Tuesday

Journey to curly, almost two years later


Almost two years have passed since I decided to stop relaxing my hair and let my natural curls, unseen since I was 8 years old, emerge. I put away the flat iron, bought a pack of Curlformers to blend my new curly roots and my pin-straight, chemically altered length, and started studying up.

Now my hair is full-on curly, the healthiest and bounciest I've ever seen it, and I've even had my first ever Deva cut, during which my hair was cut while dry and curly to give my hair the right shape.

Here are a few things I've learned so far during my walk on the kinky side.

Curls aren't cheap, but they're lots more fun. Relaxers were an expensive habit for me. Depending on the stylist, a relaxer would cost me $50 to $100. I'd get one about every three months. When I lived in Santa Fe, I'd drive an hour to Albuquerque for the service. Then I had to park my ass in a chair for hours while foul-smelling chemicals that burned my scalp and left little scabs sometimes were applied. And THEN, it's not like I could just wet it and forget it. I'd have to spend almost two hours blow-drying and flat-ironing it, and the chunks of hair I'd constantly have to sweep off my bathroom floor should have clued me in to how much damage I was doing.

Now, you can spend just as much money on products and cuts to maintain your curls as you could on relaxers. But it's my choice, and I'm not bound to any habits. I can spend $30 on a conditioner, or I can spend $3 on a conditioner. I can spend hours tinkering with my style, or I can just spray it with some lavender mist in the morning. And spending all day with a deep conditioner in my hair that smells like coconuts will always be more fun than spending all day with something on my head that can dissolve a soda can. And my bathroom floor? I can see it now.

Product instructions? More like suggestions. One of the first things I learned about curly hair care was that I could use conditioner to cleanse my hair, because shampoo is too drying. Then I got into the Curly Girl Method (avoiding sulfates and silicones, which I've come around to since I wrote that review) and experimenting with curl-specific products across vast price ranges.

But I've also learned recently that conditioner can double as a leave-in, and deep conditioner can double as a styler, and that you can skip a step by just not rinsing out all your conditioner. I've learned oil isn't just for frying eggs and that you can boil flax seeds to make a sensational hair gel. Right now, I'm experimenting with conditioning and detangling first with my cheap-o (and silicone-free!) VO5 conditioner, leaving it in, adding Deva Curl No Poo cleanser, rinsing, and then deep conditioning. I think leaving the conditioner in while washing gives the cleanser more slip, which means I can use less, because that stuff is expensive.

People want to touch it. My friends touching my hair doesn't bother me. If some random perv copped a feel, though, that would be a problem.

What I do have a problem with is my own chronic hand-in-hair syndrome. I can't help it. It feels so pretty. I'm constantly twirling it and pulling it so it bounces back, and I just know I look like such an airhead. So what happens? I frizz it up, and I give myself fairy knots, and then I have to stop what I'm doing and go hunt down a pair of scissors.

No day is the same. It doesn't matter if I wash my hair with the exact same products, use the exact same leave-ins, and do the same amount of manipulation. Curls have a mind of their own, and I might be able to get my hair to do 3 out of 4 things I want it to do, but it will always throw a surprise my way.

The shrinkage struggle is real. I'm fortunate that even though I've put my hair through hell, it's always grown super fast and been really thick. But curly hair shrinks up into itself. So even though I can pull a strand and have it touch my shoulder, it bounces back and is somewhere above my jaw. I don't necessarily have length goals, I just really hope my hair will grow down instead of just out after a while, because I do not love short hair.

Shape matters. For a while, I felt like I had a curly mullet. While I think the Deva Cut I got was too expensive to budget in regularly, getting a nice, rounded shape and some layers brought out my curls and made them flatter my face. My hope is that now that I have a basic, pretty shape going, I can do the trims myself. Maybe. We'll see.

Be ready for your hair to get all the attention. Sometimes I feel like I'm just my hair's secretary. My curls are the first thing people notice about me. It can just be too much sometimes, especially with my other defining feature, my big ol' emo glasses. My makeup routine and accessorizing have been toned down as a result. Boo.

Somehow, it just works. I look like a different person with curly hair. And that's OK. Not to get all deep, but I feel like I'm meeting this new side of myself that's been there all along, waiting to introduce herself. And she's a lot more fun, vivacious and carefree than the girl tethered to a salon chair who was afraid of walks in the rain.

2 comments :

  1. Glad you've gotten to such a great place in your curly journey! I've never gotten a curly hair cut...but I flat iron my hair a lot so I'm ok with it for now :)

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  2. Thank you! It's been a pleasant surprise. The problem with the curly dry cut is if you sometimes wear your hair straight, it'll look uneven and hacked up. I haven't tested that out, though.

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