Curl definition tends to be a top priority for curly girls. Gel is one of the most common products used to achieve curl definition, and while there are definitely some amazing gels out there, many of them can lead to frustrating side effects – like crunchy hair, flakes, or dryness.

If you want to give your hair a break from hair gel – or if you just can not find a hair gel that actually works for your hair – you might assume that you also have to say goodbye to curl definition. But that’s not the case! There are plenty of other ways to define your curls without applying gel to every strand. Here are some tips and tricks.

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  • Skip the comb: A wide-toothed comb is useful for detangling, but it doesn’t do much to define your curls. Instead, use a Wet brush or Denman brush to detangle and distribute product throughout your hair. These brushes cut down on detangling time, and they leave each one of your curls shiny and defined.
  • Use a diffuser: To set your hairstyle into place, it’s best to use a hair dryer with a diffuser. When used correctly, a diffuser leaves your hair much more defined than air-drying or using a towel. Read more about how to diffuse properly here.
  • Use other holding products: There are other great holding products aside from gel, like mousse, butter, lotion, cream, or pomade. Many of these products are actually moisturizing, unlike most gels, and they also help to keep each strand in place.
  • Twist-outs and braid-outs are your friends: Twist-outs and braid-outs are a tried-and-true method of creating and maintaining curl definition for all curl types. You don’t need to use a gel to set these styles, either! You can use another holding product, or even just some cream or leave-in conditioner. The trick is to leave the twists or braids in place until your hair is completely dry. The longer you wait, the more defined your hair will be.
  • Try finger coiling: Another technique for creating curl definition is finger coiling. The method is easy – just take a section of your hair that’s about the same width as your finger, and twirl the hair around your pointer finger from the root to the ends. Then repeat all over your head – or just on the sections where you want more definition. The resulting curls are smooth, defined and free of frizz.
  • ‘Shingle’ your curls: Shingling involves applying product to each and every strand of hair on your head to ensure that every curl is defined. Usually, when you apply conditioner or a holding product, you apply it in sections to a bunch of curls at once. But when you shingle, you literally go curl by curl – one single curl at a time until your whole head is done. Yes, it takes a while, but the results are worth it!
  • Invest in some flexi rods: Lastly, try using flexi rods. Flexi rods give you bouncy, stretched and defined curls that’ll last for days. The effect is similar to a curling iron, but this method involves no heat. You can even use flexi rods on a braid-out or twist-out to change things up and extend your style. Here’s a tutorial on how to use flexi rods properly.

What’s your favorite way to achieve curl definition without using hair gel?! Share your methods in the comments!