Until six weeks ago, I had been straightening my hair since I was 14 years old. I’ll be 30 in a few months so we’re talking 16 solid years of fighting the curl.
Some hot iron math: on a good week, I’ll have to do it twice. It takes about 40 minutes to GHD my whole head. At a conservative estimate, that’s 46,560 minutes, 776 hours or 32 days of my life that I’ve spent running ceramic plates over my hair. Sadly, that doesn’t count any time I spent re-curling my hair with said GHDs when I felt the straight hair was too straight-looking.
I can’t say that there was any big epiphany or moment of clarity that made me decide to go cold turkey on straight hair; I think I just felt a bit silly. My straightening schedule has long dictated some pretty fundamental things in my life, like when/how much I’ll exercise (sweat = enemy), what kinds of exercise I’ll do (swimming is a no-no) and even what time I need to wake up in the morning (40 minutes earlier than I need to on straightening days). It has always been a ‘thing’ for me to plan around. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been out with friends for drinks and, instead of coming home and crawling into bed, I’ll have to take a drunk shower so that my hair will be dry in the morning for me to tackle, hungover, at 6.30am. After 16 years of damp pillowcases, it kinda started to piss me off.
I’m embarrassed typing this but I can categorically say that pretty much my whole adult life, I’ve been convinced that curly hair makes me look less attractive and feel less ‘put together’. My lawyer sister recently told me that she feels like she isn’t as good at her job when her hair is curly at work.
I don’t know why this is exactly but I read an interesting thread on Reddit that pointed out that the curly, frizzy or kinky-haired girls in pop culture are generally the ‘wacky’ or ‘zany’ ones, like Tai (Brittany Murphy) in Clueless or Phoebe in Friends. If there’s a ‘makeover’ in a movie, the character’s hair will almost always go from curly to straight – think Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or Hermione Granger. It’s a subliminal message that really starts to sink in over time.
My first week of ‘curly hair, don’t care’ (except I do and I’m freaking out) was a challenge. I had a work trip to Milan and for the first time in recent memory, I didn’t bring my straighteners with me. Go big or go home, literally. 48 hours and nothing bad happened. No one stopped any meetings halfway through to ask if I needed some kirby grips.
I’m not saying I’ll never straighten again but, without being dramatic (I know there’s more to life than hair), at the moment the thought of straightening my hair again feels a bit sacrilegious, like I’d be a traitor to my newfound hair freedom. There’ve been a few occasions when I’ve wanted to feel a bit more ‘slick’ but I’ve found that a centre-part, a tight low bun and some serious earrings works a treat.
The transition phase definitely hasn’t been easy. It’s not like it goes undetected – people who see you all the time notice and comment, which made me feel kind of self-conscious at the beginning. However, I can say that I’ve genuinely had a lot more compliments now than I ever got with straight hair.
After straightening for so long, the curls definitely needed some time to find their happy place and it’s been a bit of a trial-and-error process finding a routine that works for me, so I wanted to share my own experience in the hopes that my closet curly compadres give their natural hair a chance, and spend that grooming time doing something more fun.
Three tips from me to you if you’re considering ditching the heat:
I might be really late to the game on this but I’ve very swiftly realised that curly hair really hates normal shampoo. I won’t bore you with the details on why (google it) but take a look at your dish soap and then compare the ingredients on your shampoo. In a lot of cases it’s pretty much the same ingredients, with different smells. I’ve ditched shampoo to ‘co-wash’ with a ‘hair cleanser’ and won’t ever go back. Hair cleanser doesn’t give you the satisfying foam that we’ve all come to expect but from my experience, it does clean your hair and results in a much more manageable, ‘separated’ curl. I’ve gotten pretty obsessed with New Wash by Hairstory (also highly recommend the Hair Balm for air-drying). If you’re on a budget, you can also pick up a good hair cleanser by Palmers.
2. Frizz is (kind of) your friend
Personally, I find a ‘too perfect’ curl is a little dated – and usually a little crunchy with too much product. I find that ‘distressing’ the curl with your fingers once it’s totally dry (basically pulling it apart) makes it more flattering and modern. See Mica Argañaraz.
3. Don’t touch it
If you’re air-drying, don’t touch it until it’s totally dry. Seriously.