I frequently get asked how we "get Boo's hair to look like that," which I can only assume means something along the lines of "how do you get her curls so defined and non-frizzy looking." That's exactly what this post is about. We use a technique called "shingling," which will last us a good week (maybe two, depending on the weather) when applying our curl definer and styling her afro. Although I've talked about how to do it before, I have documented yet again the step-by-step method we use to achieve this look.
The first step is, well, follow the directions on your curl-defining product. Some say apply to damp hair, others say to sopping wet hair. The one we used today requires sopping wet hair, so that's where we started. Boo's hair was freshly washed and had been slept in one evening with two-strand twists. We undid her twists and ran her head under the water until it became thoroughly saturated.
Shingling is exactly how it sounds: Just like applying shingles to the roof a house, that's how you apply your product. You work in layers, from the bottom to the top, applying product as you go. For many of you, this may be exactly how you've been doing it all along. For others, particularly those who have only dealt with straight hair before, this may be very different than how you are used to doing things: You don't just rub the product in your hands and then work it through the whole head of hair. Shingling requires that you apply the product in a much more focused manner, making sure that the curls are uniquely defined as you go. It's a time-consuming process, but it gets much better results than applying the product all at once.
Starting with a layer of hair on the underside of the head (you don't need to make perfect parts, you can just eyeball it), clip the rest of the hair up and out of your way and apply your curl-definer to your hands:
Next, rake the product through the bottom layer, making sure you elongate the curl pattern and smooth the hair as you go.
Pay careful attention to the ends to make sure that they are forming together into their natural curl pattern. Remember that curly hair is, by it's very nature, tangled hair, so don't worry so much that it stays totally detangled. Just concentrate on allowing the hair to group together in the way that it naturally wants to go.
Then let that layer fall down out of your hand without touching it again. Let the product work, allowing the hair to dry in that position.
Work your way around the bottom layer, section by section, until all of the hair has product in it. This is what our finished bottom layer looked like:
Continuing on, release another layer of hair from the clip and repeat the process. You can see the difference between the definition of the curls on the bottom layer, versus the newly released hair layer:
In fact, the weight of the water works wonders in elongating the curl pattern when working with your product. There will be shrinkage, have no doubt. However, the definition of the curl will remain, even after the hair dries.
This is Boo's hair after the product has been completely applied to all of the layers, but before it has had a chance to dry. Obviously it will look "shorter" when it dries, but it will also look fuller (which is the look we want). The curl patter, however, will remain in place as it dries, just so long as we don't fuss with it and allow it to "set." Frizziness will likely occur if the hair is touched, rubbed, and/or has air blowing through it before it has a chance to dry, so when shingling hair we allow plenty of time to let it set (i.e., before naps, car trips, or play time).
Below, you can see what Boo's hair looked like two days after styling. Her hair is totally dry and still holding it's shape, looking great for our lunch with the girls:
The rest of the pictures below are from this morning, four days after styling:
You can see that the curls are still well-defined.....
....and the hair is not showing any signs of dryness or frizz.
It's been a little more than a month since I trimmed Boo's hair, dusting off the dead ends in some areas, and in others cutting off several inches either to remove damage and/or even it out. This is the first time since then that she's worn it free, sporting her natural curl pattern without it being stretched, in preparation for our participation in this year's Afro Independence Day (Fros on the Fourth). Although it's obvious that her hair is shorter this year than it was last year, it should be equally as obvious that it is now a lot more even and is perfectly healthy. And we'll take health over length any day.
Besides, like any parent who cuts their child's hair on their own for the first time, I'm just pleased that I didn't butcher it!
If you're looking for posts on how we maintain free hair, please see our collection of articles on afros/free hair.