Curl definition really isn't the right term for use with actual afro hair. Afro hair is more tightly coiled that curly. Curls are a loose pattern. Afro coils are a tight pattern. So, I am going to refer to this as coil definition.
STEP ONE: DETERMINE YOUR HAIR TEXTURE
First, you need to HAVE coils for them to pop. Some of us don't have coils at all, we have random zig-zags and bends – this hair type will not be able to define coils, but don't stress, twistouts and braidouts were made for your hair.
Some of us have tight little springy coils that draw up when dry and lose all pattern when combed or picked out. This is my hair type. I am going to talk about those of us with my type of AFRO hair. We are the ones who struggle the most and must do the most work if we want to keep a shake & go defined style for any period of time longer than until our hair dries.
STEP TWO: REMOVE SHED HAIR
First, my afro hair twin sisters, if you want to see your coils pop, you must remove ALL the shed hair from your head. Shed hairs are those strands which your follicles have cyclically ejected, which you call identify by the little bulb on the end. To effectively remove shed hair you need comb or brush your hair while it is wet and preferable with a slippery conditioner in it. Use a Denman or detangler brush to make the process easy and thorough.
If your hair is long enough to grab and leave the ends out, grab a section of your wet, slippery hair and brush the ends while still holding on to your hair. Once you are satisfied that your ends are completely detangled and free of shed hair, work your way up until you get to your scalp and gently pull the brush through your hair from scalp to ends, removing any remaining shed hair.
If your hair is too short to grab, use a brush and brush through your hair until no shed hair comes out in the brush. Be gentle and slow, taking care not to pull your hair too forcefully, and work the shed hair out.
Your hair should be detangled well enough so if you section small enough you could pull a relatively fine-toothed comb through it without leaving any hair in the comb.
If your hair snags at the ends or you find those little SINGLE STRAND KNOTS, use sharp hairdressing scissors to snip those ends off.
STEP THREE: SEAL
Run a light oil or leave-in through each section to lock in some moisture and two-strand twist it up loosely.
STEP FOUR: APPLY
- To apply a curl defining product, your hair usually must be dripping wet (or close to it.). So if your hair has dried too much, re-wet it.
- Starting at the back of your head, untwist a section and make a smaller horizontal division at the base of the untwisted section.
- Pin the rest of the hair up and out of the way. Run the brush or comb through that division.
- Apply your product to this division according to the product instructions and let it sit.
- Repeat all over your head.
STEP FIVE OPTIONAL: DEALING WITH CRUNCH
Now, I have tested just about every curl definition product on the market at one time or another and on afro hair, they ALL end up crispy and crunchy. If you don't mind that, it's fine. Personally, I don't like crunchy hair. But the only way our afro hair will maintain a defined coil with some shine to it for a long period of time is by being set (locked) in place.
HERE'S MY TIP: You can fix this. Put a drop of a LIGHT carrier oil like coconut oil or argan oil on your fingertips. If you gently deposit some oil onto the individual coils after it dries, you can soften the crunch while keeping the coils intact. But you have to be gentle. It takes practice and it's different for each head of hair and for each hair product you use. Just don't disturb the coils too much because if you do, you may lose the definition. And make sure you don't use too much oil because this oil is going to sit on top of your hair product.
A cream or milk that is not water-based can also help un-crunch the crunch. Sometimes, just a gentle pull on the coil will un-crunch the coil without losing the shape. Nothing stopping you from combining two product, like a curl definer AND a conditioning cream. Doing this may help with the crunch.
Again, you will need to experiment with your products. Have fun and show us your results. Maybe you can help someone else!