

Inspiring hair tutor, grateful for what she offers the Curly Community in authenticity, passion, and knowledge.

- zoe F, Producer & Host of The Curl Squad


- zoe F, Producer & Host of The Curl Squad

“I was so excited to embrace my curls and take better care of them. As I started to dive in, I immediately became overwhelmed with the information.”

I read books and tried doing things because "that's what I'm supposed to do," but it didn't always work and I didn't understand why. I'm so grateful for Verna and her blog. Her info. actually helped me understand more of the science of why some methods helped and what products or ingredients to use and why. Anyone that compliments my hair and wants to start a curly journey, I tell them to start here. My hair is so much healthier and I'm so happy with it.

- stephanie, Curly hair enthusiast


- stephanie, Curly hair enthusiast

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