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Pictured: Olivia Rose shingling her hair

What is shingling?

Shingling is a curl defining technique in which you apply the products to your hair in layers, starting from the bottom and working your way up, much like you would apply shingles to your roof. This method helps to smooth the cuticle to create ultimate definition which also means curls last longer.

It's a tried and true technique in the curly girl method but it differs from the usual methods where product is smoothed over, raked through or scrunched in.

What hair type does shingling work best for?

Shingling works on any hair type, although it works best on hair that naturally clumps together into individual curls so finer hair may need more encouragement to help clumps to form. Shingling denser, Type 4c curls may require extra time but it’s worth the effort for springy, defined coils. Wavy hair can also be shingled to create smoother defined waves. Another reason we love this technique is it can be done on any length hair!

What do you need?

For shingling, you'll need

  • a leave-in conditioner
  • curling cream or gel
  • a hair oil (optional)
  • a detangling brush or you can use your fingers
  • a spray bottle to maintain moisture
  • a diffuser (if you are not air drying)
  • hair clips or pins for sectioning

Moisture is the name of the game with shingling so you should start with cleansed, deeply conditioned hair and choose a leave-in that ensures maximum slip and glides through your hair, for example Garnier Hair Food in Banana and Curls Blueberry Bliss Leave-in. Your gel or hair cream should also be strong enough to provide some hold to maintain the integrity of the curl once defined. You could try Giovanni LA Natural Styling Gel or Bounce Curl Avocado and Rose Oil Clump and Define Cream.

You can also add a hair oil, such as Righteous Roots RX, to your shingling routine which is particularly good for highly porous hair or denser 4A to 4C coils. Oils help to seal the hair cuticle to prevent moisture from escaping. This order of applying products is commonly known as the LCO Method

How to shingle curly hair

Step 1: Start with clean, detangled hair

Start with freshly co-washed, deep-conditioned and detangled hair so that you are applying product to fresh hair for maximum moisture. Detangling is important to be able to apply the product smoothly through the hair. Try the Curl Keeper Flexy Brush for gentle detangling.

Step 2: Separate hair into sections

Separate wet or damp hair into sections using fingers or a brush and secure with a clip; how many sections depends on how dense your hair is, but each section should be about two inches. If you have Type 4 coils you may want to separate your hair into twists.

Step 3: Spray your hair to keep it damp

Add water with your spray bottle if your hair is beginning to dry out – remember, sealing in moisture is key! You don't want to do this technique on partially dry hair.

Step 4: Apply leave-in

Apply leave-in conditioner through each section using fingers or a Wetbrush from root to tip. If your hair is in twists, untwist a section and apply leave-in to that section. Repeat 

Step 5: Apply gel

Your hair should have separated into clumps by now; apply a blob of gel or curl cream to each individual clump from root to tip, twisting around your finger for maximum definition.

If clumps haven’t formed, choose a small section, depending on how big you want the curl to be, and apply your gel or cream.

Optional Step 6: Apply oil

If you are using an oil, apply this now by rubbing a few drops between your fingertips and smoothing over the clump.

Step 7: Air dry or diffuse

Finally allow your hair to dry naturally or diffuse for more shrinkage (depending on what you prefer) but avoid touching your hair until fully dry to maintain the definition.

You can watch Jewelliana Palencia aka @JeweJeweBee use the shingling method on her hair here. 

What to avoid

Don't skip detangling

Detangling is really important for this process so you can smooth products through hair and along each individual clump without any lumps or tangles. You can detangle with your fingers or with a wet brush.

Don't apply too much product

Another issue some curlies may have is applying too much product so choosing the right products for your hair is key. You don’t want products that you know are too heavy for your hair; you are aiming for slip not over-moisturising. An example might be products heavy in shea butter which may weigh down low-porosity or low-density hair.

Don't apply too much oil

Similarly, less is more when it comes to oils. A heavier hair oil, such as coconut, to seal in the moisture on each clump is perfect for denser, high porosity curls but try out a lighter oil such as jojoba for low-porosity or low-density hair or leave out the oil completely if needed.

This may feel like a lot of information to absorb but once you've mastered this technique you'll find that you can actually spend less time on your hair because of how long your results will last.

Once you’ve shingled your hair, expect your curls to last for days!