If At First You Don’t Succeed


Tips & Tricks: Number Eight

You know the rest. Okay, let’s start from the beginning. One February, about a year and a half ago, I visited CurlyNikki.com for the first time and I vividly remember seeing the picture above and my jaw dropping on the ground. It was love at first sight. I’m not kidding you. This was the hair that started it all and I wanted … no NEEDED … to know how to achieve it. I probably spent eight hours straight on the site that day reading E-VER-EE-THING about Nikki’s regimen and her technique for the renowned TnC. The TnC that I dubbed “The Curly Nikki” and saved on my phone to ogle and show to friends as my “dream hair.”

But, this is the thing, there is no formula for styling natural hair, no one size fits all product or technique. Styling can be challenging when one has only dealt with straight hair or has relied on the ease of a WnG, which usually involves a lot more than just … well … washing and going. And for those stalwart enough to experiment with styles inspired by blogs and YouTube, it can be frustrating when the results achieved are not as expected. It becomes even more so when so much effort is put into a style (i.e. washing, detangling, conditioning, detangling again, deep conditioning, detangling … you get the picture) for it to #FAIL.

However, I think this is part of the process of learning to understand one’s hair. We didn’t learn how to walk, talk or even use the potty on our own overnight, so why should “perfecting” our hair be any different? See, I fell in love with “The Curly Nikki” last year and I tried it for the first time last Spring, after my second henna. These were my results.

Hmmm … not so Curly Nikki, right? It was okay, but … ummm … no. I didn’t give up though! Over the course of 2010, I tried more TnCs than I can count. And I bought more rollers than I know what to do with now!!

And I tried them alllll. I also tried more products in that one year than I probably had in my prior ten years of being natural (please don’t take this as a commercial for PJism, it’s a serious condition requiring treatment and rehab!). I tried different twist placements and different rolling techniques and different drying methods.

Then, in January 2011, I got close … so close that I could taste it!

You see, my hair isn’t as curly as Nikki’s anymore and my nape is almost straight. But, I finally almost achieved the shape and volume that I was seeking. The problem was, this was freshly released hair on day one and my hair already looked frizzy with the nape hair still hanging longer than the rest. By the end of that humid day, the curls had fallen and the definition was all but nonexistent. But, I realized that I’d finally gotten the twist placement and rolling method to where they needed to be for me. Now it was a matter of the products and the dampness of the set.

So, I tried adding a gel for hold and I got even closer …

Then, on a fateful day in February 2011, almost one year after discovering “The Curly Nikki,” I set my hair using a modified Kimmaytube leave-in (JBCO instead of regular castor oil) and Wonder Curl Butter Than Love. And, I made eight twists instead of Nikki’s ten. And I spiral rolled my wet twists all the way to the roots on pink flexis, instead of the ends of damp ones on small blue flexis like Nikki.

And I achieved my Curly Nikki. And it was good.

Then, I did it again!

I have mastered my TnC ever since. That’s not to say that every one turns out exactly the same … just that I’m happy with them now. But, it took work and experimentation and patience and time to get there. So, all this to suggest a couple of things. First, try not to get too discouraged when you try that style that you loved for the first time and it doesn’t work out perfectly. Don’t even give up when you try it a second, third or fourth time and it’s still not what you expected. Secondly, that being said, don’t keep trying to do it the same way. What’s that saying? “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” So, mix it up. Try different products, different tools, different techniques, modify the style to work for your length or your texture or your density (Nikki’s wet bunning technique and sock buns did nothing for me. But a banana clip became my boo for a big, massive bun!). Ultimately, maybe that style just doesn’t work for you. But, you’ll never know if you don’t try.

It’s like we’re twins, right?! LMBO!!


21 responses »

  1. THANK YOU!! I really needed to read that. It’s not as if I didn’t know any of that yet it’s a good reminder. I tried my second TnG on Monday. It is not the way I wanted it to look but it was definitely better than the first time. This time I didn’t re-wash it but I used a headband and went to work. The reviews were mixed which was how I felt about it too. All day @ work I kept telling myself to flat iron it when I got home…only to remember I gave my flat iron away. LOL! Not sure of what I will do with it today because its raining but whatever it is, I will smile back @ myself in the mirror knowing that I am doing my best to love everything about my two-textured hair.


    • This spoke to “you” especially Heather. Stay away from the flat ironing for sure. I know when I first went natural I hated my hair too. It was so much going on, on top of my head but with time it got better. For you it will be the same.


  2. You need a banana clip;)! Get that high bun going girl:)!! With those gorgeous eyes and eyebrows, I imagine a hig, big bun would just accent those beautiful features even more!! Thank YOU and you’re welcome:)!!


  3. Ive tried “The curly Nikki” on my hair when it was transitioning (and I actually had length) and it came out great. It just takes forever and a year to dry.

    It’s true what you said… a style will never look the same as the style you’re imitating. You just have to put your own spin on it. I’ve been there more times than I can count.

    So you use the red flexi rods huh? Interesting. I WAS using orange.


    • I am with you Rece, it take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to dry. With me it is trying to put my spin on it and trying to see what works for me. Some products I may use do not work well with a TnC. I have to experiement and try.


  4. I need far more “hang time” (length) before I can really rock the TnC. I love the look on others but because my hair has plenty shrinkage it doesn’t fit my face when I do it. When it grows, watch out!!!! By the way, as usual, love your hair Shelli!


  5. Awww, thank you guys!! Terysa, that pineapple TnC was awesome!! I was thinking of that modification when I wrote this too!! So, what are you talking about;)?!?!And, the thing is, maybe it’s not the TnC that will work the best for you, maybe it’s just a regular twist out or a braid and curl or a flat twist out or flat twist and curl out … a satin braid out … there are just so many things to try and ways to try them. Maybe the TnC isn’t exactly right, but you can get the look you want with some modification and that’s what I was hoping to convey, and not just for the TnC, but for any style. … And, again, that it can take some time … that it won’t necessarily happen on the first try/overnight:). Thanks again:)!!


  6. Shelli,

    Thanks for writing this very timely post! I felt like it was written especially for me but I know that many others have likely experienced the same frustrations at some point during their journey. I am trying to keep the faith and continue to look at different variables and knobs to turn to try to perfect my twist n curl. The issue remains that there are countless variables to consider (damp vs dry hair, product, twist positioning, type of roller, etc.). It can become a bit overwhelming. But, I do find comfort in the fact that when my twist n curl goes awry, I can always look to you for a fantastically chic up-do! And, me likey — at least you give me an option that I can totally conquer and call my own. And, for that, I thank you!

    ~Rhonda C


    • Rhonda, it was written especially for you:)!! Well, it was inspired by you and I felt that it might be something that would not only be helpful for you, but encouraging to others as well as I think many of us have had styles that just won’t seem to work for us. And, in regard to failed TnCs, EXACTLY!! I’ve come up with some of my favorite updos because a TnC didn’t dry all the way or didn’t fall right or didn’t hold up:). But definitely send me a pic of what you mean and how you set it. Maybe I can give you some suggestions to try:)!


  7. I’ve been a lurker on this site for a while now and i love your site!! (it’s become one of my regulars, lol). This is a great post. I’ve been natural since i was about 13 – 21 now – but i always pressed my hair and am now growing out all the heat damage. And like many new naturals, I know i’ve been in that position of spending all night on a new style only to wake up to “meh” results. What’s helped me is understanding that everyone’s hair is so different and you have to focus on what works for you. I can’t tell you how many times i tried to do a twist out (and failed miserably)because it seemed like that was almost everyone other natural’s staple style. Now my staple style is a flat twist-and-knot (flat twists with the ends bantu knotted.)


    • HI MILLIE!! I get so excited when I see new names and “lurkers” reveal themselves:)!! Yay:)!! And, thank you for that last part because that is exactly what I’m talking about! You had to modify it to get your staple style … so that is a massive success:)! Thank you so much for the compliment about the site:)!!


  8. Two days ago was my second attempt to get the TnC as seen on CurlyNikki and it didn turn out so great :(.. But this post is just what I needed and to be honest,I love yours even more and thats what I NEED! am so glad I discovered you..lol.
    I think the problem with me is,and I have been having this for a while,is that i don’t know anything about my hair.. Like what type it is,texture,kinda curls. Any tips Shelli?


    • Hi Ilhaan:). And thank you!! My first suggestion is to check out this post I did a couple of weeks ago and specifically the bulleted suggestions. They will help you learn a little about your hair because you have to actively think about it and they will also provide an outline for your existing regimen. Think about everything you do, from how and when you detangle (i.e. dry or wet hair? with product without? fingers, wide-tooth comb, etc.) to how you wash your hair (in the sink? in the shower) to how you like to style. Then, think about all of the products you use and how and when again. Also, think of how your hair responds to the environment, to water, to your products to your techniques. This will give you a roadmap of sorts to start looking at what is working and what isn’t and, more importantly for you, WHY? The whys will help you understand your hair. If your hair doesn’t seem to absorb moisture, you’ll know that it’s probably low porosity and you need to employ techniques that help get moisture under your cuticle. In the alternative, if your hair is frizzy and seems to absorb the slightest hint of moisture from the air and poof, you’ll know that your hair is high porosity and you need to employ techniques that will shut down the cuticle to prevent too much moisture from getting in, but also to seal in the moisture that it needs that escapes too readily. It’s going to be a lot. But, if it’s something you really want to pursue, putting in the legwork now will ultimately make it all a lot easier in the long run. Once you really understand your hair and learn to listen to it, you will find everything else becomes easy.

      Here’s the post I referenced:



  9. I’m just reading this now! Having toddler running around is just time consuming..lol
    But I get what your saying and your so right! I’ve always been trying anything and everything that worked for other people’s hair. Never took the time to find out what works for me. Your tips have been helpfu and I will look into your post.
    Thank you soo much! Your awesome 🙂


  10. Pingback: Twist ‘n Curl with Curlformers « hairscapades

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