If you’re looking for an easy to wear hairstyle that can later be transformed into gorgeous waves and curls, consider giving bantu knots a try. These tightly coiled knots are often sported by African American women, whose hair texture helps the knots stay in place without hair ties or pins, but they can be worn by anyone.
What Are Bantu Knots?
Bantu knots are sections of hair that have been tightly twisted into a coil. The tail of the hair is wrapped tightly around the base of the coil to form a shape reminiscent of a funnel in longer hair, or a rosebud on shorter hair. This is a protective hairstyle that can be worn for a short period of time, or for several days depending on your hair strength and comfort level. Best of all, the technique is simple and easy to learn. While beauty classes are necessary for achieving complicated hairstyles, bantu knots can be learned and practiced on your own hair in just a few minutes of time.
When the knots are untwisted and released, the hair retains some of the coiled shape, resulting in loose curls and waves know as a knot out. The smaller the sections of hair that were twisted into the knots, the tighter the curls will be.
When to Create Bantu Knots
Like many hairstyles, there are definitely times when one works better than others for specific occasions. While bantu knots are not as elegant as an updo, they are the perfect method for anchoring and securing your hair out of your face, while protecting it from damage and frizz. Therefore, they work well for professionals that can’t stop to worry about their hair, such as medical personnel, as well as for athletes and other busy people.
If you have an occasion the following day where you may want to sport curly hair, creating bantu knots the day before and sleeping with the knots in will help to create elegant loose curls in just seconds the following morning.
Products for Creating Bantu Knots
Getting good looking knots that don’t frizz, hold their shape, protect your hair from damage, and create a great looking knot out the next day takes some good product. Because your scalp is visible between the sections of hair, it helps to start the style with very clean hair and scalp. The knots also hold their shape better when put into very clean moisturized hair, so it’s always a good idea to wash your hair well before putting them in.
A good protective conditioner is also important for creating the style. If your hair is prone to frizz or dryness, consider a leave-in product to help smooth it out a little.
Once your hair is clean and conditioned, you’ll need a product to work through the strands as you create each knot. This is crucial, because you need a product that will help the knots hold their shape, but not one with too strong a hold, because this will result in a knot out that doesn’t fall naturally.
Opt for products like butters or pomades, rather than gels or sprays. If the product also moisturizes your hair while it gives it a little shape and hold, it will work the best at creating sleek knots that later form flawless waves. Stay away from anything sticky or waxy, or your knot out won’t be natural looking later.
Creating the Bantu Knots
Remember that bantu knots require clean, conditioned, and dry hair to hold their shape best. While some people say that damp hair works the best at holding its shape, the tightly wound coils often don’t dry completely unless you leave them in for several days. This means that when you release the knots after just a day, your knot out isn’t going to hold its shape.
Therefore, take the time before you begin to knot your hair to let it dry completely or nearly completely before you begin.
- Gently detangle and smooth your hair. If your hair is rough or overly dry, work some leave in conditioner through it to help detangle and smooth it out.
- Separate it into even sections using a rat tail comb. For shorter hair, keep your sections smaller – about 1/2-inch in width. Longer hair can go up to 4 or 5-inches in width.
- Take a section of hair and work some moisturizing butter or pomade into it.
- Twist the section of hair close to the scalp three or four times. Do not over twist the hair, as this could result in breakage.
- Coil the twisted hair on the head, and begin twisting the remaining hair around the coil. Start at the top of the coil, and wrap the hair, twisting it as you go, down toward the scalp. Tuck the ends of the hair underneath the last coil to hold it.
- If your hair is very fine, or not very long, you may need to anchor the hair in place to hold it. Use either a hair elastic or small hair pin. In young children, you may want to use colorful elastics to add some height to the knots and play with the look.
- Continue twisting each section of hair until they are all in place.
- Wear your knots for the day. When you go to bed that night, cover them with a shower cap. The shower cap will trap any moisture and heat in your hair and help to “set” the curls. When you wake up in the morning, your knots will be slightly damp. You can wear them again for the day, or create a knot out once they dry.
Creating a Knot Out
You will need to wear your knots for at least one day and night to create a good knot out. Once created, you can wear a knot out for up to two weeks, cleaning your scalp with witch hazel as needed to maintain the style.
- Start with dry “set” knots that are at least 24 hours old.
- Remove any elastics or pins that are holding the knots in place.
- Unscrew the knots as if you were unscrewing the top off of a soda bottle. Work gently; you don’t want to twist or break the hair.
- Undo each knot until your hair lies in a series of coiled ropes.
- Separate each curl gently using your finger tips. You can work a little more product into your hair at this point, gently loosening and shaping the curls as you go. Never pull or tug at the curls; you want them to gently soften and untwist. This will help ensure that they hold their shape for as long as possible.
- If you choose to leave your knot out in for several days to a couple of weeks, you’ll need to protect it at night to preserve the curls. Do this by creating an updo of the curls, piling them on top of your head and pining them in place with bobby pins or wrapping them in a large ponytail holder. Tie a long scarf around the sides and back of your head, anchoring the curls on top. This will help to protect them and help them hold their shape. Do not comb or tug on your hair as you secure it for the evening.
- In the morning, untie the scarf, and gently loosen and reshape the curls with your fingers and a little more product. If your scalp is beginning to get a little oily, dip a cotton ball in witch hazel, and run it over your scalp, separating your hair into sections as you go so as not to disturb the curls. By combining these techniques you can confidently wear your knot out for up to two weeks without a problem.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Bantu Knots
Keep these few things in mind as you create your knots to get the best style:
- The smaller the knot that you make, the tighter the curls that you’ll get when you release them. This also goes hand in hand with the length of your hair; the longer your hair, the looser the curl as well.
- If you have very fine or straight hair that doesn’t hold a curl, and you’re hoping to get the bantu knots to help, work with your hair slightly damp, rather than dry. While the dry method works for most people, those with fine hair can achieve better results when it is damp, because it often dries faster and sets easier.
- Combine a two-strand twist with the bantu knot by first dividing sections of your hair in two and twisting them around each other before coiling them. The results of this style are a little more wild and fun than either a twist out or a knot out.
- Massage a little oil into your knot out once the coils are undone to ensure that they don’t frizz or go flat on you right away.
Bantu knots and knot outs are a fun way to protect and style your natural hair. If you’ve been taking a course in making the most of your looks, you’ll want to try bantu knots as a way to increase the health of your hair. If you’ve been learning to make your own skincare products, you may also want to look into making your own hair oils to complement the look as well. With just a little bit of practice and experimentation, you’ll find your perfect knot out in no time.