The Best Curl-Defining Techniques For Natural Hair, According to YouTube

Although I’ve gotten over my deeply rooted frizzy hair complex, that doesn’t mean I’ve neglected my search for an easy way (key word: easy) to make my curls bounce and spiral. In fancier terms, I want definition and to enhance what’s already there. What I’ve learned is that sometimes gels and creams simply don’t cut it.

When you factor in all of the processes we typically put our strands through–like coloring or heat-styling–it’s no wonder our natural curls start to fall flat over time. What we really need to do beyond investing in curling products is literally manipulate our hair back into its original pattern. Albeit it takes time and consistency, there are some tried and true techniques that prove this to be true.

Now, if you’ve got textured hair like me, the gamut is pretty wide, but the results and prep time slightly vary. Over the course of my natural hair journey, I’ve grown to love a slew of black vloggers, like Pretty Girls With Curls and Mini Marley, whose curls seems to always flourish without effort. What they have in common are these five defining methods. Ahead, a refresher on what each of them are and what to expect as you try them.

Shingling Method


This tool-free method works best on detangled, damp hair, but requires a lot of product, such as an alcohol-free gel or moisturizing cream. Start by separating the hair into four sections. From there, take a small section from one of those sections and rake or smooth product through from roots to tips.

If you’re feeling extra ambitious, define and elongate each curl within that smaller section by raking your fingers through. After that, try not to touch your hair as it dries overnight or otherwise. This process can feel tedious, depending on your hair length, so maybe not the best option for those on a time crunch.

Finger Coils Method


Like the shingling method, you can begin the finger coiling technique by splitting your hair into four sections and split each of those into two sub-sections ( 8 total). Next detangle each section (or detangle the entire head beforehand) and apply a curl activator of your choice. Take one of your subsections and grab a small piece of hair from it.

Coat your index finger in a dab of curl activator and twist the strand around it, hold for a few seconds and loosen. It doesn’t matter how big or small the curl is; it’s simply a matter of personal preference, although the smaller the curl, the more definition you’ll see overall. After you’re done, you can allow your hair to air-dry. This method is also tedious, so save it for a lazy Sunday.

Two or Three-Strand Twist Out Method


The twist-out is the most popular curl-defining method before it can be done on dry or wet hair. When done on wet hair, the results are smaller, spiral-y curls and on heat-styled hair, you can expect to see bigger waves. Start by separating your hair into three or four sections. Take one section and spray it with water or a styler (best option for dry hair) to add moisture.

Once you’ve detangled with a comb or your fingers, separate a small section within your sub-section and split it into three strands. From there, take the strand furthest on the right, rotate it over to the left and repeat until you’ve gotten to the ends. Once your entire head is done, wear the twists overnight to really lock in the definition and remove when you wake up.

Braid Out Method


This method is nearly identical to the twist-out method, except you’re doing traditional braids throughout the hair instead. For best results, start with freshly shampooed and deep-conditioned hair. You should also begin your braids in the back of the head, so you can easily see that section, while everything else is pinned away, giving you a clearer view. The amount of braids you do will depend on the amount of time you have and how big you want your curls to be. Again, if you’re looking for skinny spirals, aim for smaller-sized ones.

Flexi-Rod or Perm Rod Set Method


If you prefer doing your hair right before bed so it has ample time to settle, a flexi-rod set will keep all of your hard work secure and in place as you sleep. You can pick up these styrofoam sticks at your local beauty supply store and

Lay the rod flat against your scalp and wrap the hair around the rod, working your way down. If you want a smoother look, stop every couple of seconds to brush through the curls. Once you’re done wrapping the hair, bend both ends of the rods into each other until you form a tight circle. Repeat this throughout the hair and hold your entire do in place with a silk and satin bonnet. After you’ve removed the rods in the morning, use a tail comb to gently style the curls without disturbing their newly-defined shape.

3 Things to Remember Before Maintaining a Protective Style

There’s really no best time to wear a protective style. It all depends on the person and their lifestyle. But regardless of the time, there are a few key things you should keep in mind as you prepare for and maintain your look. According to Maria Antoinette, Global Stylist for Cantu, the benefits of low to no manipulation of your hair are growth retenion, downtime for your hair and scalp, and the regeneration of natural oils. But none of that can happen if you don’t check three simple to-dos off your list.

Consider Your Hair Type

Hair inspiration is just a click or scroll away, but the styles you screenshot aren’t always ideal for your curl pattern.

“Hair type and density matter most when considering a protective style,” says Maria. “Your hair has to be strong enough to hold the style for a duration of time, especially braids, faux locs, etc.” So, if your hair is straight, thin and soft, cornrows probably aren’t the best choice. In fact, going against your hair pattern will likely just lead to damage, which defeats the purpose of a protective style.

Remember that updos, mini twists into a bun and even a top knot with minimal tension classify as a protective style. It doesn’t always have to be something that requires extensions.

Ask Questions

Don’t wait until after the deed is said and done to ask yourself questions like:

What do I want to achieve with this protective style? How long will I wear this protective style? Is my hair healthy enough for this protective style?

If you’re entrusting a stylist with your look, you should also be asking them how long your hair should be in the style, what their braiding style is (tight or loose) and their recommendations for aftercare. If your lifestyle isn’t able to accommodate whatever they suggest, you should continue your search.

Patience is a virtue when deciding on the best protective style for you, so don’t feel bad for inundating a stylist with your concerns. (Pro tip: if you’re getting braids or twists, don’t be shy about asking a stylist to slick down your edges with pomade beforehand. This will remind them to leave those sensitive hairs out while they work.)

Stock Your Shelves

The style you choose will determine the kind of products you use for maintenance, but moisture is an absolute must. Maria likes starting her protective style with clean, deep-conditioned hair.

“My go to products are the sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner from Cantu and I love deep conditioning with their Quinoa Protech Deep Protecting Masque from their Anti-Fade line. This treatment offers the perfect blend of moisture, and protein even without any color treatment.

Cantu Apple Cider Vinegar Root Relief


If you’re rocking a braids, twists or locs, you may want to bypass washing your hair entirely, due to drying time and the way water affects the style. However, you can still cleanse your scalp and keep product buildup at bay, thus creating an ideal environment for growth retention and oil production to take place. Braid sprays are also a godsend for adding shine after they’ve been worn for a few weeks.

“My go-to is the Cantu Apple Cider Vinegar Root Relief,” says Maria. “It’s formulated to relieve itch, often caused by bacteria, due to the ingredients ACV is an antibacterial…it’s a gel and you don’t have to use water to remove it. Simple apply a small amount to your scalp and all that build up and bacteria is removed. For the actual braids, I refresh them with the Cantu Apple Cider Dry-Co Wash.

If you’re still in the searching phase of your protective style journey, start with 50 of the greatest looks spotted on Instagram.