If you've ever twirled a lock of hair around your finger and longed for its spirally shape to hold for more than a few seconds, you are the reason that flexi rods were invented. Flexi rods are easy to use on dry or wet hair and produce a multitude of results depending on the size, hair moisture, and length of time you leave them in. Flexi rods are long foam tubes with a wire down the middle that come in varying thicknesses. They're pretty straightforward as far as hair tools go, especially when it comes to afro-textured hair.
If I had known how easy flexi rods were to use on relaxed or natural hair, I would never have spent so much time with my curling iron. While you can use heat to achieve curls faster, the flexi rod offers a heat-free (and, therefore, damage-free) way to make your curl dreams come true. Like the classic twist out, a flexi rod style can last for multiple days if you protect the resulting curls in your sleep and keep your hair moisturized. They come in a variety of sizes for tight, spiral curls to big, loose curls and are one of the safest ways to stretch your hair while keeping a curl pattern.
As I mentioned, you can use flexi rods on both wet and dry hair, but it will give you different results. To show that variation, I recruited a friend who let me use the rods on her dry strands while I used them on wet curls. Here's how it went down!
1. Hair Prep
Like any protective style, you are going to get the best results on detangled hair. For Shareefah's dry hair style, I used a homemade leave-in conditioner to help soften her curls for me to detangle. First, I wet the ends and root of her hair with a spray bottle full of distilled water and then I applied the leave-in from the root to the end, giving the ends some extra TLC. Since her hair wasn't freshly washed, we had to be take into consideration that heavy oils would sit on top of the hair and only used a small amount of product on each section.
My preparation took slightly longer. I used a shampoo-free rinse to clean my hair and then lightly finger-detangled in a deep conditioning treatment. After I rinsed my hair thoroughly, I applied a lighter leave-in conditioner.
2. Pre-Roll Detangling
Since Shareefah's hair was already in a protective style, I knew her knots weren't going to be an issue. I sectioned her hair into six large parts, then divided those into two or three, depending on the kinkiness of the section. Detangling each large section took less than a minute: I used the Cricket Ultra Smooth Detangling Brush and started at the ends and worked my way up to the root.
I woke up with my hair detangled, but apparently sh*t was going down on top of my head without my realizing it because my hair was a tangled mess. I divided my hair into 6 sections and then broke them down into threes to detangle with the Conair Hi-Style Rubber Cushion Brush. After I finished a section, I put it into loose twists and moved on to the next section. This was mainly to keep my hair from shrinking and tangling back up which happens to my Type 4 hair when wet.
3. Sectioning For Flexi Rods
Shareefah's hair was already winning the race against time; I was able to use the rods right away because her hair was dry and totally knot-free. So, within each of those six sections, I sprayed water, applied leave-in throughout the section, ran my fingers through the section, ran the detangling brush through her hair, and immediately wrapped her hair around the flexi rod.
For myself, about three hours after I began cleansing my hair, I was ready to use the curlers. It was becoming apparent that using flexi rods on wet hair is more time consuming than starting dry. You'll want to clear your schedule to get the best results.
4. Wrapping The Flexi Rods
For waves on the dry style, I used 12 of the flexible rollers. I started at the end of the hair and wrapped it underneath the center of the roller, then wrapped clockwise around the parameter of the roller until I reached the root of the hair. I then twisted each end of the rod to secure them before moving onto the next section. The entirety of moisturizing, detangling, and rolling took a little over an hour on dry, medium-length hair.
Since my twists were in various sizes, some sections were wrapped around together while others were separated in two sections and wrapped around the rod independently. For each section, I ran a wide-tooth comb through, carefully making sure my hair was completely detangled and knot-free before applying the rollers. Then, I wrapped the ends of my hair underneath at the end of the rod, wrapping around the parameter of the rod until the root, bending both ends of the rod to secure them. This took about 30 minutes, but most of that time was spot detangling the sections.
5. Dry/Set Time
After Shareefah's hair was complete with flexi-rods, I told her the bad news: she would be traveling on the subway in rollers and sleeping in them to set the shape. Fortunately, it was easy to disguise the rollers with a large, patterned scarf made out of satin/silk blend to retain the moisture and protect her hair dignity. She kept the rollers in overnight for a total of 12 hours.
For my wet style, I decided to let my hair dry naturally and slept in a Sue Maesta's Hood — which is basically a giant headband that completely covers your hair. The hood is great for sleeping with rollers because the opening allows your scalp to breath and the stretchiness will prevent the wrap being too tight when covering the rollers.
When I woke up the next day, about seven hours after my rollers were put in, my hair was dry enough for me to go under a standup hairdryer on low heat — after putting on a heat cap, of course.
After Shareefah took out her flexi rods, her hair was fluffy and wavy, "This is definitely good for my texture to stretch it. [I expected it] to just kink up and poof. It didn't! This would be great for me when I want to do a twist out style on stretched hair." The results of her dry flexi rods show above are with no product, just a quick take-down of the hair.
My hair was incredibly moisturized when I took it out, mostly because I couldn't stay under the hairdryer for the full hour. Much like when I'm waiting for my nails to dry, I was up every 10 minutes finding something I absolutely had to do. So, I stayed in my rollers for another day and when I took them out, my hair had all types of life.
7. Styling The Waves
Since Shareefah's hair was wavy on a windy day, she scooped her waves in a bun to keep the wavy effect without losing the volume from external factors. If hair is clean and freshly conditioned, the effects would have been longer lasting and she could have worn her hair out. Now that she's able to tell which sections she'd like smaller and which larger, she'll have no trouble rocking a dry-flexi-rod style completely out.
I'm used to my hair being larger, but I went with my hair throughout the day and was thrilled at the amount of hair compliments thrown my way. I scooped my hair on top of my head that night and while the curls didn't keep, my hair was still textured and happy the next day.
I think it's fair to say that flexi-rods work on both dry and wet hair, but the results of spiral curls all day are more significant on wet hair. Personally, I find all the extra time it takes to prep wet hair for the flexi rods well worth it.
Image: Kristin Collins Jackson (15)