I dreamed for years of trendy hair. You know, the hair that is straight and flowing. Hair that I could run my fingers through and toss around. Hair with bouncy waves that flowed down my back and swayed when I moved.
But that wasn’t my reality.
My hair was the messy tight curls that allowed zero fingers to run through them without creating a snarled mess of frizz.
I loathed my curly hair.
I spent hundred of dollars on straighteners and hundreds of hours straightening my hair each morning.
I felt trapped in my hair. Even after straightening it didn’t look great because that wasn’t how my hairy naturally wanted to be. And having tight curls wasn’t the trending style of beauty.
So here I was, feeling very much not like myself. Stuck in the in-between of trying to fit in while my natural hair was begging to stand out.
Until one day I finally said, “I’m done with it.”
God gave me curly hair for a reason and instead of backing away from it, I’m decided to lean in. I want to be 100% ME in every way, and that meant letting my curls free.
My Year of No Straightening Iron
I made the commitment to put my straightener in a drawer and not pull it out for a full year.
I knew my curls were damaged from all the heat and tugging. And I would need this amount of time for my curls go back to a nice state. I was willing to go through a rough transition period to get back to my true style.
Here are some helpful tips and tricks I learned in my journey to embracing my natural curls.
Journey to Curls Part 1: Getting Started
Find a stylist who knows how to cut curly hair.
There is a special curly cutting method called the DevaCut. A stylist cuts your hair when it is dry. Dry cutting allows your curl “families” to stay together with each cut. Then, your hair has a more natural layered shape rather than turning your hair into that dreaded frizzy pyramid.
Please know, the right haircut with a good stylist is important, but it won’t be the easy answer to getting perfect curls. Good curl cutting stylists are amazing, but know they they are just one piece of a curly hair journey.
Commit to the process long-term.
If you have been straightening your hair for a long time, it will take a while for your curls to retrain themselves to their original curls matrix. Know that you WILL go through a few months of struggle, frizz, and hair frustration.
Keep fighting the urge to straighten! Your curls are working their way back to their natural state. It will come.
Shampoo hair less.
Curly hair often tends to be dry and fragile, so keeping your scalp oils in tact will help. I aim for two washes per week.
As far as products to use? Experiment. Everyone’s hair is different so try a few things. For me, finding a good moisturizing conditioner helped. But mostly, a journey to good curls is less about product and more about process.
Journey to Curls Part 2: Styling
I’m nearly 40 years old and until four years ago I had no idea how to style curly hair. No one taught me because no one else knew either! The last few years there has been a lot more resources available on how to actually make your curly hair work for you.
Begin styling your hair when it is dripping wet.
Don’t towel dry your hair after your shower. Simply squeeze out excess water. Applying styling gel or cream to really wet hair cuts down on frizz and keeps your curl families together. I even keep my gel in the shower and apply before I exit.
Apply your styling product using the “prayer hands” method.
Rub product on both hands, tilt head to the side, then press hair between your two flat hands (like you are praying) then slide your prayer hands all the way along the length of your hair. Again, this keeps curl families together and avoids creating hundreds of individual strands all drying separately minimizing fluff and frizz.
Let hair air dry.
This gives your curls the opportunity to begin to form on their own. If you have time, I encourage letting hair fully air dry. If you are in a time crunch, use a diffuser.
I rock a little Weird Al Yankovic vibe for a bit. haha!
Use a diffuser.
Again, compared to regular blow drying, a diffuser attachment cuts down on frizz and keeps curl families intact. Flip your head over if you want more volume, start diffuser at hair tips and bring it up toward your scalp. Turn on the hair dryer then hold in that spot for 30-60 seconds. Then repeat in another spot on your head.
Continue to do this until hair is about 80% dry. Then let the last 20% air dry. If you haven’t caught the theme yet… this cuts down on frizz.
Once dry, gently tousle hair with finger tips.
Tousling separates some of the larger curl rings and creates more volume.
Make small adjustments.
You can re-coil a funky curl with your fingertips, or add a bit more gel to tame down a wayward curl here or there.
Journey to Curls Part 3: Long-Term Care
Second-day curls can sometimes be better than first-day curls.
Spritz hair with a spray bottle to rewet, apply a bit more product using prayer hands (helping curl families reform), and then air dry.
Sleep on a silk pillow case.
I’ll say it for the hundredth time… this lessens frizz.
Everyone’s curls are different. Your curls were designed in a pattern unique to you. So don’t look at the Instagram influencer and work to get your curls like hers. It won’t work! Your curls are YOUR CURLS! So keep practicing on them and paying attention to how they want to go. What is working for them, how they are adapting, and embrace it.
The longer you avoid straightening and the more you use the curly hair styling method, the better your curls will get. It takes time, like months and months of consistent care, but it is worth it.
For the decade I spent straightening my hair, I don’t remember getting one single compliment on it. But now, nearly every time I go out and about, someone oohs and awes over my hair.
Do I still wish I could run my fingers through my locks? Or pull it into a messy bun and look perfectly posh?
I’ll always gaze longingly at the women whose smooth, shiny waves flow gracefully around them. But now when I come back to my own reflection, I always smile. I am grateful to have the hair that truly represents me.