Girl talk. Whether you’re a free-spirited teen or a cultured career woman, those classified chats with our best girlfriends are moments we cherish.
One topic that consistently resurfaces in my circle of friends is curly hair -- how to manage it, accept it and embrace it. Since we all come together to celebrate the holidays, and chat about the changes we’ll make in the new year, why not do more than talk this time? Why not show my gal pals (some still in the closet with their curls) a few tips to style their textured tresses?
“Let’s have a curly brunch,” I suggest.
The response is excitement. We’re on. Colleen, Chrissy, and Pam (all at different curl-comfort levels) agree to let me manage their mane for a day. No curl gurus on hand. Just a group of friends joining in a homemade crash course in curls.
The Saturday brunch is set for 2 p.m. I’m up at dawn, feeling the pressure of not knowing how they’ll react to my handiwork. I’m not a stylist. But then I remind myself that it doesn’t take an expert to make your curls look fabulous. Armed with knowledge and lots of practice, the goal is to show them that anyone can do it. At the very least, they won’t go away hungry.
I guide a sweet-potato-ham-and-cheese strata into the oven and whip up a tiramisu (with an experimental low-sugar twist on the traditional recipe). Then, it’s time to set out some curl tools: a diffuser, clips, and an array of products for different textures because who knows what we’ll uncover beneath their straight jackets. We’re about to find out.
In between forkfuls of food and sips of mimosas (for now, I opt for coffee and a steady hand), one by one I cleanse and condition their locks, apply product, insert clips for lift and gently diffuse their textured tresses.All emerged curlier than ever before. But their reactions were as different as their curl types.
Curl Type: 2a Styling products: Curlisto Bio-Gel Mousse, Jessicurl Awe Inspiraling Spray What surprised her: “I’m amazed that I can look like this without using a curling iron or curlers.”Like many closet curlies, Colleen’s texture is somewhere between straight and curly. It blows out in minutes. When waves emerged on humid days, the flat iron was her friend. Until it turned on her.“I can tell the ends of my hair are kind of fried and damaged,” Colleen says. “I’ve become addicted to the flat iron.”Breaking that addiction would prove difficult. The scrunching, the strategically placed clips, the diffuser -- it all appeared a bit overwhelming to her. She had no idea there was such a structured process behind frizz-free curls.“Considering how much work went into it, I don’t think I would go through so much effort to make it look natural,” she says, referring to her new ‘do.Then, she takes a moment to reconsider.“I think it could maybe grow on me, but it’s so completely different that it’s hard to decide right way,” Colleen says. “The jury is still out.”
”Chrissy spent most of her life as a closet curly, and didn’t even know it.“As a kid, you just took a shower and then blow-dried your hair -- that’s what you did,” she says. “I didn’t even know what my hair looked like when it dried naturally.”Chrissy follows fashion, and when big hair was all the rage in the '80s, she turned to perms during her college years to stay on top of the trend. Then, it was back to blowouts.
But as style trends circled back to curly several years ago, she decided to experiment with her natural texture. What would her hair do if she scrunched in gel and let it dry naturally? The results were “amazing.”
“I couldn’t believe that it curled up,” Chrissy says. “I feel so lucky that I get to have such an easy hairstyle and really like it.
”While she used to prefer the stick-straight look, most days she now lets her curly locks flow naturally while testing different products to encourage her curls.“I still blow it out sometimes for change, but people seem to like my hair just as much curly as straight,” she says, “and it’s easier to wear it curly.”Resisting the temptation to follow the style du jour, however, has not been so easy.
“I feel like the fashion is starting to change to big curls with a curling iron, so I’ve been trying to do that look more and that’s a pain,” she says. “I don’t want to get trapped in that hairstyle.”
What surprised her: “With all the product, you’d think my curls wouldn’t be soft, but they’re really touchable.
”The journey to embrace a curly lifestyle has, at times, presented internal struggles in Pam’s professional and personal life.“In dating, I think straight hair is perceived as a softer look,” Pam says. “Professionally, I feel like straight hair is perceived as less distracting and more polished, while curly hair is seen as less serious and more playful. When I’ve worn my hair curly to work in the past, I’ve heard comments like, ‘Oh, you didn’t want to comb your hair today?
”Despite the occasional verbal jab, Pam has remained steadfast in working with her curls to find the right balance. The curly brunch became another step in that process.
“The products and processes we learned made it easier to do curly hair styles that are still conservative without looking too wild,” she says.
After a recent haircut to clean up the damage done by the flat iron, Pam developed a new appreciation for natural, healthy hair.“Just like anything else, if you’re comfortable with yourself, people are comfortable with you,” Pam says. “I’ve had really positive feedback wearing my hair curly to work now, and I think it comes from personal acceptance.
”Still, she acknowledges there are some steps in the styling process that remain challenging to accept. The biggest one? Leaving your curly locks alone. Every curly girl knows that a few intrusions too many can disturb the curl pattern, sending it spiraling into frizz.
“It was a challenge we all faced today -- we just wanted to touch our hair,” Pam says.
Colleen didn’t realize just how much she meddled with her mane until I pleaded with her not to do it. “It’s really driving me crazy that I can’t touch it,” she says. For Colleen, curly hair is still too new to feel comfortable. “It doesn’t feel styled, so it would be weird for me to go out right now,” she says.
Yet as day turns to night, that’s exactly what we do. Sauntering out in our curly style, we’re off to a new hot spot a few blocks away. Between sips of wine at the bar, Chrissy turns to Colleen, as if to survey her new look for the first time.“I think your hair looks amazing,” Chrissy says. ”It’s more full and frames your face nicely, rather than having it flat-ironed straight down.”Colleen smiles. Suddenly, the trio raise their glasses and make a spontaneous declaration in unison: “Cheers to curly hair!”