Curl definition for 4C hair is possible

The Dominican Hair Alliance’s tried and trusted method of curl definition will work on all 4C hair types – whatever the pattern

Let’s face it: most curl-defining products don’t work on 4C hair. From the marketing imagery to what’s inside the jar, it’s clear; the template hair type for curl definers tends to be looser curls – not the super tight coils and low porosity cuticles of 4C. And while the size of your curls has little impact on whether a product will work, the porosity definitely does. Since looser curls tend to have higher porosity, products built to define these hair types often aren’t equipped to perform on low porosity 4C strands.

So if you’ve tried every curly butter, cream or soufflé going, and have yet to see a single curl pop, don’t declare your 4C hair undefinable just yet. Like growing it long, curl definition is a possibility on all kinds of curly hair. For 4C curls, it means switching your products and method from the standard advice for more porous hair. There’s definitely a formula to it; and stylist Maia Compton, at Adornment 365 in London has shown us how.


For curl definition on 4C hair, you need to start with a clean slate. Get rid of all residue – from styling butters, co-washes, leave-ins, oils and everything else – with shampoo. Pick sulfate over sulfate-free formulas to boost your cleansing power, and go for laureth sulfates instead of lauryl sulfates, or olefin sulfonate to avoid harshness. Try atrActiva Anti-Stress Shampoo, which also includes chelators to remove hard water debris.


Moisture is the key to curl definition: it’s the magic ingredient that urges curly strands to clump together in unity, forming larger super-curls – also known as definition. Moisture from a leave-in is not enough; dry, naturally resistant 4C hair needs deep down hydration in order to define.

Use a super conditioner like atrActiva Multivitamin Treatment to infuse moisture deep into low porosity hair, without clogging the surface. ‘Apply the treatment to your hair in sections,’ Maia advises. ‘Then comb it in with your fingers to help it penetrate your hair.’ You’ll know you’ve applied enough when your strands feel slippery and look serenely wavy. Then cover it up with cling film for 15 minutes and let the magic happen.


Once you’ve rinsed your conditioner all the way out with warm water, section your hair and air-dry product-free. Low porosity hair doesn’t have room for stylers or leave-ins when its strands are brimming with water, so wait until your hair’s at least 80% dry before applying any. Don’t use a dryer; the hot air leaves strands stiffer and resistant; exactly what you don’t need when you’re bringing out the curls on low porosity hair. To prep the hair, Maia puts it into large, loose twists, and squeezes excess water out with a microfibre towel.

This method will work on all 4C hair. Whatever the pattern: if it is Z shapes; pen spring coils or mix of zig-zag waves, S shapes, and spirals. Even when there are different shaped coils and tiny waves along the same strand: The technique and the products will define 4c hair.

Nat – The Dominican Hair Alliance

Unlike hair with average porosity, where you try to lock in the curl while it’s still wet, on 4C tresses, the best curl definition happens on dry hair. Products matter, too: gels tend to outperform butters and mousses when it comes to making low porosity curls pop. The order in which you apply each product is another key factor, as is section size. Starting at the nape, Maia parts the hair into thin strips that are one or two inches wide and no more than half an inch deep, to ensure she can reach the the inner layers easily. Hair she’s not working on is clipped carefully out of the way.


To moisturise and create a smooth base, Maia applies Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment. A thick masque that doubles up as a clump-enhancing leave-in that seeps in well, even on low porosity hair. She starts with a pea-sized amount and works it in, adding more as needed, a little at a time, until each strand feels covered. Then she rakes and smooths the hair until it absorbs.


Next, Maia applies, Eco Style Black Castor & Flaxseed Oil, to add smoothness and offset shrinkage. Applying a pea-sized amount of the thick gel from root to tip. Maia alternately smooths and rakes with her fingers till the hair is coated. ‘You can work in a little more gel, if the hair needs it, but not too much, or you’ll lose volume,’ she cautions. You’ll know it’s ready when your hair starts to feel feel smooth and wet, with a few waves down the length, and no visible product on the surface.


Next, accentuate the coils and waves along your strand. For this step, Maia uses Spiralicious Styling Gel by Jessicurl. Lightly glazing her fingertips with the alcohol-free gel, she rakes and smooths it into the section. On your hair, you’ll see curls start to ripple into effect as soon as you do this. Now repeat steps four to seven on the next section, until you’ve covered your whole head.


Now it’s time to shake. This breaks up the clumps a little and adds movement and volume. Don’t go overboard; if your clumps aren’t very big, a couple of shakes is sufficient. For extra volume, bend at the waist and shake your head. Then, just let your hair air-dry or diffuse dry at low speed and low temperature.
Once your hair is completely dry, smooth out the crunch. Pour a five pence sized amount of olive or rice bran oil into your hands. Massage your hands with it so they’re shiny but not dripping with oil. Then, gently take your hair in handfuls, running your fingers down the length repeatedly to soften your curls. You can gently stretch the hair with your hands to build in body and reduce shrinkage.

Preserve your style by wearing a satin bonnet at night. You could get up to five hair days out of this look. This particular curl-defining method insulates each strand, so you won’t have to moisturise the whole time you’re rocking this style. In the morning, just fluff it with your fingers to restyle. If you need a little extra revival, spritz Jessicurl Awe- Inspiraling Spray onto your hands, smooth in where needed, then shake and go.


  1. by Tonica on 12/03/2024  10:26 PM Reply

    When I say this read was easy to comprehend and follow. With 4c hair, I could never get my curls to pop. Now I see why. I am definitely going to try the dry method before adding my products. FINGERS CROSSED!!!

  2. by Hazel Andrew on 09/01/2021  4:48 AM Reply

    Curly hairs are the gift of God. We should care for them. But, my head is so dry & I am facing low porosity hair. Kindly give me solution or share some tips. Keep it up.

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