In the ‘80s, heavy metal and big hair were hot. The ‘90s brought us "Friends" and Jennifer Aniston's stick-straight locks.
But today, more hair-care companies than ever are courting the curly girl. And the attention is coming from companies both large and small, from multimillion-dollar ad campaigns to grass-roots outreach programs.
Everywhere from commercials to the latest fashion magazines, the beauty industry is turning up the charm with ads aimed at women with waves, curls and kinks. In Allure magazine last month, there were curly models in a Burberry ad, a curly Nicole Kidman in a sexy promotion for Chanel No. 5 perfume and even a sultry ad for Aveda’s new Be Curly line. You can log on to the web site for Dove’s new Pro-Age campaign and see mature curlies showcase the new line of skin, face and hair products.
Trend trackers say this could be a marriage that will last well beyond any short-term trend.
Across the country, 53 percent of women describe their hair as naturally curly or wavy, according to research by Redken -- more than one out of two women! What’s even more powerful than the overall numbers is how many curlies are truly cozying up to their textured tresses.
“Women with curly hair are very happy to have curly hair,” says Perrine Calvet, Director of Global Marketing at Redken. “If you look at the broader trend it’s about embracing who you are,” Calvet says. “Women are saying ‘I feel comfortable with my curls, I think I look beautiful and I have the right tools to make myself look even more beautiful than what I am.’”
Companies such as Redken now have the technology and market research to concoct better products for softer, sexier curls — minus the sticky gels and tacky freeze spray. Redken kicked off the year with the introduction of its revamped Fresh Curls product line, after compiling extensive research, including a focus group to find out just what curly girls want.
“Women are very active now days, balancing a busy life," Calvet says. "So for their hair, they want something that works and works fast. They don’t want to spend 30 minutes every day blow-drying their hair. It’s not who they are and they don’t have the time to do it. So as long as they can find the right products that work for them and make their hair look beautiful, then it works.”
“They want their curls to look nice. They don’t want them to be droopy, messy or frizzy," Calvet says. "We looked at the [original] Fresh Curls line and realized we were addressing some of their concerns — but not all of them.”
Now, Calvet says, Redken does.
For curl guru Lorraine Massey, educating the curly girl is more than just a job; it’s her life-long mission. When she published the "Curly Girl" handbook several years ago, she launched Curls 101 seminars at her Devachan Salon in New York.
“I started to do this to help them feel better about themselves until they found a hairdresser for them,” Massey says. “Until the hairdressers start really, truly updating their data for the curly girl and not always wanting to blow-fry it, we’re going to continue doing the Curls 101 workshops.”
Massey also recently introduced her Deva-D, a fun, instructional DVD for curlies. There are two versions, one for professionals and one for curl-centric consumers. The Deva-D will be sold separately and also will be included in DevaCurl’s new Try Me On travel pack (which contains five of her travel-sized products and will be available this spring) and the DevaFuser.
“We’re really teaching everything, from the moment you get up in the morning when you’re checking the weather forecast to when you go to bed at night,” Massey says. “It’s very thorough, funny and informational. We include different hair types on how to cleanse and what to use, so it’s step-by-step and less than 10 minutes long.”
Adding another twist, Massey soon will be taking her Curly Girl philosophy on the road to reach out to curlies in New York and beyond.
“We have a DevaTruck and we’re hoping to drive around to different cities in the spring and stop, like in malls, to get people,” Massey says. “This curl movement is nothing but fun, because curly girls are so much fun. There’s nothing worse than a miserable curly girl, who doesn’t know her hair. But once she does, there’s nothing stopping her.”
Diane DaCosta, curl expert and author of "Textured Tresses," agrees. Five years ago, DaCosta says her book was a tough sell to publishing executives.
“Now I don’t have to work for it,” says DaCosta, who is currently working on another beauty and style book, this one for teens with textured tresses.
“It’s accepted and it’s not a hard sell anymore because the advertising and commercial business is actually leading me,” she says. “These companies want to capture that market now. The target is the curly, wavy and afro girl.”
And after several years of seminars on textured tresses, DaCosta is also launching an American Beauty Tour starting in early fall in Dallas, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.
“The tour is presenting complete fashion, beauty and hair trends of all types of textures with a multicultural audience and then a beauty expert forum to answer all of their questions,” DaCosta says. “Although I knew this would happen one day, it was really hard to believe because it has taken so long. This is the time we can take a stand so it won’t go away.”
Christo transformed this model's frizzy mess, above, into gorgeous curls, below.
Curl expert Christo of New York’s Christo Fifth Avenue Salon is counting on it. In October, he launched free monthly seminars for curlies, which continue to pack his salon.
“This is about education,” Christo says. “We wanted to create more awareness about curly hair because people are trying to decide what kind of texture they have versus going to the salon and waiting for the stylist to tell them. We show them the different types of wavy and curly hair so it makes it easier for them to make choices. We always say it’s your hair, but it’s our passion.”
Curlies also receive one-on-one consultations after the seminar to offer more specifics on what they need to nurture their locks.
Other curl-centric salons like New York’s Ouidad have presented seminars for curly girls as well. This year, however, Ouidad launched a series of events targeting curlies, such as a Curls’ Night Out on Valentine’s Day.
The Curly Hair Institute of Toronto regularly hosts Curly Hair Clinics, a two-hour crash course in curls to help women learn how to care for their curls and kinks. The salon also offers private sessions.
"With our help, we want to help people achieve the salon look all the time," says Steve Torch, vice president of marketing for the Curly Hair Institute and Curly Hair Solutions. "They become experts on how to work with their hair."
Curls are even capturing the heart of women who aren’t curly, but want the curly look.
“Digital perms are now the hottest treatment in Asia, where women want to be curly, and Asian hair is not easy to curl,” says Calvet of the new high-tech perm process. “It doesn’t damage the hair, doesn’t smell bad and, more importantly, it leaves a very natural, soft type of wave. We also see that trend now in Paris, London, Vancouver, and it’s slowly coming to the U.S. So, clearly, not only are women embracing the fact that they have curly hair, they want to be curly.”
“I honestly believe curly girls are beyond just a trend because once we do have the answers we won’t go back,” adds Massey. “Curly hair is not here today and gone tomorrow. This is the real deal!”