Wild and crazy: A curly hair journey to acceptance

August 27 | Guest post by Erin KLG
In high school, a kid once asked me if my hair was a wig.
In high school, a kid once asked me if my hair was a wig.
When I was in 4th grade, there was a girl in my school named Jessica. Like many things about Jessica, her hair was perfect. Blonde, thick, and shiny, it fell down her back like a heavy curtain. A small flip of her head resulted in a golden wave of hair, a solar flare from the brightest sun. You had to shield your eyes. One day she pinned her hair back with unicorn barrettes, and I thought I might die from jealousy and desire.

My hair is, and always has been, curly. Unruly, wild curls. Frizzy, big curls. Messy. My hair didn't grow down, like Jessica's, my hair grew out.

Up until late high school, I had never had long hair. Nothing cascaded down my back except sweat in the summer. My hair wouldn't hold a barrette and it had an aversion to combs. It wasn't as beautiful as an afro or tight enough to control. It was just crazy.

At night, alone in my room, I would pull my nightgown back over my head and let it hang there, pretending the soft cotton against my shoulders was my own hair. I'll just buy a dark nightgown, I would think, and go outside with it on my head. No one will know! These were the thoughts of a desperate idiot.

At some point, I realized that I had to stop being weird. The nightgown would come off and I would stare at my mushroom head, full of loathing.

At eight, I got a perm. The thinking was that the only thing that could control my curls was more curl. I probably don't have to tell you that this is not the type of reasoning that will get you into Mensa.

By the time I reached 9th grade, I wore my hair in a bun every day. I couldn't risk anyone seeing it in its natural state.

I didn't hate my hair in a vacuum; these thoughts were not mine alone. As the only person in my house with curly hair, I don't think my parents knew exactly how to deal with it. My mother and father couldn't comb my hair without causing me pain.

Nothing can be done, I heard. It is what it is. A head shake, a sideways grin, a pity glance. These told me that my hair was going to be my life's burden. And that other people hated curly hair, too.

As I got older, curly hair became a conversation starter, though not always a pleasant one. People will tell you exactly what they think about your hair, unsolicited. They don't like it; they know someone with curly hair who can't keep it under control; or do you know about such-and-such product that could really help you? I have even been told that men do not prefer curly hair.

"Big Hair, Don't Care" poster by StayCarm

Curly hair is intrinsically tied to ethnicity, and people are not shy about asking me if I'm Jewish, Hispanic, mixed. Nothing reminds you how deep racism goes in our country when curly hair, often a trait of people of color, is marked as undesirable. Black women, more than anyone, battle a constant barrage of opinions whether they straighten their hair or keep it natural. They've been told their hair is a "corporate don't."

Despite these cultural messages, somewhere around college and after, I stopped fighting my hair. I got tired of hating it. Correction: I didn't have enough time to hate it. The act of leaving it alone became its — and my — liberation. I let it grow out all the way instead of cutting it back like an unruly hedge. As it grew longer, it became better and better. The curls, once springy and vibrant, became weighted down and formed sultry S's. I went to stylists who understood curly hair and gave me tips for styling it and what products to use to keep the curls spry. Products that would actually enhance the curls, play up a characteristic I had once hated.

But it wasn't just the appearance of it that had changed. I had changed, too. I started to see the value in having hair unlike other people. I liked that I didn't have to do too much to it, not even blow dry it, to have a nice head of hair. I liked that the curls caught the light just so. I liked that I sometimes had romantic heroine hair.

More than anything, I liked that it became a part of my identity, how people came to know me. My hair is joyful and a little on the fringe. It's multidimensional and twisty in its thinking. It looks like maybe it would be a good dancer. Curly hair is me.

It still has its unruly days. I keep bobby pins on hand for those occasions, and I forgive myself for the days I can do nothing with it. I imagine it's what living with a teenager must be like: you love it in spite of itself.

There are still days I see a sleek bob and wish my hair could do that naturally. It can't. But bobs can't curl, either. Of course this isn't a competition. I'm not looking to win anything. Jessica from elementary school had beautiful hair and probably still does.

The difference is that now I believe I do, too.

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  1. I love my curls! I was also asked in high school if my hair was a wig. Of course, all curly haired girls grow up HATING it, but once that phase is passed the happy ones learn to accept and love it. I have also learned that many straight-haired girls grow up wanting curly locks….so it is a two-way street. Either way, I wouldn't change my wild curls for anything!

    8 agree
    • Not quite all, I've always loved mine, it was never seeing anyone with hair like mine in a magazine or on TV that wound me up!

      2 agree
    • I hated my curls when I was a teenager… I became know as "Ash, you know Ash, the girl with CURLY hair".
      I rebelled against this so much that I chopped it short and spikey in a Sonic-esque style. (I then proceeded to dye it blue/pink after characters in the games)

      2 agree
  2. I am the person with poker-straight hair- it will NOT hold any curl at all. Growing up all I wanted was curls! I started appreciating my hair in high school.

    Isn't it funny that we all want what we don't have?

    35 agree
    • I think the "grass is always greener" is definitely a true sentiment for hair too πŸ™‚ To me, pin-straight hair was boring. Just leaving it alone was dull, but curly hair had personality on its own. People used to ask me if I straightened mine. They were jealous of me and I was jealous of them! It's silly, really.

      It's just what I've got and I like it. I can always have curls for a few hours if I really want them =P

      4 agree
    • Yup, exactly. I've got wavy hair. Not curly, not straight, and I always wished for one or the other. I felt like curly people got away with having crazy hair because everyone knew curly hair was unruly. I just looked like I didn't know what a brush did.

      I also thought that straight haired people had it so easy.

      Now I'm learning to embrace my wavy hair. It's great in that it stays with whatever you style it in (actually curl my hair? it will stay all day. Straighten my hair? It will be straight until I wash it again) and I can get massive volume just my braiding it slightly damp.

      Also, finding good products is so helpful.

      17 agree
    • I grew up in a pretty Irish-American community, and there were several girls at my school with red curly hair reminiscent of the heroine in Brave's hair, and I was fiercely jealous of their beautiful masses of red curls. They were so large and buoyant seeming, and my own own mouse-y brown hair was so flat and close to my head- no volume at all. I still wish my hair was curly!

      6 agree
    • I'd be happy with either curly or straight, or a wave that looked good without Herculean (well, more like Sisyphean) effort. So I only want what I don't have in that I want hair that looks good. πŸ™

      2 agree
  3. As someone who cried multiple times while my curly hair was being brushed as a child, I can relate! I HATED my curly hair; it was fine, got easily tangled, always got so frizzy (its very humid where I live); I also had a friend with PERFECT long, straight, beautiful blond hair. I was always so jealous; my mom always told me my hair made me special, but I didn't believe her.

    I like my hair now; I have learned how to cut it, I mostly leave it alone to do its own thing. My husband LOVES my hair; he likes it crazy curliness, its reddish-brown color (that is what it is naturally), the fact that when I wake up in the morning I look "like a sexy, hot, pretty mess". My hair is now redeemed!

    I really enjoyed reading this; you write eloquently.

    8 agree
  4. Wow, are you me?

    When I was younger I was dying for nice shiny manageable straight hair and took all the advice I could get on how to make it that way. Of course none of it worked.

    Now I've made peace with the fact that my hair is the way it is. It really helped to do research on it and get advice from other people with hair like mine on how to treat it, and to find a stylist that is good with curly/"ethnic" hair. Before then, I got all my advice and styling from all people that all had straight hair and really didn't know what to do with hair like mine, so all their advice was pretty much "get a straightening iron and wake up a lot earlier."

    I've made peace with my curly hair and now unsolicited hair advice drives me nuts. Everyone thinks they know a product or process that will work like magic (Spoiler alert: IT WON'T. I've tried a lot.) And once I let a friend straighten it and everyone was all "it looks so pretty you should always do that!" Yeah, I'll just take all this time to do my hair every day now. SIGHHH.

    My hair is what it is. I've found some nice natural products that leave it softer and not super dry, and it will do what it wants. I may not love it some days but it's part of who I am πŸ™‚

    5 agree
    • Ha ha – yes! Love the "you should always do it like that" comment. "Really? You think it's realistic for me to braid my hair into a super-complicated bun / put in 30 curlers overnight / etc. every day?

      One girl even told me that I wear it "up" too much in the summer and not enough in the winter. I stuck to my temperature-based styling anyway.

      3 agree
  5. YES! Me too!!! I wanted Jennifer Aniston hair so badly in middle school and high school. I don't even want to think about the hours of my life I wasted straightening it (only to have it wave back up in a really icky way about 45 minutes later). I also have a mother with very fine, straight hair who had absolutely no idea what to do with my hair, so it was cut too short and brushed into a frizzball for most of my childhood. And I HATED the comments from hairstylists who would say, "oh, women would just KILL for your hair!" Dude, they can have it!

    Finally in late high school I figured out that you just have to find the right product, and NEVER brush the curly hair other than right before you get in the shower. I'm 25 now and I totally love my hair (probably most of all because I don't have to do ANYTHING to it… I sleep on it wet/don't own a blow dryer because I'm super lazy, and it just does its thang).

    5 agree
    • Oh my god yes. Learning to never brush it once it was dry was a revelation. Gets brushed before I get in the shower, and combed through with conditioner in the shower, and then I basically try to leave it the hell alone.

      3 agree
  6. I totally know your pain. While in high school I tried desperately to straighten my hair, only to end up a frizz ball later. My mom didn't know how to deal with the curls, since her hair was always pin straight.

    Odd part is, now that I' m out of college, I love my curly hair. I finally figured out how to tame the beast and now, it looks pretty nifty. Plus, it's an easy way to tell the weather (if it's going to rain, my hair frizzes like crazy).

    A couple tips for the other curly hair people out there: Never blow dry, instead towel dry. Use a natural hair gel or oil, and after styling do not touch it. Personally, I towel dry it, scrunch it with a tiny bit of hair gel and let it go. Totally easy and takes less than 5 minutes.

    4 agree
  7. I didn't care enough to hate my hair in early life. I didn't know what to do with it. Then I discovered gel and hairspray. My hair would be stiff but no longer a frizzy mess.
    Then I happened into a hair cuttery that had a nice lady with beautiful curls. For the first time in my life, at 20 years old, I had someone to tell me about the right layers for curls and what a diffuser was. Then she moved away.
    The next miracle hairdresser I met was even better. I let her cut my hair into a really short asymmetric bob when I lived in Alaska where there is very little humidity despite the cold rainforest like climate. I had AMAZING hair in AK, I would straighten it every few days after a shampoo and wouldn't have to worry about it. I kept it hydrated and shiny and somehow didn't fry it. Then I moved again.
    After 3 years in Alaska, I forgot how to deal with my frizz. I remembered why I wore so many pony tails in the South.
    Now, I just let it be, mostly. I am no-poo, and I seldom straighten it, it's not worth the hassle. I pin the front sections out of my face if I want to wear it down and it curls nicely all by it's self:)

    1 agrees
  8. Me too. A thousand times me too. I had short hair all through elementary school, since I wouldn't tolerate the pain associated with brushing it – although I now have a scalp of steel! I even had the perm in 3rd grade. I refused to go to school in 5th grade until I got a hair cut – it didn't help. Once I finally started growing it out in Jr High, my hair life changed for the better. I did help that it was the late 80's/early 90's. I rocked the bangs.

    As I white girl growning up in the midwest with no diversity, I didn't consider the ethnic implications until MUCH later. However, it still bothers me that when they do make overs in the Teen Movies, the ugly duckling always has huge, curly, out of control hair and she emerges with sleek, shiny, straight hair.

    I have two very young daughters and the oldest has my hair exactly – it's too early to tell with the baby yet. 'Hair image' is just as important to me and body image. Hopefully they will grow up loving what they have and it won't take them 25 years like it took me.

    4 agree
    • I so agree with you. I have two daughters, one with hair like mine (fine, soft, but tons of it and naturally a bit wavy) and one with hair like my husband's – thick, bulky, heavy, a bit coarse (no wonder he keeps his so short) – really wild. I've struggled with her hair because I just don't know what to do with it sometimes. And lordy does she scream sometimes when I comb it. She's slowly learning to take care of it, to brush it herself and so on. But I always feel so guilty when I struggle with it because I want her to know she is beautiful the way she is.

      1 agrees
      • Don't brush curly hair! It just breaks the curls up. My mom didn't know either, she had pin straight hair.

        The best thing to do with curly hair is to get a big, fat wide-toothed comb and use that. I have my best combing success when I have conditioner on my hair. Comb it through, rinse it out, then wrap it in a t-shirt, or just squeeze out the excess water with the t-shirt. Normal towels are hard on curly hair and break curls apart.

        Then, put a little bit of gel, mousse or cream in her hair and scrunch a little, and let it air dry. That will help tame the beast!

        17 agree
        • THIS x10000!

          Do NOT brush curly hair. If you must do something to direct the hair into a bun, ponytail, braid, etc., get a very wide-toothed comb without the balls at the ends of the teeth. (I have two of these: http://thumbs1.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/mPqf8rqKOXMkqBUbAg6E2gw.jpg)

          Brushing curly hair makes it even wilder, and causes breakage (and pain! ouch!). Most of my worst hair memories as a child involves my mom brushing and brushing and brushing my hair into side pony-tails. Ow ow ow ow…

          10 agree
          • Sorry for the confusion – she doesn't actually have curly hair. Hers is just really thick and heavy with a bit of wave. Some people further down describe it well – "all the bad habits of curly hair, but without the curls". But thanks for the concern all the same. My favourite way to style it is in two big french braids – but she usually just lets me do that when it's wet so she can get more waves and then she takes them out.

            1 agrees
          • Also with the brushing (or for curlies combing) start at the bottom and work your way up! I didn't always know this, but it works much better, is less painful, and after you get the hang of it, it's even quicker.

            2 agree
        • This only works if your hair is actually curly. Mine is like Carrie and others describe – on a good day it's wavy, on a bad day it's a mass of frizz. Many, many people have told me I have curly hair (seemingly on the basis that if it's not straight it must be curly) and that I shouldn't brush it, but for me that's terrible advice.

          Without brushing it doesn't form curls, it forms tangles with frizz around them and looks a mess. Left long enough I suspect it would go to 'celtic dreadlocks' (aka thickly tangled clumps in random places).

          What does help is using what I've recently found out is called a 'detangling brush' (which makes me wonder what other brushes are supposed to do) – one with clusters of tiny bristles of varying lengths instead of the widely spaced thick spines many other brushes have (those just get caught in my hair and pull the tangles closer together) and if I find a big or difficult knot using my fingers.

          It takes longer than brushing straight hair, especially since you cannot ever use the 'bunch it together and rapidly pull the brush through it' approach some parents favour with young kids – it has to be done a bit at a time, from top to bottom, taking the time to sort out tangles along the way. But when it goes well the end result is a wavy pattern.

          As long as it's not too humid or windy. Then I put it up because it's just going to go back to fizz as soon as I leave the house.

    • Our oldest has incredibly red, wild and curly hair (3b/3c in the system they talk about on naturallycurly.com and so forth) and when she was little desperately wanted to long, straight, thick black hair like the Indian girls at our preschool. The most useful things we found in showing her that her hair was cool too was Shirley Temple movies. (well, short videos thereof. It did also make her want to learn to tap dance.) and positive portrayals of Medusa (not that easy to find either, but out there.)

      It is ridiculous how hard it is too find positive examples in kids media of curly-haired kids — I suspect if kids media wasn't so very white that would help, but it also seemed like the girls of color we saw that had a decent chance of having naturally curly hair were always braided or straightened into submission.

      1 agrees
  9. OMG I CAN RELATE. I have naturally curly, thick, and frizzy hair. When I was in elementary school, I attempted bangs. I looked like the shaggy dog. When I was in middle school, I attempted to straighten it with a 2" barrel curling iron, which was all the craze. It wouldn't straighten and I actually burned off a chunk of it, next to the top of my head, trying too hard in my desperation. I tried brushing it and hairspraying it when I started high school, and got told I had "crazy jungle hair". So for 10 years, I, too, wore it back in a bun. And then I decided to try something different. I went to a convenience store and, instead of buying the product that I was told I needed to control my frizz, I actually looked around and the products, especially ones I hadn't heard of, and read the descriptions. And I ended up buying an oil based smoothing serum from the "ethnic" section (I'm a white chick). I actually got questioned as I was purchasing it, (along the lines of "you know this isn't for you, right?") but I took it home and tried it. I have not worn my hair up since then. And I love my hair now! It's crazy how a good hair day makes all the difference in your mood, too. And while people still sometimes comment that I have "little orphan annie curls" I don't care, cuz I like the way they look.

    2 agree
  10. I wish I had curls. πŸ™

    Instead, I don't have straight hair or curls, I have a weird fuzzy wave. With the right styling and products, it can look awesome – think giant, "famous Japanese print of a tsunami" waves over my shoulders. But I don't have the time to style it, and the products are expensive (think Matrix Flexible Fibers and Aveda Anti-Frizz Lotion and Damage Control Leave-In Conditioner).

    Unlike your hair, if I want it styled I MUST blow-dry it, and ain't nobody got time for that! Otherwise it turns into a fuzzy mop – but not a curly one, just a "not curly but not straight but also not clearly wavy" one. Even when it's long, in which case it's both a flattish and fuzzy mop. Sometimes I do try to style it, get it wrong and end up with Soccer Mom hair (nothing wrong with that but not for me). I have never been good with a big round brush. Someone said to me recently, "oh, you have Auntie hair!" FUCK YOU, LADY.

    Also it's oily on top and dry on the bottom, only fixed with expensive Aveda products (nothing else works). ACV doesn't work. And I live in super humid Taiwan so the weather is against me.

    And it's recently been going gray, so I've been dying it because while I think gray is fine, I don't want it *quite* yet (I'm 32). But my hair doesn't want to hold dye, so I have to have it done twice each time. My stylist is very patient. A salon visit is a half-day proposition. I tried to perm it once, but it doesn't want to hold a perm either.

    I tried to *make* time to style it but I'm really not good at it and haven't gotten better, and making that kind of time in the morning doesn't jive at all with my job or lifestyle.

    Basically, I'd love to love my hair but I don't.

    4 agree
    • This sounds like my hair. When I was a kid it was long, white blonde, and stick straight. But since my parents and sister have brown curly hair, it wasn't too long before genetics kicked in and my hair decided it wasn't straight anymore. It's certainly not curly, but it's not straight… if I knew how to spend 90 minutes with a blow dryer I could make it be super straight and sleek and awesome, but like you said– who the hell has time for that?? If I put it in French braids and sleep on it wet, it holds an amazing curl. But by itself it's just kind of lost and fluffy/frizzy. Oh well. I like the color at least– now that I'm older it's darkened into a golden blonde. And I mostly wear it in a braid anyway, because screw styling. I am not a high maintenance beauty person.

      1 agrees
      • This sounds like my hair, too! Stick straight until puberty, and then it started getting wavier and wavier. I would occasionally put a ton of product in it and wear my hair curly, but I usually straightened the hell out of it. When my hair was really long, it would take over a half hour to blow dry… and then I had to straighten the entire thing.

        After fighting with my hair for way too long, I decided to give up and go curly a couple of years ago. The things that helped me the most? Finding a great stylist (her hair texture is almost identical to mine!), reading the Curly Girl book, moisturizing A LOT, and getting rid of my brush. I haven't brushed my hair or straightened it in over a year now, and it looks fantastic!

        1 agrees
    • "Fuzzy" is the exact description of my hair. It has all the bad habits of curly hair, but without the curls.
      My hair wouldn't even hold a curl – or a bobby pin for that matter – until I was in middle school. Although, in the last few years (I'm 41) it has started curling slightly 'around the edges' when it's damp – but rarely without the rest of my hair looking like I was experimenting with static electricity and things went badly.
      I used to get mad when curly-haired people would complain about their hair, now I just get ironic.

      1 agrees
      • ""Fuzzy" is the exact description of my hair. It has all the bad habits of curly hair, but without the curls."

        EXACTLY. All the bad things about curly hair…without the good (curls). And straightish (mine is really wavy) hair without any of the benefits of straight hair (smoothness).

        I CAN make my hair look good, and I actually prefer to wear it curly, not straight. But it takes at least three expensive products and 45 minutes with a diffuser. That just isn't going to work for me. πŸ™

        1 agrees
        • This is why I love braids, ponytails, buns, and enormous hair flowers. πŸ™‚

          4 agree
        • My hair isn't even wavy. Apart from a few near-curls at the ends, and an inconveniently placed cowlick or three, my hair is pin straight – just fuzzy. And most of the other problematic habits of curly hair.
          At least it's a good colour, even if I do get the occasional urge to paint it purple. πŸ˜›

          1 agrees
  11. Um, did you live my life? Because it sure sounds like it. (Except my name is Jessica and I wasn't the one with straight, blonde hair!)

    I definitely hated my crazy curls since I was very young. I was always jealous when I'd see the girls in school run their fingers through their straight, frizz-free hair… root to tip… when, if I would try (and sometimes I still do), my hand couldn't go an inch before coming to a halt. Even now I'm jealous of the girls who can just get out of the shower and towel or air dry their hair, resulting in a perfectly straight, pretty look.

    Like you, I kept my hair in buns or braided pigtails throughout most of high school because I didn't want to have my poofy hair noticed by anyone. As a high school graduation gift, my parents paid for me to get my hair chemically straightened. Six hours of burning scalp and $300 of my parents' money later… I had WAVY (not straight) hair. And, it's funny you would mention the race thing, because I *am* mixed: Jewish and Hispanic, to be exact. As a result, I have some crazy freaking hair… and lots of it!

    In college, flat-ironed my hair almost daily. As a result, I fried the shit out of my locks and would get split-ends constantly… in addition to always smelling like burnt hair! Lovely!

    It wasn't until I was about 22 or 23 (a whopping 4 years ago) that I finally started embracing my curls. I actually know how to style it, and I am not shy when it comes to rocking the curls, even on crazy-curly-hair days. Sure, I can't run my fingers through my hair. Yes, I get frustrated seeing tips on Pinterest of "how to get beachy waves!" or "super easy up-do!" (because I have no need to give myself waves when I have curls, and no up-do is easy for curly hair!). I do wish I could get out of the shower and not have to touch it; instead, I have to douse it with coconut oil to prevent it from drying like a brillo pad. I also wish I could have bangs; I tried doing this a year and a half ago and regretted it almost immediately.

    But, I now realize the benefits of it! Curly hair is less likely to have split ends (because we don't have to brush our hair… ever!). Curly hair has volume, even if it's actually thin – fake out! Curly hair is rare – only about 11% of people have natural curls! Wedding season is easy because curly hair stays curly on it's own, which is perfect for up-dos.

    Sometimes I still straighten my hair… maybe once every other month, at most… but now I'm not ashamed of its natural craziness. I just wish I came to my senses sooner!

    3 agree
  12. Oh god, THIIIIISSSS! This is the story of my life. I'm afro-latin with hair that is impressively fluffy, and as a kid my classmates liked to try to pull the "wig" off my head. What makes it worse is the fact that the TOP layer of may hair is completely straight, and sits on top of the rest of my curls like a blanket, covering up would could have been an awesome fro. I've learned to work with it over the years and have developed a certain amount of affection for my frizz, but…well, I still don't love it and wish that I could.

    1 agrees
  13. This all speaks to me so much. My nickname … which, really, I shouldn't call it a nickname because it's hateful … all through grade school was "Frizzo". And it hurt whether anyone knew that or not. And I cycled through every shampoo, conditioner, gel, hairspray, etc. possible to try to stop the frizz.

    Now, I'm old enough to know that I was a victim of no one knowing how to treat my hair, because no one had hair like mine. And, that's ok! My hair is awesome and unique just like everyone else's. I hope my daughter – whose curls are starting to peep out from her feathery baby hair – will love her curls all her life.

    4 agree
  14. I love my huge fluffy cloud of brown curls, but learning how to get the most out of it is an ongoing process, especially since it's low-porosity (one for all the curly-care geeks out there).

    It's interesting that the connection to race has come up. One of the reasons I like my hair is that while I am about the palest it's possible to be without being see-through, and therefore effectively white with all the advantages that brings in my part of the world, my heritage is very very mixed on both sides of my family and I feel (however correctly or otherwise) that my hair is a connection to my less recessive-gened ancestors. For someone with an unforthcoming and not very loving extended family that kind of anchor can be a comfort. That's just a personal thing though and I know it's a touchy subject, I'm not trying to stir.

    So choosing my words carefully… I don't know whether it's a result of that or of something else, but people putting pressure on others to wear their hair a certain way, especially straightening it, has always creeped me out a little. The way one wears ones hair can be an ethnic thing or a tribal thing… it can be very personal and tied intimately to ones identity, not to mention the fact that it's also a part of ones body and therefore is it anyone else's business? I don't know. People straightening their hair because they prefer it that way is one thing, but people acting like a curl is something to be hidden feels sinister to me. I had the same thing with skin colour; if other pale people want to tan because they feel it's right for them, great, but wanting to do it because being pale is "disgusting" (yes I have been told that) or something to be ashamed of is not something I'm ever going to be anything other than saddened and annoyed by. It's just that these physical characteristics are in our DNA, you know? I don't think anyone should be told that they need to cover up something that is woven into the very fabric of their being if they want to be considered acceptable.

    Sorry for getting all deep there, I often end up on that train of thought when I think about hair o_0.

    4 agree
    • I love what you said about the hair and skin color issues. I'm also see-through pale, and it took me over 20 years to finally accept that I will never be tan and to stop being offended when people call me "powder" or something. It's the skin I was born with and will always have. I also use that reply when people give me crap about my height, although usually in a more sarcastic manner (since people are always rude to me about how tall I am, lol)– "oh sorry, I grew to be 6'4" on purpose just so you couldn't see over me at this theater." *rolls eyes*

      3 agree
  15. Growing up, I wanted nothing more than to have curly hair! Haha. My husband has super curly hair, and I love it. I'm not-so-secretly hoping we have curly-headed children. I suppose this is one of those "the grass is always greener" situations. πŸ˜‰

    2 agree
  16. Add me to the list of "You too!??!" I swear my 10th grade photo is identical to the photo in the post. I have straightened it, permed it, used ethnic products, had egg and beer put in my hair thanks to my mom…you name it, it's been there.

    A few months ago, I went and had my hair chopped off to in between the bottom of my ears to my shoulders. I was growing it longer and longer hoping it would do the cascading curls and look beautiful. Instead it would go flat on top, with maybe 3 curls at the bottom, and the rest of it frizzy. I was keeping it pulled back almost all the time. When I cut it off, my curls sprang to life! I know it's a big no-no to cut curly hair short but it suits me. I have a spunky personality and love that I can shake it out and it gets wild looking but fun! I can wake up in the morning and if I don't have time to do anything with it, I can pin back a few pieces and call it "romantic mess" and no one will question it because it's curly hair.

    1 agrees
  17. I have always loved my curls but know so many people who spent so much energy fighting them. I even go to a curly hair specialist for my haircuts! She understands. She also uses the Deva Curl system, which I enjoy. I don't use all the products, but some.

    Embrace those curls! And reading "Curly Girl: The Handbook" can help too.

    I realize this comment sounds like an ad but I just really enjoy the movement to celebrate curls rather than fight them, and enjoy the resources that support it.

    1 agrees
  18. I've always liked my curly hair! I've only ever had it straightened a few times just for fun.

  19. I have really curly hair and I still haven't learned how to manage it. The only time I really feel good about the way my hair looks is when I take the 90 minutes and straighten it.

    I desperately want to embrace my curls, but it's always a disaster when I try.

    Any suggestions for hair products that I could try?

      • Aveda Be Curly shampoo and conditioner plus Matrix Flexible Fibers (the Be Curly leave-in leaves a weird sticky, coarse feeling and flexible fibers, while it adds some stiffness, does not).

        You could even throw in a little Aveda anti-frizz (not the oil but the thick lotion in the light blue bottle) after conditioning but before the Flexible Fibers.

        That'll do ya. That combo is pretty much the ONLY combination that can turn my Soccer Mom mop (puffy, not curly, frizzy, not straight) into something approaching romantic waves. So if you actually have curls they should bounce right up for you.

        2 agree
    • Oh – do I have a suggestion for you!

      http://www.beijaflornaturals.bigcartel.com/product/creme-brulee-for-kinks-curls-and-coils

      I once saw this product on Etsy and decided to try it, because I simply try EVERY product out there to tame my frizz and turn it into luscious curls. I don't want anything else now, even though I pay an enormous shipping amount because I live in The Netherlands (Europe).
      Just make sure you choose the unscented version. Unless you like to smell like candy for days.

      When I was about 10 years old, suddenly my bangs started to curl after they'd been trimmed, while the rest of my hair was straight. It looked strange.
      Then my parents made me cut off my hair, because we were going to a very warm country on vacation.
      I cried for days on end. I looked like a boy with unruly hair. It would not grow back like it used to, it grew outwards.
      When I was 13-14 in school I was nick-named The Toiletbrush. Nice.
      Well it took until I was 16 for it to finally weigh down . I have never cut it since (short, I mean). And even today people stop me in the street to ask me if my curls are real and how lovely my hair is. I only use a natural product to color it (real henna) and Aussie shampoo and conditioner. When it is nearly dry (leave it to dry naturally – never use a blow dryer) I scrunch in the cream from above link, and I am good to go. Until my next wash, I never comb or brush it. Just take to hair clamps, to avoid getting it in my face all day, and that's it. πŸ™‚
      I'd love to hear if you tried it!

  20. I have crazy frizzy wavy hair and I get it. It's better when it's longer and without layers, but that doesn't stop me from constantly trying to have layers anyway. Whenever I try to style my hair (for example, last night's attempt at one of those adorable messy top knots), I look like I get my hair inspiration from Helena Bonham Carter. Then I just text my mom "thanks for the hair" and get over it.

  21. i've always wished i had curly hair. my hair isn't exactly straight, but it's not quite wavy either…it has just enough natural movement to be completely annoying and not lay right no matter what i do with it. plus it's so fine and soft, pins don't want to stay in it, and curl or any other kind of styling doesn't really hold unless i put so much stuff in it that it doesn't feel like hair any more. i've taking to doing the inverted bob thing, blowing it out, and then straightening it to death, and maybe if i'm lucky it'll look good for half the day.

    the grass is always greener, i suppose.

    besides, i really don't see what's so bad about your school photo there. i really like it. it's exactly how i picture claire's hair in outlander. lol

    1 agrees
  22. Curly hair, curly thoughts. That's my motto. We curly people get the fun, unique and wild hair to match our equally special selves!

    4 agree
  23. I definitely had to LEARN how to take care of my curly hair! I actually never thought i had curly hair, just FRIZZY hair. Come to find out, once I stopped washing and brushing it every day, the frizz calmed down. Got the right haircut from the right hairdresser, oh lord, gorgeous curly hair. Total revelation.

    Now my daughter has pin straight hair, just like her dad's. I can cut it myself, at home, and I am not a hairstylist in the least–it basically just looks good no matter what you do to it. It never gets tangled. It just boggles my mind that some people have hair that easy, when mine has always been so difficult. Beautiful, absolutely, but difficult.

    2 agree
  24. Oh, Lordy, if I had a dollar for every time one of my curly haired friends told me they wanted my stick straight hair, I'd be able to pay off my student loans. I, of course, wanted their curls. Fun fact-straight hair can tangle too. It definitely took my mom an hour to brush through mine. I sympathize with the scalp pulling. I think the moral of the story is rock what you got. Glad you love your curls now. πŸ™‚

    2 agree
  25. Wow. Yes. This. I get asked if I'm Jewish. I get nods of sympathy. I get envy. But nobody understands the frizz and the awkward years between 7 and 22 when I had no idea how the hell to style my hair. I had so many frizzy buns, and each boyfriend would lament that I never wore my hair down, but HOW COULD I WEAR MY HAIR DOWN? It would look good for an hour while it dried and then drive me insane. It's super hot in the summer, completely messed up by hats and scarves in the winter. So it's always up.
    Until my fellow curly-haired friend cut it all off to just below my ears. Now I love it. I am at peace.

    2 agree
  26. Wow, thank you for the positive response! So many of you have mentioned that you suffered the same with your hair — and I'm so sorry to hear that. Straight or curly or somewhere in between, I think it's really about finding a stylist who understands your hair and who can make it the best it can be. And then loving it for what it can be at its best, and accepting it at its worst. It's very freeing.

    For curly hair, here's the routine that works for me. I use only sulfate-free and paraben-free shampoos and hair products. The Aveda Be Curly line is good. Post-shampoo, I wrap my curls in a microfiber towel for about 20 minutes, then finger twist some of the curls with product. Then I let it air dry. And that's it. As others have mentioned, never comb or brush curly hair accept the night before (or even right before) you wash it. Curls are really fragile.

    Finally, I didn't want my post to downplay the significance of having ethnic hair in America, but there was also no way I could do it justice and still make it flow with the (admittedly, very personal) story. It's also not my experience to tell. I think that talking about hair necessarily has to touch on this aspect, though. The personal is political with hair. We can all admit to each other that the "grass is greener," and while that's definitely true, leaving it at that does a disservice to the deeper implications of what it means to have ethnic hair in a culture dominated by straight European hair. There are a lot of great resources out there to learn more about this topic; one of my favorites is a blog called Racialicious.

    Thanks again for reading!

    4 agree
    • Thank you for writing this, and thinking about the ethical and political aspect of your curly hair experience. You did a great job (at least I think so!) of addressing your curly hair journey, without downplaying the thought process that perhaps drives public/societal views on curly/ethnic hair! As a brown girl that seriously has a debate on every 1st interview on if I should pull out a wig (because I'm hyper aware that there are a great number of people that find natural, ethnic hair "unprofessional," and as much as I'd love to defy that, a girl gotta eat), I feel a portion of your pain:) As a curious aside, I DO wonder if things for would be easier for curly haired…less pigmented???…gals if they would just wander over to the nearest ethnic hair section of their store- and I wonder if this doesn't happen from some sort of deeper issues (as in, what could a product for the "others" possibly do for me way, or in a those products aren't for "me" way) or if it generally never crosses their minds (which would also mean, I assume, living in an area that's not very diverse).

      4 agree
      • I LOVE the "Ethnic Hair Care" section! I grew up in a very small, very white midwestern town and was thrilled beyond all measure when I went away to college in a larger city and found those products. I mean, they were just THERE, SITTING ON THE GROCERY SHELF! Holy crap! πŸ™‚ It's like the best kept secret EVAR for curly headed white girls!

        3 agree
      • Thank you! And GREAT suggestion on using ethnic hair care products. For curly-haired people, these products can be a saving grace. They just tend to be tucked away on the drugstore shelf and not marketed like the Pantene shampoos of the world. : / And yeah, I think there's probably some degree of "those products aren't for me" thinking going on.

        I like to use the SheaMoisture line – http://www.sheamoisture.com. Great, natural products.

        I'm so, so sorry you have to sometimes cover up your natural hair for job interviews. Ridiculous, racist, horrible. We have such a long, long way to go.

        Thanks for reading and commenting.

        1 agrees
  27. I keep telling my husband that if something happens to me before I am able to teach our (unborn) daughter how to care for her hair, assuming she takes after me, that he absolutely MUST teach her himself. I refuse to let my child grow up with the same curly hair woes I did!

    1 agrees
  28. I'm a poker straight hair type, holds no curl and I have to keep it bleached to get any kind of texture or volume. When I was younger I had 'princess hair' which unfortunately just doesn't suit me.

    On the other end of the spectrum, my 2 y/o niece has beautiful curly hair. She is a gorgeous mixed race toddler and beyond only combing her hair wet, we have very little idea of what to do with it. It mattes very easily. Does anyone have any advice on how to help her hair tangle less, and keep it in good condition beyond baby shampoo?

    • My 15 month old daughter is mixed-race, and her hair is a perfect mix of my Irish waves and her father's black fro (when he doesn't shave it). Take this advice with a big grain of salt, because I've found that everyone's curls are different.

      My daughter gets a bath every night before bed, because of her eczema, but we DO NOT WASH her hair every day. We only wash it once a week.

      On the days we wash it, we use Weleda Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash. We've also tried California Baby shampoo. After rinsing the shampoo, we use Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk Conditioner, or Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner for Dry, Damaged Hair.

      Once the conditioner is in the hair, I comb out her curls, individually and VERY CAREFULLY, starting from the ends. I use a soft plastic baby comb that we got with a baby care kit. This gets any knots or tangles out. This takes a good 10 minutes. I then leave the conditioner to sit for 5 minutes before rinsing out.

      Once she's out of the tub, I pat her hair dry with a towel, just enough so she's not dripping all over the place. I then mix a little Jojoba Oil with Curls Unleashed Leave-in Conditioner in my palms, and work it into her curls. I do the same again in the morning.

      I really should have her sleep in a silk or satin cap, but she's teeny tiny and I haven't found any that fit. She's also a very active sleeper so I can imagine it wouldn't stay on for long.

      On most days, when we don't wash her hair, I still wet it, condition it, and comb it.

      Honestly, it took a lot of trial and error to figure out what worked for us. I spent a lot of time watching youtube videos, and there's a yahoo group I belong to called Adoptionhair & skin care – it was started by a bunch of white moms trying to figure out how to style their black children's hair, and I've learned a lot about hair styling from the posts. I can't wait until my daughter is old enough for yarn braids!

      2 agree
  29. I mix half Aveda "Be Curly" gel with half Giovanni "More body hair thickener volumizing" gel. It's perfection for my curls! Not too soft, not too sticky. The key for me is the mix.

    Also, I only wash it every 2 or 3 days. On days I don't wash, I use a water bottle to scrunch the curls back to life before I leave the house.

    My husband (straight hair) LOVES the curls!

  30. I hated my wavy curls growing up, and it's only in the last couple years (when I was in my 30s!) that I figured out how to manage them. The difficult thing is, curls are so unique, that what works for one curly head won't work for another. Thank god for the internet! I've spent a lot of time in youtube and naturallycurly.com and finally figured out what worked for me.

    I use Tresemme Keratin Smooth shampoo and conditioner. I comb out my hair while the conditioner is in it, rinse, and then wrap it in a towel. I don't rub or pat the hair, I just wear the towel for 10-15 minutes. Then I take the towel off, flip my hair upside down and spray it with Frizz-Ease Curl-Defining Spray Gel, and then spray it with coconut oil.

    That's it. I don't scrunch, I don't finger-comb, I don't use a diffuser, I basically don't do any of the things that work for other people. I just let it air dry and it's good to go.

    Unfortunately, I have to wash it every day – if I don't, the curls completely fuzz up, and no amount of water or product will bring them back.

    1 agrees
  31. It's funny because I was the girl with long blonde hair, always wishing my hair was brown and curly. I'm sure that had something to do with my mom's hair being brown and curly. Part of me wished I could be just like her. Another part of me just thought that long straight hair was plain and boring. I've come to accept my hair as it is. I dyed it for a long time, but I think it looks better on me as it was meant to be. Also, I'm too lazy to keep up with my roots. Blonde roots on dark hair look weird.

  32. My hair is curly. And frizzy. And also has weird straight strands. My mom spent years trying to tame my hair with every weird home and store bought treatment you could think of. My hairstylist has to warn the shampoo person to use a little extra because they only end up washing the outer layer because it's so thick.
    I shed hair like I'm trying to make a wig for someone. I will find literal hair tumbleweeds in my house, even though I sweep daily. I brush before I shower for five minutes because if I don't I have to unclog the drain.
    Took me 18 years to just call a truce with my hair and let her grow wild and free, but I don't regret it!

  33. My hair started to curl when I was 10 or 11 and hasn't been straight since. I spent years trying to fight it, straightening it with blow dryers and flat irons. It wasn't until my late 20's and working in a very demanding job that I realized I couldn't spend a ridiculous amount of time on my hair each day and needed to embrace the curls. And the odd time I would wear my hair naturally curly I would get compliments on it! It took awhile to find the right combination of products, but now I love my curls. They're so much easier to deal with than spending 40 minutes straightening every morning and then praying it won't rain or be too humid.

  34. Wow! I really believe I could have wrote this article myself πŸ™‚ I have extremely curly hair!!!!! I also grew up in my household with the only curly head of hair. My mother used to sponge roll my hair every night to keep my curls in more control. The result was me being called Shirley Temple or Nellie from Little House on the Prairie. Plus, it was uncomfortable to sleep in those darn things!!! Middle school years were my worst!! Caught in trying to grow up and keep up with popular hairstyles. This was impossible with my curly headed self!!!! I had not been introduced to gel, mousse, or a diffuser yet!! Probably by the very end of high school I started becoming more confident and accepting of my curls. I started experimenting more on my own to learn what worked. It used to take me forever to fix my hair and threw many of brushes!!! Now, I still have those days that I just know I'm having a curly haired mess day but I don't let it get me down!!! That's what a ponytail is for!!!! I always worried that guys would be turned off by my curly headed mess but one of the first questions my hubby asked about me when he was introduced for the first time was- Wow. Is her hair always that curly? She' beautiful. :)))

    1 agrees
  35. Huh… cultural difference… the only reason I ever hated my hair as a child was that randoms strangers would always touch it, completely unsolicited. I still can't stand people touching my hair. But I'd only ever ge told how beautiful it was.

    In my early teens it started going a bit fuzzy, and despite coming from a long line of european curlies my mother still had no idea what to do with it, but still the only people to comment on it was the resident bitch and school and my evil step-mother.

    Once I got a job and could buy decent shampoo, I pretty much got a handle on it and have loved it ever since.

    For those still struggeling I reccomend http://www.naturallycurly.com for advice and tips on identifying your hair-type and how to handle it, appropriate products and even stylist reviews if you're in the states πŸ™‚

    2 agree
  36. As I read this, it reminded me of my sister and myself growing up. We too put long blankets on our heads to pretend we had beautiful long hair, as we also grew up with short, curly hair. Not until right before high school we both grew it out and did the same thing- wearing it back all the time as we had no other way of managing it. It is nice to see that we were not the only ones that dealt with our hair in the same manner. We both love our curly hair now and style it in a way that makes us happy. Now my daughter is beginning to show signs of curls and I can't wait to help her embrace those curls!

  37. THIS IS WHAT I NEED IN MY LIFE! You know how there's all this body drama now? Curvy is beautiful and all that? I've taken a similar approach to hair recently. Straight is the hair equivalent of skinny. Media/society touts it as this awesome thing everyone should have and if you don't have it something is wrong and you aren't as beautiful as someone who does. I've had curly/wavy/frizzy hair my whole life. I spent so much of my life either straightening it or wearing it rolled, wrapped, tucked and out of sight. I'm on a mission to change how the world thinks about curly hair though. Curly is beautiful too. So thank you for this article. THANK YOU FOR CURLY HAIR! πŸ™‚

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