I read something in a magazine a few weeks ago that made me think about my curly hair… The magazine in question (I won’t name and shame, though if I’ve spoken to you about it, you know which one I mean) was writing an article about curly hair and posed the question about how to make naturally curly hair look good. The response? Essentially that the only way to have nice curly hair that behaves is to blow dry and straighten it before using rollers to add curls. I was outraged, personally affronted and so frustrated that a magazine would post something like that. Then I thought, wouldn’t be better if, instead of getting angry, I use my voice? So here it is. My Curl Diaries. I’ve learned a lot about curly hair over the years, but the most important thing I learned? To love them.
I used to straighten my hair a lot. I mean a lot.
Every 2 or 3 months, I would whip out the blow dryer and the flat iron and blow out my curls. I’d walk around with straight hair like I was in a Vidal Sassoon commercial.
When I would go for a haircut, I would always have my hair blown out first.
Not necessarily by choice, but most hairdressers found it easier to deal with my hair when it was straight as opposed to curly.
For a long period of time, I felt prettier with straight hair…
People would always comment on how great my hair looked when I’d had it blown out, or straightened it myself. Either they told me I looked gorgeous, or asked if I’d gotten a weave…
When I was younger, my mother used to put my hair in rollers so I could have pretty hair for school picture day. I’d sleep with a pillow under my neck while my hair dried in rollers, and in the morning I’d have nice bouncy smooth curls. Big moments in my life warranted straight hair. I felt more in control of my hair when it was straight.
Then one particularly freezing winter, I think it was 2011, I couldn’t be bothered with the headache of going outside with wet hair.
It takes ages to dry, and if I went out with wet hair, it usually meant getting icicles.
I could never find hats big enough to cover all my hair, and it would mean putting it under a hat and then styling it when I got to where I was going, and it would be a frizzy mess by then.
In my mind, it would be much easier to just straighten my hair… So I did. For about six weeks I had straight hair, washing and re-straightening it regularly, as well as flat-ironing it between washes as well…
All the constant heat destroyed my curl pattern… utterly obliterated it.
I remember getting out of the shower with freshly washed hair, and catching my reflection in the mirror. My hair was limp and clumpy and looked so strange. I thought maybe it would be better when it dried, but it wasn’t.
My curls were gone.
Instead, I was left with limp and weirdly wavy hair that stayed straight at the ends.
I’ve never felt so ugly as I did then.
I cried about it for a few days; felt sad about for even longer; and was devastated that I could do something so horrible to myself…
It took the better part of a year and a half to grow my hair out to a place where I could cut off the ruined hair…
… and even longer to grow it out to a length that I felt good in. It was like growing out a straightening treatment or a perm. Sometimes I’d get really frustrated with my hair again and straighten it, thinking I couldn’t do any further damage. I definitely felt prettier with straight hair at that point.
When I did finally cut my hair (I say finally, but I was so impatient for it to grow that I just went ahead and cut it all off) it was so short, I was torn between being happy to have my curls back, and still feeling ugly with such short hair.
Picky, picky, you might say, but my hair and I were going through a particularly difficult patch.
By the end 2012, I was feeling happier about my curls and the length of my hair, but it was still not what it used to be. but they still weren’t the same.
I had stopped straightening my hair by that point, so my hair was in decent condition.
I kept getting haircuts though, because the ends of my hair were destroyed and damaged.
It wasn’t until sometimes after August of 2013 that I stopped cutting my hair and just let it grow.
It was much healthier and was actually growing, and as curly as it used to be. I ditched the straighteners too, for the most part.
When I still had red hair, I would straighten it when it was freshly dyed, but only for 2 or 3 days and I’d try not to use my straighteners at any other time.
The only reason I did that was to resist the urge to wash my hair too soon and it helped the color last a bit longer…
These days though, I don’t own a straightener or a blowdryer and I’m much happier for it.
My hair is much happier for it. My curls are a thing of pride, an integral part of my personality and my sense of beauty. I had no idea that destroying them would lead me on a path of self-discovery and appreciation for my hair but that’s exactly what happened. My curls are beautiful and wild and frizzy and frustrating and liberating. My curls are so many things… but mostly, my curls are me.