Curly hair is amazing: It’s easy to detangle, it never frizzes and if you’re still reading this sentence, you’re most likely wearing a disgusted expression and fired up to click out of this article and cancel me and the NaturallyCurly crew.
You’d be right to do so if I were trying to sell you snake oil. In fact, you and I both know that curly hair can… well… it can suck. I mean, let’s face it. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. We’re all here because, at some point in our curl journey, this annoying mass of kooky, kinky curls has been the bane of our existence.
If you’re one of the thousands of curlies cracking on and on about how you wish you’d known more about curly hair when you were younger, join the freakin’ club! I’d bet you cold, hard cash that for every curly person you meet in your life, you’ll hear, “I just don’t know what to do with it” and “I wish there were products out there for me” and several more exacerbating lamentations.
Well, let’s get one thing straight, curlies: You’ve gotta stop complaining about your curly hair.
Yep. I said it.
You and me, we’ve been checking off our laundry list of curly concerns and complaints for years. You know why? I call it the Mis-Education of Curly Girls. The only real way for us to find true peace within our curly hair is to know as much as possible about these twirling, whirling strands.
Your re-education starts today with the NaturallyCurly Hair Science series on YouTube.
In this video, fellow NaturallyCurly editor and curly girl method extraordinare Cristina Cleveland and I explore why our hair is curly. We did this because we figured that it’s for the good of all curlies to understand how this oftentimes painful affliction happened to us.
To be fair, I don’t really mind having curly hair. In fact, I think it’s one of the things I love most about myself. And even though I’m totally cool with my curls, it doesn’t mean that I wake up every day saying, “I’m curly and I love it!” In fact, I oftentimes lament wetting it, refreshing it, twisting it, bending it, conditioning it… Can’t a sister just have straight hair?!
For naturally curly, kinky, coily me the answer is NO. Here’s why:
No. 1) The Two Major Curl Components
Let’s start with the hair shaft. It’s pretty easy to understand because we deal with it every single day, making it easy to conceptualize.
Essentially, it’s your hair strand. Need a physical connector? Simply run your fingers through a small tuft of your hair or gently touch a curl. Now, separate the strands until you feel a single, solitary strand.
That’s your hair shaft. It’s connected to your hair follicle, which we’ll talk about next.
Your hair shafts are pretty cool! They’re all over your body, but especially noticeable on your head. The reason you need to take care of these babies is because damage, breakage and hair loss can occur if you fail to do so.
I think it’s very important for all of us to protect them by doing the following:
- When not styled, wrap your curls in a silk or satin scarf, wear a silk- or satin-lined bonnet, or sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase. These fabrics will protect the hair shafts from breakage, snagging, and becoming super dry.
- Moisturize those strands like their lives depend on them (because, I mean, they basically do rely on that).
- Hydrate your strands EVERY DAY. I don’t even care how you do it. Just get it done, curlies. I like to get my entire head soaking wet in the shower, vigorously shake out the excess water with my hands, and apply both a spray leave-in conditioner and hair oil to seal moisture into my ends. Find the best method that works for you by visiting Curl Talk and reading our articles.
- Keep your hair follicles clear of debris and gross things with a clarifying shampoo. Use a clarifier sparingly; I’d recommend every 3-4 weeks, but you will want to do your research on this. Consult your stylist, too! You will thank me later. Promise.
Speaking of follicles, let’s dive deeper into them.
All right, now the simple fact of the matter is that hair follicles are all over your body. Seriously. Look at your arm. The skin most likely has little holes sprouting out hair shafts. Well, that hole is your hair follicle.
Now, you’re not going to find hair follicles on smoother skin surfaces like your lips, palms, and barefoot soles, but you don’t want those to look dusty so moisturize them in addition to your hair (I know it sounds elementary, but you’ve seen what happens when dryness attacks those areas of your body so don’t kill the messenger).
I most certainly could bore you with sebaceous glands, sweat glands, sebum, and all the other stuff you don’t care about, but for the sake of your time, I’m going to give you some advice:Keep the hair follicles clean and clear of gross stuff.
As previously mentioned, clarifying shampoos and even some follicle treatments are the best methods for all of us to use on a semi-regular basis. They clean and protect the follicle, and can even help stimulate hair growth via healthy blood flow aka circulation.
No. 2) FOLLICLE SHAPE AND PLACEMENT
Now here’s where the fun starts! THIS RIGHT HERE is why your curly hair is curly.
If your hair shaft forms a pin-straight line, kink, a ringlet, or multitudes of bends and twists, it’s all in the shape of the follicles on your scalp. It’s really that simple. Here’s how it works:
Got perfect circles for follicles? Your hair is most likely straight. Even some of you wavy haired peeps have round follicles, albeit they may be more oval than round.
Got flatter than round circles for follicles? You know, the long oval? Your hair strands most likely form curls, rings, kinks, and zig-zags.
I know you might not have a magnifying glass on you at the moment, but certainly, you’re able to deduce via sight and feel that your hair is growing from one of these shapes. The end result is your curl pattern.
Additionally, the shape of the follicle will impact whether or not your hair shines bright like a diamond. Why? It’s because the natural oils secreted from your follicles are going to travel along the length of your hair shaft. If the hair shaft bends and kinks and curves, those natural oils will have a longer distribution time than your sisters and brothers with wavy and straight strands.
And that’s totally fine. It just means that you’ll want to find shine-enhancing products that give your hair more luster if that’s a goal for you. For me, I just want healthy hair. I’ve learned that when my hair is healthy, the natural luster starts at the root and I need to add a combination of nourishing hair oils and light-holding gels to add shine to my strands.
But there’s no one way to do anything, amirite?
I’m sure you have your own methods. I’ve been hearing that flaxseed oil gels are the TRUTH for almost every wavy and curly girl in the community. What do you do to get shiny curls?
No. 3) DISULFIDE BONDS
Now, the confusing part (okay, so this was confusing to me - sorry to project, my friend): Protein Bonding
So, let me break this down as best as I can…
Your hair shaft is comprised of dead skin cells - GROSS when you really think about it, but somehow it’s super pretty too 💁🏾.
Those dead skin cells house keratin. Keratin is a protein. This protein houses amino acid cysteine, a sulfur-containing super strong chemical group that bonds with fellow super strong molecules. These amino acid cysteines literally bond with other cysteines all the way down and around your hair shafts. The more bonding between the cysteines, aka disulfide bonding, the more curls you’ll see.
Disulfide bonds are why your hair is curly. If there are some sections of your curls that are not as curly as others, it’s because 🥁* drumroll *🥁 there’s less disulfide bonding occurring on that section of curls!
See? That wasn’t so bad, G. What were you freaking out about?
In any event, we curlies have a full-blown chemical compound curl party going on every single day.
Some curls show up and live their best curl lives. Others just want to hang loose. There are curly hair products to either enhance or activate the curl out there to suit whatever mood you’re in.
Want Product Recommendations for Curly Hair? You Got It, Curly!
If you’re new to the NaturallyCurly community, you might be locked into our Curl Talk forum. It’s a great resource for all of us with curls. I highly recommend you reach out and talk to your fellow curlies there. Each person has invaluable trial and error-based product recommendations you can trust.
In addition to real people talking about real curl concerns, I want to offer you a few products that we here at NaturallyCurly trust with our lives. Most certainly I can offer you my curly hair favorites, but we might not share the same curl pattern, hair type, or protective style choices. That’s why I’m going to list a few links to get you started:
Learning about why curly hair is, in fact, curly is the first lesson you’ll need to make informed purchasing decisions.
You’ll be able to suss out which brands and products are definitely going to give you the curl POP you so desire and which simply will not suffice.
In a nutshell:
Now that you know why your hair is curly, you can move forward with the confidence necessary to fully embrace it!
And even though I did say that we all need to stop complaining about our curls, I’ll add this caveat. You CAN complain about them, but I encourage you to find solutions to your curl woes. So, yeah, cancel me if you want, but I am clearing up that statement just so you don’t through me into the creamy crack and make me regret my sentiment 🤷🏾♀️.
Got a few minutes? Turn on the video captions and watch us explain why your hair is curly!
Have you watched all of our Hair Science videos? Ready for more in-depth curl coverage from us? Tell us about your current curl concerns, curl victories, curl woes, or just say “Hi!” We’re here to listen and commiserate, no matter what stage of growth you’re in.