As an Editor at NaturallyCurly, it’s safe to say I experience my fair share of curl envy on a daily basis. I love my waves, especially now that I’ve gone heat-free and fully embraced them, but I know that if the wind blows the wrong way or I sleep in the wrong position I can lose all of my curl definition. There's nothing you can do to change your curl pattern (that's genetics) but there are tricks and techniques that can help make waves look curlier and more defined. These are the tips that have worked for me, some are short-term styling tricks that can give you more definition and some are changes in your regimen that will give you healthier, more elastic curls long-term.
Scrunching is the Holy Grail technique of wavy girls. Scrunching is the act of using our fingers to gently squeeze the ends of our curls up towards our roots, creating an accordion effect. You can use this technique in every step of your routine, from conditioning to drying to styling. Curly girls have found great success getting their hair to absorb more moisture and form curls by using the “squish to condish” method. When you get out of the shower, you can blot the moisture from your hair and encourage your curls to form by scrunching with a microfiber towel or t-shirt. Once your hair is partially dry, you can scrunch your styling product into it. When your hair has dried and feels a little bit crunchy (it happens) you can “scrunch out the crunch” to break the hard cast of your styling product for softer, more touchable curls.
Like I said, scrunching is a go-to for wavies!
2. Pin curl
For years I used curling wands to spot treat the waves that were bent out of shape or refused to curl, but exposing your hair to heat will only make it less curly as heat damage leads to limp, shapeless hair. Ever since putting down the heat tools I have noticed more ringlets and curls taking shape. Instead of using a wand, I’ve switched to using pin curls to spot treat any waves that look frizzy or lifeless. If I’ve just washed my hair, I’ll wait for my hair to partially dry before twisting a few face-framing pieces into a little bun and using bobby pins to secure it. Then I do my makeup or wait for about 10 minutes while the hair dries and remove the pins to reveal soft ringlets. You can watch how I use this technique to refresh my curls here, and see how Sandra aka JustCurly uses it on her 3a curls here.
If you have long, wavy hair, then you may find that when you air dry the weight of your hair when it is wet stretches out your waves. Scrunching the curls and setting them with the diffuser can help counteract this common wavy problem. Disclaimer: many wavies and curlies report that diffusing gives them frizz, but I personally like the boost in volume and bounce that the diffuser gives me. To combat frizz, I use a stronger hold styling product such as a gel to keep my curl definition. When the hair is partially dry, flip your head forward and cup your waves with a diffuser, scrunching the hair towards the roots. Here is how NaturallyCurly writer Curly Penny uses a diffuser on her curls.
4. Go Curly Girl
You may have seen unbelievable before and after photos of curly hair transformations. Our own writer Sandra aka JustCurly didn’t even realize she had curly hair until she was 18. Healthy hair care can bring your curls to life, and many have found success with the Curly Girl Method. This method advocates for giving up damaging elements like sulfates, silicones and heat. This may sound extreme if you use heat regularly or you’ve never taken a close look at your ingredient labels, but the results speak for themselves. Wavy reader Robin, aka RockynCurls (pictured) was able to transform her waves in 6 weekswith the method. Many curlies have also modified the CG Method so that it fits their lifestyles, like using sulfates once a month or using silicones sparingly.
5. Get a trim
Damage and dryness often presents itself as hair that has lost its elasticity and ability to spring back, and you can tell this when the virgin hair that is growing out of your roots is curlier than the ends. If your ends are straighter than your roots, this is likely due to damage. The ends of our hair are the oldest parts of the strand, so they are most likely to be damaged over time. I know we all have our hair length goals, but no good can come of holding on to damaged ends. Whenever I get a trim I immediately notice that my curls are springier and bouncier, and I have more shrinkage (which is a sign of healthy hair). Trims are also another way to remove the weight that is pulling down our waves. I recently cut the ends of my hair off after dealing with damage from bleach, and I love the shorter, healthier curls that have come back to life! You may not be looking to make such a drastic change in length, but even a dusting can make a world of difference.
This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.