Articles By Aimee Gerow

Majoring in Curls

This month, I’ve been musing about my history as a curly girl, and when I really started "majoring in curls." This month. I’ll be graduating from my time as a writing major, but I don’t think I’ll ever abandon my curly attitude or my desire to study what works for my hair.

My hair didn’t curl into ringlets until I was about 13, but I remember the time in eighth grade when I put product in my hair for the first time and wore it down. It wasn’t the prettiest of hairdos (I was still brushing my hair back then), but one of the girls told me it looked pretty. I didn’t really start wearing it curly on a regular basis until I came across Lorraine Massey’s book "Curly Girl" at the public library.

I thought the book was possibly the coolest thing ever! Who would have thought to write a book just for people with curls? And so began my education in curls — trying new products, new drying techniques, etc.

The small details stick with me — little comments from friends or even strangers that make my day or my week. I’m sure my fellow curlies have appreciated a random comment like “You have such beautiful hair!” from someone you’ve never seen in your life.

Friends who appreciate your curls are also so important — those people who don’t push you to follow trends or look just to fit in with the crowd. One of my best girlfriends loves to “boing” my curls whenever she sees me.

I remember trying to decide what I wanted my hair to look like for my senior prom four years ago. One of the most crucial choices at the time was whether to go curly or straight. Most of people urged me to go straight — none of them were curly. I wasn’t convinced. But one male friend insisted I go curly. When I asked why he said, “Because it’s more…..Aimee.” That was enough to make up my mind.

I’ve only straightened my hair twice in my whole life — both times because friends wanted to know what it would look like. It’s never been my idea, and because it takes so long to do! I’ve noticed how odd my head feels when I’ve lost the curls. I hold my neck and head so stiffly, as if it might suddenly spring back into curly mode if I make the slightest movement. I can usually identify a curly girl sporting straight hair because they do the same thing.

For me, living the curly life has become a "pay-it-forward" sort of movement. My two younger sisters and mother (all incredibly curly) rarely if ever straighten their hair. I know for a fact the women in my family are all envied because of their beautiful locks.

Having curly hair is part of who I am — an element of my identity. It’s one of the first things people mention about me. "She’s the one with the curls." My curls has become a reflection of my personality and vice versa, and I hope that others eventually feel the same way. My hope is that everyone will be able to rock their curls, and not feel like they have to be someone they’re not.


Spring is finally here! With everything growing in fresh and new, it seems like the perfect time for rejuvenation. Maybe that’s why they call it spring cleaning! I know when the sun starts to come out and I can finally put away that winter coat, it gets me in the mood to clean and organize. So in the spirit of all things neat and tidy, I thought I’d provide ten important spring hair care tips for all you lovely curlies.



Majoring in Curls

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That time of year is upon us, curly college students! For those of you getting up into the sacred realms of the upperclassmen, I’m sure that you’re starting to hear lovely phrases like "internships," "resumes," and "job interviews." I start to get a little jittery just thinking about them. I’m assuming there is a small percentage of students out there who have jobs already lined up after graduation and know exactly what they’re going to do. Hooray for them! Honestly, they must be just sitting back and thanking the gods that they can breathe for two minutes. But for the rest of us (myself included) plans might not be so definite at the moment.

Job and internship hunting requires a lot of putting yourself out there and letting prospective employers see what a fabulous person you are! A well-written resumes and cover letter is incredibly crucial when getting people’s attention, but when you finally do get that interview, you need to look the part. No one is going to take you seriously if you saunter into an office with jeans and flip-flops. I know that’s a bit of exaggeration, but appearance does matter. At the most basic level, make sure your clothes are ironed and clean! (Have you seen that commercial where the shirt stain is talking louder than its owner? Too true.) Wear colors that suit you well, that tend to get you compliments. One thing I’ve heard a hundred times is to wear closed-toed shoes! Sandals just aren’t right, despite how well they go with your outfit and regardless of how hot it is outside. Keep the make-up simple as well. You don’t want to blind employers with a new sparkly eyeshadow or shock them with lime green liner.

Sadly, there are people out there who form opinions about curly hair. That it reflects a sort of unmanageability in the curly girl, or that curlies tend to be a little wilder and not as dependable. And I’m not kidding or exaggerating. Some employers just subconsciously equate straight hair with control and responsibility. Now that is discrimination right there!

God forbid that I would recommend straightening your hair just to get a job. To quote from the movie Clueless, “As if!” Your hair is a part of your personality. It is important to prove that you’re the best person for the job, whether you have straight, curly, or no hair! In effect, hair does count, but only to the extent that it’s well-styled and cut. Keep your hair out of your face so you can communicate well and not distract others. Maybe a headband or a few pins strategically placed here and there would do the trick. Try to keep the frizz to a minimum with some smoothing serum or pomade, whatever you find works best.

There is something to be said for the type of job or internship you’re applying for. A law firm or office, for example, will require a look that’s more dressy and classic than a position at a record company, for example. Some jobs lend themselves to being a little more creative and funky with appearances. Use your best judgment in these cases and don’t do something crazy like dye your hair purple the night before the big day! Very cool, but maybe a little too daring.

I’m not saying these are rules to live by when it comes to interviews. Make sure you feel comfortable enough to let your lovely personality shine through. That’s what they want to see!


Majoring in Curls

 
 
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I keep a box full of old things that I’ve written since high school. There are academic papers, journals, scribbles on napkins – all sorts of stuff. After recently attending a two-week writers’ retreat, I got the chance to throw a whole bunch of short stories and poems into the box for posterity. As a result I ended up spending three hours reading old work, most of which I don’t even remember writing. Some of the journal entries from 8th grade had me laughing out loud. I stumbled across a compilation of poems I wrote my senior year of high school. and this was one of them.

Confessions of a Junkie

I admit to the crime, I’m a self-confessed junkie.
I spend all of my cash on the stuff.
What I need is rehab or a patch of some sort,
but I don’t think that they’d be enough.

No I don’t mean smoking, sniffing, or booze.
I wouldn’t touch that trash if you paid me.
I spend all my cash on face and hair stuff
all made to enhance one’s beauty.

I’ll linger at Brooks searching for redemption>

using up hours on end.
I’ve bought endless face washes, lotions, and sprays
the cashier has become a good friend.

Half empty bottles of mousse and of gel
litter my bureau and sink.
Results of my search for the perfect defrizzer,
a quest that is fruitless, I think.

All sorts of make-up I’ve only used once
that I bought on a whim and a want.
Of lip gloss I thought would look pretty on me
and give me a face I could flaunt.

There’s no use in trying to help me.
It’s a curse I must hide without fail.
I will always be buying and searching and seeking
the ultimate beauty Holy Grail.

The idea of the Holy Grail comes from religious stories and iconography. Historically it is known as the cup that Christ drank out of at the Last Supper, and which held his blood as he was dying on the cross. Thanks to a little book called "The Da Vinci Code," the timeless popularity of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and other pop culture icons, the Holy Grail has become a household phrase, even for people who aren’t religious. But the idea has changed over time. The phrase has come to mean anything that’s so mysterious and powerful that it could be potentially change a life. Who would’ve thought it might apply to a hair product?

I’m sure that many of my curly friends have a similar addiction, for which there is no cure. It’s something you have to live with, ladies. Even if you’ve found a mousse or gel that you love, after two or three months (maybe less) you start to get itchy. You get that feeling every time you walk by the beauty aisle of the nearest pharmacy or grocery store. Even if I'm not in the market for something new, I automatically slow down and glance down the aisle. Perhaps I think that some light from the heavens will illuminate my perfect styling product.

I personally do love spending a little time in those aisles, despite the guilt, because I like looking at new products and brands. I like to read ingredient lists, smell a few concoctions and feel the textures. Over the years of being a curly girl, you figure out aspects of products you like and don’t like pretty fast.

One of the reasons many of us are regularly in search of the Holy Grail is because products we've grown to love stop working. Your hair seems to get used to a product. If you give it something new and fresh, it seems perks up instantly.

A not-so-pleasant side affect of this addiction is that with all this buying and testing, there’s bound to be some that you don’t care for at all. One day, you open the bathroom cupboard to find bottles and jars falling at your feet. What to do with all these barely used products? Find curly family members and friends in your area! Trade products. Luckily for me, I have two sisters and a mother all with incredibly curly hair – two with very thick hair and two with finer hair. Between the four of us, (and a curly-haired brother), products don’t usually go to waste very often.

I wouldn’t feel too guilty about the never-ending search for your Holy Grail. Maybe it puts a bit of a dent in your purse, but it's okay. There are worse addictions.


Majoring in Curls  
 
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With the holiday season upon us, it’s tradition to attend gatherings and New Year’s festivities. It’s one of the few times in the entire year when you can splurge on a new dress or shoes. They're necessities, of course!

Along with brand-new outfits comes the dilemma of how to give your hair a little holiday flair. Most curlies I know (myself included) have tried-and-true “fancy” updos they can whip up for any occasion. Although curls tend to look gorgeous no matter what you do with them, sometimes there’s an uncontrollable urge to use hair accessories! But what's the best way to use them?

Colorful barrettes, funky hair pins, and classy hats are so much fun to play with and provide a perfect compliment to your outfit. But it’s all in how the hair wears it, especially when the situation calls for a classy look.

For a holiday soiree, sparkle is definitely acceptable. Bobby pins adorned with crystals or elaborate metal barrettes are an effortless way to look amazing. Sometimes all you need is one stunning piece placed in your regular ‘do to create something spectacular.

If you’ve got a lot of sparkle in your hair, avoid too much glitz in your makeup. It’s all about balance.Headbands also look great on almost any face and hair cut -- from short, super kinky hair to long waves. Try out different widths and materials to find one that suits your curls the best. The one thing that might cause a problem is pushing on a headband tight to your scalp and trying to pull the hair into place with the band. As lovely as that looks on straight-haired girls, it ruins the curl pattern and strains the locks. Instead, try lowering the band on from above, right into the curls. If there’s too much hair in front of the face, pull out the bobby pins and pin the hair back over the band in random spots. Or try a stretchy band, like one from This is J.

For a party that calls for a classier look -- maybe a staff party or university gathering -- you can use pretty much anything as well. But tone down the color and glam a little. For example, instead of using hair sticks to create a French chignon, use neutral-colored bobby pins and attach a thin, jeweled barrette in the crease. If you’re creating an updo that pulls most of the hair back from your face, be careful it doesn’t look too severe. By gently teasing out the little wispy pieces, they’ll frame your face. It softens the look without being too casual.

Any occasion calls for a few rules that apply to most curlies. Go easy on the hairspray! If you want to keep her curls in place, opt for one designed for curly hair, like Curlisto Structura Spray. A few gentle spritzes should do the trick. It will avoid the crunchy feel curls and still help retain shape.Resist the temptation to touch your hair! If you keep checking it or try to fluff it back into place, it will only create lots of frizz and volume. Carry a small spray bottle in your purse with a taming product, and give the curls a few spritzes throughout the night. It’ll refresh the tresses and keep you going for a few more dances!

Check out the new accessories from France Luxe and Colette Malouf Ion CurlMart!


Majoring in Curls  
 
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Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday of all. I love it more than Arbor Day, Valentine’s Day, the 4th of July, and even more than Christmas.

A lot of the Thanksgiving love comes from the well-founded myth, that any calories one consumes upon a day of celebration do not ever add to one’s waistline. Ok, I made that one up, but it’s not considered completely gluttonous to gorge a little bit on Thanksgiving. Also love the fact that I get to see my family and hang out with them, if only for a couple days until I head back to school. And I can’t tell you how much I adore the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

But the best thing for me about Thanksgiving is the being thankful part. At dinner, my family goes around the table and everyone has to say what they’re thankful for. I'm always grateful that everyone is healthy and safe. And of course we're all thankful for good food, close friends and great opportunities.

Now let's look at it from a curly girl’s point of view.

In the first place, I’m thankful to have a head full of curly hair. It’s one of the things about me that makes me, me! When I straighten my hair (which happens once in a blue moon), I feel like something’s missing and incomplete. Instead of complaining about my hair when it’s humid, or envying my friends' pin-straight hair, I remind myself that I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I’m also grateful that people in this world are increasingly appreciative of the natural qualities in a person’s appearance. It's no longer the case that to be considered attractive you need to be need to be slim, toned, tanned and straightened.

I’m thankful that I’ve been blessed with a rather large family, most of whom have curly hair as well. Having two sisters, a mom, a brother, a grandma, and a great-grandmother who have all gone through the same curly struggles is a blessing. We share de-frizzing tips, horrific haircut stories and have witnessed each other curl transformations over the decades.

I think in general, many U.S. women take for granted the amazing freedom we have. I’m grateful to live in a country where I’m not persecuted for wearing certain clothes and hairstyles, or for being a woman. There are so many females who suffer daily, and I give thanks for being free to be a woman. I have the choice to wear my hair up or down, curly or straight, mohawk or clean-shaven, and no one can take that from me.

We need to be thankful every day of our lives, and not just on Thanksgiving. We can be thankful for big things, like family and friends, but it’s not shallow to also be thankful for curly hair, cute noses, and freckles. As a society, we tend to take a lot for granted.
So eat your turkey, slice up some pie, do some high-kicks with the Rockettes, and show off your curls on Thanksgiving! Live it up and happy holidays!


Majoring in Curls  
 
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Has anyone ever told you that they thought it smelled like fall? I can always sense the season changing, and I love the scent of crisp leaves, bonfires and apples.But one thing I don’t appreciate about this time of year is the rapid change in temperature, and the effect the colder, dryer air has on my hair.In the colder weather, my hair gets flatter, I go through more conditioner, and it takes so much longer for my curls to dry. Sometimes it seems like they hold onto water until mid-day. I’ve always been slightly jealous of those girls I see in my 9 a.m. classes who have straight hair that’s soft and dry. They don’t have to worry all day long about not touching their hair and creating frizz. It’s just another one of those curses us curly girls have to deal with.After years of working with my curls and figuring out the best routine, I’ve discovered that it takes a good three to fours hours for my hair to fully air dry. I haven’t had to rely on alternate methods of drying because of my hair length, which I love. I just throw mousse in it and give it a couple of shakes upside down. I call it the curly-hair version of the “bend and snap" of "Legally Blonde" fame. But I can’t even imagine how hard it is for you girls with gorgeous long, curly tresses.Now I’m not a huge fan of frying your hair every morning with a blow-dryer, but for those of you who really can’t stand arriving at class with curlsicles dangling, there are some more curl-friendly drying options. For those of you who can pull off second-day hair, I commend and praise you. I wasn’t blessed with the hair or the skill to do this. I would adore not having to shower in the morning and being able to add another half hour of sleep.So if you’re using a blow-dryer, never use it alone. Diffusers are a curl’s best friend. Diffusers are those big plastic bowls with little fingers sticking out of them that pop right onto the end of your dryer. They look crazy, but work miracles. Instead of having a direct stream of hot air blasting out, diffusers do what they sound like -- diffuse the air into a larger space and save your curls!

There are a few different techniques that I’ve found work well when it comes to the diffuser. My personal favorite is the upside down one. This is the only way I’ve been able to get enough volume while also drying the roots well. Just toss your head upside down and use the diffuser to push the curls in their natural pattern. Sitting is helpful when you do this because sometimes it takes more than a few minutes to do and your legs get tired.Some people also tip their heads to the side and diffuse this way because you can get a better view in the mirror of what you’re doing. If you’re not a fan of that crazy head rush version, and want a little more of a natural, finger-fluffed look, you can try the version I learned from a stylist in London. He showed me how to hold the dryer in one hand and use the other hand to reach over your head and pull up the other side of curls while diffusing. Don’t just reach one arm across your face. You have to actually pull up the curls from the top so the opposite hand acts like the fingers on the real diffuser. Just be careful not to shift the fingers too much or you’ll end up with a lot of frizz.As a final word of warning, diffusing and blow-drying your curls will give you a different look. When I diffuse my curls, they get very small and tight as opposed to the natural looser look I get when I air-dry. It’s the same idea as using different products and getting different results. So please don’t wander across campus with freezing hair because I don’t want anyone to get sick on account of her hair!


Majoring in Curls  
 
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About a week ago, I glanced at my calendar and saw a big black circle around the 16th of August. Looming up at me were the words, “Back to School!”

I had planned to make the long drive back to New York that day, and I couldn’t believe that the summer had gone by so fast and I’d have to start prepping myself for a new and final school year. But then I remembered all the fun that comes in seeing friends again, getting school supplies (fresh notebooks!) and decorating new rooms.

But there’s also the downside of starting a new school year. When it comes to keggers, dorm parties, and Greek gatherings, it’s a guarantee that alcohol will be involved. I’m not going to be naïve and tell you that absolutely no one under the age of 21 ever drinks in college. I’m not trying to be preachy, but I like people to be safe when drinking. So if you like to go out and have a couple of drinks every weekend, good for you! But if you like to start drinking to excessively every Saturday night, that could be a problem -- not only for your wallet, but for your body, skin -- and hair!

Now as curly girls, we all know (or should know) that certain alcohols in hair products can create frizz and unmanageability. Just as an overload of alcohol on the outside of the hair can be negative, so can excess on the inside. For one thing, alcoholic beverages dehydrate you, which is the major cause of hangover headaches. Have you ever heard that a big glass of water is the best remedy for a hangover?

Hair is affected by this as well because a continuous lack of fluids will make it dry and brittle, which creates split ends and easy breakage. It has also been proven that excess drinking depletes the levels of iron and zinc in our bodies. They are both key ingredients in strong hair, When you have a deficiency, the hair tends to fall out in larger quantities. People with curly hair seem to lose hair more rapidly than those with straight hair so it’s nothing to be concerned about. But if you notice more-than-usual amounts of hair in the shower drain, you might want to contact a doctor.

On the other hand, there are tons of hair-treatment recipes that include alcoholic beverages.

Beer is said to strengthen and add shine to dull hair. Most treatments recommend simply rinsing the hair with a can of flat beer, and then shampooing and conditioning as usual.

You can also combine the beer with various tonics and herbal teas to mix and match treatments. A little spritz bottle filled with lukewarm beer won’t take the place of gel, but it’ll give the hair a little oomph.

Champagne is said to give the hair some extra definition and bring out natural blonde highlights. Just combine equal parts hot water with old champagne and rinse through hair.

Who would have thought that ingredients like these can work such wonders for your hair?

Experiment with rinses and cocktails. But when it comes to drinking them, do so responsibly. Know your limits and always find a designated driver. Happy fall semester!


Majoring in Curls  
 
Email your questions to Aimee.  

Don’t you love those articles in women’s magazines that recommend spa days for women every once a month or so -- days where you invite all your closest girlfriends over and do nothing but primp, relax, and rejuvenate your mind and body?


Everyone needs mental health days once in awhile, no matter your age or occupation you might have. Between juggling classes, jobs, a social life and all the other crazy factors of college life, R&R is a must for students!

Our curls also needs some serious rejuvenation time. I’m sure that a huge percentage of curlies participate in activities or jobs where hair takes a beating. From hard-core swimmers, who spend all of their time soaking in chlorine, to stage performers who don wigs nightly, to waitresses who work in smokey environments, hair puts up with a lot.
After a few weeks of community theater performances and constant braiding, my curl pattern had disappeared, my part had vanished and I had a mass of frizz. My hair was seriously crying out for some attention. In order to repair it, and prevent any further damage, you need to pay attention to the basics. Moisturizers are key players in bringing hair back to life. When in the shower, rinse your hair and gently squeeze out the excess moisture from your hair. Don’t try to get the water out by raking your fingers through the curls. This acts like a brush and can lead to more breakage. Smooth on a good-sized amount of conditioner and work it through those precious curls. Let it sit in the hair because the heat of the water allows it to penetrate.

Because curls are prone to frizz, don’t use cotton towels. Use micro-fiber towels or a plain t-shirt to blot out the excess water. Don’t ruffle the hair because it screws up the curl pattern. After a couple days of doing that, the top layer of my hair goes completely crazy. One of my best methods for getting hair healthy again is to let it do its own thing as much as possible for a few days. I try not to touch, blow-dry, or style it. I use as few products as possible so as not to gunk everything up, and I make sure that the products I do use have a lot of natural ingredients in them.

For those curls that need an extra kick, there are countless hot-oil treatments, deep conditioners, and moisturizers on the market. You don’t need to spend gobs of money on them -- something us college students don't have a lot of. Drugstore treatments do work wonders. As always, I’m a believer in natural products and concoctions. Olive oil is amazing for the hair as well as the skin, but don’t go pouring a whole lot on your scalp because it can be tough to get out. Even a small amount of research will generate dozens of recipes that will enable you to make rejuvenating potions at home.

This summer vacation, let your curls have a vacation too!


Majoring in Curls  
 
 

Being home from college for the summer can be slightly tedious, especially when you have a job that doesn’t require you to be an early riser. Unfortunately. I’m one of those crazy people who gets up at the crack of dawn and doesn’t have to be at work until the afternoon. So what do I do with all my time? I cook. Most of the time I bake, but when I decide to cook a vegetable casserole or stew, I need my herbs. And don’t even get me started on the dried ones that come from the store. Yes, they’ll do in a pinch but things taste (and smell) so much better with fresh herbs.

That got me thinking about how much herbs benefit us. We use them in cooking, of course, but they also have huge medicinal potential as well as aromatherapy benefits. They can be taken internally as teas, or externally as rubs or rinses.

I started looking at the ingredient lists on my hair products. More often that not, I found one -- and sometimes a handful of different herbs were listed. I decided to do a little research to figure out the hair benefits of some of these herbs. There are way too many to go into detail (probably a book’s worth), so I chose three of my all-around favorites: basil, rosemary, and lavender.

I was surprised to find out that they’re all part of the mint family, despite their very unique scents. Because of this, they all tend to be refreshing and invigorating for the skin and hair. Historically, all three were considered aphrodisiacs. Married women would wear sprigs of basil in their hair to entice and arouse their husbands. Upper-class women once combined lavender and basil in a pomade and combed it through their hair. Forget the Chanel No. 5.

Basil is one of my favorite herbs of all time. The scent alone does wonders for me. I can’t resist sticking my nose in bunches of it whenever I go to the grocery store. Basil adds shine to the hair when it's used as a rinse. When combined with rosemary, it can be used as a color treatment for brunettes, or with chamomile for blondes.

Of the three herbs, rosemary is the closest to pine. With its needles, it slightly resembles. Like the others, it can treat itchy scalps and reduce flaking and dandruff. As I mentioned, it can darken hair slightly over time, lessen premature hair loss and graying, and promote strong hair. Because it also has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, it’s is a key ingredient in many children’s natural hair products. It can prevent and treat lice and other little bugs that kids pick up.

Lavender has the same antiseptic properties as the others, but historically has been used more as a medicine. Lavender water was used to treat numerous diseases and ailments, especially migraines. My guess is that it was the aroma that healed, rather than consuming the plant itself.

When using these herbs as hair products, the best way to apply them is as a rinse. You boil a handful of fresh (not dried) herbs in a pot full of distilled water. Tap water isn’t the best choice because want the purest product possible. Let it simmer for 20 to 30 minutes and then strain. You really don’t want to be picking leaves and flowers out of your hair for days. After conditioning, simply pour the cooled brew over your hair and comb through. If it sounds like making tea for your hair, that’s essentially what it is.

If you feel a little unsure about making concoctions on your own, just look for products on the market that include these ingredients. The higher up on the list it is, the more of the herb or oil they contain.

It's been an educational summer already!



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