I’ve been fighting the frizz in my 3b curls for as long as I can remember. As a child, my mom would sit me down and yank a brush through my dry frizzy hair, desperate to make it “behave”. Later, when I learned to love and properly care for my curly hair, minimizing frizz remained one of my main goals. It wasn’t until very recently that I decided to stop fighting my frizz altogether, and the shift in perspective has changed my relationship with my hair for the better.
“Frizz” was the main word that I associated with my natural curls when I was young. My curls were a fuzzy, often tangled mass; I only saw my defined curls when my hair was soaking wet. I hated that my hair couldn’t be smooth and neat, like other little girls. I hated my curly hair, and the frizziness was a big component of that.
When I was a teenager, I learned that my curls actually could look really beautiful if I took care of them properly. Thanks to the internet and the early days of NaturallyCurly, I learned to comb my hair in the shower, never use a brush, always use leave-in conditioner, and other curly hair 101 skills.
But still, frizz remained a constant concern. Looking back, it seems like so many of my curly hair tricks and tools were really just ways of keeping frizz at bay. Every product, tool, and technique was designed to make my curls soft and defined and frizz-free.
And then I moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. I’d previously been an East Coast girl all my life, and never had I experienced heat and humidity quite like this. (Okay, I did once, in West Africa on the equator.)
If you’ve never been to Louisiana in the summer, let me paint a picture for you. A few minutes ago, I took my dog outside on a walk, and by the time I got around the block, I was completely bathed in sweat. Even when it’s not that hot, the air is just always wet. On the worst days, it feels like every surface in my house is slightly damp.
My curls don’t stand a chance in this weather. I’ve become basically an expert on frizz control, because frizz is inevitable here. I know the best gel for the job. I can recommend the best pomade, the best detangler, how to protect your hair when you sleep, and so on.
But still, the frizz always comes back, usually within a day or two. It’s physically impossible to keep it at bay for long; it’s simply a part of life down here. Moreover, I didn’t want to spend hours of my life trying to perfect my curls. I grew tired of fighting something that seemed so natural to my hair, and it made me start to think — what’s so bad about frizz, anyway?
The word “frizz” often has a negative connotation. It makes sense — smooth, neat curls are nice and orderly, whereas frizz can seem messy. Moreover, frizz is often associated with unhealthy hair.
But frizz and unhealthy hair don’t necessarily go hand in hand, according to curly hair expert Lorraine Massey and curl specialist Saulo O’Deorain. Frizz can be an indicator of unhealthy hair when it’s caused by lack of moisture, over-manipulation, excessive heat or dye, or product build-up. But even hydrated, strong, healthy hair will develop frizz at times for other reasons (like humidity!), and that’s totally normal.
“Normalizing frizz really is very important because hair strands are constantly being renewed,” Saulo told NaturallyCurly in February. “As a natural pattern from nature, curls need to be perceived as a product of nature that doesn't need to be controlled but enhanced.”
In fact, a bit of frizz can really improve how lovely your curls look — they can look more natural, voluminous, and dynamic. This is often referred to as “functional frizz.”
So, instead of trying to change my hair, I decided to change my perspective. I experimented with focusing on my hair’s volume, shape, and movement rather than the frizz or lack thereof. I tried switching up my personal style to match the growing wildness of my hair. I took plenty of selfies with frizzy hair to prove to myself that it still looked cute.
Over time, I learned to embrace my big ol’ hair regardless of whether it was frizzy or not. My life is MUCH less stressful after the change. I no longer feel like I have to have perfectly defined curls if I want to wear my hair down in public. I no longer feel like I’ve failed when my hair gets frizzy by the end of the night. I no longer feel the pressure to style my hair every couple of days to get to that frizz-free state again.
These days, I continue to follow a go-to routine to make my curls healthy and defined. But the initially crisp wash-and-go never lasts, and that’s okay. As long as my hair feels healthy and soft, and as long as I feel beautiful, that’s all that matters. It feels like my hair and I are finally on the same side again.
Check out these articles on frizz as well!