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

I never knew how to style my hair growing up! I'm half Indian and half white and neither of my parents have curly hair, so they didn't know how to deal with my curls either. I had pretty curly hair as a toddler but as a preteen/teen it became straighter/slightly wavy. When I was younger, I consistently used heat to dry and straighten my hair because all my friends were doing it too and I never really knew how bad it was! I didn't know about the Curly Girl Method because I didn't have many curly haired friends growing up at all. As a result, my hair was pretty dry and frizzy, not at all what it is today.

What made you decide to embrace your naturally wavy hair?

As a freshman in college, I didn't have as much time to dry my hair or straighten it, so I let it air dry some days. At this point, I had a lot more Indian friends than I used to, and they had similar hair textures to me. They complimented my waves and slight curls and I thought I would try this new thing out. I started watching YouTubers like Penny Tovar and I followed people like Ayesha Malik on social media to look to them for advice and found a group of curly sisters I ended up watching regularly for tips and tricks. I started getting so many compliments as my hair transitioned and I loved how it looked naturally. I haven't straightened my hair in months and I love my natural hair so much now!

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

When I was a freshman in college, I was lightening my hair, straightening it almost every weekend and overall treating it pretty badly. My hair was quite long, about halfway down my back, but it was looking dead and dry and even when I let it go natural, I hated how it looked. I was too scared to do a big chop, but during 2017, I cut my hair little by little and started looking into how to make my hair healthier and found the CGM. I have straightened my hair a few times since then but when I did, I found myself missing my curls so much, which was a shock to me--I've never felt like that! As I found hair role models like Ayesha Malik and Penny Tovar, I found so many relatable stories and similar hair types and learned about the steps I should start taking.

How do you protect your curls at night?

I usually use the pineapple method when I sleep at night. Before doing this, my hair would get so frizzy just from how much I move at night and the next morning it wouldn't look great. Now my curls last longer to my next wash day and it's easier to manage when I wake up.

Who is your curl crush?

Ayesha Malik and Penny Tovar are my curl crushes for sure. Ayesha has a bit more volume than me but her curls look pretty similar to mine. I love Penny's videos and all her product testing really helped me figure out what kinds of products worked and which ones might not work as well. Curly hair products can get pretty expensive so it's always a good idea to hear about them before trying them. I also really like her videos because she shows her audience how much product she uses for her hair and it helps me figure out how much I should use for my hair type and length.

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

As silly and boring as it sounds--my old cotton t-shirt! I started using it to dry my hair when I was transitioning and it made such a huge difference with frizz control and the quality of my curls.

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

I'm still trying to find the right products for my hair that also won't drain my wallet, but for now I've been trying different sulfate-free/silicone-free shampoos and conditioners. I wash my hair around twice a week because my hair gets dry pretty fast if I wash it more than that. To detangle my hair in the shower, I apply SheaMoisture Curl and Style Milk with the praying hands method and comb through it while it's still wet. Recently, I've been using Cantu's Coconut Curling Cream after detangling and then scrunching excess water out of my hair with a cotton t-shirt. I also love SheaMoisture's Curl Enhancing Smoothie and have used that for a long time before trying Cantu out. I then plop my hair to help it dry and then finish by air-drying.

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

The start of the journey was probably the toughest part, because my hair was neither here nor there and I couldn't figure out which products worked for my hair type. Some products would weigh it down or make it too greasy and others wouldn't be enough. I've struggled getting volume with my hair, especially now that it's longer and heavier and I'm still trying to figure that part of it out! I'm also trying to figure out how to make my curls stay defined for longer, as they get a little bit flat after a few days.

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

Plopping and scrunching my hair with a cotton t-shirt has really helped my hair. I go to college in Boston and the winter really dries out my hair so I have been loving the curl and style milk that I use to keep my hair extra moisturized and to keep it from drying out too much! It's made a huge difference and my curls are way more shiny and hydrated.

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

Be patient with yourself and your hair! This is what you were born with and this is the hair you'll carry with you throughout all your journeys through life. Look for role models and curly sisters if you don't have any curly hair friends in real life like I did until recently. It really helps to find a community whether it's in person or online, whether it's to send pictures of a good hair day or whether you're comparing products. It's really fun once you start seeing results!