As the name suggests, Senegalese twists originated in the Senegal area of West Africa. The modern-day style first became a trend in the 2000s, as naturals loved the immense benefits of the protective style. However, Senegalese twists gained a new spotlight in 2015 after popular magazine Teen Vogue came under fire for modeling them on a Caucasian woman.
As a traditionally Black hairstyle, many Black women were outraged by the magazine’s blatant display of cultural appropriation. Despite this controversy, Senegalese twists have remained a popular twist hairstyle for African-American women.
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What Are Senegalese Twists?
Senegalese twists, also known as “rope twists”, is a protective hairstyle that is known for its durability and glossy finish. While you can create this style using your natural hair, many women opt for adding extensions to this hairdo.
As such, Senegalese twists are created by wrapping your choice of braiding hair around the root of your natural hair. The hair is then twisted vertically from your root to the end of your hair shaft using the two-strand twist method.
The extension hair used for Senegalese twists is created using synthetic jumbo braiding hair, though some may choose to use human hair for their extensions.
It should be noted that synthetic hair works best for these twists, as it adds the needed texture to your extensions that will prevent them from unraveling prematurely. While some may initially believe Marley hair would be the number one option for adding extensions to Senegalese twists, braiding hair such as Kanekalon (silky braiding hair) or Toyokalon (yaki braiding hair) are most commonly used for this hairstyle.
Often confused with Marley twists and Havana twists, Senegalese twists are most notably known for their smooth, sleek look and medium build. Unlike Marley and Havana twists, Senegalese twists use a different hair and are made by using smaller sections of your natural hair during the twisting process, causing them to appear less chunky than the latter styles. Additionally, Senegalese twists tend to be much lighter than Marley and Havana twists.
In terms of look, Marley twists have the most rugged and natural appearance, while both Havana and Senegalese twists have a glossy appearance with Senegalese twists being more tightly coiled than Havana twists.
How to Install Senegalese Twists
To successfully install individual Senegalese twists, you will need about 5-6 packs of synthetic braiding hair — remembering that Kanekalon and Toyokalon hair are most commonly used —, a rat tail and/or wide tooth comb, duckbill hair clips, hair shears, boiling water or a lighter, and a hair moisturizer, such as Vonte Silk Effects or DO GRO Hair Vitalizer, that won’t add too much slip to your hair during the twisting process.
There are three distinct ways to install Senegalese twists: the traditional twisting method, the rubber band method, and the crochet method. The latter is more commonly used among hairstylists and women who prefer to DIY the hairstyle alike.
Rubber band method
The rubber band method is best for those of us who are newer to installing twists, specifically more advanced hairstyles like Senegalese twists. The crochet method is a time-saving way to install Senegalese twists, given that you do not have to create each twist individually like the previous two methods.
Regardless of your preferred method, the first step to installing individual Senegalese twists is to prep both your natural and braiding hair. When it comes to prepping your natural hair, make sure it is both clean and well moisturized; however, stay away from using particularly oily products as they will make the twisting process much more difficult.
To prep your braiding hair, comb through the synthetic tresses a few times with a wide-tooth comb to get out any knots and tangles.
Next, you want to feather the synthetic hair to create a more pointed and natural look as opposed to the blunt straight across cut the hair will initially have.
While loosely holding the hair about 4 inches above the ends, gently pull at the hair to make the ends appear more disheveled and uneven. This will ensure that your braiding hair takes to twisting easier and will not unravel prematurely. After feathering, run your fingers through the hair, cut any particularly long ends, and prepare to begin the twisting process!
To begin your twists, start by using your rat-tail comb to section off your natural hair into mini sections, clipping away the excess hair you are not using with a duckbill hair clip.
Apply a little bit of hair grease to that section to soften your strands, then split that section into two equal parts. Place a sizable chunk of braiding hair in between these two parts and begin twisting the right section of hair clockwise and the left counterclockwise simultaneously.
Once you have done this, start twisting the two sections into one another all the way to the ends of the braiding hair. Seal the ends with either a lighter or boiling water and you are all set to have a head full of Senegalese twists in no time!
Should you be more tender-headed or confused about the twisting process, perhaps the rubber band method is for you! To omit the need to twist both strands of hair individually first, simply secure your natural hair to the braiding hair with a rubber band. By doing this, all that is left to do is twist the hair all the way down to the ends of the synthetic hair.
For the installation of the crochet Senegalese twists, you will need 5-6 packs of crochet Senegalese Twists, a latch hook crochet needle, a rat-tail comb, and duckbill hair clips.
First, begin by braiding your natural hair back into cornrows. Next, with the latch hook crochet needle, simply crochet the already formed Senegalese twists into your cornrows.
Pros of Senegalese Twists
- Like with most protective hairstyles, Senegalese twists are a great way to promote the growth of your natural hair without having to wear it out all of the time. They last for roughly three months if properly cared for, giving your hair the opportunity to grow about 1 ½ inches come time to take them down.
- Senegalese twists are also very low maintenance, causing the care for them to be quite simple! Just wear a silk and satin bonnet to sleep, slick back your edges with a strong-hold gel, and apply braid sheen spray and/or foaming mousse every now and again to keep them looking fresh.
- Senegalese twists are also extremely versatile! Many women wear these twists straight down, in a bun, in half up half down dos, in braided crowns, and many more creative styles.
- When it comes to appearance, most women choose to wear Senegalese twists at or below shoulder-length with a medium thickness; however, Senegalese twists can vary in both length and thickness, ultimately.
- Many women also like to play around with color when getting Senegalese twists. As such, these twists are perfect for those of us who love to switch things up!
Cons of Getting Senegalese Twists
- Like every hairstyle, there are a few cons to getting Senegalese twists.
- For one, when getting individually twisted Senegalese twists, they can take an average of 8 hours to install and nearly 4 hours to uninstall. However, getting crochet Senegalese twists cuts the installation and take-down time in half.
- Another con of getting these twists is the overall cost of them. Though the actual braiding hair and/or crochet twists are relatively cheap, getting the twists installed by a professional can cost upwards of $150. Given this, many women opt for attempting to install their twists themselves, but install at your own risk! Improper installation and removal of Senegalese twists can cause severe breakage to your natural hair.