I didn’t realise I had curly hair until I was 31.

I didn’t realise I had curly hair until I was 31.

Image for postSame hair, different technique: before and after the Curly Girl Method.

The late writer Mary Ann Shaffer said: ?Naturally curly hair is a curse, and don?t you ever let anyone tell you different.? But I?m not so sure.

For the first time in probably 25 years, I let my hair air dry. Some people will make assumptions of a person who religiously blow-dried and flat-ironed their hair for 25 years ? they are probably people with straight hair. Controllable, sensible hair. They might think they know what a bad hair day is, but they do not. At school, I used to avoid PE or rain or anything that might release the almighty halo of frizz for fear of what people would say. (Kids are mean, this much I knew.) But the wonderful thing about my hair was that, after drying and straightening it, it looked absolutely banging. I totally got away with it: people just thought my hair grew out of my head like that. ?Oh,? they?d say, ?but you probably never have to worry about your hair,? unbeknownst to the trauma my GHDs underwent on a daily basis.


In January, I saw a photo of someone with a lovely, gentle-looking wave in their hair. I (naively) thought: perhaps that?s what my natural hair is like? So I left my hair to dry naturally and one hour later, was greeted by hundreds of tiny untameable spirals. It was worse than I thought. I must never let my hair air-dry again, I vowed.

I posted a photo of it on my Instagram story and got a message from a friend who happens to be the owner of a luscious mane of wavy-curly hair. ?It?s curlier than mine!? She wrote. ?It?s horrific.? I replied, ?Is it possible to make curly hair nice? Do I just have the bad stuff??. She mentioned something called The Curly Girl Method, known as CGM to its loyal followers. ?You should google it,? she recommended.

Boy, did I google it.

For three solid days, I disappeared into an intense research vortex. I learned: The Curly Girl Method was coined by hairstylist Lorraine Massey (though the techniques are very probably appropriated from Black hair care, but that?s another story) in 2001, you can?t use a towel, you can?t brush your hair, you don?t need shampoo, you do need a lot of gel, and basically everything you know about washing hair can be thrown into the garbage.

Over the next three months, I exercised borderline obsessional commitment to CGM. I joined the ?support group? on Facebook, I threw out all my hair products, I squished conditioner into my hair, I used a microfibre towel, I finger-coiled. It was revolutionary. Therapeutic, somehow. Instead of battering it into submission, I was treating my hair properly, and it was looking better than ever. I was getting more complements than I was comfortable with ? even the lady in the post office was impressed with the transformation. My friends thought I?d started curling my hair. ?But when did your hair turn curly??, they wondered.

Look. It wasn?t all plain sailing, I?ll admit it. Bad hair days are worse. There are a lot of steps in the ?wash day routine?. In order to avoid frizz, I have to let my hair dry to a solid crisp in a ?gel cast?. The terminology for the technique is pukesville: ?squish to condish?, ?scrunch out the crunch? (really, Lorraine?).

But the results? Amazing. Just search for ?curly girl before after? and see for yourself.

With the invention of Brazilian Blowdries, ionic straighteners and the like, the quest for straighter, shinier hair seems to be escalating. Beautiful curly-headed celebs like Julia Roberts and Mariah Carey have switched their curls for straightened hair. Nicole Kidman even admitted that she wished she hadn?t straightened her hair so much, since it had damaged her natural curl pattern to the point that her hair won?t curl any more. Worst of all: straight hair continues to be perceived as more serious and trust-worthy. As if curls only grow from the heads of people whose wildness overflows with such voracity that it bundles out of their scalp in ringlets. It?s ridiculous.

Having seen the effect of treating curls the way they should be ? not just forcing them to look like straight hair ? I see how beautiful they are. I don?t worry about my hair any more, or if it?s raining, or a little humid outside. Even if it all gets a little wild sometimes. It?s mine and I finally like it.

So I reply to Mary Ann Schaffer: naturally curly hair is a gift, so long as you know how to look after it.


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