I’ve been promising myself to do a blog post on curly hair for a long time. I guess I haven’t done it because I don’t think I actually know that much about curly hair. When I think about it, before I made a point to learn about curly hair, I really didn’t know much besides what I had tried in the past. Hair is all about trial and error don’t you think? It’s about experimentation. You like a look, so you try it. You don’t like something, so you try to figure out how to change it. Something isn’t right, so you try to find a way to fix it. Hair has a life of its own! Am I right?
Experimenting with hair is fun. My husband has no hair on his head so he experiments with his facial hair. When me and the girls tell him to shave it off, he tells us to leave him alone because it’s the only hair he has to play with. Hair is more than just something to deal with every morning. It becomes part of who you are and part of your personality.
When my students would walk through the door in the morning, it didn’t matter if they had straight hair or curly hair. The state of their hair would sometimes give me a hint of the way that child’s day was going to go. I said the same for my own kids. I’d look at their hair and think to myself, “so that’s what kind of day it will be.” LOL!
The Hair Truth
The truth is, I’m still learning new things about hair all of the time! Your hair goes through so many changes throughout your life. Changes that can be either in or out of our control. Your hair journey is always changing. Now that there has been an emphasis on products available for natural hair, there is so much more to learn. So, I’ll take you through a bit of my hair journey and tell you what I know. Maybe you can relate no matter what kind of hair you have. Or maybe after this read, you’ll have something to teach me. I’m always looking for new hair answers.
The Early Years
My hair was always thin and not too hard to manage, so my mom always did my hair. She even trimmed it. I never went to a hairdresser until I begged my mom to take me. I wanted to see what it was like. That may not sound like a big deal but I know a lot of people that only do their hair when they go to the hair salon because of the difficulty and effort it took to manage it on their own.
When I was little we’d have our Sunday routine. My mom would wash my hair, blow it dry and then braid it into two pigtails on either side of my head. Sometimes they would be to the back with one towards the top and the other on the bottom. When I got a little bit older I would sit under this standing blow dryer. You know the kind in the salon where you’d sit down in a chair and bring the dryer down over your head. She’d put my hair on rollers and I’d sit under it and wait for my hair to dry. It was only a stand so you could set it up anywhere in the house and pull up a chair. My hair would come out so smooth and soft. In a way, it was like going to the hair salon.
But then I became a teenager and pigtails weren’t cool anymore, and you always want what you can’t have…straight hair! But what comes with straight hair is the dreaded frizz. Living in Southern California in a beach town did not help the situation. Frizzy bangs, and frizzy hair. It drove me nuts! I swore I would never live near a beach when I got older (Now, I can’t imagine living somewhere that isn’t near the water). So, I learned about perms and relaxers that would keep your hair straight and eliminate frizz. I went for the mildest relaxer since my hair was so thin and fine. I was told it would cause the least amount of damage.
With the relaxer, my hair was easier to straighten and I could keep it curly and the curls wouldn’t spring up as much and cause too much shrinkage. Shrinkage is always an annoyance with curly hair. In my experience, there’s always been this thing with black women about how long your hair can grow. When you’re hair is so curly, the curls bunch up making your hair look short than it is. I think I still have a thing about cutting my hair too short.
I tried not to relax my hair too often. Between treatments, I learned how to manage the curl as the relaxer grew out and the curl got stronger. I’d braid it at night (which I often still do) to relax and lengthen the curl. It’s interesting to watch my older girls as they embark on their hair journey. They often show me all of these methods they’ve seen on TikTok to make their hair do what they want it to do. How nice would that have been if I had all the help you can get online now?
Unfortunately, the styles that a lot of us African-American women choose to make our hair more manageable are usually quite damaging. I damaged my hair and it freaked me out. This is where my natural hair journey started.
Curly Hair in Adulthood
As I got older I started to relax my own hair because the products in the salons were too harsh. One day I decided to start in a different spot that was curlier. Not a good idea. I left it on too long and it broke off my hair leaving a patch of very short hair. Luckily, I was able to cover it up. I’d been doing such a good job with it up until this point. I was so embarrassed when I went to see my regular hairdresser who always did my cut and color. I stressed my hair out so much that the patch grew back white and would hardly take the color. This was a turning point. It was time to make a change.
I finally decided that was enough! It was time for me to go back to my roots (my natural hair roots) and figure out what wearing your hair naturally was all about. I started the journey to grow out my relaxer and cut out the previous perm. Often times people refer to this as “the big chop.” They choose to just go for it and cut all of the perm out. I cut little by little, but in the end, I decided to cut quite a bit off. I just wanted to get the relaxer out and start fresh with healthy, natural hair. Cutting away the chemicals felt so good.
Then I started the education. I wanted to learn and know everything about healthy natural hair. I was determined to LOVE my hair and wanted my girls to love their hair from a young age.
Hair Types: Do You Know Yours?
Do you know your hair type? If you’ve never heard of hair types before, you should look yours up. You can do a quick internet search to find out what yours is. Hair types go from 1 to 4c. 1 being straight and 4c very curly. Each curly girl in our house has a different hair type. There might be two who share close to the same hair type. I think our curls range from 2c (wavy) to 4b. So that means each head of hair has its own special treatment.
The Hair Research Continues
A friend told me about a book that talked about curly hair types, hair care, and products. Pinterest was where I went to find out more. I learned about all of the curl types and what my type was. In fact, we looked up all of our hair types. I was on a mission to find products that would help keep my hair shiny and moisturized. I wanted products to help my hair grow. That damaged patch of hair needed to grow back. Bald was not a look I was going for.
Every time I relaxed my hair a scene from the movie Poetic Justice would replay in my head. A girl’s perm was left on too long in the hair salon and clumps of hair began falling out. That is a horrible picture in my head and you’d think that should’ve been a warning sign to me. If I thought of that every time I gave my hair a relaxer treatment, then maybe I should have paid attention!
A little self-conscious about my new hair choice I needed to find styles I liked and was able to do. I learned about protective styles and how to keep curly hairstyles fresh. I was already obsessed with hair products but I think I became even more so.
As a child, my mom didn’t do protective styles like cornrows on my hair. I remember I would have her try to do styles with beads, but it was never quite right. Not having very tight curls herself, she didn’t have experience with these kinds of styles so neither did I. Pinterest and Instagram became my best friends. I used their search engines to find style after style and new products to try. There was so much out there to discover. There still is!
Now I go through phases of finding styles and products. These days I spend more time finding products and styles for my girls. I follow pages on my social media channels to find suggestions. It’s so fun to scroll through the tutorials. I just wish my girls would let me try more styles with their hair. They’ll only sit long enough for me to do their go-to styles and that’s it!
And More Products
Products aren’t just the stuff you put in your hair. There are a lot of curly hair products out there. I’m always looking for the best for all of our curly hair types. You can spend quite a bit of money on this. However, when you’re talking curly hair, it’s not only the products that you put in your hair to wash it, moisturize it, detangle it, etc. Many of us curly-headed girls will use products like a silk sleeping cap or hair bonnet, head wrap, or silk pillowcases to help protect our hair while we sleep. It’s actually a good idea for everyone to use one of these. It keeps your hair from becoming damaged while you sleep. It protects it from breakage and falling out. Hairstyles can be kept longer if use one of the above. Styling hair every day can lead to breakage and thinning hair as well. I need to get better at this.
Getting the right kind of hair accessories, brushes, and combs also makes a difference. We probably own at least 10 brushes. Some brushes didn’t work out while others are used for specific hair types.
Curly hair can definitely take some work. I still go through stages where I don’t like my hair and I haven’t the slightest idea as to what to do with it. I have to remember to go back to the basics and review what I’ve learned just like anything in life. These days my older girls are beginning to teach me a few hair tricks. It’s fun to discover and try things together. It makes me happy to see them embracing their hair type and running with it. We might encounter some hair frustrations, but hopefully, we find a fun way to get past it.
Hair is a big part of our life. As girls and women, it’s something we think about daily. Many times more than once a day. From how to style it in the morning and prepare it for sleeping at night. I think that’s what led me to write Girls with Curls and Hair Bear. The more we learn about our curls, the more we can learn to love them and find out how much fun having curls can be. If you haven’t already, you can check out my children’s books about curly hair by going to my website.