Twist outs are deceptively simple. As far as natural hairstyles go, they’re the easiest to achieve, but the most difficult to perfectly execute, evidenced by the many memes devoted to what happens when they fail. And speaking from personal experience, there’s nothing worse — absolutely nothing — than putting time and precious product into a twist out only for it to turn into a puffy, definition-less mess. And while I love a little puff and frizz, that’s the exact opposite of what a twist out is supposed to do. A good twist out results in luscious, bouncy-looking curls that have definition and shape.
In the past seven or so years of being natural, I’ve attempted the twist out tirelessly, hoping for better results as my hair grew longer or I got a fresh trim. I watched all the videos. I bought all the products in all the videos. I brushed up on my techniques. I heeded all the tips and tricks, fluffing and separating with oiled fingers and letting it dry all the way. And though I’d get close, it was never quite right. That changed in the early days of quarantine, when I had nothing but time and no way to reinstall my beloved knotless braids.
My first successful twist out felt like an anomaly, a fluke, a rare blessing from the natural-hair gods (bestowed on me when I had nowhere to go, of course). But then I tried it again and got the same triumphant results. A third time, the same thing. I hadn’t changed my technique, I hadn’t trimmed my hair — the only thing I’d been doing differently from my hundreds of previous attempts was the cocktail of products I was using, which I’ve edited and reedited over the years. Finally, I’ve mastered the mix. I have type 4A hair that has a pretty normal density and porosity but fine strands that are prone to single-strand fairy knots. To help with the knotting, I use lots of moisture-rich products (more on that below) that help to keep my strands supple and separated. Below, everything I’m using to achieve my ideal twist out, along with a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
After running out of my trusty Kinky-Curly detangler, which has been with me for the entirety of my natural-hair journey, I switched over to this leave-in from 4C Only, which had been previously used in my hair during a salon visit. When my stylist used it, I had the best twist out, well, ever, and I figured it might help me produce similar results. I’m happy to report that it did and my twist out was the bounciest it has ever been. I can’t give this product all the credit, but it definitely lays the base for the rest of my style and offers my hair an intense dose of moisture that (I believe) leads to ultrahydrated, juicy-looking curls. It also acts as a heat protectant, which is ideal for when I need to stretch my hair before twisting it.
An early favorite and natural-hair staple, I use this after my leave-in. It gives my hair immediate definition and is ultramoisturizing thanks to ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil. I like to use a leave-in, then a cream and finally a gel — and this is another product that doesn’t leave my hair feeling greasy or too weighed down. I like to detangle my hair again at this step to ensure that the product is distributed evenly from root to tip.
The most recent addition to my twist out routine, this mousse has been a game changer. This, plus the gel, makes sure the curls hold without crunch. It’s moisturizing too, thanks to ingredients like sweet almond and olive oils, vitamin B (good for length retention), and avocado extract.
Hold is also another key to a good twist out, especially with my hair, which can’t be trusted to maintain the curl on its own, twisted or not. But I also want touchably soft curls, which means it can’t give me too much hold, which will leave my hair crunchy. This defining gel from The Doux is a happy medium. It can be used alone without any products layered underneath (in fact, that’s what the brand recommends), but it plays well with my other products and won’t pill or turn white. This is the last step of my twist out — I apply and brush through a section before twisting,
I’ve stopped using oils in my twist outs while styling. Now I use it to separate my curls when taking down my twist out. I like this oil from Bread, which smells like beauty-supply store lip gloss and has a light feel. It’s slightly viscous, so a little goes a long way, and it gives my hair an extra hint of shine.
Outside of proper product choice for your hair type, twisting technique, and letting the style dry, fully detangling is incredibly important. This becomes apparent especially when separating: If your hair is tangled, it creates frizz when trying to pull it apart and ruins the overall style. I’ve waxed poetic about this brush before, noting the way it separates without ripping and cuts my detangling time down by more than half. It’s become a savior for twist outs, which require hair to be well-detangled. I use this in the shower and right after, spritzing my hair with water as it dries. This brush requires wet hair to be truly effective, and while some people prefer doing twist outs on dry, stretched hair, I like to do mine on freshly washed, wet hair when my hair is most defined.
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