Saturday, February 22, 2014

Embracing My Natural Hair Texture

It's a well-known generalization that curly girls wish for straight hair and straight haired girls wish for curls. Now that I am embracing my natural hair color, it makes sense to lay off the heat tools and embrace my actual hair texture, which is really neither curly nor straight.

This is the hair texture I wished I had from the time I was a teenager:

Which is really, really strange, because I was a teenager smack-dab in the 1980s, when huge hair was "in." While women used orange juice cans and irons to straighten their hair in the 1970s, I was too young for any of that. No one was trying to accomplish a straight-haired look in the mid 1980s. But even while I was setting my hair in hot rollers and using gallons of hairspray (and waking up an extra hour early to get to school on time) to create the big 80s hair, I always thought that some day I'd accomplish this sleek bob. So, have I indeed accomplished this sleek bob? Despite this photo, no, not really. My expert stylist can (and did) achieve this look on me, but I literally can not do it myself, even with a rather expensive flat iron.

So, can I do curly?

Sure. If I "plop" it (the short definition of plopping: scrunching wet hair with product upside down and carefully placing it into a microfiber turban, then air-drying) and don't touch or comb or brush it. It really didn't look as good in real life as in this photo, since the other side didn't curl as nicely. Because my hair isn't TRULY curly, it's just a bit wavy. But not being able to comb or brush it drives me nuts. Not to mention, in the winter-time, air-drying isn't always ideal. So this isn't a great everyday 'do for me.

So I've decided to embrace is my natural waviness, such as it is:

It looks different every day, and as you can see from the photos, the left and right sides actually look different on the same day. But I can partially blow dry it (just for about two minutes to get some moisture out of the underneath layers that touch my neck) on cold days, or simply let it air dry. Styling is easy: comb in a little leave-in conditioner, a wee bit of gel, and gently scrunch for a few seconds. And, once it's dry, I can brush it. As often as I like. Ease in styling isn't about laziness; it's about going along with what my hair actually wants instead of fighting it. I feel like I'm inducing far less damage to it by obeying its commands. ;) As I get older, I feel the need to baby my hair, as it's thinner and more delicate than it used to be. So this is my natural texture. I still let my stylist do the sleek look for special occasions, and on some hot, humid days, I'll probably plop for that big curly look. But on an everyday basis, the irregular, slightly wavy look just feels like ME.


  1. Karen, I'm going through the same thing (I just wrote about mine!). I have been straightening my hair for years, but have come to the realization that if I'm going to be kinder to my hair by not coloring, then I really need to reconsider what I'm doing to it with heat and styling. I'm experimenting right now with different products and methods, and today have some CRAZY curls, so we'll see what happens. Good luck in finding what works for you and kudos for embracing your waves. They suit you! :)

  2. Thanks so much, Jenn! I'll have to check out your blog and see what you came up with for yourself. :)

  3. Oh! I know I'm almost two years late to comment, but I just doscovered your blog and I couldn't stop smiling while reading this post. Not in a mean way, but because we're roughly the same age and I kind of have wavy/curly hair too (though they are curlier that yours when they behave), that I straightened to death for years (and still do in the winter).

    NOW that I'm older and wiser I wonder at myself too for not getting advantage of the 80s and early 90s huge hair. I could have rocked it. Then again back in the 80s we had a limited amount of hair products (compared to today) to fight frizz with.

    In my case what works best is a leave-in conditioner, but from reading around I think every curly/wavy hair is unique and there is no one-formula-suits-all advice.

    However I want to underline THE most important factor: ordinary shampoos and conditioners killed my hair for years (ie SLS and Parabens). When a switched to all natural (or at least 95% natural) products I saw an improvement within a week.

    1. Hi Hotpaprika! Thanks for reading. What products do you use? I'm always interesting in trying new ones. I haven't settled on a shampoo and conditioner, I usually just buy what's on sale at Target! But for my leave-in conditioner, I've tried a ton but always come back to Sebastian's Potion #9. Actually the generic version of it that I buy at Sally's.

    2. The problem is I'm in Europe and the products I use could be hard to find in the USA (I assume that's where you're based since you mention Target). In this case online shopping would be your friend.

      I first tried products from Baldwins, it's a small London shop that has all kinds of natural cosmetics and herbs (they deliver abroad). Back then my roots were oily and the ends dry, after two decades of brutal abuse with hair dyes and heat tools, so I chose from their Synergy line the Shampoo for Oily hair, which is enriched with essential oils of Rosemary, Thyme and Lavender, and the respective conditioner.

      Both were very good but I knew I needed more moisture in my hair and my scalp was still oily. But they were both almost 100% natural, and not at all harsh as, say Pantene, or Fructose from Garnier that I used to buy (and NEVER put on my hair again). On this subject, I should add that from now on I'd prefer to clean my scalp with plain water even if it takes hours, rather than use again those God-awful SLS products.

      At the same time, I decided that since I was going chemical-free I might as well stop dyeing my hair. And then I tried Apivita, and OMG, it saved me. Apivita is a very small Greek brand but it seems to gain popularity amongst those who scout for natural products; the company favours a holistic approach. The weird thing is I knew them because I'm Greek but more for their cough syrops and pastilles!

      Anyway, they have a wide range to suit all types of hair; the shampoo I use consistently for the last 5 years is the one for Frequent Use which has chamomile and honey. They even substitute water with Rosemary infusion in their formula, it is extremely gentle. Their shampoo is amazing, but the product I can no longer live without is the leave-in conditioner from the same range. They have many conditioners but one one leave-in. Both the shampoo and the conditioner consist of about 93% natural ingredients, which is quite high in my opinion.

      How do these two work on a hair texture that is fine but also curly?

      For one thing my hair stopped being dry and my scalp stopped being oily, almost immediately. For the first time EVER (and I'm forty!), they are both healthy and balanced, even though I still use heat tools in the winter. In fairness, I should add that stopping to dye my hair also helped to balance my scalp (FYI, I was using L'Oreal's Casting Creme Gloss which is semi-permanent, and so it's supposed to be gentle, well, it isn't!).

      The conditioner doesn't weigh down the hair. When I air-dry, the curls are defined (after I scrunch them I bit), and even if they lose their shape, since curly hair behave nicely only when they wish to do so, at least they never freeze, they rather gain a wavy frizz-less texture. When I straighten my hair with the flat iron, again I never get the dreaded frizz when the weather turns humid, and my hair is all soft. I noticed much less split ends in the winter since I started using it.

      I don't know how much they are priced in the USA, they are rather pricey on Europe (around 7 Euros for the shampoo, and 11 Euros for the conditioner), and I don't know if they will be more expensive in America because of the import taxes and all, but if you can find a sample give them a try. And bare in mind, they last forever, I need a small amount of each product to cleanse and moisturize.

      Rather a long answer, I hope I didn't bore you! But us fellow-curly-girls are the only ones who understand what it's like to live with a set of hair that may transform you to a goddess one day and a walking mop the next.

      And, hey, Merry Christmas!

  4. Thanks and Merry Christmas to you! I will have to look around and see if I can find that Apivita locally (yes I'm in the US). Cheers!