3 Ways To Curl Natural Hair With Absolutely No Heat

For those with natural hair, hot tools are like an ex — you broke up for a reason, but every once in a while you get the urge to go back for more. Well, the next time you get the desire to pull out the blowdryer or flat iron, remember that too much heat can cause curls to go permanently limp. (Heat damage is real!) But if you’re dead set on wearing soft, ringlets, there are alternative ways to get them.

Thanks to the versatility of natural hair, you can manipulate your strands to form curls that look like you spent hours under the hood dryer or using a curling wand — but without using any heat. All you need is the right tools (like flexi or perm rods) and enough time to air-dry.

Ahead of your next styling session, we rounded up three easy tutorials to help you curl your strands — no heat required.

Flexi Rod Set

One of the most common ways to get defined curls without using heat is by using flexi rods, which you can pick up at your local drugstore or beauty supply store. According to Koni Bennet, stylist and owner of Vanity salon, a flexi rod set is one her favorite methods for curling natural hair.

“Curly hair shrinks in its natural state,” she says. “I love this method because it curls and stretches the hair at the same time.” If you’re going into a flexi rod set without heat, though, be warned that it might take hours for your hair to set. “It all depends on how your hair usually air-dries, but I usually recommend that clients don’t do this style on drenched wet hair,” she says. Instead, Bennet suggests letting your hair partially dry in sections, keeping it detangled so your curls can take shape without knots. You can also use the “banding” or African threading method to elongate your hair by wrapping elastic bands or braiding yarn down the length of your hair so that it doesn’t shrink as it air-dries.

Then, you can grab your pack of flexi rods and follow along to this video to see exactly how it’s done.

Perm Rod Set

Ebony Bomani, stylist and educator for The Mane Choice, swears by perm rod sets for heat-free curls. The process (which you can see here), is similar to a flexi rod set, but the roller is made of sturdy, plastic material and a rubber clamp to hold your hair in place.

“The key here is making sure your hair is detangled throughout the process,” Bomani tell us. She explains that in order to achieve a look similar to the final style in this video, your hair should be smooth and flat around the roller. Once your hair is totally dry, you should be left with soft spirals that only look like they were blown out first.

Bantu Knot-Out

Many people prefer to lightly blowdry natural hair before attempting a bantu knot-out, but this video is proof that heat isn’t totally necessary. But once again, Bennet suggests prepping your strands instead of starting on your hair wet, like you’ll see in this clip. “If you’re not going to smooth out your hair [with heat] prior to bantu knots, you should divide your hair into large sections and loosely braid or twist it to stretch and dry your hair,” she explains. “Otherwise your hair can take a long time to dry and you might not get the results you’re looking for.”

Once your strands are dry, you can separate and twist your hair around in a circular motion to form the knot. You can leave your knots in for hours (overnight), or you can rock them for a few days before unraveling them. But for soft, shiny curls that look like they could have been done with a curling wand, use a lightweight oil for your last step. “I like to lightly cover my hands with almond oil to add shine to the hair and to keep the curls frizz-free,” Bennet says.

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