A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Your Hair With Flexi Rods

Transitioning to natural hair? Give this a try.

flexi rods
@TIERECHRISTYAN | Design by Julie Bang .

When I went natural for the first time nearly seven years ago (it took two tries!), flexi rod sets were my go-to. Mainly because I was too afraid to do the big chop, so I let my relaxer grow out over time. Flexi rod sets were ideal for a few reasons: They hid any new growth, kept my hair healthy, and lasted up to a week, depending on what I had scheduled.

Byrdie writer Bianca Lambert wears natural curls set with flexi-rods


I eventually gave up the flexi rod set because of my love of my 4c texture, so the wash-and-go is my go-to these days.

At first glance, a flexi rod set might seem a little daunting if you've never done it before, but I promise that with the right products and a little practice, you'll be a pro. Since flexi rod sets require a few more steps than a traditional wash-and-go or twist-outs, keep reading for my tips, tricks, and favorite products to help make your first set a breeze.

Hair Type Considerations

Flexi rod sets work on a variety of hair types from relaxed to natural-textured hair, and they can even work on cropped hair with small rods. 

Woman with short set of flexi rod curls, large gold hoop earrings, and red lipstick


Which Size Roller to Use

Finding the right sized roller depends on the finished look you're hoping for and how long you want your style to last. Jumbo flexi rods are usually purple or blue and give a wavy look to the hair, while orange (and sometimes gray) rods help achieve a medium-sized curl. Working with the latter two are my personal preference because they mold a beautiful spiral and my curls tend to last longer this way. If you want a tight curl, red (long, thin) flexi rods are your best bet. 

How Many Rods?

Depending on your hair's length, texture, and density, I recommend having at least thirty rollers ready to go. It is not a great feeling when you get to the front of your head and can't finish because you ran out of rollers. I've been there and done that, and while it's not the end of the world, it is a little inconvenient. 

What You'll Need

  • Foam flexi-rollers
  • Foaming mousse
  • Hooded hair dryer
  • Clips
  • Comb
  • Water-filled spray bottle

Step One: Wash and condition

Like any hair styling technique, starting with clean, conditioned hair is key. I generally prefer a cream leave-in, but for this look I would use a spray leave-in like Nourish & Shine's Revitalizing Leave-In Conditioner ($12), or a light hydrating solution.

If you're looking to stretch your style until your next wash day, you can try setting your hair without washing it as Blake Jael did here. Since she prefers a "wand curl" look, she used a little mousse to help set the curl without losing the stretched look of her blowout, creating a fluffy yet bouncy curl.

Step Two: Roll the hair

Next, use your fingers or a comb to part sections starting from the back of your head and work your way toward the front. Don't be afraid to use different-sized rollers throughout since some areas of your hair might be longer or shorter.

Tifara Beauty 42-pack 7" Flexible Curling Rods
Tifara Beauty Flexible Curling Rods $13.00

Step Three: Distribute mousse

Mousse is my product of choice when doing any roller set because it helps the hair mold to perfection without making it crunchy. Cantu's Wave Whip Curling Mousse ($9) is a budget-friendly option that works well, but if you like to use prestige products, Moroccanoil's Curl Control Mousse ($30) is a must.

Now, take half a pump of mousse and evenly distribute the foam from root to tip in each section of hair before rolling. Then, take your roller, and place it at the ends of the hair while holding the hair taut to stretch the roots before rolling the rod up to the roots and secure it by bending each end. Be sure not to pull too tight because it can damage the hair (and cause a headache). 

Step Four: Help your hair dry

Air drying is an option, but if you have long, thick hair, drying could take at least a full day. Sitting under a hooded dryer is not always the most fun considering it gets warm under there, but your curls will thank you. If you don't own a hood dryer, adding a hooded attachment like Granteva's Bonnet Hood Hair Dryer Attachment ($14) to your hairdryer is an effective way to set your curls. 

Drying time will vary depending on your hair's length and thickness. To ensure the hair is completely dry, unroll a rod situated in the middle of the head to see if the curl is dry from root to tip.

Step Five: Separate Your Curls

Once the hair is dry, gently remove the rollers, add a little oil to the tips of your fingers (which helps prevent frizz), and separate each curl to your liking. 

Pattern Beauty Argan Oil
Pattern Beauty Argan Oil Hair Serum $25.00
Woman with purple natural curls set with flexi-rods


If you want a little extra volume, use a pick and a little hairspray like Ouidad's Curl Last Flexible-Hold Hairspray ($20) to lift the roots.

If you're looking for ways to easily switch up your flexi rod set, try securing your curls into a loose fringe pony, adding embossed bobby pins, or creating an afro puff style.

Maintain Your Set All Week

To maintain your roller set, loosely pineapple your curls with a silk scrunchie and secure them with a silk scarf to keep the hair hydrated and the curls in place. If you find some curls looking like they need a little help, don't be afraid to reshape them. All you need to do is add a little more of whichever finishing product you used to set your curls the first time around, and curl the sections just as you did the rest of the hair. The curls should set by the time you wake up the next morning.

Slip Silk Scrunchies
Slip Mixed Leopard Large Scrunchies $39.00

With any new haircare addition, practice makes perfect, and you'll also find new ways to set your hair that work for you. 

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