There are so many curl types within the afro and curly hair community. Some are wavy, some are kinky, and there are many more in between. And though these curls are beautiful, they sometimes need help to get them looking their best. If you’re struggling with getting the most out of your curls, here are a few tips for defining your curls.
1. Try Wash and Go’s
Wash and go’s are one of the most popular methods of curling for naturals. A process that can take up to an hour will leave your curls defined for days. But sometimes it can be a little difficult to know how to define your curls with this method. So how do you do it?
If you have type 4C hair, it might be a little difficult to create the look that you want – but it’s not impossible. When you wash your hair, make sure that you do most of your detangling in the shower and use a leave-in conditioner. The leave-in conditioner will make your hair more manageable and ensure that your hair stays moisturised longer.
But the key to a great wash and go is to make sure that you have the right curl-defining cream or gel. I recommend to use curl enhancing product that’s not too thick and has excellent slip. My curls usually stay defined for three to four days after I’ve curled my hair.
2. Raking & Shingling
Raking and shingling are two great curling techniques that help to emphasise your curls too. What I love about raking and shingling your hair as opposed to other curling methods is how gentle it is on your hair. Both of these methods require freshly washed hair and a lot of finger work, which is perfect for delicate type 4C hair. Also, if one method doesn’t work for you there’s a strong chance that the other one will. So what’s the difference between raking and shingling?
Raking got its name because you essentially rake your fingers through your hair. After applying the recommended amount of curling gel to either your hands or your hair, you comb through a small section of your hair with your fingers. You can do this throughout your hair until you’re finished. Most naturals can successfully rake their hair within an hour. However, if you have dense hair it may take longer.
Shingling is when you apply gel to very small sections of hair. It’s a great system for those of you who wash your hair and notice that you have more of an afro than coils. You’ll have to make use of smaller sections than you would with raking. To shingle your hair, you grab a small amount of hair, detangle it, and coat the outside of the hair with curling gel. After that wait for your hair to dry. This method can take up to three hours, but you can wear this hairstyle for four to five days afterward. It really depends on how much time you have. If I’m in a rush, I like to braid my hair into a ponytail puff and shingle the puffed part. It makes for a pretty hairstyle that I can wear for days.
3. Twist, Braid & Bantu Knot
Twist and braid-outs were some of my favourite methods to define my curls when I first became a natural. It was an effortless system that helped me to really appreciate the versatility of my hair. My twisting and braiding have gotten more complicated over the years, but I still turn to the basics now and then. So how do you get a cute twist, braid, and bantu knot out?
- Braid out: On wet hair, braid plats to your scalp. After they dry, you unbraid them for a finished look
- Twist out: On wet hair, twist plats to your scalp. After they dry, you unbraid them for a finished look
- Bantu Knot Out: On damp hair, stretch your hair into twisted buns. After they dry, gently untwist them
Braid-outs are the easiest method to use because most women know how to do plats (especially those of you who grew up with one of those Barbie heads). Plats are when you braid the hair close to the scalp. If you’re unfamiliar with how to do plats, I recommend watching a video and practicing on dry hair first before you try a braid out. But once you’re able to plat dry hair, you can definitely do it with wet hair. The prep for your hair will be the same:
- Wash and detangle your hair
- Use a leave-in conditioner
- Use a curling cream to help with hold
After you’ve followed these steps, make sure to divide your hair into sections. The size of your curls will depend on the size of your braids; big braids for big curls, small braids for smaller curls. And the smaller your braids are, the faster your hair will dry too. Try not to do any of these styles on soaking wet hair if you want to wear them out within twelve to twenty-four hours.
4. Flexi Rods
Flexi rods work very well for naturals who are skilled at stretching their hair. If you want classic curls that give off vogue 50’s vibes, then this is the style for you.
First, make sure that your hair is freshly washed. Divide your wet hair into sections and apply a styling a mousse. Find a quality mousse and apply it to detangled hair and then curl the section up towards the root. Once a fourth of your hair is curled, start to twist until you get to the end. Once you reach the end of the hair, secure it by bending the rod. You may have to wait up to four hours for your hair to dry. Once it’s dry, untwist it and fluff.
No matter what method you choose, make sure that you’re patient with yourself. Keep practicing and exploring what your hair likes, you’re bound to find something great. Let us know in the comments if there are any methods that you like to use that weren’t mentioned here.