Let's hear it for the curls

My hair first turned on me when I was 6 years old, the same year I moved to Miami, where heat and humidity pitted my curly locks against me in what would become a decade-long war.

When I was 12, my mom joined the resistance, shearing my hair into a face-framing, above-the-ears, curly bob that earned me the nickname "Annie." Yup, for curly-haired women, it's a hard-knock life.

At 16 I discovered the flat iron, a tool designed to coerce, even burn if necessary, curly hair into playing it straight.

And while I've frequently gotten compliments on my curls — always from women with the type of straight, wave-free hair I've considered killing for — there are legitimate reasons that curly-haired women battle with their manes. Think tangles, dryness, cowlicks, frizz, lack of shine and hair shrinkage.

But curls have merit, too. Can you imagine Jennifer Beals with all the flash and none of the curls? And Keri Russell's extreme haircut during the second season of Felicity was said to have caused a significant drop in ratings. Turns out her corkscrews contributed to her appeal. Diana Ross may have been just as big a star without her trademark ringlets, or she may have discovered, a la Beyoncé, that no matter how talented you are, changing hair makes headlines.

Don't give 'em a brushoff

Mom cut my hair in part because I didn't brush it enough. Turns out I may have been onto something. Experts recommend that women with curls brush sparingly, and preferably only when wet, because the teeth in a typical brush will interfere with the pattern of curls and cause frizz. Instead, detangle in the shower with a wide-tooth comb and conditioner.

Join a curly community

For those who need a little help managing their often unruly locks, there are communities of curly-haired women who have mastered their manes and are willing to dish about how it's done. NaturallyCurly.com is chock full of advice, how-to's, tips and tricks, and photo galleries full of curly-haired women and celebrities. They've got recipes for keeping hair hydrated and even curl forums.

There's also a community of women who swear by Lorraine Massey's popular "Curly Girl Method," also known as No-Poo, to care for their locks. Massey's line of hair products, DevaCurl, has become a cult favorite and the company's website, mydevacurl.com, is full of curl-care information.

Keep curls hydrated

Curly hair is dry because women with curly hair actually have less hair — about 20 percent less, in fact, than their sleek and straight counterparts. Fewer strands mean fewer follicles and therefore fewer sebaceous glands to produce oil. So hydration is a key step toward loving your hair type.

Of the many products I've tried over the years, Ouidad's Whipped Curls ($26 at Ouidad.com) is a standout. It's a dense daily conditioner that coats curls in a triple olive-oil blend combined with shea butter. It can be used as a daily conditioner (apply, leave on for a few minutes and then rinse) or a styling primer that can be applied minimally to damp hair much as any gel or mousse.

There is also a network of Ouidad-certified salons where stylists are trained in the trademarked Ouidad "Carve & Slice" haircut and other curly hair-styling techniques. Because, as this Little Orphan can tell you, no curly-haired girl should underestimate the power of a perfect cut.

Carolyn Brundage is the founder of prettycity.com. Tweet up with Carolyn on Twitterprettycity.

Let's hear it for the curls 08/21/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 10:41pm]

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