So, you guys are fully aware that I’m natural and have undergone a long process of learning to love my kinks. I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur of protective styles, although I love them and typically use one about once or twice a year. I’ve had crochet braids, Marley twists and box braids. The latter is the only one I’ve had installed professionally.
This time I’m going to install Senegalese twists and you’re going to join me in this process. I have detailed in the post all of the products I used, where I purchased them from and how I did it (complete with video).
The only reason why I don’t use protective styles more often is because they take SO LONG to install on my hair. My hair is very thick and dense, so you can easily look up two hours into an install and realize that barely a half of my head is complete. That’s the frustrating part, but I have some time on my hands this weekend, so I’m going to put everything aside, grab some of my favorite tunes and get to twisting!
TOOLS AND PRODUCTS
These are all of the tools and products I used throughout this process. I’m including everything from wash day to installing the last twist. Please use the products and tools that work for your hair, but feel free to use this as a guideline so you know what to expect. It’s okay if you don’t have everything. I placed asterisks next to the products and tools that I feel are actually necessary for the purpose of installing the twists.
- Shampoo and conditioner*
- Leave in conditioner*
- Apple Cider Vinegar*
- Wide tooth comb*
- Denman brush or your favorite detangling brush
- Blow dryer
- Flawless by Gabrielle Union blow dry cream or a heat protectant
- Hair clips*
- Hair ties
- Cantu Moisturizing Twist and Lock Gel*
- Hair Shears*
- Bobby pins
- Edge control
- 4 packs of kanekalon hair* (I used 2 packs of Solpia X-Pression 82″ Color 33 and 2 packs of Outre Jumbo Braid 84″ Color M4/27)
- Pitcher (the kind your put lemonade in)
- Hair Spray
- Hair accessories
KANEKALON HAIR PREPARATION
When the hair arrives or you pick it up from the beauty store you should always wash it. I know it seems unnecessary and you might be pressed for time but plan washing and drying into your schedule. I have found that my scalp itches a lot less when I wash synthetic hair first versus installing it straight from the package.
This is literally filling up the sink or tub (or a very large bowl) with water and a bit of apple cider vinegar (even a couple drops of tea tree oil if you have it) and letting it soak, gently moving it back and forth. Some people use a drop of shampoo, but you don’t want suds or a ton of manipulation so if you choose to do this make sure it is literally a DROP.
After about 10-20 minutes you can gently squeeze out all excess water and let it hang to dry over the shower. I know the hair will be really limp but it’ll bounce right back to its texture. Because it’s synthetic it usually dries very quickly, you don’t even have to wait overnight. I would NOT advise blowdrying it.
At this point, I fold a piece of hair in half and hold it to my scalp to get a feel for where I need to trim it to achieve my desired length. Remember that you will be folding the length of your hair in half to twist. I keep the length of my twists consistent throughout my hair.
(MY) HAIR PREPARATION
I washed and deep conditioned my hair thoroughly so there was no product buildup on my hair or scalp. I plan to keep this style in for several weeks, so I want to make sure it’s in a healthy state.
The last time I trimmed my hair was around the New Year, so I wanted to also get rid of any damage and split ends that might be crawling up my hair shaft, so I can retain more length during this protective style. It’s better to lose a little length off the ends and have healthy hair in the future than to damage it and have to cut off a chunk at the salon. I use shears, and take small sections, combing through and trimming the ends where it frays out or gets thin.
Because Senegalese twists use very silky versus kinky hair, I opted to blow dry my hair prior to installing. My hair is already well-moisturized, so I let it air-dry most of the way in large twists, then I brushed it out and blow dried it one twist at a time, to make it more manageable. This will allow my strands to appear more seamless with the kanekalon hair.
I used the blow dry cream from Gabrielle Union’s Flawless line to protect the moisture in my hair. I absolutely recommend this product whenever you’re blow drying your hair, it always makes my hair so soft and shiny despite the heat! Brush it through and we’re all set to go!
I divide my hair in half: once horizontally from ear to ear so there’s a top and bottom. I create any parts that I will want to have up front when I’m styling my hair. The top I put into a messy bun and the bottom is where I will begin installing.
I tried to follow the invisible root technique from YouTube videos to install my twists. It consists of parting the hair into small 1-inch sections, separating it into two halves, twisting the fake hair around each half of your own hair, and then completing a standard two-strand rope twist the rest of the way. That’s a bit tricky for me.
The other option is to braid and then rope twist, which is not as easy as it looks on some YouTube tutorials, so I developed a method that’s a bit of both, and hopefully, it will help you. It may not be the best at getting your twists super close to the root (I’m still practicing my skill) but it allows me to secure it well and move quickly even in the back of my head when I cant see.
- I take a small section of hair and place the center of my kanekalon hair underneath close to the root, so there’s 3 pieces: the left half of the kanekalon, my own hair and the right half of the kanekalon.
- I bring the left half of the kanekalon over the middle so my hair is now on the left.
- I bring the right half of the kanekalon over the middle.
- I bring my own hair over the middle so my natural hair is now in the center of the “braid” I’m creating.
- At this point, I split my hair into two so it’s equally divided between the kanekalon hair on either side of it. Then I rotate it a couple times and rope twist accordingly to the end of the twist.
Here’s a video to explain it much better than I just attempted to do (tutorial at 4:10). 🙂
A few pro tips:
Stagger your kanekalon hair so it will taper and seal better at the end. If you have blunt ends it will unravel, guaranteed. That’s just fact. So make sure it thins out, even if you have to fray it and manipulate the ends a bit.
Make sure you’re rotating the hair a few times before you twist it. This makes it cleaner and helps the hair to stay seamless when you transition to just braiding hair in the middle of your twist. Simply twisting without the rotation will lead to looser twists.
Clip flyaways on your twist with shears for a neater look.
Seal the ends with hot water. I boil some water during the last 15 minutes of my installation (when there’s only 6-8 twists left). I remove the water from the stove and pour it into a different container (a water pitcher is nice because it’s taller and narrow). I then dip my ends into it a few times, letting it sit for several seconds to seal my ends. Squeeze out excess water with a soft towel or t-shirt.
Use mousse to smooth down your hair and lock in moisture and seal the twists.
Set with hairspray to keep things in place.
This style will last a long time with low manipulation, daily moisturizing, and sleeping on silk pillowcases with a scarf or bonnet. I spritz my hair at the top half of the twists where my actual hair is to keep it moisturized.
If your scalp does itch use some witch hazel or diluted tea tree oil to soothe it. You can wash your twists once a week or biweekly with diluted shampoo. Here’s a good video to show you how.
The mousse will help with those flyaways you get after some time. Try not to manipulate it too much and if a particular twist is having a hard time or your edges up front look rough, just grab your twist and lock gel and re-twist it! It literally only takes a minute and it’s a great way to keep your style looking fresh without feeling like you have to take them out after only a few weeks. Don’t be afraid to redo a couple twists from time to time.
This is two ways that I keep my hair at night so it’s won’t frizz up or unravel. I always cover with a satin scarf or bonnet.
Here’s my before and after pics! I love the color and if I had to choose between Senegalese twists and Marley twists I’d definitely choose the Senegalese. They’re lighter and smaller so it’s easy to style. Starting with Marley twists helped me to get a hang of the method for sure, so I’d certainly recommend starting there because the silky texture of kanekalon can be a challenge if this is your first time. Otherwise, I’m loving my new ‘do! Let me know about your experience with Senegalese twists below. If you have any tips please feel free to share.