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—but knowing how to spiral curls does.
When you factor in all of the processes we typically put our strands through—like coloring and 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 make this a reality.
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 PrettyGirlsWithCurls 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.
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 (eight 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 because it can be done on dry or wet hair. When done on wet hair, the results are smaller, spirally 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.
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.
A version of this article was originally published in January 2018.