Want to mix up some styling options for your natural-textured hair? Try your hand at the Senegalese twist, otherwise known as the rope twist. This glamorous, shiny twisted hairstyle is a favorite among curly or afro-textured hair for many reasons. It’s super feminine and lends itself to a host of other different substyles and updos. Bonus: It’s also a protective look that gives your natural hair a rest from daily styling.
Not gonna lie—these delightful-looking ropes look best when styled with precision, which can take up to six hours (!) in the artist’s chair. If you’ve got a few, why not try your hand at the Senegalese twist yourself? Although labor-intensive, it’s a pretty basic process that yields awesome results that includes a pretty fun twist-out too, which means you get two looks from all that effort. It’s so worth it!
Note: We’ll be using some hair extensions in this particular Senegalese twist tutorial, as it gives more heft and length to each twist and also gives your real hair a break for at least two weeks. But if you have enough natural length and thickness, au naturel is fine as well!
Tutorial: The Senegalese Twist Technique
Step 1: Wash and condition (or co-wash) hair with a moisturizing system.
We like the curl-specific nourishment we get from Dove Quench Absolute Shampoo and Dove Quench Absolute Conditioner. Follow up with a leave-in conditioner or detangler, such as Dove Quench Absolute Leave-In Detangler, to help soften hair and prime it for twisting.
Step 2: Prepare your extensions.
Popular hair extensions (purchased from most beauty supply stores) can either give a shiny or a kinky, natural finish. Each has its pros and cons, with the shinier extensions having less grip at the ends and the kinkier ones giving a more realistic feel, but it all depends on personal preference. Separate the extensions into your desired thickness, and set aside.
Step 3: Section your natural hair into four quadrants.
Clamp three aside. Further divide the loose quadrant into smaller grids (or circles, as desired) with a rat-tail comb.
Step 4: First, twist each side separately.
Split each small square of natural hair into two. Take a strip of hair extensions (pinch it in the center, so it doubles up and falls like an upside-down letter “U”) and put the right side of the extension up against the right small side of natural hair. Hold both down against your scalp, gripping them together, and begin to twist both into one tight rope, going in one direction. Do at least four to five twists to create a secure starting point. Then, with a finger firmly holding the right twist in place, do the same thing on the left side (natural + extensions), twisting them in the same direction as you did on the right side.
Step 5: Next, twist both left and right sides together.
Criss-cross the right section over the left, giving both a tiny, snug twist to the right, while doing so. Continue criss-crossing (+ tiny-twisting) till you reach the ends of the hair. Repeat on all sections of your hair. Note: This can take anywhere from two to six hours! The end result should resemble a strand of rope, with diagonal-looking twists.
Step 6: Secure your ends.
You can either singe or “cauterize” your tips with hot water so they don’t unwind, but some also prefer to use hair ties at the end for more security.
Step 7: Moisturize.
Step 8: Revitalize your scalp with some dry shampoo.
The Senegalese twist can last up to two weeks without being washed, so a dry shampoo that absorbs excess sebum and grease can help to refresh your scalp during the no-wash period.
Looking for more ways to style your natural hair? Check out some of our favorite colorful cute natural hairstyles.