In the 6th grade we were tasked to write a vignette after reading The House on Mango Street, written by Sandra Cisneros, a story detailing the life of a young Latina, Esperanza, and how the circumstances of poverty had shaped her into the woman that she is. For this assignment, we had to pick something we felt helped to define who we were – the subject I chose: my hair.
I had straight, thin, wispy hair until I turned five or six. For a long time, it was a running joke that my hair was ‘athetic,’ (I cutely, but unfortunately, suffered from a bit of a speech impediment) implying that my head of hair was pathetic in comparison to the rest of my Jewish family.
Then one day, it felt like I woke to find not only had I been genetically blessed with olive under-toned skin, but dark, bushy hair that was large and in charge.
Thanks to puberty, my hair was thick and curly and had a mind of it’s own – which is fitting because I’m a Leo, and stubbornness is innate to my being.
I had no idea what to do with the newfound heap of textured, unruly curls atop my cranium. I did everything to fight against it – straightened it until it was fried, put it in tight top knots so no one was able to see the true body, and loathed every rainy day the weatherman called for.
As today is the first of April, which marks the idiom of expecting May flowers to be on their way, this month will be full of showers bringing them to bloom. What that also means? The season of frizz is upon us.
As my curly-headed cuties know to be true already, hair care is in no way an exact science. But, I’m pretty proud of the routine I’ve developed for my curls, no matter how high-maintenance I feel when getting ready to go anywhere where I actually wish to look presentable, and thought I’d share some tips and products I’ve found to be most successful.
- Never. Ever. brush your hair when dry.
This is the first, and argumentatively most important, thing I learned about caring for my curls. A comb in the shower has become my best friend, used in combination with a curl-friendly conditioner.
Unlike most women with curly hair, I wash my hair every day. My hair gets greasy quickly, which I’ve found causes my curls to look wet and flat, neither of which I like, so a daily wash is a necessity.
However, I use conditioner every other day. Because a conditioner is meant to replenish the missing moisture from your hair, applying it directly to the roots can make grease uncontrollable. I learned from my hairdresser, which by curly-girl standard basically means my all-seeing god, to apply my conditioner from the base of my ears down to help keep the grease to a minimum.
2. Air drying can help stop frizz.
I noticed that a diffuser, or adding heat to my hair, was making more split ends and not just drying my hair but drying it out. I turned to letting my curls air dry after a shower, and it has helped to ensure healthy looking hair throughout the day and every day.
I typically shower in the morning before my day begins and use a towel to soak up some of the water so I don’t drip all over, then rely on the waiting process of the natural air to shape my curls however they wish to form.
3. If you don’t want to wait on air-dry, speed along the process with an old t-shirt.
If I really want or need my hair to feel dry fast, I finish a towel dry with an old cotton tee. I start from the bottom of my curls and squeeze sections upwards, actively wringing out my curls without separating them, turning them flat or knotted. The cotton soaks up the water similar to a towel, but isn’t as harsh on my curls as a micro-fiber cloth tends to be.
4. The heavier the weight, the better.
I have found that the longer my hair is, the less out of control volume my curls tend to take. The heavy weight of longer hair helps elongate my curls to lay flatter and in a more flattering way.
But don’t get me wrong, short curls can be not only sexy, fun, and playful, but easier to manage than lengthy locks. When I decided to cut 13 inches and donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, I needed a stylist who was ready to help me take the plunge. I can’t reiterate enough – a god/goddess hairdresser who understands the needs of your hair can and will change your life. Do some research in the town or city you live in on what the online curl-endowed community is saying.
For those of you who live in the DMV, I highly suggest you swing by Hugo Salon and have Sam breathe new life to your locks. That woman is a mastermind with a pair of scissors.
5. Every hair texture is different, and that is more than okay.
Find a sculpting product that works for you. This may take time, patience, and a series of trial and error product demos. I used to use a sculpting mousse or gel on my curls, but have found that they add unwanted crunch and volume with the sculpting process.
I always love the way my curls bounce after a beach visit and wished I could bottle the salt air and bring it home for the rest of the seasons. For me, Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray has gotten me the closest to beach-like curls year round.
Just like every body shape, all hair textures are different for every individual person, and all are equally beautiful. But, just like a ‘one-size fits all’ mentality is absolute bull, not all hair products will work for all hair types. Boho waves? Crisp quaff? Take the time to figure out what fits you best, or change it up depending on what you want your look to say that day.
So, why did my 6th grade English class assignment have relevancy you ask? Just as Esperanza in The House on Mango Street learned that the Chicago streets helped to influence who she is, I’ve grown and matured to realize that my Jewish heritage, filled with traditions and beauty and strength, comes along with my big unruly head of hair, and has assisted my growth into the woman that I am today.
Britney Spears wrote ‘Can’t be Tamed’ as an anthem for the wild-spirits and as the original 2000s pop-icon got through 2007, and I lived through the unfortunate photographic proof of the disdain of my curls, I know you and I can both learn to embrace them.
For all my curly girls cursing the genetic make up that causes the kink in your lion’s mane, know its okay to wear your hair natural or apply whatever product and heat to your heart’s content, as long as you feel the most confident you. Either which way, I hope you don’t let anyone or anything stifle your roar.
Bring. It. On. Spring.