Sunday, September 29, 2013

Curly Girl

I've tried to hide it for a long time, but it's time to be true to myself. Years of blow drying, flat-ironing, pulling, tugging, glossing, and fretting have come to an end. I'm a curly girl, and there's nothing I can do about it. Turns out, though, it's not so bad. 

As a kid, I longed for those curls. I had thick, long, wavy hair and it lived in a pony tail. I begged and I begged - and finally my mom caved. I was 14 years old, and I went in for my first perm. I remember sitting in that chair, dutifully withstanding the painful tugging and pulling of my hair as the (very impatient) hair stylist tightly wound each lock around its roller. Then came the chemicals. The first drops immediately singed my scalp as the odor stung my nostrils. It was a right of passage; I was becoming a woman.

Finally, it was time for the rollers to come out, and this new, more mature version of me was about to emerge. The woman yanked and pulled the barbaric hunks of plastic away from my head, taking with her gobs of hair. As my eyes rimmed with tears, she worked her stylist magic with deft hands and smelly product. She turned me around so that my back was to the large mirror and smiled as she handed me the hand mirror, encouraging me to look at her masterpiece. My heart pounded against my chest, my arm ceremoniously lifting the mirror to my face. My hair... It was....


Yup, that about sums it up. Take every insecurity I already had as a teenage girl, add to it unreasonably curly, unmanageable hair. The next several months was spent searching for the right products to tame my mane. Wax (per the stylist's recommendation), gel, mousse, creams, conditioners, sprays - everything we could find. Nothing helped. I had a nest of doom and despair living on my head, and although it wasn't the only perm I got in my youth, it ruined my perception of the beauty of curly hair. This started a lifetime of fighting the natural flow of my hair.

This is a topic so broad, I could write a book. I can tell you stories about bad dye jobs, terrible hair products, postpartum hair loss, bad haircuts - all of these things affect your self-perception. If you hate your hair, you don't like yourself very much at all. However, I am happy to report that I've finally found peace with my curls, which turns out to be a nice step toward self acceptance. So, that is what I want to talk about, today.

If you're serious about a curl-revolution, check out this book!

Firstly, I want to mention that 75% of my great hair epiphany is credited to the book Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey. Combine that with several Google searches for terms like "naturally curly hair," "styling curly hair," and "co-washing," I think I have found the method that works best for me. However, everyone's hair is so very different, so of course you'll have to tweak the system a little to make it work for you. Still, here's a brief breakdown of the steps that have changed the fate of my hair:

  • No More Shampoo: I think this is the most important step. I've been practicing this for over a week, and I've been pleasantly surprised. Instead, just use conditioner. You use a LOT of conditioner because it doesn't lather, but my hair feels just as clean (but not as dried out) with this method. There's more to it than just slathering some conditioner on your head, so do yourself a favor and Google "co-washing." There are a ton of great articles out there. Note: If you're really concerned that your hair is too greasy to skip shampoo, you can fill your palm FULL of conditioner, and add a small dollop of shampoo. Just steer clear of shampoos and conditioners with sulfates. Suave Naturals are sulfate free AND cheap!
  • Don't Rinse Out All of the Conditioner: To me, this was difficult. We all assume that if we don't rinse it all out, it'll leave our hair greasy or weighed down, right? But that's not the case at all! (As long as you stay away from silicone and sulfates - again, try Suave Naturals.) There's a couple of ways you can do this. I found that by not rinsing it entirely, what was left wasn't evenly distributed. Instead, I now rinse it completely, then reapply a small amount evenly throughout my hair just before I step out of the shower. I keep it away from my scalp, though, because I am prone to dandruff and I don't want to make my head itchy. 
  • No Terrycloth Towels: Terrycloth = frizz. Instead use a microfiber towel or a cotton t-shirt, burp cloth, receiving blanket... You know, pretty much anything but terrycloth. 
  • Just Say No to Combs and Brushes: Who knew? I mean, I obviously wouldn't run a brush through dry curls, but I often combed and brushed wet hair. Big mistake. Even combing wet hair severely disrupts the curls' natural placement. Instead, rake your fingers through your hair while it is still sopping wet. This step alone dramatically changed the shape and texture of my curls. 
  • Figure Out Your Best Drying Process: There are a hundred different opinions on this step of hair care, and I can only assume that it depends 100% on the temperament of your mane. Some say apply product while you're still in the shower, and sop extra out of your hair with your (non-terrycloth) towel. Others say dry your hair some, first. Some say let it air dry. Some say dry it a little with a diffuser, then let it finish on it's own. Others say do the opposite: Let it air dry some, then finish with diffuser.
Fortunately, I have found a method that works perfectly for me. While in the shower with sopping hair, I glob on curling cream (you know, that kind that doesn't make your hair crunchy). I squeeze out the excess with the towel, then apply curling mousse. I let it air dry until it's about 70% dry (still feels damp, but mousse is starting to harden), then I stick the diffuser on the hairdryer and set it on medium. As I dry, I very gently scrunch my hair and flip my head down occasionally to encourage more body. The light scrunching breaks away the mousse "cast" on each lock, leaving it soft yet still holding the curl. 

There's a lot more to living a curly lifestyle than the information I've given you here, but I think it's a great start. Give it a shot, and please, tell me what you think in the comments below!

If you like this post, share, share, share! I'd love to give you more DIY hair care and skin care tutorials and product recipes - if there's anyone out there in cyber world listening. ;)

Until next time...

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