Hair isn’t just about hair, is it? It’s about expressing who you are, and thanks to the Curly Girl and Natural Hair movements, more women are ditching their straighteners and leaving their hair natural. Here, three women share their – and their children’s – curly hair journeys.
"I didn't realise my curls were inspirational until I saw all the messages"
‘I’ve always been taught by my mum that my hair is beautiful, but I couldn’t see that growing up; and when I started school, I was desperate for straight hair. At 10, my mum let me have my first blow-dry and I felt so special. Then from the age of 16, I constantly straightened it. But when my daughter Alaia-Mai was five, she asked me, “Mummy, why don’t any of the princesses have curly hair like me?” I didn’t want to be a hypocrite, telling my children to love their hair, while always straightening and changing mine. So the next time I washed my hair, I let it dry naturally, so Alaia-Mai could see my curls. That was two years ago, and I’ve since been wearing my hair curly all the time.
Now, Alaia-Mai is proud of her hair, too. Straightening my hair used to make me feel polished before an event. But it wasn’t until I stopped that I asked myself, “Why isn’t curly hair dressy?” Now I feel like my authentic self with my curly hair, and I’m more confident with it – but that has taken time. Having regular cuts – at a specialist curl salon – helped, and I avoid too many blow-dries. As a result, my hair is so much healthier and grows down instead of out.
Letting my hair go curly has been such a positive experience. So many people messaged me, saying things like, “My daughter didn’t like her hair and then I showed her you on telly and now she loves it.” That makes me so happy. We’re slowly losing that Instagram-filtered perfection, and people are starting to embrace their natural beauty more, which reassures me about the environment my daughters will be growing up in.’
• Exclusive My Little Coco Conditioner (350ml). A fab leave-in conditioner – part of my new range of natural children’s products.
• An old tee. The best way to get excess moisture out of curly hair is by patting it gently with an old cotton T-shirt – the curls love the soft material.
• Exclusive My Little Coco Curling Custard (150ml). This holds curls lightly, without that crunch.
"I’m happy to see more Afro hair in advertising"
‘About a year ago, I was cleaning out my daughter Finn’s room and under the bed I found a pile of her hair. I asked her what it was and she replied, “I don’t like my hair, so I cut it off.” She was only three and a half. That made me so sad. She’d always mention Elsa from Frozen and how beautiful her hair was, but until that moment I’d had no idea how big an issue it was for her.
I’m white and have naturally wavy hair, and my partner, Jabo, is Nigerian. Finn’s hair is tight ringlets; the kind that becomes like candy floss when you brush it. I didn’t care about my hair when I was younger and was surprised she was thinking of her hair at that age. I’ve since made it my mission to try to get Finn’s hair looking its best. But it’s been hard getting the right advice, because what works for one person might not work for another.
As her mum, I want to be able to help her, but I have no experience with her hair type. In the beginning, I’d take advice from Jabo’s mum and she suggested using lots of different oils. But Finn’s hair is too fine and they weighed it down. So it’s really been down to trial and error to find what works for her. Now I only shampoo her hair twice a week to keep its natural moisture, use leave-in conditioner, then squeeze out the excess liquids and try not to dry it with a towel.
I want Finn to grow up with a positive image about who she is, so it makes me happy to see more Afro and textured hair in advertising and also on TV, such as Free Reign on Netflix. The young actress in it is of mixed heritage, and Finn says, “Mummy, look how beautiful she is and she has hair just like mine!” I’m hoping that seeing people she relates to, combined with my constant complimenting, will mean she grows up loving her hair just as it is.’
• Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Leave-In Conditioner (431ml). I put this on Finn’s soaking wet hair and scrunch the curls.
• An intensive conditioning mask I slather this in Finn’s hair and leave it in!
• A Water Spray Bottle. Curly hair loves water. Just spray to refresh curls and scrunch them.
"I just wanted hair that moves"
‘There’s a scene in the movie Beaches (if you haven’t seen it, I’d highly recommend it), where Bette Midler’s character is pointing out her best friend’s positive traits: “You’re smart, you’re beautiful, you have hair that moves”. When I was little, my curly hair rarely moved. Thick and coarse, it grew up, not out, and my mum resorted to military-style cuts that had me constantly mistaken for a boy. In the late 80s, my hairdresser blow-dried my hair straight with a paddle brush, which had just been invented. The creature staring back at me in the mirror had long, black glossy hair that not only moved, it swished. That moment changed my life. I got a hot boyfriend, was elected VP of the student council and started going out more.
From then on, I became convinced that every success that ensued was enhanced by my glossy, straight hair, and throughout my 20s and 30s I wouldn’t leave the house without a blow-dry. It was an exhausting routine to follow. Then, last year, seeing my hair on the brink of burnout, my hairdresser, Grace, gave me an ultimatum: “Stop straightening, at least a few days a week, or we are over”.
So I started Googling “styling tips for curly hair”. That’s when I discovered the Curly Girl Movement and the Curly Girl Method, created by hairdresser Lorraine Massey with her classic book, The Curly Girl Handbook [Workman Publishing]. This included nuanced ways of applying products – Google “squish to condish”, “praying hands” and “scrunch out the crunch”. I stopped washing with traditional shampoos, because they made my hair dry and, instead, just used lashings of conditioner. My curls came back to life. For me, this really was about more than hair.
My ethnicity is Greek and Egyptian, and flattening it all those years was about trying to blend in with the predominantly straight-haired white kids I grew up with in the 80s. Wearing my hair curly has been about being more comfortable in myself – I feel more playful with curls. It has meant not freaking out when it rains and celebrating my difference. And I’ve discovered that it sometimes even moves.’
• Jamaican Mango & Lime Black Castor Oil Argan (113ml). My hair loves oils. Check out Ayesha Malik (@Spisha on Insta), who swears by oil treatments.
• Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Range. When going from damaged hair to curls, it gives the moisture your hair needs.
• Grow Gorgeous Curl Conditioner (400ml). Swapping shampoo for a cleansing conditioner leaves my hair silky.