Life with curls – My curly hair journey
I’m going to be brutally honest with you, my curly hair journey has been a struggle. I think that there is a misconception out there that having curly hair is not only beautiful (which it is) but that it’s easy maintenance, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
As a child, I absolutely hated my curly hair! I secretly wished that I had nice long straight hair, so that I didn’t have to deal with the painful detangling and brushing of my hair. I hated having to sit still while my mom tried her best to gently detangle my locks and carefully brush through it on a daily basis. I remember her asking the hairdresser for some tips and the only thing he could recommend was a spray that would help with the detangling. Obviously this product was only available at his salon… My mom started experimenting with different hair styles that I could wear and eventually, we both agreed, that it was much easier for me to actually brush through my hair if it had been put into a protective style the night before. So every night, my mom would braid my hair and joke around that I looked like Heidi, but it really did wonders for me! Pain-free detangling and hair that didn’t need an eternity to style. What a relief!
Then came the early teenage years, where I was responsible for taking my hair care into my own hands. By this time, I had learned a bit about my hair and religiously stuck to braiding it every night, to ensure pain-free detangling in the morning. Although my hair is not on the thick side, every time I brushed it out, it would look so frizzy and huge that I looked like a lion. So what’s wrong with that some may say? Well, I didn’t want to look like a lion going to junior high school. Back then, I didn’t know that I could use gels or mousses to help tame the frizz so that you could actually see my curls. I didn’t want to have to “deal” with my hair, so I ended up wearing it in a bun or in a pony tail 95% of time. My hair was always brushed back and tied back so tight, that you could actually see the vein on my forehead move. Occasionally, when I really grew tired of taking care of my hair, I would get it braided by a woman my dad knew from Guinea. The braids offered me a temporary solution (and relief!) but as hair does, it grows out and if you don’t maintain it, it looks bad. So I stopped doing that for a while and only resulted to it when I was on vacation in the Caribbean.
I continued on with my hair struggles until I met Emma in high school. Emma had the most beautiful type 4 curls I had ever seen! She would always wear her hair down, every single day. Everyone was in awe of those curls and wanted to touch them. We quickly became friends and she asked me why I always wore my hair up if I had curly hair. I explained to her that I didn’t know how to get my hair “to behave” as I would like it to, and that was when I started to learn about really caring for my curls. Emma explained the use of a comb and not a brush for my hair, she showed me how to properly detangle my hair by using conditioner (when the hair is still wet) and also how to style my hair with only a little gel and some mousse to keep the frizz at bay. I will never forget that day and I am forever grateful that she shared her tips with me as it saved me lots of time and energy.
Early to mid twenties
Fast forward a few years, I started experimenting with color. I would get copper and light brown streaks put into my hair so that I could look a bit like J LO. I loved that golden glow she had! Still do now. Anyhow, little did I know, that the use of excessive color would ruin the structure of my curls. Not only that, but around that timeI also began to straighten my hair a lot. Why? Because it was fun to switch it up but also, because it was a nice break from the high-maintenance of caring for my curls. As you can imagine, this was a recipe for disaster and my curl pattern started to change. It would become more wavy, less curly and even and straight in some parts. I would get my hair cut once a year (thinking that was enough) and continuously asking my hairdresser to go lighter with the color. By my mid twenties, the damage I had done to my hair was severe! It was brittle, super dry and extremly frizzy. It also felt weak and I would loose a lot of hair on a daily basis. I was convinced that I could solve this problem by using better hair care products and that this alone would help my curls go back to their original state. I decided to start using a deep conditioning mask once a week and continuing to use conditioner on a daily basis. Although it did help, it obviously didn’t have the power to miraculously solve the problem I was having. I increased my trips to the hairdressers for a cut to twice a year, and I stopped using gels in my hair. Unfortunately the damage remained.
Late twenties – Early thirties
A few years ago, I noticed a bald spot starting to show at my hairline and I also noticed less hair at the back of my head. It was at this point when I really got serious about my hair. I decided to learn everything I possibly could about how to care for my curly hair, how to regrow the curls and reverse the damage I had inflicted in my younger days. YouTube and the Internet were great teachers for this. The first thing that really helped me on the road to hydration and curl recovery was purchasing and using coconut oil! My hair literally drank it all up and over time I noticed my hair getting more hydrated and feeling smooth again. In combination with a good scalp exfoliation, my hair began to grow! Other things I learned were: avoid using products with alcohol in them and never to place products on the crown of your head! I will be preparing a post with my curly tips in the future, so be on the lookout for that.
Time for the Big Chop
Although I was happy to see some improvement, I still wasn’t 100% satisfied with the results. After much contemplation, I decided to do something drastic about it and I decided to start fresh. I cut off nearly all of my hair. Also known as the Big Chop, if you’re interested to know more about it you can read my post here. I described the entire process for you there.
Now looking back, this was the best decision I could have ever taken. It’s been 9 months now, and I am so happy to report that my curls have come back and that my hair is healthy again! I also discovered that sporting a short hairstyle was a lot of fun. Especially playing around with my hair to create different looks. Right now, I’m sporting a mini-fro which I love, and I’m going to let my hair grow out a bit more so I can see what the curls will look like in a short bob style. My curly hair journey has taking me a long way and it will continue to be a learning experience for me. Keep in mind that not all curls are the same in terms of structure and needs. I now know what works best for my type of curls (a mix of type 2b, 2c, 3a and 3b).
I hope you enjoyed my little trip down memory lane. If you have just begun on your curly hair journey and are looking to break free from heat damage, or if you are trying to grow your curls back, I would suggest that you be patient with yourself. It’s a journey and you have to be open to testing lots of methods and products to figure out what works best for you. Don’t give up and remember that it will take time but the results at the end are definitely with all the effort and care you put into it.