Image: Maxine Dimalanta
What was it like for you growing up with textured hair?
Growing up in a traditional Filipino household, I was the only person in the family with textured hair. My parents were never sure what to do with my giant head of frizz and I was constantly made fun of by other family members for not looking "Asian enough." My grandmother even called me dirty and said that my hair made me look like I didn't shower!
Because I had no idea how to manage and style my curls, I learned how to straighten them. I flat ironed my hair almost every day for 5 years, and I didn't feel confident if my hair wasn't pin-straight. Whenever I went out without flat ironing my curls, someone always had something negative to say, so I was extremely insecure about my natural hair for a long time.
What made you decide to embrace your naturally curly hair?
I was always curious as to where my hair came from since I had never met another full-Filipina with curls. After doing my research, I learned that the indigenous people of the Philippines had a lot of Afrocentric features, including textured hair, and a lot of these characteristics were lost and looked down upon after the Spanish + American colonization of the islands.
Embracing my natural texture is how I connect with and pay tribute to my ancestors that cultivated the Philippines long before the colonizers arrived. Loving my curls is how I push back against the glorification of European beauty standards in my own culture and continue to de-colonize my perspective of the world around me.
What has been the most empowering moment of your natural hair journey so far?
My big chop was definitely the most empowering moment of my natural hair journey. For me, big chopping was more to me than just cutting off all of my hair (which many people at the time thought was healthy); big chopping allowed me to free myself from a lot of the mental and emotional baggage that I was holding onto. I big chopped right after I graduated from high school, and the huge change really allowed me to become a whole new person, who didn't care about what others thought or said! There were people who definitely had their comments about my new hair, but the amount of freedom and confidence my cut gave me was unmatched. If I had the choice, I would absolutely do it again.
Image: Maxine Dimalanta
How do you protect your curls at night?
Because my hair is still pretty short, I sleep with it in 3 separate sections, each tied up with a satin scrunchie. I'll wrap it in a silk scarf and then go to sleep on a satin pillowcase, just in case the scarf falls off!
Who is your curl crush?
Definitely Nia the Light (@niathelight)! She was actually the person who inspired me to big chop, and the way she carries herself through the world is truly uplifting.
What's your curly girl essential you can't live without?
My Denman brush! My hair definitely needs the extra definition that finger detangling just doesn't give me.
What is your current hair regimen? Any favorite products you’d like to share?
Lately, I've noticed my hair needs a lot more moisture, so I've been using the Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Shampoo and Conditioner.
To style, I section off my hair and spray the Curlsmith Moisture Memory Reactivator onto each section, detangling with my fingers. Then, I'll rake in a bit of the Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, and then follow with a little of the Dippity-Do Girls with Curls Curl Shaping Gelee. I'll then brush each section with my Denman brush, making sure there's a bit of tension as I brush through, just to ensure maximum definition!
What has been the most challenging moment of your natural hair journey so far?
After my big chop had grown out a bit, there was a challenging stage where my hair was at an awkward short-ish length. My bad hair days were REALLY bad hair days, and I couldn't just throw it up in a bun to hide it! These moments were rough, and I regretted cutting my hair for a while. Luckily, I pushed through that weird stage and I'm really liking where my hair is at now.
Are there any techniques or methods that have made a huge impact on your hair health?
Styling my hair while soaking wet has definitely improved the results of my wash days! At first, I didn't believe it, but applying my products to soaking wet hair keeps my hair moisturized and defined.
I also style my hair in sections, and I try to take my time with each of them. If I go to fast and try to rush a wash and go, it's not a good look.
What's your advice to women who are still struggling with loving their natural texture?
Learning to love your hair takes time, and it's a process that won't happen overnight. Don't give up on your hair when it gets difficult to deal with. Also, there may be people in your life who always have something negative to say about your natural texture. Do your best to tune out those voices and know that your texture is truly beautiful!