learning to love my curly hair
I was one of those girls that hated her hair growing up. Hated it.
With my mother’s manageable waves and my father’s bald head, my parents were as clueless as I was about how to deal with frizzy curls. And since I went to a predominantly white school in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, my friends definitely weren’t a big help either.
From Kindergarten to fifth grade, I wore a slicked-back low ponytail or bun to school. Every. Single. Day.
Middle school was when hormones and peer pressure start to kick in for preteens, and I was no exception. Wanting to look like the other pretty girls in my grade, I started flat ironing my hair. Every. Single. Day. My hair resisted the flat iron and my blow dryer so much, like it was trying to escape from the constant heat damage—but I kept going.
I cried to my mother when my hairbrush got stuck in my hair while I was blow-drying it, resulting in a section of my hair being burned off. I cried when, no matter how hard I tried to straighten my bangs, I couldn’t get the kinks out because the hair follicles were completely fried. I cried when it rained in the morning on my way to school, because I knew that the water would ruin my “hard work” and my hair would surrender to its true form.
The final straw was when the owner of the salon I went to suggested that I get a relaxer. She had previously put in a partial relaxer without my consent when I asked for straight-across bangs, and this was her solution to evening out my hair texture. I knew there were several individuals in the world who regularly got relaxers in their hair, so I figured it couldn’t hurt if it would make my commitment to straightening my hair easier. I was wrong.
She didn’t wash the relaxer completely out of my hair, leaving some of it in the back near the nape of my neck. I could still feel it burning. And when I ran my fingers through it, a chunk of my hair stayed in my hand. After getting my mom to help me wash it all out, I ended up with a big scab on my scalp and a big decision to make: what the hell do I do now? That was the beginning of my long, painstaking hair journey.
Ten years later, my hair is healthy and I’ve finally learned to love my curls. It was a challenge and it took a lot of trial and error, but I was able to research and learn so much about curls and my hair. I believe that everyone is so beautiful naturally, and want all of my curly Queens and Kings to love the curls, kinks, and coils they were given. So I am here to share the knowledge!
One of the most crucial things I learned during my hair journey was Hair Typing. Hair Typing first became an official thing back in the 1990s because of a stylist named Andre Walker, a man who became wildly popular for being Oprah’s hair stylist and winning several awards for his work. While not perfect, Walker first introduced the concept of classifying different hair types by numbers and letters.
The numbers in the typing system are to categorized the hair type (ex: wavy, curly). There are now several Hair Typing systems out there, each a little unique and with different criteria and measurements to determine one’s type. Nonetheless, regardless of the system, the Hair Typing numbers can be broken down from 1 - 4: 1 is straight, 2 is wavy, 3 is curly, and 4 is coily/kinky.
In Hair Typing systems, the letters are used to better describe hair’s thickness and texture. Every Hair Type number can be broken down into a letter from A - C. Due to my own hair type, I am most familiar with the curly hair type breakdowns:
3A is categorized as curly hair composed of looser, finer ringlets and twirls. A 3A celebrity for reference is Shakira in the “Try Everything” music video from Zootopia (most of the video is animated, but she shows up, I swear.)
3B curls are slightly tighter, thicker curls that are a mix of ringlets and coils. Ashley Moore in Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Coming Home” is an example of this hair type.
3C individuals have the tightest curls and coils in the category, oftentimes with more texture and thickness. For a 3C queen, look no further than Yara Shahidi from Freeform’s “Grownish.”
I personally classify my hair as 3B. Thankfully my hair has grown a lot since my failed relaxer, but length does affect how curls look and pop after styling; with my hair being about waist-length now, the weight of my hair elongates my coils and ringlets much more than when it was shorter. Nonetheless, my Puerto Rican heritage definitely comes through with my hair thickness and texture. After embracing my 3B curls, I was able to better navigate the sea of curly-hair product that best work for me.
Now other 3B individuals might have different routines than me and I by no means am an expert in curls. But after years of wasting time and money, I am finally able to say that I’ve found some of the best curly hair products to work for my mane.
I currently only use a maximum of three products in my hair for styling purposes. In the past, I found that using too many hair products weighed down my hair too much, and using these three has kept my curls popping!
Throughout my hair journey, my main-squeeze, my go-to, my miracle worker has been Miss Jessie’s Pillow Soft Curls. Now available at most Targets and Walmarts, this leave-in conditioner has truly changed my hair. I personally don’t like my curls to be too sticky or stiff, so Pillow Soft Curls has been a saving grace for keeping my hair soft but hydrated. This is the first product I put on my hair after washing or wetting it, and I love how the lotion has great slip when applied. Because of my hair length, I work two quarter-sized dollops through my hair while finger-combing it then use a third quarter-sized dollop to fix specific pieces of hair that didn’t get as much lotion-love (individuals with shorter hair probably don’t need to use three dollops, for less is always more with hair products). If I don’t have an event, I usually only have to put Pillow Soft Curls in my hair so that my hair stays soft and manageable, even though the curls are not too defined with just this product.
On days where I want more defined, popping curls, I bring out my bad girl: DevaCurl Ultra Defining Gel. The Ultra Defining Gel helps hold the shape of my curls and coils throughout the day without giving it the crunchy, wet-hair look. After I’ve applied Miss Jessie’s Pillow Soft Curls, I rub a quarter-sized dollop in my hands and then scrunch, scrunch, SCRUNCH my hair. I make sure to get a small amount all over and then flip my hair over so that I can get some good scrunching in the back as well. I try to never use more than one dollop of this gel because I don’t want my hair to feel sticky, but I might go back through if there are some parts that I missed during my original work-through. Most hair gels out in the market can be drying, so I try to save this product for special events so that my hair gets a break in between uses.
Finally, I believe that the best finishing touch for any hair routine is a good hair oil to lock everything in. I’ve recently been using IT Natural Amazing Serum with Argan Oil as the final step in my hair routine, regardless of whether I use my defining gel that day or not. To be completely honest, I’m only using this hair oil because it came in one of my Ipsy Shopper sets, and I really liked how it smelled and made my hair look, but there are several good hair oils out there and I believe that most of them are effective in keeping hair hydrated and shiny. After styling my hair, I usually work a dime-sized amount of oil through the mid-shaft to the ends of my hair to keep it soft and minimize the frizz.
My hair is still a bit wet in the photo here, but this is a good reference for how my hair looks a little bit after I complete my hair routine. I try to always minimize the amount of heat I expose my hair to, so I always opt to let my hair air-dry after applying all of my products. This is what has worked best for me, but I also know that all hair is unique and that some curls require different products and love.
Regardless of where you are on your journey, whether it be for hair or for for life, keep trekking and love the skin you’re in.