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The Chunky Fro

The words “clumpy” and “chunky” brings some not-so-pretty things to mind, except in the world of natural hair, where the words are viewed as a neat thing our natural hair does. I have heard the terms “chunky puff”, “chunky ‘fro” and “chunky wash-and-go” used separately but all relating to the same general look.

Dee's Chunky Puff

Clumping is when your coils grab each other and hold the same form (waves, coils) within separate areas on your head – creating sections of uniform waves and coils and a “chunky” look. You can have a chunky fro with chunky coils of an inch up to about 3 inches at the base, depending on how much hair you have. Even more if your hair is long. It is what we get when we do twistouts. The twists when untwisted, clump together in separate sections and can be achieved on all lengths of hair.

Chunky ‘do’s can look great and they can look awful – it depends on how well you work with your hair’s natural tendency to marry to itself. Most natural hair will clump together in some way, if given the opportunity, regardless of length as long as you don’t use a comb, pick or brush on it.

Having recently BIG CHOPPED again, I have discovered my coils naturally clumps together now just as much as it did when it was long, even though the chunky bits are smaller. So for me, chunky hair is the natural order of things. Still, sometimes we want more dramatic chunky fros and we can get them if we work our hair a little bit towards that goal.

3 things to know before you try a clumpy style.

    • If your hair does not clump naturally, you will need to manipulate it when it is wet in order to get the clumps to form and last.
    • You need to have healthy, thick hair for a successful chunky look. If you have thin hair, split / damaged ends or your hair gets a lot thinner towards the ends than it is at the base, a clumped style is not for you. It will only make your thin ends look thinner and your hair look unkempt.
    • Do not use gel to encourage your hair to go chunky. Gelled up chunky fros do not look right.


The Natural Way – for those with naturally clumping hair

  1. Wash / Condition your hair as normal. Smooth moisturizing pomade onto your hair.
  2. Grab sections of your hair and twist each section around your finger from the scalp to ends, creating coils. 
  3. Tuck the ends under.
  4. Carefully separate the coils when almost dry.
  5. Put a little shea butter on the ends to seal, without disturbing the clumps higher up.

The Next-to Natural Way – for those whose hair clumps best with a little help

  1. Wash and condition your hair and comb through thoroughly when wet, to remove any tangles and shed hair.
  2. While wet, section your hair, add a light pomade and twist very loosely.
  3. Pin up or knot the twists and tuck the ends under for a tighter style. You don’t want to see parts after it’s dry.
  4. Untwist when your hair is almost dry, gently separate then rub the base of your hair to cover up any visible scalp parts.
  5. Allow your hair to dry and puff out naturally. You can pull it into an afro puff at this point too.
  6. Use a little shea butter to seal the ends.

Wet Twist Out OR Wet Bantu Knot Out – for those whose hair will not clump on its own at all

  1. Wash / Condition hair as normal.
  2. While hair is wet, use a light hair butter and twist hair tightly into two strand twists.
  3. Twirl each twist around its base, and tuck end under.
  4. When hair is almost dry, remove the knots / twists and allow to fully dry.
  5. Gently separate the knots after your hair has dried.
  6. Rub your scalp to cover up the parts.
  7. Use a little shea butter to seal the ends.

The trick to get a natural looking chunky fro is to NOT use a gel or setting product to get it to clump together. I suggest you use a shine product, mousse or moisturizing pomade and allow your hair’s natural texture to do the holding to itself. You want puffiness and texture in a chunky fro so allow your hair to do its natural thing as much as you can.

One important thing to remember... A chunky style will last through a few rinse-throughs as long as you don’t get the comb out and start over-manipulating. Finger combing may be OK for those with naturally-clumping hair but keep manipulation as minimal as possible. The chunky fro style can even get better after a rinse through so try it yourself! Keep your style supple and moisturized with your choice of mousse or butter. I prefer using mousse when wearing a chunky style.

Be sure to detangle well after wearing a chunky style for more than a few days without combing. Be aware that you will see more than the normal amount of shed hair when you detangle.

If you have any more tips for getting that chunky look, post your methods in the comments section below!

Last modified on Thursday, 12 September 2019 08:22
Patricia Gaines

Patricia Gaines aka Deecoily is the founder and creator of Nappturality in 2002, the beginning of the natural hair movement. Since 2000 she has been blogging on all things natural hair, Black culture and politics.

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