Curly Natural Hairstyles

There is just something about curls. Curly natural hairstyles soften your look and give you that touch of  “fun, flirtatiousness and vivaciousness” to any woman. You’ll see that once you start going curly, you’ll receive loads of compliments about how young and fresh you look. It is no wonder that it has been for many years the signature wedding, red-carpet and photo shoot hairstyle.

Achieving curls may be easier for some naturals than others. Depending on your hair texture and curl pattern, you may grow curls that already have a lot of definition. Then again, you may have a more tightly coiled pattern like 4a or 4c natural hair. Regardless of your curl pattern, have no fear. You CAN achieve the curly girl look!

There is a myriad of styling options for various curl patterns to achieve long-lasting, well-defined curls. The following are some tools and techniques that will result in gorgeous curls.

With the following techniques, you too can achieve the CURLY GIRL LOOK!

Wash and Go

For most type 3 natural hair as well as type 4a natural hair, you will achieve well-defined short-term curls with gel-like activators in a process called Wash and Go. This process includes washing and styling natural hair without doing any kind of preliminary setting. Once you have washed and conditioned the hair, proceed immediately to applying a leave-in conditioner and some kind of gel-like activator product to each section of your hair from root to tip.  This will activate the hair’s natural curl pattern.

The product will add moisture, curl definition, hold and a brilliant shine. The properties in these products help not only to create, but maintain curls for a 12-14 hour period. The outcome depends entirely on your own curl pattern. If, for example, your curl pattern is naturally loose, the technique will help to define and set the curl. There will be no dramatic change in the pattern itself. The Kinky Curly Curling Custard and Eco Styler Gel are two popular products typically used to create curls in a Wash and Go. You will be very pleased with the results.

Twist Out

One of the simplest ways to achieve the curl appeal for those with 4a to 4c natural hair is to do a basic Twist Out or Braid Out. Both techniques are simple and can give your hair great definition. Depending on the definition you require, the hair should be sectioned as needed and then twisted or braided. The smaller the sections you make, the more definition you will achieve. Apply a copious amount of leave-in conditioner to help set the hair. The style has to be allowed to set for one entire day in order to achieve the desired curls. Two-strand twists are always an easy option for setting your hair to get the curly look.

You may untwist hair and style accordingly. This will result in a very tight, coily pattern. Your hair may look a little untamed once you untwist, especially if you are a transitioner. If this is the case, do your best to pin up the sides so that the curls spill in a more uniformed way.

Bantu Knot Out

Bantu or Nubian knots were initially created as a solution to detangle and stretch natural hair on the dreaded wash days. In today’s natural hair world, it has morphed into a favorite and most trusted technique for achieving spiral curls with great body and bounce. Bantu Knots are achieved by sectioning the hair into fairly small squares and then doing individual two-strand twists.

As each twist is made, it is then wrapped around itself to form a knot or a ball. This can be done on wet or dry hair and has to be kept in for a few hours to allow the style to set. If the hair is wet, it can take many hours to air dry but a hooded dryer can cut the time down significantly.

At completion, you should have created 15-20 knots. Once your hair is completely dry, unravel each knot one at a time being careful not to drag or snag the hair. Hair should be unraveled with an “unscrewing” motion. Then, separate each twist to reveal the most beautiful, full, spiral curls. Style as desired.

Roller Set Natural Hair

Roller setting natural hair is great for both stretching your hair as well as achieving well-defined curls for any curl pattern. Apply a setting lotion or conditioner like Giovanni Direct Leave-In Conditioner to fully detangled, soaking wet strands. Then, take small sections, and roll your hair in an upward motion. To keep ends from frizzing, try using end papers. If you're in a hurry, you can set under a hood dryer or air-dry overnight.

Rolling your hair with setting tools that have a barrel shape is an excellent way of getting stretched hair. The pulling that occurs while rolling and allowing them to remain in for a period of time will result in more visible length. Some people may not be aware that some of these tools can provide the same results as heated hair curlers. The bigger the tool, the longer your hair will appear. Smaller rollers will provide stretch but the tight curls that will result from them will still cause the hair to appear shrunken. To maintain your roller set natural hair, you must be sure to pin curl your hair at night.

Rod Set Natural Hair

Natural hair can take the shape of whatever tool applied to it. This is especially true when the hair is wet. In a wet state, the hydrogen bonds are temporarily broken so it can take various shapes. The rod set is another staple option for you to achieve the most beautiful results. Rods are a straight bar-like tool that are used to set the hair. They come in a variety of styles, shapes, sizes and colors. Two of the more popular types used in the natural hair community are perm rods and flexi rods.

Rods effectively create tight spiral ringlets that result in a very cute, curly hairdo for naturals. The size used will determine how tight your curl will be.

For example, if you want to achieve a looser curl pattern like the one pictured here, then the thicker rods will more likely be the way to go. Then, dry your hair under a hooded dryer. With proper maintenance, rod sets can produce curls that last for days. Try it and you’ll love it.

Straw Set Natural Hair

A straw set is one of the most effective transitioning hairstyles. A straw set is similar to a rod set, except that the hair is set on tiny drinking straws. Literally. Plastic drinking straws. Apply gel then roll a small section of your hair onto the straw. At the end of this process, you may have up to 90 straws in your hair. Once the set has dried under a heated dryer, the straws are removed and what emerge are pencil thin coils. You then pull them apart to create a halo of corkscrew-like curls and coils.

Like braiding or cornrowing your hair, straw sets can also serve as a protective style. They give your hair a break from the regular styling, combing, and brushing manipulation because practically all you do is apply oil each day and fluff. Then, you’re out the door.

Straw sets last longer than other curling techniques like braid outs and twist outs because they are more tightly coiled. They can last for 1-2 weeks, depending on your physical activity and sleeping habits.


Curlformers are a more recent addition to the market and have caught on pretty quickly in the natural hair community. When Hair Flair Ltd and Sally Beauty Supply, the world's largest retailer of professional beauty supplies, launched Curlformers in 2008, a patented styling product was born. Curlformers allow women of all ethnicities and hair textures to create fun, gorgeous, glossy curls, without damaging their hair, because heat is NOT required. While the product was invented for all hair types, it works especially well on naturals of any texture. Its spiral-like, flexible shape makes it ideal for forming romance or Shirley Temple type curls. As in the case of rods, the Curlformers work best when installed on wet hair.

Separate freshly-washed damp hair into small sections and clip back.  From root to tip, apply a little curl cream like Design Essentials Natural Curl Stretching Cream, Design Essentials Natural Curl Enhancing Mousse or Shea Moisture Curling Souffle.  Then, apply the Spiral Curlformer correct for your length of hair. Use the styling hook (with the hook facing upwards) to encase the hair from root to tip to give volume and all-over curls. You can allow the hair to dry naturally or place hair under a hooded dryer. Separate and tease out the curls with your fingers until you have the perfect volume and style.

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