Lately I’ve received several emails from readers wanting to know how to define their curls and coils.

Franchesca says….

“After I wash my hair, I love the curls that I see. But after I detangle it, it turns into a fro with no definition. How can I detangle my hair and still have the curls I see after shampooing?”

and Alexis says…

“My issue is that I have multiple textures in my hair and I really don’t know how to define my curls… It is so hard to find a product that is not too heavy for one part an not too light for another and I just really need advice.”

I know that defining coily/curly natural hair can be a challenge. What is your method?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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60 Comments on "How do you get coil/curl definition?"

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I just cheat with twist-outs (about 1 or 2 inches wide) and separate each section fully or spray my hair with a little bit of water. It gives my hair a cute fuzzy kind of curliness that I like a lot better than that super defined type that you get from shingling. Anything else is too much effort for my 4b hair.

Sofull Sista

I’m a solid 4b, I don’t expect to see CURL definition in my hair anymore. I just don’t have hair that does that, but I’m ok with that b/c it can do plenty of other things. My natural curl pattern consists of lots of very small coils, thus no product separates them to achieve this coil/curl definition.

If I want small curl definition, I’ll twist/braid my hair, keep them in for most of the week and rock the twist/braid-out for the remaining days.


I’ll be watching this closely, because other than creating curls with twist outs, I have no clue 🙁 It does look nice and curly when wet and freshly shampoo’d or cowashed…then just dries into afro/fluff. not that i mind my afro, just would like the curlies to pop sometimes too

I think people have different meanings for “curl/coil definition.” Take, for example, that gorgeous pic of Ayo above. I call that a “chunky fro,” and I don’t think of it as “defined”… but I LOVE that look! I think my texture is quite similar to hers, and today my hairstyle looks very much like that pic, same length and everything. I achieve *that* look by doing a twist out on dry hair with butter and then sleeping scarf-less on a satin pillowcase. It lasts about three days before I need to re-twist. To me “curl definition” is seeing almost each… Read more »
Another reason why I’m about to return to almost-TWA length is that it’s always been a lot easier for me to get pattern definition with products alone on shorter hair (3 inches or less). I am very much in the type 4 family: When my hair is wet I have a lot of small coils in the front half of my head and almost none in the back half. In the past if my hair was short enough I could use either a heavy gel or a thick styling cream (I used to use Kiehl’s) on mostly-wet hair. This makes… Read more »

To Fran: I have the same prob!!! I wash my hair, condish and THEN detangle, pulling through defines the coils. When I rinse the condish, I use my hands on my scalp to shake all residue out. After that I shake the water from my head and don’t touch!! This can only be done in the hot days of spring and summer though…soooo sorry if it wasn’t a RIGHT NOW….kinda thing, lol.


The quickest and easiest way to refine your curls would be to put more conditioner back in after you detangle then either rinse it under cooler water or leave it in…then don’t touch it.You can also put a little eco styling gel/whatever you like when it still soaking wet to help with the frizz and add more definition if the conditioner doesn’t give you as much as you like.


I actually Googled this very question about 2 months ago.
Google directed me to the following YouTube video:

Nice, right?
I actually haven’t tried it yet.
I’m a 4b/4c who wants the curl definition but who’s too lazy to do the work it takes to get them.
I’m so not into dedicating hours to achieving a certain look.


The #1 rule for curly hair: no combing. After shampooing, I detangle/comb-through with conditioner. Then rinse that out, condition again, rinse (curls are back, ya?), never touch the comb again, and add styling product to my hair. I use a cotton scarf to dry my hair by wringing my hair in it and leaving for a bit. Kinda like a Music Soulchild head wrap. Sometimes when it’s halfway dry, I’ll add a little more conditioner. The least manipulation the better. I get best curl definition in the summer when I can just go out with wet hair and it’ll dry… Read more »

Here is what I do, I detangle in the shower, apply product i.e.conditioner,gel,oil or whatever and shake, after that I do not touch it again because if you manipulate it in any way it will become a fuzz ball.

Renise B.
I have multiple textures…3 to be exact. To maintain curl definition, after I detangle, I rinse most of conditioner out of my hair. Add a little bit more and do the shingle method. I do another light rinse and then shake out as much of the excess water as possible. I do not use a towel. Just let my hair drip dry. I apply moisturizer and conditioner while still wet. This works best for my multiple textures since conditioner is not too heavy for the looser curls and not too light for the tighter/coily parts. I use Herbal Essence Hello… Read more »