My hair has been natural, or chemical-free, since about my junior year of college, when I decided to solve the mystery of what my curl pattern actually looked like. I’ve been proudly rocking my tightly wound coils ever since I found out.
Although my hair journey to natural has been rewarding, it definitely hasn’t been effortless (something most natural-haired women can attest to). It has taken a lot of trial and error to figure out which styling methods work best for me. Now I can say with absolute certainty that aside from using the somewhat simple method of a wash-and-go—which literally consists of wetting the hair and letting it air dry—to achieve the perfect curl, a twist out is definitely my go-to.
There are so many variables that can make a difference in the outcome of the twist out style that many long time naturalistas don’t even know. Is my hair fully detangled? Am I using the right products? Where on earth is my satin bonnet?
To help you get a bouncy, frizz-free style every time, we called in hair experts Naté Bova, senior stylist at Warren Tricomi Salon in NYC, and Monique Rodriguez, creator of haircare brand Mielle Organics, for their take on common twist out no-nos.
1. Your hair isn’t fully detangled prior to twisting.
First things first—your hair should be totally free of knots and tangles before starting the process. It’s virtually impossible to separate hair properly into sections to twist without doing so. “It’s best to detangle your hair thoroughly in order to get the best definition,” Rodriguez tells SELF. “Proper detangling will help you prevent breakage, and most importantly detangling plays a role in how well your hairstyle will turn out.” Smooth, tangle-free hair ensures an even coating of product, as well as less time spent crafting your actual twists—your arms will thank you.
2. You’re not using the right products for your hair texture.
Since everyone’s hair texture is different, even among natural hair types, figuring out which products actually work for your hair type is extremely important. If you want soft, fluffier curls after taking down your twists, using a cream-based product is ideal. For more defined curls, Bova recommends using a twisting gel for extra hold, or a product that is a mix of both.
“For the perfect twist out, I recommend finding a cream-based product that has a significant amount of hold in the formula,” Bova says. “Hydratherma Naturals Aloe Curl Enhancing Twisting Cream has exactly that. For a softer finish, I recommend the KeraCare Natural Textures Twist & Define Cream. This formula is enhanced with botanicals and castor oil. I am a huge fan of castor oil.” For those who naturally get more of a fro than defined curls, she recommends the Mizani True Textures Twist and Coil Jelly, which offers a bit more hold so hair can take the shape of twists or knots more effectively.
3. You’re using too much product when twisting.
To be completely transparent, I’m guilty of making this mistake more times than I’d like to admit. Since my hair tends to be a bit on the dryer side, I sometimes overcompensate with extra product to make sure each section is properly saturated. Using too much product can often lead to an unsuccessful twist out or lack of curl, since the hair will likely not dry properly, even overnight.
4. You’re not letting your hair completely dry before untwisting it.
I can’t even begin to describe the number of times I prematurely untwisted my hair, and each time I did, my curls were lackluster at best. Patience is a virtue: It’s paramount that hair is completely dry—that is, that the product you used for your twists has been worked in and settled into the hair—before unraveling them. “It is probably the most important step in the twist out process for hair to be completely dry before moving forward with the ultimate style,” Rodriguez tells SELF. “If you untwist your hair while it is still wet, you could cause frizz and lack definition in your hairstyle.” Once your twists are fully dry, you will have the most definition and your style will also last longer, and Bova agrees. “If you’re not giving the hair a chance to set, the damp hair will not take on the shape desired. Sit under the dryer and watch your favorite show.” If you don’t have a hooded dryer at home, you can also use a regular blow dryer to help get twists as dry as possible.
5. You’re not letting your hair cool down properly.
Even if you’re convinced that your hair is completely dry, you’re doing yourself—and your next selfie for Instagram—a disservice if you don’t let it completely cool down after drying it. Chances are, you’ll likely still have a few damp sections that you didn’t notice. Bova advises letting hair cool for about half an hour or so, then going back under heat for an extra cycle, and finally allowing hair to cool down again to test for any remaining wetness. This will ensure that you’re not untwisting your hair too soon.
6. You’re not re-twisting your hair at night.
It can sometimes be tiring to have to re-twist your curls every night (trust me, I know from experience), but you’ll thank yourself every morning for doing it. This style can quickly lose steam over a couple of days, so re-twisting your curls helps to lock it in for little while longer. “To maintain your twist out for a longer period of time you can either re-twist nightly or try the pineapple—or gathering hair at the top of the head—style. This depends on your hair length,” says Rodriguez. “If you have shorter hair, it may be best to re-twist every night to maintain your hairstyle. If your hair is longer, you can pineapple your hair.” For second or third day curls, Bova recommends Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Hold and Shine Moisture Mist to revive curls. Expert tip: Spray curls, and re-twist hair before the spray dries.
7. You’re going to sleep without wrapping your hair first.
Even if you want to let your curls drop over time, wrapping your hair with either a satin scarf or bonnet is important to maintaining your style and avoiding frizz. “To maintain your twist out for a longer period of time, I definitely suggest to sleep with a silky scarf tied around your head,” Bova tells SELF. “Your curls will be better contained while you’re laying down.” To stay comfortable throughout the night, she recommends using an Isoken Enofe Faziah bonnet for next-day frizz-free curls.