Technological advancements are great and everything, but it’s often the simplest, most time-tested traditions, practices, and methods that yield the best results — especially when it comes to hair. To get a head full of bouncy, defined, shiny curls, there’s actually no need to break out a host of hot tools and curling irons. Flexi rods, the spongey, bendable batons that help set hair into all sorts of curls sizes and shapes, require no heat or chemical damage to form long-lasting curls on every hair type. The principle behind flexi rods is, using a shaping tool to manually form spirals and coils. It’s actually a rather ancient concept — both the ancient Greeks and ancient Egyptians used more rudimentary versions of flexi rods, including wooden tongs and sticks and hollow iron tubes, to form curls and intricate hairstyles long before the days of power outlets and hot rollers.
Unlike so many other popular hair styles and installation methods, the beauty of flexi rods is it’s something you can do right in your own bathroom with minimal prep work and not too much time. And with so many different-sized rods, the sky’s truly the limit. TZR tapped two of the industry’s top names to explain exactly how to get started, plus pro-approved tips on making your flexi rod curls last as long as possible.
How Flexi Rods Work
Flexi rods help shape hair in the simplest possible way. The foam rollers come in an assortment of sizes, varying in length and width to correspond with curl size and staying power. For example, professional hairstylist Geneva Fowler explains that larger or jumbo-sized rods mean looser, more wavelike curls while medium-sized rods result in tighter curls that last longer, all the way down to the smallest, thinnest rods for the tightest curls with the most staying power. Fowler — whose work as lead stylist at BEAUTYBEEZ means she’s well versed in all things flexi rod — says the curls can last up to two weeks with proper aftercare.
While the flexi rod concept is pretty simple, the installation process can be just slightly more complicated. While this is a style you can do at home with a lot of patience, the right tools, and possibly someone to help with the very back of your hair, Kim Kimble, a celebrity hairstylist who’s worked with everyone from Beyoncé to the Euphoria cast (both on and off set), recommends seeing a pro if possible. “You can DIY this style,” she tells TZR, “but it may be difficult to roll your own hair. It’s always nice to get a professional’s advice if you were to go that route.”
How To Use Flexi Rods
If you do decide to go down the at-home route, there are just a few things to know before you get started with all that rolling. First, there’s the matter of your hair’s length. While even very short cuts can absolutely get in on flexi rods, Kimble recommends a minimum length that comfortably wraps around your desired rod size at least three times — this will make sure hair can form a spiral rather than just a wave or bends. “The shorter the hair, the smaller the rod, and the tighter the curl,” she reiterates. “The longer the hair, the bigger the rod, the more voluminous the curl.” From there, it’s a matter of gathering your materials. While the exact number of rods you’ll need depends on your hair’s length, texture, and thickness, Fowler explains, she recommends equipping yourself with around 30 rods to make sure you don’t run out mid-application.
Once it’s time to start actually wrapping the rods with hair, both Kimble and Fowler emphasize the importance of starting with freshly washed hair blown out with a dryer — a styling cream, mousse, and leave-in conditioner will help set the rods, too. If you have relaxed hair, though, Kimble says you can add in product and set the rods while your hair is wet.
Take sections of hair (the exact amount will depend on the curl size you desire, but in general it’ll be about two to three inches) and twist the hair while also wrapping it around the rod. “Once you get to the root, bend the rod in the opposite direction as the curl to lock it in place,” Fowler instructs. “I repeat this step throughout my entire head, being sure to clip away any sections I am not currently using.” When all the rods are in place, park yourself under a hooded dryer (that’s important — you want hair to be getting the same amount of heat for the same amount of time) until hair is completely dry.
If you don’t have access to a hooded dryer, the air-dry method works just as well, though it takes a bit longer. If you’re allowing the hair to air dry, give it a minimum of two to three hours or just sleep in them overnight to make sure it’s all set. Removing the rods is a delicate process as you don’t want to yank or pull too hard for fear of breakage. Carefully unwind curls before separating them with a palmful of hair oil, Kimble says. Fowler says “by leaving your curls tightly wound for the first few days and letting them naturally uncoil — which also minimizes frizz and friction — you can ensure your curls are lasting for a long time.”
Caring For Flexi Rod Curls
With a headful of perfectly shaped curls in place, your only concern is how to keep them looking as well-formed, frizz-free, and bouncy for as long as possible. “There are two huge factors when it comes to how long a style lasts,” Kimble explains, one of which is fully in your control. Staying power comes down to an individual’s hair chemistry and how they maintain it. “Using a silk bonnet and pinning up your curls would be beneficial to how long it lasts,” Kimble says, listing off silk pillowcases and bonnets as crucial tools for long-lasting, frizz-free curls. If you’re in a colder climate, you can even swap out your beanies for a silk-lined version that keeps you warm and your curls protected.
Both Kimble and Fowler agree that, on average, flexi rod curls last around one to two weeks. As you get more well-versed in applying the rods, it’ll take less time, too. Turn on a favorite TV show or movie, assemble your tools, and get wrapping — perfect curls are just a few rods away.
Below, check some of Kimble and Fowler’s top product recommendation to make it all happen.
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