Learning to love your curls. (Photo: Getty Images)
I haven’t always had curly hair. As a child my look moved from pixie crop to straight bob with a fringe (thanks to an unfortunate incident at age five with some nail scissors) to longish, wavy locks. Over the course of my teens it grew to nearly waist-length – all mermaid-like and vaguely Pre-Raphaelite.
Back then, I wanted it to be curlier. At my prom, aged sixteen, alongside shimmying into my black sequin dress and adding a ton of mascara, the most high maintenance part was the hair. And by high maintenance, I mean twenty minutes with tongs, plus a dash of hairspray, adding in curls. The curls slowly fell out over the course of the evening, but I was content regardless. The entrance had been the fun part.
Those tongs were banished soon after though. At age 18, that long-reaching hair slowly began to retract. It kinked and curled of its own accord, moving from soft waves to an untamable mass of corkscrews. Oddly enough, the exact same thing happened to my mum at that age too. There’s obviously something on the maternal side of the family that creates an extra rite of passage. Accompanying this rite is the realization that tangles and knots are inevitable, amargan oil is your new best friend, and frizz must be embraced.
So many people complain about curly hair. Either they don’t like it, or find it just a little too complicated to tame. Obviously it depends on the texture, the length, the volume and a hundred-and-one other things from genetics to climate that affect how much time it takes to get ready in the morning. For me, the best way to treat it is to leave well alone – just comb and go. Others have seemingly endless routines, full of specialist products and intricate methods. Take my mum. The closer she’s moved to fifty, the drier her hair has become. Where before she would wet, lightly brush, scrunch and let her curls dry naturally every morning, now it’s a more orchestrated affair. She’s reliant on Boucleme leave-in conditioner, and some careful management.
Author Rosalind Jana talks about her curly hair maintenance. (Photo: Rosalind Jana)
Neither of us are especially high maintenance though, happy to go for days without make-up – or in my case, prioritizing river swimming above hair-care. I’m rubbish at even remembering to get my split ends trimmed. Occasionally I feel like I should perhaps investigate my options more, looking at specialist serums or sprays, but to be honest, the only new things that ever turn up in my bathroom cabinet are thrust upon me by my mum. Call it age, call it wisdom, call it years more experience of bad hair days – whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll be much more grateful one day.
Perhaps I’m lucky in that ‘artful dishevelment’ is my look of the day. My mum, on the other hand, happily proclaims her untamed frizz as closer to a (red-headed) dandelion clock.
I didn’t properly think about the differences in texture though until I began reading a number of fantastic articles on ThandieKay, the website set up by actor Thandie Newton and make-up artist Kay Montano. Emma Dabiri’s excellent essay on race and beauty links back to a previous piece written for the New Statesman on the politics of black hair, while this set of reflections from Thandie on embracing her frizz is both gorgeous and thoughtful. I was invited to take part in ThandieKay’s #frizzchallenge – where a huge variety of women were encouraged to brush out their hair to its fuzziest, largest, flyaway potential, and document it. You can see my results here.
I realize I’m fortunate. Despite the media’s message that sleek and groomed is best, in recent years I’ve never felt the need to tame or conform my curls. They just bounce around merrily. Styles come, styles go, but mine remains the same.