don’t get too excited; i’m still in the midst of my hiatus as i adjust to some stuff going on in my off-line life. nothing bad at all; just different and time consuming. so before we return to our regularly scheduled program, any posts that appear here will likely have to do with hair, since i still have like 5257485495 product reviews to do that i havent done yet, and since i still have to put up directions for the dry Bantu knot-out people have been asking me about. i’ll be doing a video too, but for now, i just want to get up a (not so) quick written tutorial since i’ve been promising for so long.
so let’s get going! (c) Brian Fellow
coming up on my third year of being naturally curly and perm-free, i have a confession to make: i dont know how to style my hair. i’m good with maintenance and up-keep–my wash and detangle process is on point, i get my deep conditioning in once a week, like a good little natural should–but when it comes to all these fantastic amazing styles that i’m supposed to be able to do? nope. my staple is a wash-and-go. i can’t do a decent twist-out to save my life. my head is too big to be trying to two strand it all so i’m not even going to try. i can kind of almost get an okay braid-out but it needs work. so typically, i’m either in a curly fro or a big ol puff.
until recently, when i discovered that my hair loves dry sets, specifically a bantu knot-out done on dry hair. since then, i’ve done a bunch of trial-and-error seeing what works and what doesn’t–what products, what size knots, etc–and i think i’ve got a pretty good system going. after sharing pictures of my results on twitter and facebook, ive gotten lots of questions about the process and even requests for a video tutorial. the video will soon come, and in the meantime, i’ll spill my guts about it all here. this will be pretty long. that’s what he said.
PLEASE NOTE: as you read, PLEASE remember that i can only speak on what has worked for ME and MY HAIR. i MUST stress that everybody’s hair is different, and what works for one person may be a disaster for the next. i’m not promising you any results–just telling you what i do and what works for me. execute at your own risk!
What is a bantu-knot?
we’ll start with the basics, but not spend too much time on them. these are bantu knots. it becomes a knot-out when you style your entire head of hair in bantu-knots, keep them in for awhile to let them set, then take them out and your hair loosely. (TIP: as you put your knots in, you may not want to part your hair so precisely or pull TOO too tight at the roots, because once you take the knots out, those parts may still remain.)
when setting natural hair, there are two ways you can go. well, three: you can do them on wet hair, damp hair, or dry hair. i began doing my knot-outs on wet hair assuming that to be the best way, and i didn’t mind the results. my knot-outs look more like a roller set when i do it on wet hair which is fine. but my biggest problem: wet knots take FOREVER to dry. like literally 1-1.5 days. and for me, knot-outs are very difficult to maintain without knotting them all over again, and that’s a LOT of time and energy for a 1-day hair style.
i got the idea to try it on dry hair when i noticed that wet sets make my hair heavier and limper than i’d like. a bit about my hair: if i had to type it, i guess it’d be 3C/4A? i kind of don’t believe in hair typing though, so forget all that. my hair is voluminous, meaning that there are lots of strands of hair on my hair, but it’s also fine, meaning that the diameter of a single strand is fairly small. it’s not baby fine, but it is fine, and easily weighed down by product when wet. dry sets give me lots of body and volume and softness and just all around yummy goodness. and they’re faster–it sets overnight!
ive also found that this style works best on my hair when it is NOT freshly washed, ie dry hair that already has product in it. this may not hold true for everybody, but the older my hair is when doing knot outs, the better it seems to look. this is dangerous because when i keep doing bantu knot outs, it’s very easy for me to accidentally go like 2 weeks without washing which is just nasty. don’t tell nobody.
you will need:
- plain ol’, regular ass conditioner of your choice. this doesn’t have to be anything fancy AT ALL. go ‘head and hit up that 99 cent shelf at walgreens–V05, Suave, Herbal Essences–you can save your good stuff.
- a shine spray or light oil (like jojoba or watermelon seed oil)
- a light holding cream (or maybe a light holding gel)
- a light, oil-based moisturizer
- an afro pick
1. Stretch your hair. i’ve found that i get much better results when my hair has been stretched prior to knotting. when i go straight from my regular wash & go curls to bantu knotting, i get stiff, tight curls that don’t move or bend as much as i’d like, them to. you can stretch your hair however you’d like. i prefer not to use heat on my hair, so i usually stretch mine by combing out my hair, braiding, and rocking a braid out for a day or two.
2. Section off your hair. it’s up to you to decide how big or small you want your bantu-knots. in my experience, big knots give bigger, looser curls and much more volume (duh, right?). smaller coils will give you coilier, more defined curls. it all depends on the look you want.. sometimes i go with bigger knots on the bottom for volume and smaller ones on top for definition. to illlustrate the difference, i once did a dry knot out with smaller knots on my left side and bigger ones on the right.
3. Apply conditioner and detangle. take one section, apply a couple of fingertip-fulls of your conditioner, and comb out the section with a tool of your choice. again, this does not have to be a fancy conditioner–my absolute favorite conditioner of all time is Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa conditioner, which is less than $3 in store. i use a denman to detangle my hair all the time, so that’s what i use to comb out for bantu knots. here’s another reason why it’s good to do this on stretched hair; detangling hair while dry can cause a lot of breakage. with the hair stretched, there should be fewer tangles to get through, and putting conditioner on it can help make combing out your hair a little easier.
once you’re all untangled, apply a bit more conditioner to the section to add some moisture. this will help give you a smoother set. IMPORTANT: don’t use too much!! you don’t want to use so much that the hair feels damp or wet to the touch.. that defeats the purpose of your dry set!
4. Apply your shine spray/light oil. now, truth told, i don’t even know how essential this is to the set. i just know that i did this the first time and have been unwilling to skip it just in case it’d change my results any. but, id imagine you’d want to use something to add just a bit of moisture and sheen, and to help moisturize and smooth those ends, which, if your hair is like mine, will be nice and frizzy and fuzzy since your hair is dry.
the shine spray that i use is Natural Shine Polish by JustNatural Organics, and it’s actually VERY amazing.. it makes my hair feel very, very smooth to the touch, and is VERY good for smoothing my ends. i definitely recommend it–if you can afford it. at 24 bucks, it’s pretty pricey for such a small bottle.
5. Apply your holder/twisting cream. the twisting cream i use is darcy’s botanicals avocado and honey twisting cream. i’d imagine you could use any holder in this step, with any varying degree of hold as long as it doesn’t make your hair too wet. one of the things i have yet to do is try a knot-out using gel instead of this twisting cream.
6. Twist! okay, you have a couple of options here. you can either two-strand twist your hair before knotting, or you can knot without two-strand twisting. i’ve done it both ways (heh.. that sounds kinky) and i find that two-stranding first gives me a finish that looks more like a roller set. it’s much more… orderly and controlled. knotting without two stranding first sets you up to get coilier curls if you want (depending on how you put your knots in.. i’ll come back to this a little later), and in general it gives me bigger, more dramatic, Tracee Ellis Rossy curls.
if you decide not to two-strand first, you have a couple of other options before you: you can make your knots so that they’re sort of high and stacked, like this, or so that they’re flatter and more pinwheel shaped. high, stacked knots give me coily curls, and flatter knots just give me big curls without any uniform type of curl. does that make sense? if not i’ll try to explain it better if requested.
so, choose what size and type of knots you want, get em in there, and secure with a bobby pin at the scalp. note: don’t make them so tight that you can’t sleep on them, if you’ll be keeping them in overnight!
TIP: once i get to the last inch and a half or two inches of my hair, approaching the ends, i pause with my twisting and apply all three of my products over again, making sure to get a good dose of my shine spray, because it’s that that really helps to smooth the ends. i reapply all three, in order, then continue on with making the knot.
7. Cover. tie on a silk scarf or throw on a silk bonnet and go on about your business for the night.
8. Unknot and separate. IMPORTANT! do NOT touch a single strand of your hair unless you have a light, oil-based moisturizer or pomade on your fingers!! since we didn’t use a product with firm hold, your new curls can be easily frizzed or otherwise disturbed if handled with dry hands. i use darcy’s botanicals coconut butter styling pomade and i absolutely positively love it. it’s greasy feeling on the fingers, but not in the hair, and who doesn’t love the scent of coconut?? if you don’t have/use a pomade, just make sure that whatever moisturizer that you use, if you can help it, is oil-based. you may even just want to use an oil–before using the pomade, i used jojoba oil and watermelon seed oil at varying times, and my hair looked great (but it was oily to the touch all day, which i dont like). but try to avoid a water-based moisturizer because you don’t want to wet your hair with whatever product you’re going to use.
so. unknot a knot with moisturized fingertips. take the remainder of the moisturizer on your fingers and rub it over the unknotted knot, making sure to hit the ends. then, split the curl in your hands in half, then in half again, then in half again, as many times as you’d like to your desired fullness. the more times you split, the bigger your hair/volume will be, and the fewer times you split, the chunkier and tamer your curls will be.
for me and my hair, the more times i split a bantu knot, the frizzier i notice my individual curls getting. to combat this, i spend a little bit of time hunting and pecking, looking for dry-looking curls and rubbing some moisturizer/pomade over them to shine them up–this may be something best illustrated in the video, so i’ll be sure to do that.
9. Fluff your roots. it’s possible that you may still have some separation at your scalp from the parts/sections you made while knotting your hair. don’t worry! an afro pick can fix that right up for you. take your pick, slip it into your hair at the the roots, and GENTLY lift it from your scalp just a bit. this will create fullness at the roots that should get rid of any separation at the scalp.
10. Accessorize at will! throw a scarf on it, pin it on one side, put a headband in there, or just leave it alone and let it do what it do.. it’s up to you! you’re done! go on out into the world with your fabulous self!
now unfortunately, this is a one-day style for me. if i rock a knot-out on monday, the only way to get another decent knot out on tuesday is to knot it all over again on monday night. depending on how much time i have, i’ll do it and won’t mind, but sometimes, i’m just too tired. if my knots were fairly small and defined and gave me kind of tight curlage, i can sometimes get away with sleeping with my hair in my satin bonnet and waking up and shaking it out in the morning. other than that, i’ll sometimes just sleep on it and put it in a puff the next day. this past weekend though, i pulled my hair loosely to the top of my head and made sure not to lay on the length as i slept and that seemed to give me a decent result the next day. but that was purely by accident; i’ll have to experiment with that a little more.
so! that’s the basics! there are a few points/tips/matters that i didn’t really get too in dept with because this entry is already long enough, but i’ll try hard to touch on them in the video. in the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions on anything youve read here, or if there are things you want me to address in the vid, and you got it! you can leave a comment for me here, or email me, or get me on twitter. also, i’ll be updating my fotiki with pictures of various knot-outs soon.
hope this helps til the video!