Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Confessions of a Curly Girl

I am a curly girl.

Having curly hair is probably the most distinctive thing about me. Like, if someone were to describe me from afar, that’s probably the first thing they’d say, “That doctor with the curly hair.” (Or they might say “the skinny doctor” but I know that would offend some of you.)

I always hated having curly hair. When I was a little girl, I had blond curls, and I wished I had straight brown hair like my best friend. My mother says I used to stand in front of the mirror, staring at my tight ringlets, saying, “I think it’s getting straighter.” It wasn’t.

Actually, things were fine when I had that great baby-fine hair. But as soon as I got to pre-adolescence and my hair took on a normal texture, it became uncontrollable. Sort of like this:


And the really rough part is that I inherited the curls from my father, who just cut his hair short and had no idea how to control them. And if you’re an eight year old girl with wild, curly hair, all any adult wants to do is brush it out. But that just makes the situation worse. Like this:


Rule #1 of curly hair:

Do not brush it.

By the time I was ten, I gave up on my hair. I was sick of the tangles, getting teased, and generally just being embarrassed by my curls. So I started just wearing my hair in a braid.

Every time I went to get my hair cut, I’d ask the salon if they had any tips for curly hair. They’d always sell me some expensive product that didn’t work. It’s like nobody actually has any idea how to deal with curly hair. I mean, there are only two kinds of hair: curly or straight, so it seems like if your job is hair, you ought to know this. That’s like, being a general practitioner and not knowing how to treat, like, women.

When I got to high school, I was still wearing my hair up all the time. Except I looked really young already so wearing my hair in braids wasn’t doing me any favors. Finally, when I was 15, I hacked it all off, short enough that I couldn’t physically pull it back anymore.

This started an era of trying a wide range of products to control my hair. I usually used gel, but that was no good—I needed too much of it and it made my hair crunchy. That was my biggest problem, that my hair was so thick, any product often wasn’t enough. A pea sized amount? No way. And putting a bunch of sticky gel in my hair meant that I couldn’t follow Rule #2 of curly hair:

You can’t wash your hair every day.

By the end of college, I had sort of figured things out. I still hated my hair, but oddly enough, I used to get constant compliments about it. At least a few times a week, some complete stranger would tell me they liked my hair. That wasn’t what I wanted though—I just wanted to get control over my hair so that I could blend in.

I found a book called Curly Girl: The Handbook which was technically an advice book but just as much a support book. The women pictured in the book look really great, but then again, they’re models and actresses who have probably had their hair professionally done. It teaches you to identify your curl type and teaches you never, ever to shampoo your hair. Instead, you’re supposed to use something called “no-poo”. You can’t make this stuff up.

Ultimately, as a mother of two kids, I don’t have time to spend hours making my hair look awesome. I have a very short, layered cut, and I’m mostly focused on not letting my hair get too wild. I just use Frizz-Ease mousse, adjust a few curls manually, and I’m usually good to go. Or good enough. Like this:


(Actually, I don't think I've ever had a hair day quite that good.)

I don't usually get compliments anymore, but that's fine. Better than fine.

There are times when I’ve been tempted to try straightening it, just to see what would happen. But I can’t do it to my kids. My children love my curly hair in ways that I never could. My older daughter is constantly talking about “mama’s curly hair.” And every night before bed, she has to touch it. Literally. She runs out of her bedroom, comes to me and strokes my hair for a minute, then runs back to bed.

So I guess I’m stuck as a curly girl.

25 comments:

  1. I have really straight hair and always wanted curly hair because I think red curls are just awesome, but I never could get my hair to hold a curl for any length of time. Seems like everyone has some complaint about their hair.

    As for curliness, a few of my friends have hair like you describe yours, super thick and ceaselessly curly. One of them tried this Mixed Chicks shampoo and conditioner, recommended it to the others, and after seeing the results, I've started recommending it to people because they all have really amazing looking hair with that stuff.

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  2. Curly hair used to be really fashionable. Don't you remember Andie MacDowell? Now it seems like everyone straightens.

    My best friend in HS had curly hair too, and it took her until college to figure out how to manage it. It looks pretty now though. And it is true -- why do other people think that brushing curly hair is the way to fix it?

    I get comments on my white hair all the time. Two weeks ago some woman told me that I should color it because it makes me look like I am 50. I almost told her that it must have been her glowing personality that had led her husband to divorce her, but I restrained myself.

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    1. LOL! I think you should have said that! People who have no filter deserve to be told off!

      Has your hair always been white or did it change over time? Apparently my grandmother had white hair growing up (so my mom says, by the time there were color photos of her, it was already grey). When she "went grey" it mostly changed the texture of her hair but wasn't that much of a different color, maybe even a little darker.

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    2. I hate the 80s curls though. It's more of a frizz-curl. Although I do think my hair sometimes looks like an 80s Jennifer Gray.

      Oddly enough, people don't tend to give me advice about my hair in real life. I have no idea why.

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  3. I have two daughters: The eldest has cowlicks in her brown straight hair and the younger had wild blonde curls. The blonde one had no hair until she was about 2 and they the curls started. Once, when the girls were about two and four, they were playing and it became very quiet. That kind of quiet that every mother knows cannot be good. They were sitting under the table and the 4-year-old was cutting off everyone of her sister's curls.

    I found that the only way to deal when she was young was to wash it and put conditioner in, and then comb it with a wide-toothed comb while the conditioner was still in. Rinse and let it go. Brushes and dryers were not in the equation. She now spends lots of $$$ getting her hair professionally treated with some sort of tamer and straightened in a 4-hour process. Tricia

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  4. As a male with curly hair, I can relate, I went about 20 years with a buzz cut. I have found someone that knows how to cut curly hair. I can tell you using the right product helps, but finding someone that knows what they are doing when cutting your hair is more important. If you ever make it to north Florida I can give you her name and number




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  5. Ooh a fellow curly girl! I discovered that book about 6 years ago. I've gotten a 'curly girl cut' at approved salons that the book website mentions - naturallycurly.com I think? They have all been great and I also use Deva Curl products and they have really helped! I just put some deep conditioner and gel on it, and voila, the next morning even after sleeping on it it looks awesome! Occasionally it looks close to the bottom picture. I don't do anything else, and do not own a brush, comb, or straightener! I have grown to love my curls and I hope you will too. Love your blog by the way, I'm a medical student.

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    1. How can you have great curls after sleeping on it?? My hair is everywhere in the morning!

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    2. I don't know! I do sleep on my stomach and I don't think I move at all. The gel just makes them crunchy and I fluff it out in the morning.

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  6. My hair varied in curliness through my adolescence but seems to have settled into a consistent curl now. Having a stylist who knows how to cut curly hair makes a big difference and also having the right conditioner & hair goo has helped. I use Curls Rock on a daiy basis cuz it isn't so crunchy that I need to wash it out but I also have a crunchier goo combination that I use for nights out and fancy stuff. I hadn't heard of that book but it sounds like something that would have been useful when I was learning to have curly hair. My mom had curly hair but she always had it super short so she was no help (oddly enough, my hair is frizzy and wavy when short but not curly. it needs to be nearly to my shoulders in order to curl).

    My kids both have straight hair and it has been a bit of a challenge to help my tween daughter manage her hair. My best friend came to visit for my birthday and gave us all a lesson on blowing out straigh hair and my daughter let her clip her hair back from her face, something I've never been able to convince her to do. My friend is the mom of 3 boys so she had fun playing beauty parlor and my daughter & I learned a lot about straight hair care!

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  7. There's actually three types of hair... mine falls into that third category - Wavy. It's not perfectly straight, and it's not curly, but it barely holds a curl with the curling iron (though I think it's getting better, since I managed to get it to hold for a little while for Halloween). It frizzes up horribly in humid weather (thus the South is not my friend). I like it for a short period of time in between washings, but then it either gets super frizzy or very limp.

    As someone above said... we all have our complaints about our hair.

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  8. I have straight, Asian hair that doesn't really hold curls or any other style. I never really cared about it growing up (much to her disappointment). But my mother really wanted me to have curly hair. Enough that she made me get a perm in 4th grade. The first one didn't set (my hair was trying to tell me something)so I got another one. It was TERRIBLE. I looked like a combination of an afro and a poodle with dry hair. It was pretty much impossible to manage. I definitely feel for you with curly hair. My friend has curly hair and she hates it (and straightens it) but I think it looks great if she wears it natural.
    Anyway to moral of this story is that Asians should not get perms.

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  9. Try the WEN (online) yeah from the late nite tv commercials really does help!

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  10. I have straight hair that doesn't need brushing, but when I do brush it it's even nicer. But yeah I don't know what you're talking about.

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  11. I think your hair looks beautiful.

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  12. Yeah, I just tie mine up too. I get sick of dealing with it and use goody clips to hold the horrific frizzy fly-aways and just tie the rest back.

    I did one of those Brazilian Blow-outs once and it was bliss. My hair stayed straight for 2 months of happiness. Alas, it was expensive and takes too long to do, so I've never repeated it. It was awesome while it lasted though...waking up, brush brush, perfect hair. Sigh.

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  13. I have two girls (ages 14 and 10) who got my husbands curly haired gene. It took me years to find and use Curly girl for them. When I ordered the book my husband was confused. "I never had a problem!" Shut it husband-you shave.your.head (military). I had some hair loss a few years ago and the stuff that grew back? Curly! After having stick straight hair for my entire life this was new, interesting and exciting-for about six months. Yay for curly girl!

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    1. I know several straight-haired women who lost their hair during chemotherapy and when it grew back, it was curly! I wonder what that's all about. Fizzy - any ideas?

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  14. I'm a curly girl. I never ever wash my hair, though I rinse and condition it every day. I never brush it. I use creams instead of gels. And my hair is now my pride and joy. I highly recommend naturallycurly.com .
    But when I was young, my mom used to brush it, it was awful, and she still insists that I don't have curly hair.

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    1. How can your mother insist that you don't have curly hair? I would think it would be pretty obvious that you have curly hair. Kind of like how no one can say that my dark hair is blonde.

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    2. She thinks if I just brush it it will be straight. Or straighter.
      As a mom, I am starting to understand how deep denial can be!

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    3. my niece has straight as a board hair. Her brother has ringlets. My sister swears that my nieces hair is starting to wave or curl all the time.... its not. :)

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  15. I never wash my curly hair or put any silicone products in it. I follow this process exactly! http://www.wikihow.com/Follow-the-Curly-Girl-Method-for-Curly-Hair

    I used Wen for years and spent a fortune on it. Now I use Suave and it works just as well. http://healthycurls.net/product-lists/silicone-free-conditioners/

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  16. I highly recommend Chris Rock's documentary/comedy "Good Hair." I didn't know the half of what it takes to manage curly hair! It's well worth a watch.

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