Sunday, March 4, 2012

Curly Girl

When I was a freshman in college, a friend and I went to an event for single girls at the Bliss in midtown Manhattan on Valentine's Day.  We were excited about the complimentary champagne, brownies, eyebrow waxes, and hand massages.  Unbeknownst to us - because we didn't read the rest of the event information - there was another treat in store for us: a high-end matchmaker who had recently written a best-selling book on dating and who was there to share her wisdom.

Some of what this woman said was decent advice; basically, she encouraged us to be more proactive about meeting men.  But the overwhelming thing I remember about the night was this: when a girl with beautiful curls asked a question about first date etiquette, the matchmaker told her that, above anything else she might do to prepare for a first date, she should straighten her hair.  Men, the yenta said, like running their hands through a woman's hair, and curls get in the way of their fantasy.

I'm sorry, what?  Are you kidding me?  I tuned out the rest of the q&a session as soon as I heard this [expletive].  Sure, men are tactile beings and a woman's hair can be a sign of femininity, but if a guy is going to like me, he's going to like me for being the whole package - and that includes my curly hair.

However, it's easy to emotionally embrace having curly hair.  Logistically, curly hair is very difficult to manage.  It never dries the same way twice, and certainly never maintains its form throughout the day.  It's such a handful to deal with that even celebrities with curly hair have their locks professionally curled for events to ensure consistency.  I know this because I once took my stylist a few photos of Amy Brenneman, whose hair I adore, and he told me that there was no way her look was totally natural even if she actually did have curly hair.

I wasn't brave enough to wear my hair down and curly until college.  It didn't used to be curly - it was full and wavy when I was a child but freaked out when I hit puberty - and I didn't know how to handle it until I was about 18.  It took at least an hour, assuming I had the patience to finish the job, to straighten it myself, and so for most of my life I wore my hair up or paid for blow-dries.  In college, I had the time and inclination to start messing around with products, and spent a few years experimenting with what my hair could do.

        2004                                              2006                                              2008

Once I started playing with it, I loved my curly hair.  I still splurged on blow-outs for special occasions, but I enjoyed the feeling that wearing my hair down and curly gave me - I felt a bit more spontaneous, a bit more fun, a bit more free.  I'm so enthusiastic about embracing my natural curl, in fact, that now that I'm comfortable with it I've cut right down on the products I use and I almost always just air-dry.  I definitely endorse the brands I use, but the one thing I've learned about having curly hair is this: it's unpredictable.  What works one day might not work the next, and it's even more of a crap shoot when you throw English weather into the equation!

The main point to remember with curly hair is to not over-shampoo it.  At the most, you can use shampoo every other day, but my stylist recommended I only use it once a week because it dries out my hair so much.  (Don't worry, apparently shampoo isn't strictly necessary to keep your hair clean; unless you've been playing in the mud, just water will wash out most of the day's grime.)  A good conditioner with serious moisturizing power is key, and you should add something strengthening twice a month.  I'm a firm believer in spending drug-store prices where possible and so use head&shoulders, Pantene, and Dove:

To be honest, since I had the accident with styling product a few months ago, I've mostly been going without using anything additional on my hair because I'm scared that the chemicals will migrate to my eyes - I just wash, gently scrunch dry with a towel, and go.  But when I do use product, I either go for Frederick Fekkai's anti-friz glossing cream or Frizz Ease's curl-enhancing mousse - and then I throw in a lot of bobby pins, too!

How about you, curly girls?  Love your hair or hate it?  What do you use to manage the curls?


  1. I love curly hair so much and wish I had it! My daughters hair is starting to curl and I am so excited :) that woman was crazy!

  2. Thanks for your tips, especially with products I can get around here being as living here in England this weather doesn't suit my curls and I don't know what products to try out on my hair.
    When I was a toddler I had straight hair. When I got to elementary school my hair turned wavy and thick and crazy lol that I wore my hair up pretty much every day. When I got to high school I actually curled my hair everyday and let it go down and I liked it for the most part and then midway through HS I straightened it alot and I've pretty much straightened my hair since then. Not sure if there are any pics of me on my blog with my curls but my hair is really thick and whenever I curl it lately it gets all puffy and horrible but occasionally it turns out okay I've learned to let it air dry living here and it does make my curls a bit better..I'm gonna try out some of the things you use and see what helps. Straightening takes forever and I would like to have curly hair more often.

  3. I love your curly hair! I need to start experimenting with letting mine go curly. But I haven't found the best way to manage mine. My hair is fine & thin with just a little curl. I'm going to try the mousse you've suggested. It will be so much better than spending the time to straighten it.

  4. The comment that the "dating guru" made makes me furious. I started wearing my hair curly when I moved to NYC but here I haven't found the right concoction to make my mane curly and looking good. I use a lot of Aveda products when embracing my curls...and a lot of bobby pin.

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  6. I'm the same as Kay - my childhood photos are all of me with pin-straight hair that then got puffy during the middle-school years. I kept it cropped short through most of high-school (it was so riot grrl!) and then at college I started religiously straightening it every day. It was only until I was living in NYC for the second time that my stylist was like, GF you got curly hair - and I never looked back. I had a crisis of confidence with my curls last year and am just now getting them back to their full potential but have been using a sea salt spray and curl cream from an Italian organic hair product company called Davines for about a month and am loving the results. I also love TreSemme Naturals for the every other day wash.

  7. I gasped when I read that that matchmaker said! FOR SHAME! Moving on.

    My sister has very similar hair to you and had the same relationship you do. Even now, she only brushes it in the shower and never uses conditioner (she lives in SF, where it's moist most of the year, so it was kind of shock when she came back to LA a few weeks ago and her hair just 'fro'd out. You have to use conditioner here, or else you'll look like you stuck your finger in a socket)


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