No one else would be more qualified to close off our three-part series of advice from “curl heroes” than the original curly girl herself: Lorraine Massey.
Hero movies have been quite the Hollywood trend over the past few years. Troubled backstories, an underdog who overcomes their fears, faces their weaknesses, finds a humankind-saving solution, marches toward victory and then sets their eyes to the horizon to create a legacy and deliver mankind.
Minus the special effects and overly dramatic music, Massey’s curly journey has all the hallmarks of a hero story, to which we can all relate. The struggle for acceptance of our curly hair, the fear that accepting it for what it is will lead to criticism and insecurity. The struggle to find methods that work, and then, of course, a journey of solutions that has the potential to deliver all curl-kind from “kryptonite” (silicones, sulfates and hair straighteners).
Today I bring to you a real and honest conversation with my personal inspiration and curly hero, where she talks honestly about her own journey, struggles with curl acceptance, and her words of advice for those who are just starting the Curly Girl Method and are feeling overwhelmed.
Lorraine, how did you decide to fully embrace your hair?
I didn’t really decide; my curls decided for me. They had a plan that was stronger than me. They would react with the weather (I lived in rainy Britain), becoming frizzy and knotted at every turn. They frizzed regardless of my efforts to stop them. It was hard enough trying to fit into society as a child, but even worse not being able to fit in with my own hair. The only time I didn’t fight with my hair was when I was sleeping. Before bed I would pray asking that my curls would be gone when I woke up and replaced with Farrah Fawcett’s hair (straight-haired American actress).
What is the full story behind your Curl by Curl hair cutting method?
When I was 16, I had my very last wet haircut. My hair dried shorter than it had appeared and totally uneven. It was up to my chin on one side, with the other side grazing my shoulders. I asked the stylist why it was uneven. He replied, “It’s even when it’s wet.” But I don’t wear my hair wet! I felt devastated. For years as it grew, I started to think about what it meant to have a technical haircut. Looking back, I am now grateful for that haircut because it pushed me to figure out how to be happy with myself and my curls. They existed for a reason; there are no mistakes in nature. Why do so many of us have curls and waves? I was searching for something that did not yet exist in the natural realm of coils and curls.
This was how I developed my Curl by Curl cutting method. It’s about cutting your curls individually and when they are dry, in their natural state. We can have multiple textures of curls in one head. We are not "one size fits all." When you’re having a dress or suit fitted, it’s not fitted on wet fabric because it will shrink and seem ill-fitted when dry. The same applies to hair. Hair is a fabric, so you are tailoring a shape that is coutured for you.
When you decided to go fully natural back in the day, did you have any struggles?
My curls taught me everything that I know. They taught me how to adjust to the uncertainty of having curly hair and to ultimately flow with its nature, not deny it. They taught me that people, even those closest to you, can be mean because they want you to “look” neat and tidy and they believe that your neglected curls is a reflection on them. My result was feeling ashamed when they were angrily brushed, parted, and flattened. Now, my curls and I are the best of friends. I celebrate all that they are with so many other curlies around the globe and the only tiny struggle I have is deciding whether I am going to cleanse, condition, spot cleanse, or do nothing at all each day. You know, we don’t always see our curls like others do. Sometimes I think I’m having a bad hair day and I get more compliments than ever. I think sometimes it’s a good idea to ease up on our self-induced routines and relax.
There is a lot of information-overload in the world of social media with an enormous number of products and routines being advertised. This is daunting to a brand new curly girl. What are your words of wisdom and advice about this?
I think that some of the advice and sharing is wonderful. I follow some curlies intently on social media and I call it "The Revenge of The Curly Girl" because not long ago, we lacked information. However, the product applications and recommendations can be daunting. In this sense, bloggers have established a vanity vehicle for their own opinion. I see a lot of arrogance on social media and it drives me nuts because as curly hair stylists behind the chair, we are the ones who are seeing and literally feeling the aftermath, because we work with hair all day long and meet curlies from all around the world. We see, touch, smell, and feel it, so we have a good sense about which products are in the hair. The hair speaks volumes! On my book travels this past year, I’ve had the great opportunity to spend time with licensed pioneers and curl specialists in this field. We all feel the same about this situation: it seems to have reached a critical mass. This is my analogy of it. A curly hairstylist is like an organic gardener. We sense that the topsoil is eroding and changing. This is why nothing is growing in the way that it should at this moment in time. In the last few years we have noticed a huge shift in the hairs presented to us at the salons. They are becoming water resistant and impenetrable due to heavy usage of raw oils or silicones. It's almost as if they are on fat diets, lacking simple, pure, abundant oxygen and hydration!
In my understanding, unless you are a newbie, a child, or you have been ‘natural’ for less than a year, curls should be ahead of this drought situation. There is a constant need for clarifiers or detoxes! If you start your curls on a simple lifestyle diet of water-soluble, hyper-hydrating cleansers, conditioners and penetrable conditioning stylers, you will be on auto-pilot and your hair will simply be free to be itself.
My dream is to see more beauty blogs and posts about how we can influence our followers in more purposeful ways. Social media posts can't just be about how beautiful you look today. Let's try to go beyond the "ME" and aim at the "WE." Let's integrate and encourage philanthropic ventures in our daily pictures and posts!
If you’re new to the Curly Girl Method, use the three steps in your routine (cleansing, conditioning and styling). Your curls know what to do when you listen and respond. They don’t need to be avalanched and hidden under a mountain of products.
Curly girls sometimes become frustrated and resort to straightening or blow-drying their hair. At times this is due to growing out chemical treatments or not being patient enough with the process of growing and cutting off damaged curls. Do you have any words of wisdom for women who are going through this phase?
I think this is the ultimate confrontation of truth of one's own. It's either for now or they may be putting it off for some time in the future. There is an inevitable and often inconvenient truth in trying to be straight. It's a battle you may not win. Nature cannot be cornered for long. When you allow your hair to recover and heal after years and years of blow-frying or chemical abuse, you can’t expect it to come around immediately. It takes time. We want everything yesterday and this is where your curls may put you through the test. You may have to earn the right to be curly. You will be forced to stay consistent with your precious locks and get to know them as they are. No one else can do that for you. It's all about you.
Teach a curly girl how to blow-fry her curls and she may be happy for a day (unless it rains). But then, teach her to love her curls and she will be happy for life!
Do you have any tips to share for newbies in transition?
Stay consistent in your routine, even if it may not seem to work at first. The more consistent you are, the more consistent your curls will be in return.
You will never have the same hair day twice in a row and don’t expect to, otherwise you will be disappointed. That's why you can never be bored with your curls' character: they are dynamic and ever changing. I welcome whatever my curls give me. If I have halo frizz, I know that I am just a conditioner away from making it look better. Even then, I welcome healthy frizz at times. Some people say that they like to blow-fry for a change: this is unoriginal and compromising your curls' hair fiber! It is not a positive change, since you can't unfry hair. So, try an “updo” or something more original, using your own natural curl formations.
I have never met a curly girl who says that people chase her down the street when she had a blow-fry or used a flat iron, but I hear stories of many curly girls being chased because of their natural curls.
Remember: every curly day is a new day.
If you worry about weather and dew points: don’t take the weather personally! We cannot worry about what has not happened and we can't live trying to control the uncontrollable.
Love the curls you have and you will become a point of inspiration for other curlies who are yearning to be set free. Be the curly girl or boy you wish you had met as your younger, struggling self.
In closing, I am going to share Massey’s own words of inspiration as you start and walk your journey of curl care and acceptance:
Frizz is just a curl waiting to happen and curls are not a trend; they are a lifestyle. With a cashmere sweater comes a care label. Human hair falls under the same molecular structure as fur, wool, and feathers. If your curl care label could speak, here is what it would say:
I am made up of organic matter of various layers and structures. As you wear me in the real world, I change depending on the way I am treated and with atmospheric conditions. However, this is what gives me character!
- No washing with detergent shampoo (I am like wool, I will shrink and dehydrate)
- No brushes or combs when I am dry (I will frizz, fray and break)
- No cutting me when I am wet (because I do not stay wet and I can shrink many inches);· No carving, slicing, thinning or razoring (my hair fibre is not meat or wood)
- No blow-frying (you can't unfry my fibres)
- Don't hide me for long periods of time under somebody else's hair· You take me wherever you go. I can be considered your finest thread and accessory
- Love me consciously with 100% sulfate- and silicone-free conditioners (these chemicals also hurt our waters).
Lorraine is currently on a world book tour for her “Silver Hair: The Handbook” and “Curly Girl: The Handbook.” Her brand-new line of products for curly hair is called CurlyWorld and is coming out in August. If you’re interested in knowing about her ventures or whether she’ll be coming somewhere near you, make sure you follow her on Instagram at @curlyworldllc to find out.
Are you going through a transition phase with your curls? What are your struggles and victories?
Let me know in the comments section below.