NaturallyCurly: Please introduce yourself!

Elsie Loyola: My name is Elsie Loyola, but everyone calls me Elsita. I'm thirty four and from Puerto Rico, where it's humid 24/7…day and night! 

I'm an aesthetician--a makeup artist--and a dog lover. I'm also the middle child in my family, and the only one with big, thick curly hair. I got my texture from my dad's side of the family.

NC: How and when did you start embracing your curls?

EL: I hated my curly hair when I was younger. I got relaxers and perms through all of my childhood but my hair still looked like a mess. In my twenties, I saw an episode of "What Not to Wear" which featured an African American woman with short, thick natural hair. I thought, "How's he going to straighten her hair?" The stylist, Nick Arrojo, didn't blow dry her hair straight…instead he used a leave-in conditioner and hair gel, sectioned her hair and finger twisted it. Her hair, once frizzy and dry, was now beautiful and full of smooth ringlets! I washed my hair and tried the technique. I was immediately hooked! 

NC: What's your current routine? 

EL: I recently learned about the "Curly Girl Handbook," Devachan Hair Salon, and Lorraine Massie. Now my whole routine has changed. I stick to thick, creamy conditioners and I used curl custards and puddings. I co-wash once a week and style my hair in two-strand twists. I also shampoo once a month to remove any buildup. 

NC: So from start to finish, on a curly day, what's your process?

EL: I start with a mango/banana/coconut/olive oil pre-shampoo mask, which I leave in my hair for about an hour. Then I co-wash with conditioner, Pantene Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner, or a sulfate-free shampoo. Next, I use Tresemmé Split Remedy Conditioner or an olive oil hair mask and leave the product for ten minutes before rinsing with cold water. I rinse with my head upside down so the product runs through the entirety of my hair. 

After showering, I don't towel dry…I squeeze excess water out with my hands. Then I spray my curls with a mix of water and setting lotion, section my hair and use more leave-in conditioner. Finally, I use a final hair oil or thick curl custard and do two-strand twists. I usually leave my hair twisted for a day or two. Once I unravel them, my hair can last up to a week!

NC: What are your favorite hairstyles to wear?

EL: I love wearing my hair loose and free. I only put my curls in a ponytail if I'm planning to wash them the next day. If I feel that my hair is too poofy in the front, I'll put it in a barrette or a half-ponytail.

NC: What are your must-have products and tools?

EL: I have so many favorites! VO5 Conditioner, Tresemmé for co-washing or Pantene Naturals Co-Wash, Beyond the Zone Noodle Head or Super Sexy Texturize & Distort…the list goes on! I tend to gravitate towards products for African American hair…they work better for my hair. 

NC: What do you do at nighttime for your hair?

EL: If my hair looks dry, I'll moisturize with hair oil or leave-in conditioner and wear a silk scarf. Otherwise, I just sleep on it...it always looks nice the next day.

NC: What reaction did you get when you decided to go natural?

EL: Everyone loves my natural hair. It suits my personality and my lifestyle. I'm not the type of girl who enjoys spending time, energy and money on blow drying my hair. Now, my hair is super low maintenance and I get compliments on it every time I go out! People think that it's a wig or a weave…they even ask to touch it! I worked at a girls summer camp last month and the girls loved to touch and style my hair. They would beg their moms for "Miss Elsie's curls." I styled their hair the same way that I style mine and they were so happy.

NC: Did you big chop or transition, and for how long?

EL: It took me almost six years to get back to my natural texture after the last relaxer. I just trimmed my hair every month or two.

NC: What is the best thing about being curly?

EL: For several seasons, straight hair was on trend. Now everyone wants curly hair! And if you have naturally curly hair, you're lucky because 90% of the work is already done...you just have to tweak a few things to really bring out your curls. I also think curly hair is the perfect texture if you're active and like to play sports or work out.

NC: What would you tell others to encourage them to embrace their curls?

EL: Lose the blow dryers and flat irons! Try wearing your hair natural, even if it is just for one day. You will look younger and you will receive tons of compliments. You will also love how low maintenance curly hair can be. Educate yourself (I recommend watching YouTube videos) on how to care for and style your curls, get the right products and use techniques that work for your hair type. Wear your curls proudly!

NC: Tell us about your current and upcoming projects.

EL: I'm planning to make a Facebook account dedicated to curly hair—how to style it and the best products for each hair type and texture. It will have lots of pictures and tutorials.