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Get Beautiful Curls, No Matter Your Hair Type

7 secrets for delicious definition, body and softness.

These days, rocking natural hair is a go-to option, especially with the growing category of products designed for curls, kinks and coils. And the natural hair movement extends to people in the public eye, too. Recently-crowned Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi rocks a low ’fro. Michelle Obama debuted ombre curls at the Essence Festival. Taraji P. Henson teased her upcoming hair care brand after flaunting her twist out on Instagram. And Tracee Ellis Ross, who has proudly rocked her larger-than-life spirals for years, launched Pattern Beauty, a hair care line that caters to curl wearers.

Want to join the crew for the first time or get the most out of the texture you’ve been sporting? Check out this easy guide.

Remember your curl pattern. As you’ve likely heard: “Curl patterns have been alpha-numerically categorized on a scale from 1 to 4c — the number 1 referencing straight hair, 2 referencing wavy hair, 3 referencing loose, curly hair and 4 referencing tightly coiled hair,” says Darrius Peace, master hairstylist and natural-hair expert with Hayah Beauty. “The letters a, b and c subcategorize the hair texture according to its tightness [with c being the tightest]. It’s [not uncommon] for people to have multiple curl patterns.” Knowing your numbers are important. The more we stretch the hair, the more dehydrated it becomes, and the more likely it is to break off, Peace adds. “When we [preserve] the natural size of the curl, that’s when we have the best results and longevity with our curls and style,” he explains.

Know your hair’s porosity. This refers to how your hair absorbs and retains moisture. To find out how porous your strands are, place a clean strand of hair in a clear glass of water, then wait a couple minutes. If it floats on the surface, your hair’s porosity is low. A slowly sinking strand indicates normal porosity. If it sinks to the bottom rather quickly, you have high-porosity hair. This hair type can be challenging to work with since it absorbs moisture quickly, causing curls to appear frizzy since there are gaps and holes in the cuticle. But low-porosity hair can be challenging, too, since it often doesn’t absorb enough moisture and can end up feeling dry and looking dull. A protein-based deep conditioner (weekly or biweekly) could help high-porosity hair, and using water-soluble products (to avoid buildup) can help with low porosity.

Use your fingers to detangle. Finger detangling minimizes breakage. If you’re pressed for time, use a wide-tooth comb to get rid of stubborn knots and tangles — and it’s OK to be generous with detangling products.

Keep your regimen simple. Many naturalistas enjoy creating their own “cocktail,” which refers to mixing different styling products, but it’s easy to overdo it. “Heavy oils on the hair can decrease the longevity of curl definition,” notes Peace. “When the hair is fixated with gels, mousses or foams, the curls last longer.” Consider limiting your “cocktail” to no more than three products to avoid buildup, and apply products to damp hair.

Seal cuticles to retain shine. Using a sealing product after you moisturize can help to keep moisture in and prevent moisture loss. Oils like olive oil and coconut oil can act as sealants as well as hair butters. Read the label, as always, when you buy.

Use a diffuser if you blow-dry. Diffusers can speed the drying process while enhancing your curl pattern and adding volume. Let your hair air-dry for about 30 minutes before diffusing, use your blow-dryer on low to medium heat and gradually turn up the heat as you begin to dry. Alternate between the cool and warm setting, especially if you want lifted roots. And whether you air-dry or get drying assistance, don’t fuss with your coils once they’re defined.

Get regular trims. Freshly trimmed kinks, coils and curls can appear fuller and bouncier. They also can be easier to style because you help avoid split ends that can cause unnecessary friction. Go for a snip every six to eight weeks, and make sure you see a stylist familiar with cutting curly hair. Then bounce your way out and enjoy your pretty tresses.

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