There are many ways to curl your hair – some more intense than others. Heated styling tools, and chemical “perms” are certainly effective, but not exactly gentle on your hair. When looking for ways to create bouncy, spiral curls naturally, we need look no further than the traditional African hairstyling method known as Bantu knots.
What Are Bantu Knots?
Bantu knots are a traditional hairstyle traced back to Zulu women living in southern Africa. The hairstyle consists of several 3 to 4 inch sections of hair, parted in squares or triangles, and then twisted into “knots” which can often hold their shape on their own, without any additional pins or hair ties necessary.
Bantu knots can be worn on their own as a beautiful hair statement, but also have very striking results when taken out. As a result, some women who wear Bantu knots like to leave their hair curly for a few days after taking them out, to enjoy the effects.
How to Prepare Your Hair
If you’re interested in trying a Bantu knot style for yourself, follow the steps below. It’s best to begin in the evening, as the knots will need to be worn overnight to get the full effect.
1 Begin by shampooing your hair, paying close attention to your scalp. Your hair will be parted very severely along the edge of each knot, so make sure that your scalp is clean, free of excess oil, and that there’s no flaking skin.
2 If you use conditioner, you should do that before you wear your Bantu knots. Condition your hair as you normally would, and work it through from root to tip, detangling as you go.
3 Set out a brush, a rat-tail comb (for making those precise parts in your hair), a selection of bobby pins and hair elastics.
4 Use a styling product that has light to medium hold, and apply it to your hair as directed. You don’t want anything which holds too strong, as it can make your hair “crunchy” and take the bounce out of the curls.
How to Tie Bantu Knots
1 To create the knots, begin by separating your still-damp hair into several 3 to 4 inch sections, all across your scalp. Once you have a section separated, secure it loosely with a hair elastic so it stays out the way of whichever section you’re working on.
2 Choose a section to begin with and remove the hair elastic. Gather all the hair from the section together, and twist it tightly. The twisting is key, so make sure you don’t leave it too loose. Loose twists won’t form curls – but don’t go so tight you fear your hair will break!
3 Place two fingers at the base of the hair twist and hold it steady with your thumb. What you’re doing here is creating a small space between your scalp and the twist itself. Creating the twist too close to your scalp can cause breakage or unnecessary strain on your roots, so this space is quite important.
4 With your fingers in place, use your other hand to wind the twisted hair into a small bun. In some cases, you can simply secure the end of the twist underneath the Bantu knot itself, eliminating the need for hair pins or elastics. However, if you are not confident that your hair will stay put, go ahead and use whichever feels more comfortable.
5 Continue tying each section into a bun and securing it in place. You can wrap your hair in a scarf to help protect the knots, and simply sleep in that hairstyle overnight. Your hair should be completely dry by morning.
And Now For the Curls!
Beginning with the knots at the base of your neck, carefully unpin each Bantu knot and slowly unwind the bun to allow your hair to fall out of the twist naturally. You will be left with beautiful springy curls. Work your way up from the back of your neck moving forward. This avoids your hair getting tangled around other knots until all of the knots are undone. If the curls appear too severe or too tight, gently comb through them with your fingers once or twice to separate them a little.
You can leave your new curls as they are, or spritz them with a bit of light hold hairspray to help them maintain their shape throughout the day. If you pin up your hair at night and sleep with a scarf over your head, this style can actually last for several days.
Enjoy those beautiful new curls!