Articles By Curly Teen Scene/Julia Rizzo

Today I had a wonderful hair day. I credit my hairdresser for my particularly shiny curls: during my recent haircut, she urged me to acquire a diffuser and reinforced the fact that “product is your friend; don’t be afraid of product!” Her advice worked, and she gets props for never once suggesting that I let her blow my hair straight. She did mention, however, that when she was growing up she had no idea how to style her long curls. After losing a few battles with frizz, she said, it was easier for her to straighten her hair every morning

f you’ve read my past columns, you may notice that I’ve expressed some pretty strong opinions about straightening. You might even get the impression that I’m against it all together. Not so. However, I will admit that it makes me a bit sad when curly girls straighten their hair because they haven’t had a chance to learn the tips, tricks, and strategies that could help their curls look their very best.

Thanks in part to the new tricks my hairdresser taught me this week, I’m pretty pumped about my curls these days. While I fully plan on continuing to evangelize the beauty of naturally curly hair, I do recognize that even the proudest of curly girls can use a change once in a while; shaking things up now and then can be wonderfully refreshing!

If you’re looking for something different and plan on flat-ironing your lovely locks, I have two suggestions. First, practice safe straightening! Last year I routinely saw my roommate take a flat iron to her damp curls: I could smell burning hair across the room, and the steam it produced was vaguely unsettling. It doesn’t take an expert to know that can’t be good.

On the site this month you’ll find tons of suggestions that can help you minimize the damage straightening (or any other type of heat styling) can cause. Check out some of these tips before you straighten your hair; your curls will thank you for it later.

My second bit of advice is to remember your curly pride! If you’re like me, your friends are accustomed to seeing you with a fairly routine range of hairstyles. If they rarely or never see you with straightened hair, prepare to get a reaction! I used to think my hair looked better straight because of all the extra attention it garnered. But in reality, my friends were just responding to the change.

Change can be fun, and rocking a novel new style is a great way to mix it up. Before you reach for the flat iron however, make sure you know how to make your hair look its best! Once you’re happy with your natural curls, straight styles will be nothing more than a fun diversion from your normal style.

Stay Curly,

Julia


I have a little secret — one that my straight-haired friends might even call a “dirty” little secret. I haven’t washed my hair in three days.

While going more than a day or two without washing or brushing your hair is quite the social travesty for the average teen, it’s the usual for many curly girls. When I shower in morning, I put my hair up in a bun to keep it dry. There it sits, high and dry, for the duration of my shower.

Among curly girls, there seems to be two camps: those who fight frizz and flyaways by washing and styling their lovely locks each day, and those who combat dry and damaged hair by washing it every few days and touching up their curls between soakings. While different approaches work for different hair types, I’m a believer in the second school of hair-care thought. Seeing as how I prefer to let my hair air dry, this allows me to avoid showing up to school with wet shoulders everyday.

While giving your hair a break for a few days is all well and good when you’re just going to class and hanging out, it’s often not an option for more athletic curly girls. (News flash, guys: girls sweat too!) Because I teach skiing, I find myself gross and sweaty during Central New York’s coldest months, in addition to its hottest ones. When I have to wash my hair frequently, I skip the shampoo entirely and leave the conditioner in my hair for an extra minute or two before rinsing. I’ve discovered that unless I’ve gotten something crazy in my hair (a recent art-project-turned-paint-fight comes to mind...), I don’t notice a decrease in the cleanliness of my curls when I pass on the shampoo.

While it may seem ironic that water can dry out hair, the hot temperature of a shower can strip moisture and our own scalp’s natural oils. To add a little extra shine and bounce between washes, I use detangling spray to revive my style in the morning. I prefer types that are equally effective on wet and dry hair; this site sells several brands. To pep up my curls, I flip my head over, dampen my hair with a few liberal pumps of leave-in, then scrunch and twirl my curls back in line.

Curly girls’ hair routines are as varied as the girls themselves. While some of us religiously shampoo, condition and diffuse our hair each morning, others prefer to touch up our styles for a few days before conditioning our hair again. Some ladies like loose, wavy curls, while others have like using gel for the wet look. While I share my favorite tips and tricks in this column, we’ve all developed the methods that work for our particular curl type.

What do you swear by? I’d love to hear from you!

Stay Curly


Email your questions/comments to Julia.


You’ve seen it in the movies: the beautiful actress walks into a room and in one swift motion lets down her long hair, shaking it loose around her shoulders.

Although I’ve always admired those leading ladies, when I take down my hair it’s not nearly as elegant. I generally spend a few seconds probing my bun for my hair tie and working it out of my curls while trying to wreak as little havoc as possible on my hair. Even though I buy “ouchless” hair ties, I inevitably find a chunk wrapped around my hair band in spite of my best efforts. I know it’s normal to “shed” a certain amount of hair each day, but I’m almost certain that my frequent use of hair ties is doing more harm than good.

Pretty hair sticks.

In the hope of remedying this, I embarked on the “Great Hair Stick Experiment." The Great Hair Stick Experiment started about a month ago when I bought a beautiful pair of wooden hair sticks from a small store in Nantucket. A few shades lighter then my hair and richly grained, they have a subtle spiral in the middle. Since hair can’t tangle around the smooth sticks, I knew they presented a good option for people who want to keep their long locks healthy and avoid breakage.

I was, however, a little worried they would be difficult to use. Having never worn hair sticks before, I thought they’d be difficult to master. I soon discovered that I could create a hair stick style with little trouble and no practice. The majority of styles are anchored with one stick; the second is used to strengthen and stabilize the style. I logged on to YouTube and learned how to do a French twist and a few fancy buns; watching another person create complex styles is by far the best way to learn how to recreate them yourself.

Hair sticks have several advantages. When you use hair ties, you have you pull your curls tight along your head to stabilize the style. When using hair sticks, however, you have the flexibility to create sleek, tight looks or loose buns that showcase your curls while holding them away from your face and off your neck.

Although a month isn’t enough time to note a significant different in the amount of breakage in my hair, I’ve enjoyed the comfort and adaptability of hair sticks. There is no risk of breakage when you take them out of your hair, and they’re appropriate whether you’re dressing for the classroom or the ballroom.

Give them a try, you may discover a stylish and creative way to draw attention to your beautiful curls!


Email your questions/comments to Julia

I’ve spent my entire life living and attending school in Central New York. Although I’ve had the opportunity to travel outside of the American Northeast, the perspective with which I view the world reflects the place I grew up.

One of the best things about our generation, however, is that the Internet allows us to reach out and communicate with other teenagers, regardless of where we live on the map. Every time I get an email from a NaturallyCurly.com reader, I am reminded that no matter where you are in the world, you can always find other curly girls.

I recently got a Facebook message from Nitya, a curly girl in New Delhi, India. She wrote that she “still has moments” when she wishes that she had “’normal’ straight hair,” and she wondered if I ever feel the same way. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I have no simple answer to her simple question. I occasionally wish I had straight hair, mostly when I’m having a particularly difficult hair day. But then again, I also wish I was six feet tall when I can’t reach something on the top shelf at the grocery store. When my hair takes on a life of its own or when I’m straining to grasp something out of my reach, I wonder what it would be like if I was a little different. Occasionally I pull out a hair dryer or strap in a pair of heels and try out a new look for a bit.

While wanting an occasional change is totally okay, and doing something different with your look can be fun and interesting, I think lasting satisfaction comes from really accepting yourself. For me, it was embracing my curly hair, regardless of what the current trend may be.

While I can wax poetic about a simple question, Nitya also posed a practical one: “What would you do if you had to go on a camping trip in the wilderness . . . and you couldn’t wash your hair for four days straight?”

Last August I did just that, spending five days backpacking in the Adirondack mountains. Our strict “leave no trace” policy meant that although I swam several times during our journey, I couldn’t use soap or shampoo in the water I was swimming in. Before I left I washed and conditioned my hair and put it into two very tight French braids. Three days into my trip, when my braids began to come undone, I threw my hair up into a much-familiar bun. Although I probably looked a little rough and tumble, forsaking a shower for a few days was well worth the opportunity to camp with friends and sleep under the stars. While grungy hair is quickly forgotten, the memory of backpacking with nine other people my age will endure.

Whether you're hiking in the Adirondacks or surfing the internet, curly girls can be found in all locations and situations. While none of us are confident one hundred percent of the time, feeling good with who you are is a heck of a lot more fun than the alternative.

Stay Curly,

Julia


It’s July and summer’s in full swing! Summer, for me, means being outdoors. This year I’ve been riding my bike more then ever, and the beautiful weather we’re enjoying in the Northeast feels like nature begging me to come outside.

The time I’ve spent on a bike and under the sun make me realize that (gasp!) there are a few things that are more important than hair.

Let me explain. I’m talking about our health, and specifically the way that hats and helmets can help keep us protected. Whether the culprit is sun or concrete, hats and helmets keep us safe in the summer months.

The other day, after a minor bike accident, I asked my father why people put such an emphasis on wearing helmets. After all, if I fall off my bike my hands and knees are the most likely to hit the ground, not my head.

“A head injury can kill you,” he said, “And no one ever died of a broken wrist.” I would know, I’ve had two.

I know a helmet isn’t very conducive to frizz-free curls. Between cycling in the summer and downhill skiing in the winter I wear a helmet quite a bit. When I’m teaching skiing, “helmet head” is one of my more frequent hairstyles.

Unlike our straight haired peers, once our hair gets messy, no brush can detangle it. But while helmets may squash our hairdos, they protect something that’s much more important — our heads. Last year 67,000 people went to the emergency room with head injuries sustained while riding a bike, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.

While I think my curly hair is a reflection of my lively personality, I know that personality might not be the same if I sustained a serious head injury.

While a helmet protects your brain, a hat can actually protect your hair. I noticed how hot my dark hair gets when I’m out in the sun — especially on the crown. Thinking that this can’t be good, I did some research. Dr. John Gray from the P&G Hair Care Research Center writes that ultraviolet light weakens the protein our hair is made of, called keratin. The sun actually breaks down hair at a molecular level! Harsh sunlight also sucks moisture from your hair’s cuticle as well as from your scalp. While there are hair products out there that contain low amounts of SPF, I prefer to pull on a cute summer hat or my Red Socks baseball cap.

In most of my columns I write about tips and tricks for keeping your hair looking its best. I this column, however, I hope I’ve convinced you that you can get the most enjoyment from your fabulous curls if you protect them, along with your head!

Stay Curly,

Julia


Julia Rizzo

Julia Rizzo

“Boy Meets World” is 30 minutes of fun television. Although it ran for seven seasons from 1993 until 2000, my sister and I usually watched it in syndication on the Disney channel. The reruns weren’t always in sequential order, so we’d see an episode from the first season juxtaposed with an episode from three or for seasons later.

Being the curly girls that we are, it didn’t take us long to notice the hair of the show’s leading lady, Topanga. In the first two seasons, her hair is all the way down her back. Maybe it was because it was the mid-nineties or because the character was supposed to be a free spirit, but all I know is that she rocked some awesome curls.

However, somewhere along the way that began to change. Her hair gradually appears shorter, highlighted and (gasp!) flat-ironed. By the last two seasons, there was absolutely no trace of Topanga’s astoundingly curly hair. I’m sure the actress didn’t have any influence over her shifting look. I want to know why the creators of the show made the decision to ditch her curls. Was it to reflect emerging trends? To signify that she was getting older? Regardless of the reason, this phenomenon isn’t isolated to “Boys Meets World.”

After Topanga’s transformation, “Sister Sister” (also a show on the Disney channel) gave us a case of déjà vu. This program was in production around the same time as “Boy Meets World,” and I watched as Tia and Tamera’s curly ‘dos met the same fate as Topanga’s. I know that as we grow up, we easily identify with the main characters of the television shows we regularly watch. If you’re self-conscious or unsure about your curly hair, as I have been occasionally, seeing your favorite leading ladies go from curly to straight can send a pretty clear message about what’s “in.”

I wish this trend was limited to 90s TV shows. As I’ve alluded to in other columns, I’m a bit of an "American Idol" fan. Watching this season’s Top 12 perform in the finale, contestant Syesha Mercado reminded me of last season’s winner, Jordin Sparks. This time last year. I wrote about Sparks’ rise in the rankings and the corresponding disappearance of her curls. Unfortunately, Mercado was also sporting pin straight hair during the finale, a stark contrast to her naturally kinky curls.

I wish we didn’t have to watch young women on television lose their curls as their fame increases or as trends change. This sends the message that not only is straight hair is superior to curls, but that straight hair is a goal we should work toward. Be aware of the role the media plays (even subtly) in shaping your self-image, and as always, be proud to be a curly girl or guy!

Stay Curly,

Julia


Email your questions to Julia.


I think curly hair is pretty fantastic. Curls are springy and soft. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, long and short. Everyone’s curls are a little different, and many of us find that our hair never falls in the same way twice.

It’s not surprising that people love to touch curly hair.

In my last column, I mentioned an experience most curly girls share — having their hair “boinged.” People are fascinated with the springy nature of our hair. A few of my friends have been known pull gently on one of my curls, watching it lengthen as it straightens. They delight in letting it go and watching it bounce back to (more or less) its original twist. The sound effects, of course, complete the experience.

“Boinging” isn’t the only time people play with my hair. Friends often try, with the best intentions, to pluck away “stray strands” that they notice. Those hairs, unfortunately for my scalp, are usually still attached to my head.

“Sorry,” they’ll say, as they meet resistance, “I thought it was a stray!”

My hair is known for doing its own thing; renegade strands are the norm. If I feel the need to rein in my hair, I’ll do it myself.

I’ll never forget the guy who sat behind me in math sophomore year. He used to rip up sheets of paper into tiny balls, which he would flick into my ponytail. The bits of paper usually went unnoticed until I stood up, sending them cascading around my shoulders onto the floor. This inevitably ended in the girls bathroom, where I would take my hair down and shake out any stray paper that remained.

Despite my anecdotes, most of the time when people close to me play with my hair, I don’t mind a bit. I will occasionally remind people I am less familiar with that just because I have a lot of hair doesn’t mean it’s public property. My sister, Lilly, has mastered the art of politely and firmly asking people to respect her personal space when they play with her hair. Since she keeps it short, it’s more vulnerable to frizz and she can’t throw it up in a bun when it begins to look unkempt. She finds it frustrating to carefully wash and condition it, only to have a friendly stranger run their fingers through her curls.

I’m enthusiastic about my curly hair, and I appreciate it when others appreciate it. However I’ve learned to draw boundaries, whether I’m telling a classmate that paper is for taking notes or a friend that hair on my shoulders can stay there.

Stay Curly, Julia


“Do you by any chance write a column for NaturallyCurly.com?”

That's the question that made my day last week. I was sitting outside a lecture hall, chatting with someone I had just met, when she told me she recognized me from my picture and bio on this site. I was tickled at the coincidence of meeting another person familiar with NaturallyCurly.com. She introduced herself as Regine, and we launched into a girly discussion about growing up with hair that we didn’t always know how to deal with. Our brief conversation left me with the same happy feeling that comes from surfing around this site. The realization that I’m not the only one that thinks curly hair is pretty awesome!

You see, there are a lot of people bopping around with naturally curly hair, but not everyone realizes that it’s something to be proud of.

A few of my friends also rock their curls, and I love their unique perspectives. My friend Allison made me laugh when she told me in a mock serious tone that a curly hairstyle has a limited lifespan. After you spend 15 minutes washing it, it takes three hours to air dry. When it dries, you have “a precious three-hour window” when it looks good, provided that you’re careful not to touch it. After that, it inevitably begins to become unruly and soon enough you find yourself repeating the process! While I’m sure this isn’t universally true, I know for the last few months the Central New York winter has required me to wear a hat when I leave the house, which only seems to accelerate the phenomenon. Now, when we get ready for special occasions, we joke about the best time to wash our hair so we get the most out of our “three-hour window.”

Allison, Regine and I have one thing in common with millions of other teenagers. We all use Facebook. If you spend as much time on the social networking site as I do, I’m sure you’ve already discovered some of the groups dedicated to curly hair. My favorite is called “Curly Girls – It’s not just hair, it’s a way of life!” Some of the topics on the message boards wouldn’t make much sense to our straight-haired peers. I laughed out loud when I read the beginning of the thread “Have you been boinged?” I’ve definitely been “boinged." I guess people can’t resist treating well-shaped curls like soft, naturally occurring springs. The group has grown to almost 8,000 members — that’s a lot of teens with curly pride!

No matter how you celebrate your curls, befriend a fellow curly girl. From classroom conversations to serious style advice, “it’s not just hair, it’s a way of life!”

Stay Curly,

Julia


Julia Rizzo

Julia Rizzo

Disney princesses gave me unrealistic expectations about hair.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Disney movies. When I was little, I idolized Ariel. I watched "The Little Mermaid" over and over again. And to this day, I can still remember an embarrassingly large portion of the soundtrack.

While the movie taught me about taking risks, following your dreams, and the dangers of sea witches, it also taught me that teenage hair is smooth, straight, and flawless, especially underwater. Ariel’s bangs alone defy half a dozen laws of physics, and somehow I thought that was what my hair was supposed to look like. There were days when my bangs defied physics, but that generally had more to do with the humidity.

Ariel’s fellow royalty didn’t do much to alleviate my misconception; Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine and Snow White all sported variations of the same perfect coif.

Disney Princesses

Even though the Disney Princesses never grew up, I did. In August of 2001, the month before I started seventh grade, "The Princess Diaries" was released in theaters. This movie deserves a spot front and center on any curly girl’s wall of shame. Anne Hathaway’s character is an unassuming high school student when she is told she is the princess of a small European country, Genovia. Her grandmother, the Queen, swoops in and gives her a makeover that will transform her from outcast to royalty.

The first change toward her new look? Going from curly to straight hair.

The generation that grew up with "Cinderella" and "The Little Mermaid" was rapidly growing out of them, so Disney provided us with a replacement; Mia Thermopolis, Princess of Genovia. At the time, I wore my hair almost exactly like Mia does in the beginning of the movie. When the film came out, some of my classmates saw her remarkable on-screen transformation and assumed I should do the same.

What they didn’t realize was that the character’s transformation didn’t come from the fact that her hair was now straight. As Mia gains confidence, poise and a sense of identity, she becomes more attractive to the viewer. I wish they would have avoided the flat iron, however, as they showed this transformation in her personality.

I’m not a princess, but I know that if I were to find out I was the heir (hair?) apparent to the throne of a small European country, I would wear my curls with as much enthusiasm as I wore my tiara.


Email your questions to Julia.


As Heidi Klum says so often in her popular design show "Project Runway," “One day you’re in, the next, you’re out.”

While fashion comes and goes, when it comes to the ins and outs of curly hair, a few things will always be “in.” Gleaned from this website and lots of personal experience, here’s my “it list” of three awesome hair-care items, along with what I think they should replace.M

In: Wide-toothed combs

Out: Brushes

I’ve confessed this before, but I’ll admit it again: I used to brush my hair. A lot. In elementary school I had a black plastic brush that I’d drag through from root to tip until my hair was “detangled.” Brushing dry, curly hair is a nightmare, but the real damage is caused when you brush your hair when its wet. Although I use my fingers to detangle my hair in the shower, another option is a wide-toothed comb. The teeth should be more then a quarter-inch apart so you can work out knots gradually. I can stick my pinky finger between the teeth on the comb my sister uses! \

In: T-shirt

Out: Bath towel

Almost all of us have a pile sitting in one of bottom drawers: old t-shirts. Too big, too small, or just plain embarrassing, we can’t seem to get rid of them. While they may not be useful as a part of your wardrobe, soft cotton t-shirts are a curl-friendly alternative to towel-drying your hair. The fibers on traditional terrycloth towels are designed to absorb the maximum amount of water, but they also encourage frizz. A t-shirt is smoother but still absorbent. If nothing else, I enjoy the funny looks my family gives me when I sit down at the breakfast table with a neon-colored t-shirt wrapped around my head!

In: Diffuser

Out: Traditional hairdryer

It’s February, and in my part of the U.S., that means it’s cold. In the summer I can get away with letting my hair air dry. But when you have to leave for school and it’s 15 degrees outside, leaving the house with a wet head isn’t exactly an appealing option. Traditional hairdryers can leave us looking like we stuck our heads out of the car window. And since curly girls can’t brush their hair as it dries like our straight-haired peers, a traditional dryer can leave us with a tangled, unruly mop of hair. If you want dry hair but don’t want it to expand to several times its normal size, I highly recommend a diffuser. This bowl-shaped attachment fits on the head of your hairdryer and spreads out the air flow, making it gentler. Most diffusers have “fingers”— thin, plastic protrusions that lift your curls and encourage even airflow. You can buy a diffuser that fits your existing hairdryer (your best bet is to get one from the same company), or buy a hairdryer with the diffuser built in.

These three strategies work for me, but I’d love to hear from you. Do you swear by something different? Do you have a favorite tip or trick? E-mail me!

Stay Curly

Julia



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