recently shared this link on my facebook page, and while I did a fist pump in the air for pretty much every single post shared in that article, this one struck a chord with me:
Growing up, I had no curly hair role models, especially not in pop culture or media. In every single makeover plot line, the girl who gets made over has curly, unruly, big hair and then they straighten her hair to look like the classic Disney princess hair, slap on some makeup, pluck her eyebrows, ditch the glasses, and voila! Now you're pretty. Because you couldn't possibly be pretty with all that big, curly, frizzy hair. It's... unkempt. It's... untamed. It's... uncomfortable.
I was never the girl who could wake up hours before school to straighten her hair, put on makeup, and put in effort to look cute. It was all I could do to get up 15 minutes before I had to be out the door. I wasn't a primper, managing my big mane was a low-key affair and it was a constant battle. I battled with the cut, spending too many years getting out of the stylist's chair with my curly hair shaped like a triangle because they cut it like it was straight hair. I battled with being able to style it myself at home and using products (unwittingly) that were designed for the complete opposite type of hair: straight, think, limp. It wasn't until my junior year of high school that I finally started to feel like I was getting the hang of it, and I was out of college when I got around to feeling super confident with my hair. Now, I wouldn't trade it for anything, except maybe bigger and curlier hair!
I wear my hair natural and curly 99.5% of the time. I don't work in an industry where I feel pressured to wear my hair in a "professional" way (whatever that means), but I know plenty of women with naturally curly and ethnic hair who work in more professional environments have felt a lot of pushback and criticism regarding wearing naturally curly hair. When I posted that first link on my facebook I got quite a few comments echoing that sentiment. It's like, there's nothing said outright, just a general vibe that curly hair, worn naturally, is not professional. It's "messy." Unless you have nice, neat, soft curls made with a curling iron.
I don't know how it is for girls now, but I grew up in the 90's and early 00's when everybody was into pin straight hair. "The Rachel" cut was all the rage, and there was no way in hell my hair would ever be anything like Rachel's even if I had a stylist give me her cut. Even if I straightened it, the texture is too coarse and I don't have that shiny sleekness that Jennifer Aniston has. All my friends had that hair. They could go to the stylist and get the styles they wanted. And there I was. With poofy hair that would explode into a mess of poofy frizz if I brushed it dry, and tangled moments after getting it combed out in the shower. I got my curly hair from my Dad. My mom, while her hair is thick and gorgeous, had no clue how to deal with my curls, other than desperately trying to detangle it. I had no culture of curly haired women around me to help me learn the ins and outs of naturally curly hair. Now, with the internet, online communities of natural curly girls are banding together, forcing the status quo of straight=normal to finally shift, slowly but surely.
I don't have a daughter yet, but if I do (and she's blessed with the gift of big, curly hair), I feel a lot more positive about the how culture will view and approach her curly hair. Campaigns like Dove's Love Your Curls are encouraging and eye opening when it comes to revealing how our culture can affect little girls with curly hair. Dove also has created a fun little Love Your Curls book, and you can download the e-book and customize it for the curly girl you love. It's a perfect gift for the little curly girls who are likely to feel discouraged or frustrated about their curly hair. Full of little encouraging poems and prose about curly hair, it would've been great to have had something that actively praised my wild mane as a little girl. I would've died of happiness for a Disney princess like Merida!
By and large the majority of hair products seem to be designed for the masses, and curly hair's needs are ignored. In conjunction with their Love Your Curls campaign, Dove has also created a line of curly hair products, Quench Absolute, which they designed just for curly hair to help nourish and shape curls. They sent me the Quench Absolute line to try out, and while I was disappointed that the shampoo contained Sodium Laurelth Sulfate, which is definitely on the no-go list for curls, based on my research (and I'm also a no-poo advocate, so I was disinterested in the shampoo to begin with), I tried the Restoration Mask, Nourishing Conditioner, and Créme Serum and felt that the products did and okay job, but I wasn't blown away. I would need to try it for a couple more months to really get a feel for how well it works. Since I only wash my hair once or twice a week, the process of trying out products, for me, takes longer. I'm a fan of much more natural products, and big companies like Dove tend to swing further into the chemical realm when it comes to their products, but that being said I'm glad that companies are finally wising up to the needs of curly hair and working to create products with our specific needs in mind. Curly hair often needs a lot of moisturizing, conditioning, and protection, since the bends of the curls can weaken the hair if not protected. Dove designed the Quench Absolute line to help moisturize and keep curly hair healthy and manageable. I haven't gotten the best results from the products, compared with other products designed by companies whose main focus is curly hair and curly hair only, but I'm excited to see more companies realizing the special needs of curly hair and working to normalize and embrace naturally curly hair.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.