Psst...here's a little secret. I have very curly hair. Yet after 10 years of straightening treatments, blowouts, etc., no one seems to believe me.
Of course, that's my own fault. I gave up on my curls. But you don't have to. It's never been easier to keep curly hair bouncy and frizz-free. I quizzed four fashion insiders—three with naturally curly hair, one with a (super cute) perm—on why they love their curly hair, and how they style it.
Claire Mazur, Cofounder, Of a Kind Fashionista: Tell us the story of your curly hair. Claire Mazur: I got my curls in 5th grade, one year ahead of my period. I gradually started to embrace them during high school and college, which, unsurprisingly, correlates with the years Sex and the City was on the air. In college I used to judge guys I was dating based on whether they liked my hair better curly or straight—which was a totally unfair but kind of accurate way of determining if they liked me for "me." My hair is naturally big, and so is my personality, you know? Now I only straighten it when I get my hair cut, almost as an exercise in reminding myself that I look a lot better with it curly.
Can you go through your routine, products and all? Okay. So. The basis of everything is moisture. If your hair isn’t well moisturized, there’s no amount of product you can put in it to make it look good.
Shampoo dries your hair out. You do not need to wash your hair more than once a week. Overcompensate for the lack of shampooing by using conditioner liberally and often. Put the conditioner in at the beginning of your shower and leave it on while you scrub, shave, etc. Buy a cheap drugstore brand as long as it’s extra-moisturizing. I like Garnier Fructis and Tresemme the best.
Once you get out of the shower, use an old cotton t-shirt to dry your hair. Using a towel will take too much moisture out of it.
Next comes the centerpiece of the whole operation: Bumble and Bumble Curl Conscious Creme (I use the pink and orange one for coarse hair). It’s my one big splurge on hair products and it is worth it. To make the cost slightly less painful I buy it in the huge 2-liter containers, because you get more for your money that way. Put a generous dollop in your hair and comb it through with your fingers (do not use an actual comb or brush, it separates the curls too much) and then flip your head and scrunch the curls.
Now it’s time for gel. Get something cheap—I like L’Oreal or Pantene. Don’t put it straight on your hair because it has too much alcohol and will be too drying. Instead, mix it with a little more of the B&B Curl Creme and do the comb-through and scrunch thing again.
Now let it air dry unless you absolutely have to have dry hair immediately in which case, go ahead and use a diffuser while you hang your head upside down and move the dryer around all over your head—if you keep it too long in one place you will create frizz.
What's your advice for women still struggling with their curls? Honestly? Some people just look and feel better with their hair straight. I know nothing about the health dangers of those perma-straightening situations but if that's what works for you, I say: go for it. I'm very much in the camp of "when you (feel like you) look good, you feel good," so if you only feel like you look good with straight hair, then embrace what the modern beauty industry has given us and straighten your shit out.
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.
Fashionista: You went the opposite direction of most people, and got a perm! What was your motivation? Chi Diem Chau: I've been obsessed with curly hair for as long as I can remember—you always want what you can't have, right?—but finally took the plunge after seeing a model sporting my "dream hair" in a Shopbop editorial feature. It wasn’t natural (and it looked amazing!), and I thought to myself, if she could pull it off, I could too. With a picture in hand, I headed to my hair guy in Chinatown and three hours later, walked out a changed, curly hair woman. There aren't many Asian girls with "afro perms" so I expected a few stares here and there—I'll never forget an embarrassing moment when a group of guys started hollering "Foxy Lee!" as I walked by on my way to work—but what was really surprising was that a lot of people actually thought my curly hair was natural. Ha! Added bonus? The perm also gave me an extra inch or two in the height department.
Describe the texture you ended up with, and your routine. Since the tight curl perm sucked out the natural oils in my hair, I began washing my hair every two days to retain moisture. Combing my hair with a fine tooth comb or brush was pretty much out of the question so I had to start using a hair pick to separate the curls after washing my hair. The key to non-frizz? TONS of Ouidad Curl Quencher leave-in conditioner and Climate Control hair gel. A hair diffuser also helped with creating volume when my perm started growing out.
Any advice for women still struggling with their curls, or who want to go curly? I envy all the women out there with naturally curly hair--it's gorgeous! I know that it can be a little hard to manage (cue the Curl Quencher), but with the right cut and hair product, I think curly haired women can confidently embrace their curls. For all the girls who want to go curly, just do it. I'm a huge advocate of switching up your hairdo, and really, what's the worse that can happen? YOLO.
Fashionista: Tell us your curly story. Raakhee Mirchandani: Curly hair is a tough hand to play when you’re in middle in school in suburban New Jersey in the '90s. Growing up, all I ever wanted was to look like DJ Tanner. Those perfect poufed bangs, the soft lion’s mane. I’m from a family of women blessed with glossy, luscious, Indian hair. The kind you can run your fingers through, that hangs down to their waists. This head was torture. My hair stuck straight out and for a while I had a weird ‘fro, the result of a bad haircut and lack of styling products. All that changed once I discovered Ouidad, the patron saint of curly girls.
Describe your specific texture and your routine. This mane is high maintenance. And expensive! I’ve got loose gorgeous curls that tend to be dry so I deep condition every single day. (I only shampoo once a week, but I alternate between Oribe’s Moisture Masque and Ouidad’s 12 Minute Deep Treatment daily.) After my hair is moisturized, I use a tiny dollop of Ouidad’s Moisture Lock leave-in conditioner, followed by a generous helping of Ouidad’s Heat & Humidity gel. I scrunch the whole thing, flip my head over and start diffusing like a maniac. I love my FHI blow dryer with its extra-large diffuser, it’s my absolute favorite tool and when I travel I make sure to put in in my purse, so if my luggage gets lost, I will never be without it. Once my ‘do is 80 percent dry, I give it a shake and spray it with Morrocanoil’s Luminous hairspray. What? I’m from New Jersey, I never leave the house with hairspray.
And don’t underestimate the power of the perfect cut. I swear by the Ouidad system: “rake and shake” styling and their patented “carving and slicing” cutting technique. It’s all kinds of genius.
Got any advice for women still struggling with their curls? If it really bums you out, go ahead and straighten it. Your hair should make you feel pretty, I get it. But curls are powerful, sassy and badass. And I love the statement a head of curls makes in a room full of women walking the straight and narrow.