How to Use Curlformers on Natural Hair

Black woman with curled, natural hair

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Maybe you've tried magnetic rollers, bendable rollers, flexi rods, sponge rollers, and all the other methods to get that perfect curl in your hair. Now, thankfully, you have yet another option to get the ideal springy curls: Curlformers. This type of curler comes in several lengths and widths and gives you perfect spiral ringlets without using any heat. Another reason we love them? They last longer than heat or chemical curling and you don't have to style every day—plus they're much healthier for your hair.

In addition to the Curlformers, you'll also need the Curlformers hook, a special tool used in conjunction with the rollers. When purchased as a kit, the hook comes included but is also sold separately.

If you're not familiar with Curlformers yet, the process may seem intimidating. We spoke to stylists Kim Kimble and Monaé Everett for their top tips to ease the learning curve. Below, get a step-by-step tutorial on how to use Curlformers on natural hair.

Meet the Expert

  • Kim Kimble is a celebrity stylist with clientele including Beyoncé, Shakira, and Zendaya. She is also the founder and owner of her haircare line, available at Walmart.
  • Monaé Everett is a celebrity hairstylist, author, and speaker with over 18 years of experience in the beauty industry. She is the creator of "The Monae Life Academy" and the Texture Style Awards, the first hair competition of its kind, celebrating all four hair textures.
01 of 10

Step One: Prep the Hair With a Conditioning Mask

Kim Kimble Star Treatment Masque
Kim Kimble Star Treatment Masque $14
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Before even whipping out your Curlformers set, Kimble says she likes to prep the hair with either a conditioning mask or treatment, or a hot oil treatment. While this step is technically optional, it certainly helps to soften and prep the hair for curling—and let's be honest, if the mastermind behind Queen Bey's hair is suggesting it, consider us sold.

"We have a great hot oil treatment at Walmart called Miracle Hair Oil ($13) that is super hydrating," Kimble says. "The Star Treatment Masque is also really great to condition and prep your hair for a roller set."

If you're running low on time or simply can't be bothered with an entire treatment before curling, swap the conditioning mask with a leave-in conditioner spray, like Curly Temple Lavendar Milk Leave-In Conditioner ($19), to quickly seal in moisture.

Everett says she blow dries the hair first to minimize frizz on type four natural hair.

02 of 10

Step Two: Insert the Hook

Photo © 2009 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com, Inc.

The hook is made up of two interlocking pieces that are detachable for compact storage. When you're using them, you should connect them to make a long hook, which should fit through all of the Curlformers.

Each Curlformer has an opening at both ends, allowing you to insert the hook and pull it completely through. Just place the hook end into an opening of the curler—it doesn't matter which—and slide the hook all the way through. If you're having difficulty, squeeze the end of the Curlformer to open it more and make inserting the hook easier.

03 of 10

Step Three: Give Hair a Small Twist

Photo © 2009 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Isolate the section of hair you're getting ready to place into the Curlformer (the larger the section, the looser the curl, and vice versa), and give it a slight twist. This will make it easier to get all of it inside the curler.

According to Everett, you should aim to make section sizes based on the size of the curler, "The rule of thumb for creating texture change with any roller or curling iron is to use a section the same width of the tool," she explains. "Many Curlformers are about an inch wide so your section should only be about an inch wide."

Everett suggests starting at the top of the head, "This way if I get tired while applying the Curlformers, the best set curls are in the front."

Apply a few pumps of setting foam to each section to add grip to the hair. Kimble recommends using her Movie Set Mousse ($13) on dry strands to leave it soft without crunchiness or residue. "Mousse can help form the curl and control the hair, making it easier to hold onto," she explains. Other great options are ORS Olive Oil Wrap/Set Mousse ($7), Paul Mitchell Sculpting Foam ($12), and Kera Care Foam-Wrap Set Lotion ($16).

While you can work with damp or dry hair, Kimble suggests the latter, "If you don't have a relaxer, you can blow-dry your hair and use setting foam," she says. "You don't have to put in rollers dry, but if you have natural hair, I find it easier to put them in dry with setting mousse. Just use a generous amount and make sure you're completely dry before taking the Curlformers out."

04 of 10

Step Four: Hook the Hair and Begin Pulling Through

Photo © 2009 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Next, Place the hook around the hair section you're getting ready to place inside the Curlformer. Push the Curlformer close to the scalp and—with your other hand holding the end of the hook that is coming out of the opposite opening—gently pull the hook holding the hair through the curler.

If it doesn't go super smoothly, don't be surprised. It's not always perfect, particularly if some hair escapes from the hook (using mousse or end papers helps prevent slipping). If you catch or snag, stop, and then push the hook back toward the scalp. Comb the strand out and begin again so you don't pull tangled hair into the curler, and consider making your sections smaller.

Escaping hair might be a sign your sections are too large, which, according to Everett, should be avoided for an entirely different reason: "This can make the hair dry inconsistently and preclude the hair for setting around the curl formers," she explains.

05 of 10

Step Five: Pull Hair Completely Through

Photo © 2009 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Continue pulling the hook through in one smooth motion, until the hair section is encased in the Curlformer.

The Curlformer should spring back to its perfect spiral shape once the hook is removed, but if it doesn't, hold the end of the curler nearest to your scalp and run the other hand down the length of it to smooth it straight out. Let it go, and it should bounce right back into shape.

06 of 10

Step Six: Repeat Over Entire Head

Photo © 2009 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Repeat this process over all the hair you want to curl. Although it might seem tedious, once you have the technique on lock, it goes surprisingly quickly. This model's hair was completely curled, with pictures taken, in a total of 45 minutes.

The reason Curlformers come in two different colors for each size is that they twist in opposite directions. If you want your hair to curl away from your face, you need to understand that color matters. To do so, place pink, green and magenta curlers on the left side of your head; and blue, yellow, and orange curlers go on the right side.

To create a diverse, inconsistent curl pattern, Kimble suggests mixing different Curlformer sizes and alternating the curl directions, "You can get as creative as you want—use different types of rollers, different sizes of sections," she says. "It really just depends on what kind of look you are going for. Have fun with it!"

For a more natural curly look, Everett suggests switching between similar sizes, or for a more uniform curl, use the same sizes. "If you alternate the direction of the curls it will create more fullness and volume," she explains. "If you create the Curlformer set with all of the curlers going in the same direction when the curls fall, they will fall flat into a wave pattern."

07 of 10

Step Seven: Removing Curlformers

Photo © 2009 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Let your hair dry fully before removing Curlformers. Kimble says the biggest mistake she sees people make is taking the hair out too early. Take one curl down first to test if the hair is completely dry before taking all of the curls out. "If your biggest/thickest curl is dry then it's safe to assume the rest are," she explains, "If any aren't dry, roll it up and leave it in for longer."

Because the Curlformer surface is mesh-like, air constantly circulates through, making drying time shorter than it would be with a product like magnetic rollers. To speed things up, you can sit under a hood dryer or use a hand-held dryer over the head. Kimble suggests drying for the first 30 minutes, then letting it air dry. Air drying may take anywhere from two to eight hours overnight, depending on the length and thickness of your hair.

If you're heat drying (or beginning with a home blowout), Everett says to be sure to use a heat protectant beforehand, "I love products that pull double duty and help to protect the hair." The Amethyst Curl Primer + Heat Protectant ($50) from Meraki fits the bill by both protecting and prepping the strands.

Once your hair is dry, hold it close to the scalp with one hand and use the other to straighten the Curlformer and slip it off.

08 of 10

After: Model A

Photo © 2009 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com, Inc.

This is Model A, whose hair is chemical-free and just past shoulder length, immediately after removing Curlformers. If you want more spiral-type curls, use the smallest section of hair possible. Otherwise, you'll get these tubey, Shirley Temple-like curls.

09 of 10

After: Model B

Photo © 2009 D. Sandeen, licensed to About.com, Inc.

This is model B immediately after removing Curlformers. This is also chemical-free hair, about mid-back length when stretched.

10 of 10

Final Step: Separate Curls for More Volume

One N' Only Argan Oil Spray Treatment
One N' Only Aragon Oil Spray Treatment $9
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If you don't like the candy curls look, you're not stuck with it. "While removing the Curlformers, add a light oil or serum to your hands to smooth over each individual curl," Everett says, recommending the One N' Only Aragon Oil Spray Treatment.

To separate the curls, you can also use the same serum to carefully pick each curl unit apart into two to four separate sections. Take your time, and to maintain their shape and prevent frizz, avoid raking your fingers through or using a comb.

Kimble recommends silk to preserve your style and overall hair health, "The biggest tip I have for anyone–a regular person or a celebrity—is to sleep with a silk bonnet or scarf on your head at night," she explains. "It protects your hair from drying out or breaking. It's what I do."

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