The longer I carried my natural curls, the more I understood what an enigma there is around curly hair care. I wish it only was me. Unfortunately, curly hair is entangled with stigma and social conditions.
The more I’ve fallen in love with my curls, the more I understand how far from love I had been. But what does self-love have to do with hair? If you’re a privileged person who won the gen hair lottery according to imposed beauty standards, you might have to give it some time to understand fully. The other side of beauty ideals is a disadvantage.
The reason why curly hair care does not start and end with products is due to being shadowed by years of social conditioning of the definition of ‘beauty.’ The problem isn’t in pointing out beauty; the issue is when the only type of beauty is being pointed out is singular. What needs to be recognized is the conscious and subconscious information we’ve been fed about where beauty starts and ends.
Growing up, a little curly-headed Persian girl in northern Sweden, I couldn’t find much to relate to–nor did media offer a wide selection of diversity. It’s been a slow process, and we’ve finally witnessed a more diverse representation, but it’s still not diverse. Stigma around beauty not only conditions a market but also primes ones. It primes its behaviors. For example, how about the abundance of anti-frizz products and tools for a straighter hair vs. options for curly heads in the hair care aisle?
Did you know that brands get only a certain amount of space at stores and have to choose their best selling products to make the most revenue? Just a few weeks ago, I was going from one store to another to purchase my favorite curl defining cream. It turns out; they canceled the curly line. Gone! When you’re not a part of a dominant segment, having to let go of products that have been great for your hair isn’t uncommon.
Besides the conditioning we’ve been primed to distinguish beauty, we need to understand how our circumstances condition us affects us on a physiological level. How it can cause us to think, act, and react if not being mindful.
Beauty ideals have their way of feeding insecurities and a sense of lack. Why are we putting more importance into these supposed beauty ideals rather than our beauty? Or our sense of beauty? Understanding your beauty has nothing to do with your outer appearance and everything to with your ability to genuinely love yourself. Just look at all beautiful creatures with body dysmorphia!
IT’S AN ENTITY OF IT’S OWN
The sooner I started to let go of how I wanted it to look; my hair evolved into something more beautiful than I could imagine. It took me a while to fully grasp that my hair is an entity of its own, and the sooner I paid attention to what it likes, the more efficiently I was to cultivate a better hair quality.
Often, we are so focused on things to look a certain way instead of nourishing what we have and allow it to bloom into what it is. But if we never give it space to become, then how are we going to experience it?
The reason why curly heads are an entity of its own is due to how it responds to its environment. For example, is your hair being exposed to dry or humid air? Do your curls change during your cycle? Have you noticed how different water, for instance, when traveling abroad, how it affects your hair? This is just the little tip of an iceberg.
IT’S A PROCESS
Look, I am not saying it’s going to be easy. There are days where your hormones and the climate clash, that’s okay. I call the solution: hair bun. It’s an easy and effective way to not deal with crazy hair days. If you want to add effectivity to the mix, go more in-depth with your deep condition: create a wet look, and bring your deep conditioning to work.
But it’s a process. That’s okay. Stick with it, especially if you have over a long period straightening your curls. It needs time to return to its natural ways. I can only speak from personal experience; it is worth it. That comes from a person who barely had a curl; it looked more like a blue wave headed in different directions. But I stuck with it. I was determined because going back to straightening; it felt like I was killing my texture.
However, if you allow yourself to follow along the process, let the good hair days and the bad hair days go. You will, with time, find yourself having a kinder inner dialog with your hair. With time, you won't be as bothered as you were with your tiered curls when they’re having a day off. You have a better understanding of the process that it responds to the environment you exposing it to as well as the inner reinforcement. Just like your plants love when you are talking to them, so does your hair.
STIGMA AND SOCIAL CONDITION
Do you love curly hair, but on others rather than yourself? Do you feel less sexy, or only just cute in curls? If so, you’re not alone. I used to be one who thought so, and as I started questioning my beauty ideals and their origin, I began to see how imprinted the problematic around the stigma runs. My beauty ideals weren’t mine; they were a combination of many things amongst the environmental conditioning that I'd ben exposed to. Chances are they would have looked entirely different if I grew up back in Iran. Or some other country for that matter.
Conditioning runs deep into socio-political alleys and into how movies and media have been illustrating the curly girl throughout the past decades. Most of us know her as the goofy girl, the left-wing but never the lead–she’s not that cool to be a leader. (cue Judy Greer's Penny to J.Lo's Mary in The Wedding Planner), waiting to be made over (à la Clueless) … or making an ass of ourselves on the job (Never Been Kissed). In Hollywood, curly hair just isn't taken that seriously at work.
While my curls were quirky — a conversation piece at parties ("How often do you have to wash it? Does everyone in your family have curly hair like you? Are you [insert tasteless ethnicity question here]?") — they just felt out of place (even inappropriate) in straitlaced office culture. Or when they want to touch your hair. I wish I could say I was the only one who felt this way.
But here’s the upside of this issue. You don’t have to be a prisoner to what you have been conditioned. You have the freedom to explore what you find beautiful. It’s a pretty magical quest. You get to learn more about yourself and what you desire from a deeper standpoint. Once you get over whatever anyone thinks about your preferences, chances are you’re in the clear. All this requires is self-awareness along the way and curiosity to find how deep your love can go. Your love for yourself, that is.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR HAIR QUALITY
1. Say goodbye to straightening tools.
You’re doing yourself and your hair a big disadvantage by going back and forth! Make a decision and stick to it. It’s worth the while.
2. Reduce the number of hair washes per month.
The perk of curls is that it takes usually longer or it to get greasy in comparison to straight. Don’t be afraid and push the limits to how many days your hair can go without being washed.
For anyone wondering, I wash my hair usually twice a month. Three times is very rare but it can happen depending on the season of the year and whereabouts.
3. Use products that your hair thrives on.
It’s one thing to trust others blindly and another to find out on your own. The truth of the matter is that everyone’s hair is different and what works for one person might not work for you. Keep looking.
Start with looking if your hair needs more hydration, for example, curly hair tends to run dry after all and test the waters – when is your hair the healthiest? What does it need to support healthy growth?
4. Vitamin deficiency
A great addition to look closer to supporting your locks is through natural remedies. Lack of vitamins in our daily food habits can have a tremendous effect on our health and the quality of it.
Zinc – Your hair needs zinc because when there is a lack of it in your system, it can lead to the deterioration of the protein that builds up your hair follicles in the first place. Something else that zinc does is help to keep your hormones balanced. Essential to be aware of if you’re currently going through perimenopause or menopause (both of which can result in hair loss). Also, you’ve noticed some thin spots; zinc can do wonders that as well.
B-Complex – If you’re ready to get your locks some length retention, this is another reason to take B-complex. It’s another word for biotin, and it’s what rebuilds your hair shingles while strengthening your hair strands in the process. Also, since hair loss is a result of being B deficient, that’s another reason to get (and keep) some of in your system.
Pantothenic Acid – Hair-wise, pantothenic acid will strengthen your hair’s roots, regenerate hair follicle cells, improve your hair’s moisture retention, protect your hair from heat damage, reduce split ends, add sheen and make your hair more flexible. Powerful, right?
Last but not least, it’s not a marathon; it’s not even a race let go of those metaphors. Self-love takes time; there’s no such thing as a straight road forward. Change takes time, and it’s well worth it because it all comes down to you. You will benefit from these changes of loving and having a soberer relationship with your hair and beauty ideals. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain–so why not making more conscious and mindful steps towards a wholesome you?