Hair…and more

I was listening to Glennon Doyle’s podcast and in one episode they were discussing all things recovery and rules and the parameters we set for ourselves, as well as those set for us by cultural norms and practices.

They discussed wanting to do, or not do a thing, such as dyeing one’s hair, buying a scarf, always wanting the latest thing (whatever that might be), and even just wanting in general – and how those things can tie into consumerism and the impossible standards espoused by the beauty industry. (Men going grey = silver fox, while when women do it, it’s ‘she’s let herself go’ and other such nonsense.) While not all of it resonated, when they got to the topic of going grey vs. continuing to dye hair as an example, I paused and listened intently.

I stopped dying my hair in late 2017 shortly after getting sober. Chopped off all of my hair super short – an outward symbol of inward changes. It’s now been a few years and I still have zero desire to ever head back to the colorist. No judgment to those that love getting highlights, doing dramatic amazing things with color – that’s just not what I am wanting for myself right now.

The salon I go to for trims caters to curlies. They cut hair dry, coil by coil, so each curl clump lays within the next, creating beautiful ringlets and overall amazing shape. And bonus- when cut dry there is little chance of underestimating curl shrinkage! Win!

Products for curlies have come a looong way. Playing with the phone camera post-appointment and seeing the definition made me smile.

I thought back to my middle and high school days. “Thank goodness for the internet,” I murmured to myself thinking of all the products and techniques tried over the last couple of decades, as well as the days when there were no products. My daughter now benefits from YouTube tutorials and tips on how to take care of her own mane of waves.

One particular ringlet stopped me. And I remembered that podcast discussion of going grey…

Ain’t she a beaut!

I wasn’t always ready for the grey. I used to yank out the single silver strands when one or maybe two would sprout. I liked the definition highlights gave. The grey is coming in more and more, and…I love it. Listening to that podcast solidified my decision to skip sitting in the stylist’s seat for hours. I love the rebellion it represents. The “I don’t care” attitude sliding down it’s rings. The flinging off of convention. The grey swims upstream, against the current of brown surrounding it. “See me?” it boldly asks. The grey is a gift, a symbol of living that not all receive. The experience of the grey demands respect, has earned its confidence, and smiles mischievously.

Ultimately – what one does (or doesn’t) do to their hair is their business. What my overall aim is – is to be mindful of the bigger picture in what my actions teach my kids, and is it authentic? Are they comfortable in their own skin? Do they accept themselves as is, or do they fight against nature? No amount of words speak so loud as my actions. We teach not by preaching, but by modeling. If I embrace who and what I am – that teaches them to celebrate who and what they are.

Sometimes a haircut…is more than just a haircut.


Dear Straight Mom of a Curly Kid…

Dear SM (Straight Mom) –

She hears you sighing when you attempt to brush her curls. She hears your comments about her “rats’ nest”. She’s listening. She hears you.

She gets the message.

So let’s change it.

First, since you don’t have curls, there will be a bit of a learning curve. Please check out sites like these: (reviews of products in all price ranges and more!) or Deva (product and how-to videos!).

Educate yourself, so you can educate her on how to best take care of her tresses. The Deva site also has sample questions to ask a prospective stylist! Curly hair can (and should) be cut dry. To quote Lorraine Massey, “We don’t wear our hair wet. Why should we cut it that way?” Many stylists will underestimate the shrink factor. The hair dries, and what was thought to be a trim actually chopped off 4 inches!

Then figure out what type of curls she has…curly, kinky, etc. Then based on that – find out what products work best for that specific type of curl. All curly types need hydration. Shampoo is dehydrating. Look for hair cleansers with no sulfates and no parabens. You want something with NO lather. There is no magic in lather. I use DevaCare No Poo, but there are quite a few no/low lather cleansers on the market.

Throw away the brush. Curls should not be brushed out. (Okay, maybe for Halloween, but that’s about it!) No longer are we in the Marsha Brady world of 1000 brush strokes for hair health! I don’t own a brush. Keep a wide-tooth comb that in the shower and ONLY use it with conditioner in those locks.

Marcia Brady brushing hairCondition, condition, condition! Curly hair is thirsty hair! A great conditioner makes all the difference. It will help to keep frizz at bay and help the hair hold styling product much better.

A curl defining product is a must. This can be a gel, creme, or a spray – or a combo of all of the above. On my two-year-old, I’m not going to slather her curls in gel, but I do use Ouidad’s Botanical Boost. It gives a bit of curl definition and helps to detangle out of the shower/bath. I use Deva’s ArcAnGel on my own hair and really like the hold. Not too much crunch, but some definition. On days that are humid, or when I used to live in Hawaii, I liked Tigi’s Curls Rock styling creme.

Above all else, give your curly kid the tools to help her look and feel her best. Don’t add negativity to what she already may be feeling about herself. We may think “it’s just hair”, but it’s not. It does go deeper.

Final deep curly thought:

“I often have the fantasy that curly girls are mermaids who have had to adapt to life on dry land. We come from the sea. The ocean is in our blood. It sings through our heart and lungs, our skin and hair. Our curls require the nourishment only a watery environment can provide. Both ocean waves and curly hair are forces of nature that can’t be tamed. We can only accept and admire their power and beauty.” Lorraine Massey, author of Curly Girl: The Handbook.

Go forth and be curly!

Dear Curly Girl

Dear Curly Girl,

Where do I even start?

I, too, was made fun of because of my hair. I was called all the not-so-nice nicknames, and know that it sucks being ridiculed about something over which you have no control. It stinks and it’s frustrating because no matter how you try – they are what they are: curls. They can be unruly, wild, frizz-filled strands with what seems like minds of their own. (Often going in opposing directions!)

Being mocked at the bus stop daily isn’t a great way to endure middle school. High school was a rotation of baseball caps, hair ties and my good friend the banana clip. Like yours, my tresses have been coiled, straightened, blow-fried, brushed, braided, juice-can rolled, flat ironed, chemically ‘relaxed’, and dyed. I’ve cried after leaving the salon, too. (When the only person that thinks your hair is beautiful is your 65 year old hair dresser, it’s not a good sign.)

To be fair, growing up in the 80s/early 90’s puts a person at a disadvantage from the start. I mean, really!? Hammer pants? Yes, I did in fact have a pair. (Okay, I had 4, but who’s counting?!)

U Can't Touch This
U Can’t Touch This (Photo credit: Enokson)

And let’s not forget our friend, the mullet. Oy. (Yes, I basically had one of those, too.)

my 1980s mullet shame
my 1980s mullet shame (Photo credit: Anosmia)

It doesn’t help that the majority of media and advertising messages push the idea that attractive/sexy = sleek and straight. Between the people you know thinking you are a freak and the message of the media – what’s a curly girl to do?

Until my mid 20’s, I fought my curls every step of the way and even made the fatal mistake of asking a boyfriend, “What one thing would you change about me, if you could?” He, without hesitating, said, “Your hair.”


(Yes, it was dumb of me to ask.)

I straightened my hair for one of the first dates I had with my husband. He looked at it and said, “It’s not you. It looks fine, but it’s just not you.”

He was one of the first people to not suggest or encourage me to straighten my hair. (I knew then that he was a keeper!) It may sound silly to think about hair as such an issue, but you and I both know how deep this curly thing goes. You and I (and most other curly girls) have many stories of how this mane has shaped and defined us. In one way or another, we’ve had to come to terms with who we are as curlies. Do we go with the flow or continue to change into something we are not?

It is a big deal.

It has been years since my strands have been straightened. I have grown to love my curls and have learned so much from sites such as, Ouidad, and Deva.

It gets better, Curly Girl. Product, knowledge, and a good stylist are priceless!

When you have curly daughters, teach them to love their hair and work with it, not against it. They are going to get enough of the opposite message as it is. Find good product. Throw away those brushes. Embrace your hair and embrace who you are, and teach her to do the same.

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