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How To Define Curls on 4C Hair 101 [NHP]

There's alot of confusion about how to define curls on 4C hair...

I feel your pain my sis. Look...

The path to defining curls on 4C hair types can seem like an endless sea of hurdles that trip you up with every bad product or styling decision you dare to make. 4C hair type is naturally identified by its coily qualities. This hair is voluminous BUT extremely prone to shrinkage.

Couple these qualities with a blend of varying hair textures that may also occupy a bit of real estate on your head, and attaining a consistent curl pattern with definition can seem impossible. 

how to define curls on 4c hair NHP HOT TIPSTODAY - You learn how to define curls on 4c hair!

Best Products for Defining Curls on 4C Hair

Wanna know how to define curls on 4C hair?

As much as I hate to say it, one of the major keys to knowing how to get poppin' curl definition on 4C hair is finding the most effective curl defining hair products for 4C hair.

And because there are other factors involved besides hair type alone...

...finding the best products for type 4C hair can be tricky, depending on your porosity and level of diligence with getting off your cutey-patootey and keeping up with your hair care routine.

This statement is especially true for naturalistas who fall into the perils of watching YouTube videos that cater more to those with 3a or 3b hair types.

It is easy to fall in love with the looser curl textures and imagine that if you use the exact same natural hair products as these naturalistas that your hair might achieve the same curl definition results or magically convert to 3b hair.

Don't be fooled:

This warning against falling prey to other hair texture results is not to say that achieving a 4c hair curl definition is impossible. It is VERY-DANG possible, but you should know that you will have to work a little harder to get there. It will all begin with your 4c hair product selection.

So let's jump into what you need to look for to start defining curls like a sassy (yet sweet) natural hair model strutting down the runway...

[SEE our "Night Routine for 4C Hair" article HERE!]

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Leave-In Conditioners for 4C Defined Curls

If you're asking how to define curls on 4C hair you're probably slipping on your leave-in game...

Leave-in conditioners are one of your best bets for helping you establish some semblance of a defined curl pattern and help you realize that you don't have 4D hair type, lol.

So many naturals really do need a consultation with an expert, because many who are NOW figuring out how to define curls on 4C hair never knew how important leave-ins were for "smack em' in the face" type 4C hair curl definition!

Leave-in conditioners can assist you in detangling your hair and make the whole process of styling it a lot easier.

As it relates to curls, leave-in conditioners can also help you to get your frizz under control. And without knowing how to lay the smack down on the frizziness, you'll never master how to define curls on 4c hair.


Too much of a good thing can backfire and weigh your hair down.

Experts recommend that you should test applying leave-in conditioner daily to a section of your hair, then adjust your frequency to attain the right application before expanding your application ritual. 

Deep Conditioners - Define Curls on 4C Hair

Let's keep it a huuuuun-ed (a.k.a. 100), LOL...

...we can't open our pretty lips to discuss "how to define curls on 4c hair", without some serious deep conditioner talk.

See sis...

Premium-quality Moisturizing hair masks like TGIN Honey Miracle Mask, Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Hair Mask, and others can boost the quality of your curls thanks to their capacity to nourish hair that is otherwise dry, brittle, or susceptible to breakage.

Hair masks not only leave your hair feeling softer and more manageable, but they also help to reduce frizz, which is vital if you are to achieve and sustain any degree of a curl pattern.

These products infuse moisture to re-hydrate your coils and can even reverse hair damage. 

How to Define Curls on 4C Hair Without Gel - Use Creamy Hair Products 

How To Define Curls on 4C Hair without gelTIPS & TRICKS: How To Define Curls on 4C Hair

Many 4C naturals want to know how to define 4C curls without gel, one of the easiest ways is to use cream products for your curl defining needs.

Creamy products can assist you in your journey to defining your curls, but it does come with a few caveats.

First, creamy products that define curls also help to condition hair and infuse moisture where it is non-existent.

Next, creamy hair products have a way of helping to loosen your curl pattern, which is a must-have for 4c hair types with tight coils that lack a distinctive curl pattern. 

Styling creams may offer a fantastic avenue to moisture and help to give those coils a bit of vibrance and shine, but because of the selective nature of 4C hair, you have to be careful not to over saturate this hair with creamy products or your tresses will bear the brunt of messy product build-up.

Detangling Combs for Type 4C Hair

Another vital asset to keep handy for type 4C hair is detangling combs. Detangling combs help to reduce the amount of friction that can occur with traditional combs.

Traditional combs have a tendency to require an excessive amount of manipulation and can even lead to breakage if you are not careful. 

How To Get Defined 4C Curls Using Finger Coils

  • To get defined curls using finger coils you can start with either wet or dry hair. Dry hair gives your 4c curls more length.
  • Moisturize your 4c hair thoroughly and seal.
  • Apply your favorite curl cream, distributing it evenly over your hair. Some of the best curl creams you can use are Cantu moisturizing curl activator or Eco styling gel.
  • Take small sections of your hair and twirl them around your finger.
  • Allow to air dry.
  • And then style.
  • You can watch this video on how to get defined curls through finger coiling your hair:

Watch this "How to define curls on 4c hair video:

Essential Oils for 4C Hair: How To Define Curls on 4C Hair

how to define curls on 4c hair - essential oilsHow to define curls on 4c hair tips: proper essential oils.

You have probably heard a lot about how to define curls on 4c hair with oils and how essential oils may assist in locking in moisture and bestowing vibrance. Essential oils can also improve your curl pattern, but it will require commitment and consistency. 

No "lazy natural" talk will be heard round these parts. If you want the curls poppin, the BS is stoppin'!

Jamaican Black Castor Oil - Define Curls on 4C Hair

Jamaican Black Castor Oil is a thick oil that naturally conditions your 4C hair and acts as a sealant to lock in moisture and help define curls on 4C hair.

4C naturalistas love this oil because it is one of the few oils that deliver noticeable results upon contact. You can use this oil as a component of your pre-poo or as a post-wash ingredient.

It’s also excellent as daily use of oil. Of course, its thick consistency means a little bit goes an exceptionally long way. Be careful with this oil. It can leave a mess everywhere you go if you are not careful. 

Jojoba Oil - Define Curls on 4C Hair

Jojoba oil is perhaps one of the most common essential oil ingredients in shampoos and conditioners. It’s lightweight but definitely delivers impressive results.

Much like Jamaican Black Castor Oil, you can use Jojoba oil as an ingredient in your pre-poo to create. It serves as a natural protectant of your hair and shields it from shampoos that might rob your hair of its natural oils. 

Olive Oil - Define Curls on 4C Hair

Olive oil does not always receive the attention it deserves these days. It’s not the trendy essential oil it once was in the natural hair community. Still, its fading popularity does not mean you should exclude it from your arsenal of curl defining products.

Olive oil seals in moisture and regular use can aid you in defining those curls. Unlike Jamaican Black Castor Oil, olive oil is a lighter oil, which makes it slightly more user-friendly. 

Hey sis, heyyy!

I'm Melissa Lee...

Co-founder of NHP. You'd de wise to...

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Hairstyles that Create Defined Curls for Type 4C Hair

Hair product choices will only get you half of the way in your journey to create curls on type 4C hair. True naturalistas with a zig-zag type 4C hair often turn to protective hairstyles that translate to curls, one of the best methods of how to define curls on 4c hair. Examples of hairstyles that may help to establish a curl pattern on 4c hair include but are not limited to:

  • Two-strand Twists. Two-strand twists are an excellent way to create a curl pattern and even body waves. They are easy to install. The thickness of the twist will pre-determine the volume of the curl. Create a loose bantu knot on the end and voila! When you take this hair down there will be waves and curls. 
  • Bantu knots. Bantu knots are fantastic for creating curls with body.
  • Braids. Before you take down your braids, try roller-setting the ends. Allow those rollers to set for a minimum of 24 hours, then take the hair down. You will have kinks and waves.

If you use water or moisturizing products that dampen the hair when installing any of these styles, you will want to ensure that your hair is dry, or it will be an epic fail. 

Conclusion: How To Define Curls On 4C Hair

In summary, learning how to define curls on 4c hair and finding your curl pattern may prove difficult, but not impossible.

Because 4C hair is thick and prone to shrinkage, it will challenge you to bring your ‘A’ game, choose the right products, essential oils, and protective styles that may contribute to helping you create defined curls where they are otherwise non-existent.

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Melissa Lee is a Contributing Editor to NHP and a former owner of the BlackhairOMG website. She formed 4C Trichology Growth Services, LLC., a US based hair care consultation service. She has also contributed as a writer and consultant for various hair and beauty websites. Melissa can be followed on Twitter here.

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