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What was it like for you growing up with textured hair?

I grew up in a suburban, homogenous town, where the majority of girls and women had silky straight, usually blonde, hair. I actually never even had a friend with curly hair until I reached college! Curly hair was extremely rare in my town, and those who did have it usually straightened it. So when I reached puberty and curls started springing from my head, I soon became very insecure about them. I was super self-conscious and considered myself shy, and I definitely didn't like not fitting in with everyone else around me. On top of it all, my teenage brothers would make fun of me for having "frizzy curly" hair, which made my eventual sprint to the straightener all the more easier.

What made you decide to embrace your naturally curly/wavy hair?

Throughout high school, I frequently got Brazilian Blowouts and keratin treatments. However, once I got to college and met friends who embraced their curly hair, I realized that having it wasn't a bad thing, as I had grown up thinking. In fact, for the first time in my life I met people who (gasp!) loved curly hair, and I started to see it as a blessing instead of a curse. I also became more confident and outgoing than I was in high school, so I didn't feel the need to hide behind straightened hair anymore. I finally started to believe that curly hair was something that makes you unique, and I was no longer scared of standing out.

What has been the most empowering moment of your natural hair journey so far?

After years of Brazilian blowouts and keratin treatments, I started to believe that I no longer had curly hair. As I now know, my curls start to become ringlets about 2-3 inches from my scalp, and I never let enough time go in between my treatments to see them form. After my last Brazilian blowout, I let my hair grow out more than usual because I had bad side effects from the treatment and didn't want to get it again. Once I saw how different my new growth texture was from my treated texture, I decided to transition and let my hair grow out curly for the first time since the age of 15. I started my journey with a curly haircut (although, not a big chop), and since then I've been cutting it little by little. It has been amazing to see my curls transform since then.

How do you protect your curls at night?

My hair is too short to put into a pineapple, so I have been sleeping on a satin pillowcase ever since my first curly cut.

Who is your curl crush?

My curl crushes have evolved throughout my hair transitioning process, especially as my hair grows and gets curlier. However, one constant curl crush has been Keri Russell during her Felicity days. Oh, and Zendaya!

What's your curly girl essential you can't live without?

My Denman brush! The first time I used it I saw a huge difference in my curl definition, and I've been using it ever since. It makes my hair shiny, defined, and frizz-free.

What is your current hair regimen? Any favorite products you’d like to share?

I've tried a lot of new products over the past year as my hair has changed. Recently, though, after watching documentaries and reading about the toxic chemicals in beauty products, I've switched to non-toxic products only. I love all natural, non-toxic products like Calia and Innersense because they actually help my hair health in the long run. Since using Calia shampoo, I've gotten rid of my dandruff problems. Innersense Beauty's gel and curl cream works wonders when you learn how much product your hair needs. I can feel my hair getting healthier as I keep using them, and it's incredible! Switching to non-toxic products can be a bit of an adjustment, but the results for your hair are amazing.

What has been the most challenging moment of your natural hair journey so far?

In high school, I was always very influenced by the opinions of others. Whenever my brothers said something negative about my hair, I believed them, and I started to associate having curly hair with my low self esteem. Since transitioning, I still hear a lot of "jokes" about my curly hair when I come home for school breaks, be it from my brothers or their friends. A month ago, one of my brother's friends said some pretty negative things about girls with curly hair, and asked me why I don't just straighten mine. It was a really good feeling to realize that those comments don't affect me now like they did in high school, and that I didn't feel the need to immediately straighten my hair after hearing them. I know now he's just a boy who grew up in an isolated town who has certain views because of it, and it means nothing about me, or the rest of the world.

Are there any techniques or methods that have made a huge impact on your hair health?

Switching to non-toxic products has definitely changed my hair and scalp health for the better. Overall, though, I'd say that finding what works best for your hair and taking people's advice with a grain of salt is the best thing you can do for your hair. Some things that work super well for one person's curly hair can work way differently for yours. Find a way to wear your hair that you love and that works for you.

What's your advice to women who are still struggling with loving their natural texture?

I know it's frustrating, but it gets better each day and it's so worth it in the long run. The satisfaction of one good hair day during the curly hair transition is better than any satisfaction I got from a keratin treatment or from straightening. When I'm feeling discouraged, I look at pictures of my virgin hair (so, for me, pictures of when I was 15!), and think about how great it's going to be when it gets to that state again. The short term struggle is worth the long term relief!