Rod Sets for Natural Hair: Everything You Need To Know

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Embracing your natural hair is a step towards gaining freedom from the pressures and demands of society.

Opting for fewer products and less artificial ways of styling can bring priceless peace from the knowledge that you don’t have to keep chasing perfection.

And you don’t have to subject your beautiful mane to heat damage, product buildup, and other unwanted consequences. 

The good news is: natural doesn’t have to mean unkempt and unfabulous.

With a rod set for natural hair, you can have gorgeous tresses that feel and look like you didn’t try at all.

A woman is getting her hair done in a salon.

What Is a Rod Set For Natural Hair?

But first, what is a rod set for natural hair?

A rod set is a styling technique that makes use of rods to achieve a hairstyle with bouncy, well-defined curls, which is similarly called a rod set. 

There are two types of rods used in rod sets: perm (permanent) rods and flexi (flexible) rods. 

Both are heatless, so you don’t need to plug them in or warm them up. 

To use these rods, you simply take your hair and wrap it around them, leave them on for a few hours (or overnight), and unfurl them to let loose your newer, better curls.

Let’s take a closer look at the two types of rods to help you decide which one works better for you. 

Perm Rods vs. Flexi Rods

Perm rods and flexi rods are great at enhancing the natural curl patterns of your hair and giving them lasting definition.

And they have a very gentle learning curve, so even if you’re a complete beginner to using rods, you’ll be able to fine-tune your technique and master them in no time.

However, while they’re similar in many ways, there are some differences between perm rods and flexi rods.

Refer to the table below to help you distinguish between the two:

Perm rodFlexi rod
Types of Curls ProducedTightLoose

Because of these differences, one may be better than the other, depending on specific factors.

Factors To Consider in Choosing Between Perm Rods and Flexi Rods

Your Experience With Rods

While both of these tools are relatively uncomplicated, perm rods are still the better choice for those with minimal to zero experience with rods.

This is because perm rods come with clasps that make it easy to secure your hair in place after wrapping it around the tool.

Flexi rods, on the other hand, require a little getting used to as they’re very bendy, so manipulating them to allow you to wrap your locks around them might prove challenging if you’ve never tried using rods before.

Your Hair Length

Setting your natural hair on rods requires you to wrap entire sections of your hair around each rod. 

For this reason, if you have short hair, you’re better off with perm rods.

Why? Perm rods feature a horizontal design, which makes the process of looping even shorter tresses around them easier. 

On the other hand, flexi rods are vertically oriented, so you’ll need long hair to keep them in place.

Your Preferred Curl Type

Finally, consider what kind of curls you’d like. Perm rods make tighter curls, while flexi rods create looser, more beach-like waves.

This is because flexi rods come in bigger sizes compared to perm rods. Typically, you can get perm rods that measure 3/8 inch in size, while flexi rods usually start from 7/8 of an inch in size.

However, in some cases, you can use flexi rods to create tighter curls by opting for thinner ones over thicker ones.

Likewise, you can use perm rods to create looser waves by opting for larger ones.

Benefits of Using Rods for Natural Hair

Whether you choose perm or flexi rods, using rods for your natural hair offers a lot of perks, such as the following:

Works for Everyone

Rods are ideal for all hair types and textures, as they are available in multiple sizes. 

Additionally, they make it easy to achieve various hairstyles, such as twist-outs. They can even be used to curl existing styles like braids. 

Reduces Potential for Heat Damage

Among the most important of its advantages, rod sets minimize the need to use heat-styling tools like curling irons. 

And as a result, you save your tresses from heat damage, which can cause frizz, dullness, and dryness. 

Allows You To Customize Your Curls

Depending on the size and type of your rod, you can get small, tight curls or big, loose ringlets. Or you can use both perm and flexi rods to get both!

Enhances the Way Your Curls Look

Rods can provide more lift at the roots and give volume to your hair, which is especially important to those with fine natural hair. 

Creates Curls That Last 

The hairstyle you get by using a rod set for natural hair also lasts for days; depending on how well you maintain it, it can easily last up to a week.

Comes at an Affordable Price

Finally, rods don’t fetch a pretty penny. They’re also reusable, so you won’t need to restock them until they break, which will take a long time.

A beautiful woman with curly hair posing on a beige background.

How To Do a Rod Set on Natural Hair

Interested in how to do a flexi rod set and a perm rod set on natural hair?

Let’s get to it.

What You’ll Need

  • Your perm or flexi rods, depending on what you’ll be using
  • Hair products, including leave-in conditioner, setting foam or mousse, and hair oil
  • Silk or satin scarf or wrap if you want to keep your rods on overnight

How To Prep Your Hair

  1. Start with clean hair. You can do both a flexi rod set or a perm rod set on wet or dry natural hair. The important thing is that it’s clean.
  2. Next, get your usual arsenal of styling products. Some of the most essential products for this step are as follows: leave-in conditioner, setting foam or mousse, and hair oil. 
  3. Work any of these into your tresses to ensure they’re conditioned and prepped for styling. Pay particular attention to the ends of your hair; these will dictate how well your curls turn out. Make sure they’re slick and ready.
  4. Once you’ve coated your locks with all that goodness, the next thing to do in this process is to separate your hair into one-inch sections.

And this can look different, depending on whether you’re using perm rods or flexi rods.

How To Use Perm Rods on Natural Hair

  1. Take a section of your hair and carefully wrap the ends of it around the perm rod.
  2. Twist and roll the rod upward until you reach your scalp and all your hair is completely wrapped around the rod.
  3. Close the clasp shut.
  4. Repeat the whole process for every section of your hair until you work your way through all of them. 
  5. Next, dry your hair. You can let it air-dry or blow-dry it. But if you’re letting your hair dry overnight, wrap it in a satin or silk scarf to keep the curls in place.
  6. Once your hair has completely dried, unroll your rods one by one.
  7. Then separate your curls. Use some more hair oil to make this step easier.
  8. Finally, style and set them in place.

How To Use Flexi Rods on Natural Hair

  1. For flexi rods, you also take a section of your hair and wrap the ends of your locks around the flexi rod. Note that the longer your hair is, the longer the rod you’ll need.
  2. Then roll the rod up as you wrap the rest of the section of your hair around it. 
  3. Bend both ends of the rod inward to “close” it or secure it into place.
  4. Take another section of your hair and repeat the process until all your hair is wrapped in rods.
  5. Dry your hair.
  6. Next, unroll each rod until you work your way through all of them.
  7. Separate, style, and set your curls.

Et voilà! You now have heatless, homemade curls.

How To Maintain Rod Set on Natural Hair

A rod set can last up to a week or more if you take good care of it. 

Follow these tips to help you maintain your hairstyle:

Apply All the Products You Need on Day One

Ideally, you want to make sure that your curls have all the nutrition that they need before they get unfurled from your perm or flexi rods.

For this reason, you need to be as generous as possible when applying your hair care products the day you do your rod set.

Additionally, make sure that in choosing which products to use, you’re sticking to those that are Curly Girl Method-approved

These cover products that don’t contain ingredients like sulfates and silicones, which are known to cause product buildup and leave your curls dry and damaged.

Instead, invest in formulations that are great for curly hair, such as those with a healthy balance of protein and moisture. 

Don’t Let Your Curls Get Wet on Wash Day

As much as possible, you should also keep your hair dry on wash day. This helps in preserving the integrity of your curls and making sure they last longer.

But that does not mean that it shouldn’t get hydration.

You can still apply your conditioning products to your rod set, especially when you’re prepping and styling it before you head out for the day.

Watch Out for Curls That Need Some Help

Speaking of applying conditioners and styling products, take care of curls that look like they’re starting to lose definition the minute that you see them.

To get them back in shape, follow the LOC method of applying lotion, oil, and cream to your curls, and then roll them back up with your perm rod or flexi rod. 

Pineapple Your Curls Before Bed

Pineappling, as its name suggests, is the process of gathering your hair up into a shape that resembles a pineapple at the top of your head. 

And in the curly hair community, it’s considered to be one of the most effective methods of preserving curls, especially overnight.

To keep your rod set looking tangle-free for a long time, you should pineapple your hair before you go to bed.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Apply a leave-in conditioner to your tresses, then gather them up into a high ponytail.
  1. Slip an elastic band or a scrunchie around the base of your ponytail and use it to gather all your hair.

    Don’t twist your scrunchie or elastic; keep the loop as loose as possible to prevent it from making dents in your hair.
  1. Then get a satin or silk bonnet and wrap it around your hair. But what if you don’t want to be sleeping with a bonnet on your head? What you can do is get a silk or satin pillowcase and lay your hair on it.
  1. When you wake up, simply shake your curls loose, set, and style!
A back hair of the woman getting it done in a salon.


Are Rod Sets Healthy for Natural Hair?

Rod sets are a styling technique that uses a heatless way to create and enhance curls.

Not only are they healthy for your natural hair, but they’re also long-lasting, affordable, and easy to do.

How Long Should I Leave My Hair Rods In?

It depends on how quickly — or slowly! — your hair dries. But in most instances, two to three hours might do the trick.

Alternatively, you can opt to leave your rods overnight to further define and set your curls.

Can I Use Rods on Dry Hair?

Yes, you can use rods on dry hair.

However, make sure to coat your tresses with conditioning products such as oils, lotions/mousses, and creams to get them slick and ready.

Completely dry hair without any products won’t be able to wrap around the rods easily, which will compromise the quality of the curls that you’ll get.

Can You Do a Perm Rod Set on Short 4C Natural Hair?

Fortunately, yes. If you have short coily hair, you just need to choose small perm rods that range from 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch to accommodate your hair length. 

Then follow the same steps in our guide on how to do perm rods on natural hair above. 

Can I Do a Rod Set on a TWA?

Absolutely. The only difference is that for TWAs or teeny-weeny afros, you might have to shingle your hair on areas where it’s not long enough to wrap around a rod.

Hair shingling refers to the process of separating, stretching, and smoothening coils with hair products.

To shingle your hair, do the following:

  1. Start with clean damp hair.
  2. Then work in your styling products. Experts recommend the good old LOC method, where you apply a leave-in conditioner, oil, and cream to your hair in that order.
  3. Start separating your curls into sections. It’s best to separate your coils strand by strand if possible so as to ensure all parts of your hair achieve great definition.
  4. Then stretch and smoothen each strand of curl until you’ve worked through all of them.
  5. Let your curls dry.

To see how this process looks in real life, watch this video:

The Best Way To Have Beautiful Natural Hair

Celebrating the beauty of your natural hair is a rewarding journey.

And if you’ve finally decided on it, congratulations! You are in for a lovely experience.

Opting to do a rod set for natural hair is one of the best steps you can take toward freedom from heat-styling your hair constantly.

And it’s a process that you can do at home, as often as you want.

Just make sure to follow the right prepping and drying steps when using perm or flexi rods so you’ll get the definition and longevity you want out of a rod set. 

Also, take care of your curls long after you’ve tucked away your rod set by aiming for a good balance of protein and hydration in your routine, practicing good habits, and adopting a consistent approach to hair care.

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  • Kat

    Kat brings a seasoned voice to our beauty blog with 13 years of dedicated writing experience. Her deep-seated passion isn't just limited to words; she's always on the pulse of emerging makeup trends. Beyond her articles, Kat crafts hand-made crochet swimwear and sundresses, and effortlessly steps in as a muse for beauty photoshoots. Kat holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.

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