Dec 18, 2021

How To Define Curls: A Hairstylist's Step-By-Step Routine

A muuuch easier way to define curls

Formulate user Michelle has a curl question:

I have curly hair and I've tried following every single curl routine there is but I feel like they're all super complicated and time-consuming and always demand that I buy specific products. Like, I don't want to spend a full hour defusing my hair. What's a routine that will give me solid results that I can do like once a week or however often I wash my hair?

Thanks for writing, Michelle! You're totally right - so many curl routines are basically a full-time job. They're exhausting! To help answer your questions, we spoke with hairstylist Chloe Perera. She shared with us her own curl routine, which we've included below. She says she goes through this full curl routine about once every week when she washes her hair, and that it feels more manageable than most of the curl routines already out there. We hope this helps!

Formulate: Hi Chloe! Could you please introduce yourself?

Chloe: My name is Chloe Perera and I am a hairstylist. I have completely fallen in love with the creativity and the novelty that this job brings every single day. I always knew I didn't want a desk job and my mother used to be a hairdresser as well. She would bring the clients home and do their hair and I would sit and watch her through a window. It's a very big part of me and I love my role as a hairstylist.

Formulate: Perfect, thank you! Okay, so walk us through how you define your own curls. What comes first?

Chloe: I typically first wash my hair with a sulfate-free shampoo. I find it really important to start off with a clean slate of hair. Then I apply an intensive hydration mask for 3- 5 minutes so that my curls are moisturized from the inside out. Because I've done a bit of bleaching, my hair is currently very dry and so for me,  hydration is an important factor throughout these initial steps. So ' Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate'. Then I wash it off.

Formulate: Sounds like a good start! How do you dry your curly hair after it's been washed?

Chloe: Microfiber towels or T-shirts come in handy for this step. I wrap my hair with a T-shirt and let it soak up all the water that's in my hair for about 10-15 minutes. It makes drying with a diffuser sooo much faster. A lot of curly hair routines say that you have to diffuse the entire time but in my experience that's not necessary. The T-shirt really soaks up so much water and makes it so that I don't damage my curls with a normal towel, and really helps get a jump start on drying.

Formulate: Great! So the towel gets rid of excess water, making drying easier. What's next?

Chloe: Once I remove the T-shirt, I go in with my favorite hair serum. It brings back life into my hair and makes it shiny and so manageable. The tangles just disappear. After applying two pumps of the serum, I comb through my hair using a wide-tooth comb so that it's ready to absorb the product evenly. Wide-tooth is important since curls are especially fragile when they're wet. You definitely don't want to hurt your curls, that will make them less defined. A wide-tooth comb is easier on the hair while still helping to detangle.

Formulate: Cool! Hair is all good and detangled. How do you style it from there?

Chloe: I then go in with a curl-enhancing product that has a lot of moisture to retain shape but not a lot of hold so it doesn't make my hair stiff or crunchy. Pick a styling product that will make your hair soft and easy to manage. I have my own favorites, but everyone's hair is different so you might need to try a few different products to see what works best for you. You might want to buy a few in a travel size so that you can investigate several without spending too much money.

Once I apply that through my hair by raking it through, I brush my hair again with the wide-tooth comb so that the product is evenly distributed. While the hair is still wet I begin to scrunch it. I finger-coil the pieces around my face so that it retains its shape.  I then air dry it for about twenty minutes to half an hour and then diffuse my hair to define my curls. Once the hair is dry to my preference I apply a second serum to soften up the curls.  

Formulate: What tools do you need to make it happen?

Chloe: The basic tools necessary would definitely be a good microfiber towel or shirt. Towels can really damage your hair if you continue to use them and contribute to extra frizz. The next tool necessary would have to be a good wide-tooth comb so that your hair can be detangled with ease. After that, I suggest a diffuser as every wavy and curly-haired girl will attest that this gives the most volume in the best way possible. It makes drying time so much less and gives that full, voluminous finish we all desire. 

Formulate: Why do you use this specific curly hair routine?

Chloe: I swear by this particular routine because I have tried and tested it on myself and I've been doing it for almost a year now. I never used to like my curls very much but since I've been using the right tools and doing the right things for my hair it's begun to love me back and my hair has never looked this good before. You can see the visible change in the definition of the wave and the shine and spring that's apparent throughout my hair. And all it took was a little extra care. 

Wanna learn more about the ins and outs of personal care? Here's what you should read next:

"My Hair Is Naturally Curly But Won't Curl Anymore"

5 tips for getting your natural curls back

Flyaway Hairs: How To Tame 'Em

Buh bye, flyaways!

Curly Hair & Humidity

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Oil Training Hair: Q&A With A Dermatologist

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Curling Hard To Curl Hair: A How-To Guide

Let's curl that hair!

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