Learning to Love My Curls
Why I Used to Hate My Curls
I'm in my 30s and am blessed/cursed with curly ginger hair. When I was growing up, gingers used to get bullied, and I mean seriously bullied. Hair-pulling, name-calling, and chewing gum thrown at our heads was just the start of it. There were very few, if any, cool ginger people in the star-studded world of showbiz, and they all had long, sleek, straight hair. Needless to say, it did very little for the confidence of myself and my ilk: those of us who, in our hormone-fueled confusion over personal appearance and identity, thought that the only way to be considered pretty would be to look exactly like whatever TV or film star the cute boy in your PE class fancied. I hated being ginger, and I hated my curls. Even worse than being the owner of the least cool hair-style since the mullet, every time I set foot outside of the house, I had to contend with hoards of women aged 50 and older telling me how lucky I was to have my hair, and that there are many people who would pay a king's ransom for hair like mine. I would avoid old ladies (I was a kid, everyone over 25 seemed old to me) like the plague when I was out with my friends, but there would always be one that I didn't see in time, and they would grab my arm and complement me into submission while all of my friends looked on and giggled at my discomfort. As soon as I was able to save enough pocket money, I invested in a set of hair straighteners, and vowed to dye my hair the second I left home (mum being very much against hair dye, and 13-year-old me really enjoying having a roof over my head). Hair straighteners were a godsend, and, while I was still occasionally complimented on my colouring, I was able to live in a state of relative anonymity when it came to the Blue Rinse Brigade.
As I got older, I got less obsessive about using the hair straighteners, and would often just brush my hair straight(ish) after getting out of the shower. The up side of this was that it was quick and easy, the down side of this was that I usually looked like my head was in the process of exploding. When I needed to look less like a bush and more like a human being, I would either brush my hair and tie it up, or use the hairdryer with the directional nozzle to keep the frizz down, which usually worked until I set foot outside, when the humidity would undo most of my efforts. My go-to style became a ponytail, and I dreaded having to wear my hair down. Being the mum of an autistic child, I simply didn't have the time to spend an hour on my hair every morning, and so up in the ponytail it would go.
The Moment I Changed My Mind
I remember when I decided that I missed my curls. It was five years ago, and a new colleague had just started at work. Her long, dark hair was gloriously curly, and I was immediately envious. It turns out that it was a perm. I kept looking at it, and thinking of my own, unruly curls that never looked anything like the neat spirals that hers managed, and I spent the next few years thinking about getting a perm to allow me to wear my hair down and curly while looking good, but I simply couldn't justify the expense, and so I continued on with my usual hair routine, but her hair, shiny, curly, and perfect, was never far from my thoughts as I tackled the crows nest.
A Little Research Goes A Long Way
About six months ago, I decided to research curly hair maintenance. With my mother not being particularly girly, I had never really been given any instruction on how to do my hair and makeup when I was young, and, because of this, my knowledge of beauty regimes was very, very limited. I had never thought to do much about this, as I wasn't too fussed about the correct way to apply false eyelashes or how to contour with foundation. I could apply makeup and not look like a half-melted clown, which is more than I can say for some people, but I had no idea how to manage my hair, so to the internet I went! It turns out that the best way to deal with curly hair is to neglect it. Well, compared to how much effort I had to put into taming the mane beforehand, making my natural curls look good takes a lot less effort than it used to!
#1 Brushes Are BAD
I used to brush my hair religiously. Whenever it felt like my mop was getting tangled, I would whip out a brush and go at it until it relented. Since my manic searching for curly-hair tips and tricks, I haven't brushed it once. That's right, I put down the brush and moved to a tangle comb, instead. A brush will seperate every strand of hair, and, while that's fine for smooth, straight hair, all it does to curly hair is make it look like someone has tasered you.
#2 Touch It At Your Peril
If curly hair was a person, it would be the antisocial guy in the corner of every office party that has ever occurred. It doesn't like brushes, and it doesn't like being touched. Ever. Seriously, give your hair some personal space, otherwise it'll have some sort of breakdown and will explode on you. If you absolutely have to touch your hair, rub some oil on your hands, turn your head upside down, and scrunch upwards. As this isn't likely to get the hair out of your eyes for more than a few seconds, you'll soon get into the habit of leaving your hair alone to do it's own thing.
#3 To Wash or Not to Wash
This confused me when I first started looking at how to deal with my hair. I've never been someone who has washed their hair every day, but I've read some guides that tell you to never wash your hair! Eww! What about after the gym? Or when you've been swimming and you head smells like chlorine? What about when you've been unwell, and spent a few days sweating out a fever?
I spent some time trying the 'no washing' method, and I found it didn't work for me. I kept it up for a couple of weeks, but couldn't manage it any longer than that. Yes, I am aware that it takes longer than a few weeks to start getting any benefits from not washing your hair, but I simply couldn't keep it up, and I know that I'm not the only one. Instead, I have found that washing my hair only once a week works well. This doesn't mean that I never get my hair wet the rest of the time, as I will rinse my hair off in the shower every other day, but it does mean that I'm not stripping my hair of the natural oils that help keep it healthy and shiny.
#4 Use a Mask
Hair masks. These have been one of the most amazing things that I've added to my hair care routine. I pretty much always ignore the directions, mind you. I've found that putting a mask on my hair when I'm in the bath one evening a week, going to bed with the mask still in, and rinsing it off in the morning gives the best results. Honestly, doing it this way makes my hair feel like spun silk, and I love it. There are some amazing store-brought masks out there, or you can make your own with coconut oil, shea butter, and honey. Pop on a cap, let the steam from the bath do it's thing, and keep the cap on while you sleep in it to avoid ruining a pillow (you may want to lay a microfibre towel over your pillow to be doubly sure). Rinse it off with cool water the next day, wash and condition as usual, and you'll have gorgeous hair for days.
#5 Scrunch It Up
Use a cotton shirt or microfibre towel to dry your hair, turning your head upside down and scrunching up towards the scalp to get the best results. Make sure to style with mousse or creme for curly hair, and a little blob of oil for excellent hold and shine. Let your hair dry naturally, or use a diffuser (heat styling product is essential if you do this) and then leave it alone!
There are so many products on the market for curly hair now. The best ones are light, and sulfate-free. Lots of hair care companies use things like sulfates and even silicone to make your hair look shiny, but these do nothing for curly hair, and will even weigh the hair down, causing the luscious curls to become straighter as the day wears on. Try to use products that are specifically designed for curly hair, such as the Shea Moisture Curl and Shine range, so that your hair isn't burdened with unnecessary junk.
When it comes to styling, a good, soft-hold mousse and high-quality hair oil is honestly all you need. Some people like creme, but I find that the mousse/oil combo works better for my hair, holding in the curl without allowing it to dry out the ends or looking crispy. Experiment, and find the right products for your hair.
#7 Wake Up Call
There's nothing worse for a curly-haired girl then waking up the morning after a really good hair day, only for the curl to be flat, lifeless, and frizzy. Luckily, there are a few techniques that can help with this, from pineappling your hair before bed to spritzing with water to revive those tired ringlets. I use a combination of pineappling and a satin-lined cap when I sleep, followed by a quick spritz-and-scrunch in the morning, but I've found that this doesn't work for more than a day or two. Instead, I have to give a my hair a thorough squirting with water on the third day (upside down, of course), then oil and scrunch as normal.