Curl pattern ≠ curl definition
Curl definition, curl pattern what's the difference? In a definition-obsessed curly world, it's hard to separate most aspects of haircare from the end-goal of definition, which, for many, has become the be-all and end-all of natural hair style. Curl pattern is one of those elements which has had the hardest time distinguishing itself from this notion.
While curl definition is a styling option or state, curl pattern refers to the actual formation of each strand, each bend and ripple along the length that gives it its overall shape.
More technically referred to as wave pattern, it encompasses everything from barely-there ripples to the tightest coils.
If you're transitioning, as you move along your natural journey, and notice those roots making their presence felt more and more against your scalp, you're probably getting more and more curious about how your hair is gonna be when it's finally all above the surface. You may have heard people talking about hair that does not have a curl pattern, and maybe you're wondering whether that applies to your hair.
Well, unless you are part of that tiny percentage of people on the planet with completely straight hair, you do have a curl pattern. It's inevitable and indisputable. Whatever sequence of bends, waves, twists, helices, crimps, corkscrews, loops, or coils your hair makes - that is your curl pattern.
Some people wrongly assume that curl pattern means a regular or fixed pattern, that each strand of hair will have the same sequence of bends, waves, and twists along the length, repeated hundreds of thousands of times across the entire head of hair. But it doesn't. A pattern does not have to be repetitive, or even regular, to be a pattern. If there's a sequence of something there, that's enough. So suffice it to say if you have hair that is not straight, you have a curl pattern. There.
The definition of curl definition
Curl definition is another thing altogether. It involves getting your strands to align into various clusters all over your head, clusters in which individual curly fibres get together to form supercurls.
These bigger, magnified versions of the pattern your strands create on an individual basis make the curls more visible - people will often refer to these larger "superstructures" as curls, really they are clumps of many curls stuck together.
Curl definition is different from curl pattern because, at any point in time where your hair is not fully straightened, you always have a curl pattern.
Once you separate your strands, however, whether by picking your hair out, drying it out, or just because that's the way your strands prefer to hang out - your curls are no longer defined.
They are no longer clear-cut and easy to see, but they are still there. Barring the effects of a relaxer, a blowdryer, a pressing comb or a flat iron, your curl pattern will stay more or less intact, whether these curls themselves are defined or not.
Why do people get the two mixed up? Well, in a fast-growing curl-centric world, haircare terminology can be like one big game of Telephone in which part, or even all, of the message gets lost in translation. Sometimes, people don't get the full gist of terms or concepts before they apply or use them.
Another reason is the common online theory about defining hair, which ascribes how much - or how little - a head of hair will define to its curl pattern. Simply put, this idea suggests that hair with a more regular pattern, i.e., in which neighbouring strands tend to all go in the same direction and would fit neatly together, puzzle-piece style, if you pushed them close enough, tends to find it easier to get a defined look.
A third consideration: due to centuries of misinformation, a lot of people don't actually realise that tightly-curled hair - especially when it is not defined - is actually curly hair. Even when the curling structure is put under a microscope for display, for some folk it is hard to shake the notion that this blur of strands is actually made up of fibres and fibres of curly hair. So people put two and two together and assume that hair that does not define easily must not have a curl pattern. Which, of course, is a mistake.
While the two factors are sometimes connected, they are two very different things. Curl definition might be contingent on curl pattern, but curl pattern is 100% independent of definition.
Transition curl pattern
So as your new growth reaches new lengths and you find your hands wandering up to your scalp more and more, getting to grips with the new textures and shapes beneath your fingers, you have one less thing to wonder about. Your hair will definitely have a curl pattern once you grow it out. If it were not so, you would not have relaxed it in the first place.
Defining your curls is something else; it's a styling option - not a naturally curly rule - which you can have fun with, and even use to protect your hair. Look out for coverage in closer detail on DHA's DIY.
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