Fashionista: Tell us the story of your curly hair.
Elaine Welterroth: I didn’t even realize I had curly hair until, like, 7th grade because my mom always braided it. My mom is African American and my dad is German Irish, and she took care of my hair like she took care of her own. I was in between worlds, and back then, there weren’t many products that suited my hair type. During recess, I would douse my hair with water to get rid of the frizz. I thought the only way it would look good was if it was soaking wet. Then in junior high and high school, I used a lot of gel—I wouldn’t let anyone touch my hair. I grew up in a place where I was the only girl who had curly hair. I wanted to be like my friends, look like my friends. So for any sort special occasion I always straightened my hair: prom, a first date, any moment when I wanted to feel cute. It took forever, and was really damaging.
By college, my springy curls had lost their curl pattern. I never used chemicals, but from going to the salon and getting it flat-ironed, it became more wavy than curly. I felt like a lost a piece of me. It wasn’t me—I really missed my big, curly fro. So I sort of committed at that point to not straighten my hair, to grow it out and let the curl return. Ever since, I rock it big. The bigger the better! I’m all about my hair now, it’s a big part of my look. That’s the fun part of beauty, owning what you have. I’m always touching it and letting it get big.
Can you describe your hair’s texture, and your daily routine?
I describe it as a corkscrew curl, springy. I shampoo and condition my hair about once a week, then reset my product by wetting it throughout the week. When it’s dry, and you run water through, it reactivates the product.
I use DevaCurl No Poo shampoo—it has no suds, no detergent—and conditioner. Lately, when I get out of the shower, I drizzle on Kerastase Initialiste serum on my scalp. It’s literally changing my hair, and the other products I use perform better. I also drizzle it on the ends. For styling cream I use DevaCurl as well, and sometimes Miss Jessie’s Quick Curls or their Pillow Soft Curls. Then I flip my head over and diffuse my hair with my Devafuser. It’s a miracle worker. That’s pretty much it.
What’s your advice for women still struggling with their curls?
The key to embracing your hair texture is making the decision that your natural hair is beautiful the way it is, or at least being open to the possibility. We’re trained to think that straight hair is better, easier, more polished. Take a step back and work with what you have. Once you’re in that headspace, there are so many products out there for curly girls right now, even more than there were five to 10 years ago. And it’s all about experimenting. What works for me may not work for you, and luckily these products are not typically super expensive. And there are a ton of online forums, lots of how-to videos. Join that conversation, get informed. Once you become a part of that curly community you’ll feel so empowered. Being a part of this secret society of curly reinforces that you’re awesome.