“What curly hair. You’re a lucky girl.”
They couldn’t help themselves. Everyone who saw my curly hair felt the need to comment, touch or offer sage advice. How could they possibly understand that I hated it? I didn’t want to be noticed or remarked upon. My shy nature dictated that I stay in the background, a mere shadow on the fringe of everything. How could they possibly understand that every day was a ‘bad hair day’ and nothing I tried would ever make it otherwise?
Every birthday when I blew out my candles I wished for long, floppy hair. It seemed like such a little thing to ask and yet God wouldn’t play ball. He liked my curls. He wanted to me to live in harmony with them. Instead, my matted rats’ nest earned me nicknames such as Brillo pad, Candy floss and Fuzzball. My straight haired mother did her very best, but couldn’t know how much I envied her long brunette locks or my sister’s blonde tresses. I inherited my father’s coils. They looked cute on him.
“People pay good money for curly hair like that.”
One of my most traumatic childhood memories involves a hairdressing salon in West Germany. It’s the reason I’ve cut my own hair for years. I’m not sure why a hairdresser would take the advice of a seven year old with regards to ‘how much’ but I sincerely believed she could make my curly issue better. She all but scalped me and I remember the tears. Mine, not hers. I think we were thrown out of the shop and my poor mother charged double for the ruckus I caused.
From that day until aged sixteen my mother cut my hair off at my direction. I mean right off. An inch all over apart from a thin fringe, I spent my teenage years with no curls. Not a single one. It earned me other nicknames, but none of them involved frizz. I could live with that. Tricks and tips for getting by included wearing a woolen hat to bed, a riding helmet to breakfast and accepting the fact that my hair would never look nice.
“Don’t touch it.”
In my twenties, my sister cut my curly hair for me and shortened the top layers. Under her careful ministrations over a few years, I achieved some length at the back and controllable curl on top. She isn’t a hairdresser, just one of those annoying people who can do most things. She advised me to wet my hair in the shower every morning and leave some conditioner in. Without realising, she had headed me down the Curly Girl path for part of the way. It would take many years to find the rest of those elusive road markers, but it gave me a start.
Battling frizz became a way of life. My life. I figured it was my punishment for something. When I read about St Paul having a secret and embarrassing ailment, I figured it was curly hair with a tendency to frizz. Believe me, there were days when I’d happily sit in a darkened cell without visitors. Strangers touch curly hair. Why do they do that? It’s like an instant trip switch for me and guaranteed to make them my enemy. Luckily my family knew better. Just as well.
“Nail it shut!”
My family know that when I die, my casket must remain sealed. Nobody else will ever achieve any level of decency with my hair. The rats’ nest will remain private in its last resting place. It’s my only request. “Look after your father. Nail the lid shut.”
My thirties saw the emergence of straighteners. I bought a pair and expected they’d change my life. They didn’t. Instead of battling frizz, I fought poof. Rain, humidity, wind and sweat became my constant enemy. Added to life in general. I straightened every day and couldn’t get near the roots without burning my scalp. My bedroom smelled of singeing hair and maintaining the straight haired facade grew too hard. Eventually I ruined my hair. The result? Straight frizz. Rocking the Suzi Quatro look.
Along the way I birthed a wavy girl, a girl curlier than me, an auburn curly girl and a curly boy. I watched the curly ones go through the same agonies and despaired. Straighteners. Tying it so far back their eyes became permanent slits. Hats. Or in the case of my curly boy, skinhead haircuts.
I think if there were support meetings for curlies, I would have to stand up and confess.
“Hi, my name is Kate and I hate my hair.”
For a lot of years, my girls would have been standing right behind me.
The Curly Girl Method
My youngest curly discovered the Curly Girl Method first. She embraced it and I expressed reluctance. Surely it’s another fad, like straighteners or that expensive serum which works for everyone else on the planet but me. Yet she seemed committed and her infectious enthusiasm spread to me and her other curly sister. Together, in our own haphazard fashion we began a journey of a different kind. Instead of repressing, decrying and tolerating our curls, we agreed to embrace them.
We are only at the start. Already there is a massive difference. I won’t bore you with the logistics because it will drive you crazy. But I can tell you that it’s life changing. I have learned more about my hair in the last month than I’ve understood in the past 48 years. I know that it’s low porosity, requires as much protein as it can suck up, loves nourishing oils but dislikes coconut. Some days it will behave and others, it will fight me for just for old time’s sake.
The hidden frizz makers
Chemicals and their uses have not occupied my brain since I sauntered from my last chemistry lesson aged 16. I shook the scent of Bunsen burner from my clothes and danced into the creative arts. Yet suddenly I am familiar with the workings of sulphates and silicones and can recognise their many variations. I know which names they hide beneath and what function they serve.
Why? Because they’re banned from my new hair routine. I now make choices about which of the familiar cosmetic ingredients I want near my skin. It’s horrifying that some of them are even permitted in hair products. I know what causes my frizz and even better, I know how to fix it.
My hair is experiencing natural concoctions never before seen in its diet. Apple cider vinegar and gelatin make regular guest appearances and I no longer invite shampoo and all its terrible ingredients into my bathroom. My hair is clean, I have no build up itching and my curls bounce like a kid on a trampoline. For the first time in my life, I want to be seen in public with my swishy hair.
I will not go toe to toe with a hairdresser, or a judgy person who wants to discredit my routine. I am perfectly satisfied with the free unicorn cut I performed last week whilst following a YouTube video. It worked for me just like it does for the other 100,000 women on our group chat. I will use my homemade concoctions and bounce my curls in the face of skepticism.
Same, same, different
It’s fascinating how different one curly is from another. What agrees with one of my daughters does not suit me or her sister. The thing which makes my hair frizz like a hairy halo smooths another’s down in perfect obedience. Our hair is as individual as our fingerprints. I’ve spent 48 years hating the thing which made me unique and special. That’s too sad to contemplate.
I’ll admit I’m jealous of my girls who will get to enjoy their curls for forty years longer than I have. But I will make up for lost time. I will learn phrases like ‘low poo’, ‘plopping’, ‘smasters’ and ‘praying hands.’ I shall SOTC until I clamber into my designer cardboard coffin and order items from sex shops which have remarkably similar ingredients to hair products most of us can’t afford. Yes, now you’re interested…
My fear of hairdressers is apparently universal among curlies and for good reason. Most have never heard of a Diva Cut or the Curly Girl Method. Many beat curly hair into submission and force its owner to fake straight. But there is hope. You need never spend money on a hairdressing salon again.
The CG method, which you get to call it once you’re in the gang, is not hard. It requires reversing your understanding of how to treat your hair, based on advertising and commonly held beliefs. It looks at first like a minefield, but is actually quite easy. My scientific background involved a chemistry teacher with a broken arm, dropping potassium into water to make it explode. Now I’m rattling through lists of ingredients and dismissing my usual brands with snorts of disgust. My frizz was the result of the damage caused by hair products. Frightening, but simple. And most importantly, reversible.
If you are a curly in denial, you are not alone. Get ready to embrace your uniqueness and find those ringlets. Shake out your curls and come join us in the Curly Girl revolution. I didn’t write this book, but I do advocate it. I wish I had found it years ago. If you don’t believe me, do your own research. Frizz doesn’t have to be part of your world. Click on the book page to take a look for yourself. I get nothing from this, but I hope to see you rocking those ringlets one day.
KTBowes is a curly girl with a penchant for mystery writing. When she’s not admiring her curls in the bathroom mirror, she’s thinking of how to kill her characters. Death by hairbrush is an option.
Check out her novels, including the free ones, HERE
#CG #curlygirl #Frizz #curlynaturalhair