What Makes Hair Look Defined?
Before we get into how to get more defined waves, let’s talk about what ‘defined waves’ even means! It is a phrase that can be confusing and sometimes misused. For example, I’ve seen people use defined waves to mean “tighter waves” which is incorrect.
Defined waves are basically well-clumped waves. You could think of it as having waves that are “outlined” well. If someone has well-defined waves, you could use two fingers to pick out one curl from their hair, or you could go around their head counting how many individual curls there are.
Well-defined naturally wavy hair has…
- Less frizz
- Natural definition or hold (not fluffy or poofy)
- Visible curl clumps
- Separated, individual waves.
Ways to get better definition in naturally wavy hair
Get your hair moisturized enough to get curl clumps. If hair is really dry and dehydrated it won’t clump. If you struggle with this, check out my blog post how to get bigger curl clumps.
Wet style rather than damp style. When you apply your styling products, you’re basically locking in the style that your hair has in that moment. If you apply your styling products while your hair is wet, they’ll be in their biggest curl clumps and their least-frizzy state possible which means more definition than damp styling provides.
Comb or brush your hair in the shower. Detangle your hair and comb or brush until you have as little frizz in your clumps as possible. You may need to comb, add more water, and comb again.
Have enough protein in your routine to allow your hair to hold their shape. For some people with wavy hair, with enough protein their hair will maintain its definition on its own. If your hair type is capable of that, you’ll likely want to keep enough protein in your routine to maintain that.
For others, even when they have enough protein in their routine, their hair won’t be defined unless they use a product with hold. My hair is like this, so it’s okay if yours is too! Even if your hair won’t stay defined on its own, it’s important to keep enough protein in your routine because if your hair gets over-moisturized it won’t stay defined as long even with gel or other styling products with hold.
Use gel or other products with hold. Products with hold help hold hair in their separate curl clumps which can do wonders for keeping your waves defined. For some hair types, using enough gel to get a gel cast around all of their hair is the best way to ensure maximum definition. If you aren’t familiar with gel casts, check out my article What is a hair cast and how to get one.
Brush style for added definition. I haven’t figured this out yet myself, but many find that using a denman brush to brush style their waves helps a lot with curl definition.
Scrunch your hair during and after your shower while your hair is still wet. This helps encourage curl clump formation.
Hover diffuse or air dry rather than pixie diffuse. These methods leave your hair down in its natural position, which can keep your curl clumps in a very natural position and maximize definition as a result.
Be gentle with your hair until it’s dry to avoid breaking up your style.
Get a haircut. If you’ve had feathered, thinned hair it may be disrupting clumps which can disrupt definition.
Use a lot of gel. If you’re using gel but struggling with your hair still being undefined or poofy, you likely need to use more to get defined waves.
Protect your hair overnight to maintain definition the next day. Check out my post the best way to sleep on wavy hair overnight to see me comparing the results of different methods for protecting wavy hair overnight.
Refresh your hair each morning to maintain the most definition between wash days. I have a blog post where I tested 8 different methods for refreshing wavy hair and compared the results.
Don’t brush your hair dry. If you’re used to brushing your hair after it is dry, that will break up your wave definition a lot.
Embrace frizz-minimizing styling techniques. I have a blog post covering how to get less frizz in wavy hair.