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How To Make Your Curly Hair Look Cool (+ Learning How To Embrace My Very Naturally Curly Hair)

I have very, very, very curly hair – I had no idea. Sure I’ve let it air dry before but it always just looked so bad that I almost didn’t see it as curly, but more big and frizzy. Obviously, I now know that this is because I wasn’t using the right product or process to let these golden ringlets shine. But curly hair is special and when done right I think looks far cooler than a blowout – no matter what society tells me. So yes I had to be re-programmed from thinking that blown out smooth/ wavy hair is how I look “good”, and likely I would have gone on forever blowing it out once or twice a week except for these TWO facts:

  • It rains a lot in the winter in Portland and even when it’s not raining it’s humid, so there is no point in blowing your hair out if you are going to say, walk the dogs 2 hours a day (which has become my winter anti-depressant).
  • I’m desperate for my hair to be long and healthy, and heat styling it is so damaging and causes breakage.

So my options are to A. never leave the house or B. figure out how to style my curls to look good.

My Curly Hair Fears:

I’m just going to say it because it’s my truth: I was scared that shoulder-length curly blonde hair would read as “middle-aged MOM”. Which I am. I’m in that phase of life where 1/2 the time I have the mature perspective to not consciously chase “youth” or care if I look “cool” but y’all, but the other 1/2? I still do. I want to look as young as I feel (27 years old) and like I have a sense of style because I do. But I am not Keri Russel in year one of Felicity. I’m a 42-year-old mom who mostly wears athleisure, a baseball hat, and has a super messy car. So when I do my hair, a wavy blowout is what society has deemed is “pretty” and I know that it makes me feel/look good. We all know that what is actually “cool” is not only embracing who you are, but feeling confident in that. And I was neither embracing nor feeling confident with my curls 2 weeks ago – thus the blowout. We all have a lot of deprogramming to do. I don’t want Elliot to have the same thoughts feelings about her hair/skin as I have and I don’t want her to look at herself naked in the mirror with the same thoughts that I do. It’s part of a larger conversation that most people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s find themselves in – this “how do I look on the outside the way I feel on the inside (young, cool, fun) without giving in to societies dubious expectation of women, shoved upon us via marketing, celebrity culture, and the patriarchy??” I still get lashes extended, skin self-tanned, and gray hair covered (amongst other things tbh) but maybe this is step #1 to self-acceptance? Learning how to style my curly hair to look cool, thus getting closer to embracing myself how I naturally am. I mean, it’s worth a shot.

Janine Jarmon is a friend of mine who owns a salon in LA (and fun fact came in second on Bravo’s Sheer Genius around the same time I was on DesignStar). She has been working for years on behalf of curly-headed folks (of all ethnicities) to create a great product and method. It’s called Curl Cult and I’m an official member now. So with my humid atmosphere and with her new product, it was time for her to teach me how to make my curly hair look cool two different ways.

THE EASY, EVERYDAY ROUTINE

The wash and let air dry thing always mystified me as mine was more “wash and prepare yourself to look like a lion for the rest of the day”. But Janine knew that it was a matter of product and method. So here is what I do most days when I have time to let it air dry.

STEP 1: WASH/CONDITION WITH REFRESH SHAMPOO & REVIVE CONDITIONER

Refresh – Hydrating Shampoo| Revive – Hydrating Conditioner

First, wash your hair start with a quarter size of the Refresh shampoo (if you have curly hair you need curly hair shampoo). You may need to rinse and repeat up to 2 times. This is a sulfate-free shampoo so don’t look for suds (that’s what sulfates help produce) instead look for the hair to feel clean. Follow with a silver dollar amount of the conditioner and apply to the middle of your hair to the ends and rinse.

This is pretty standard procedure – just with good product that is paraben & sulfate surfactant-free. Janine told us that a lot of shampoos can actually be overly hydrating, meaning that it is not water-soluble. With straight hair that can be okay and really helpful to keep it straight, but with curly hair, you need water-soluble stuff so that it reactivates the curls and doesn’t just build up on your hair. FYI, Curly hair is naturally dryer than most, so Janine recommends that you don’t wash your hair as much (she washes hers once a week). I work out every day so I was washing my hair almost every day but now I just rinse and condition and then wash with shampoo once or twice a week per Janine’s advice. Basically, frequent washing with curly hair agitates the cuticle layer and makes your hair frizzier. Whoops.

STEP 2: PAT DRY WITH 100% COTTON TOWEL

Whatever you do, do NOT use a terrycloth towel to dry your hair. Janine used a flour sack type towel which is delicate, lightweight, and absorbent. You can also use a microfiber towel or a cotton T-shirt, so don’t think you need to go out and buy new towels.

STEP 3: SPRAY WITH MAGIC SPELL

Magic Spell

Magic Spell is their leave-in conditioner spray that you can use every day to refresh your curls. If you are spraying it after a shower, it’s best when you spray it on soaking wet hair but you can also spray it on dry hair throughout the day (I do). This leave-in conditioner is not just for curly hair folks. You can use it on any type of hair because it’s a natural heat protectant and helps prime your hair for any other product you put on top of it. It is vegan and paraben-free so it’s safe to use on all hair and on kid’s hair too (Birdie uses it too!). This stuff is AWESOME. I have used it even on the days that I do blow my hair out and it detangles and conditions like no other.

STEP 4: COMB WITH WIDE TOOTH COMB

For my kind of curls, without some detangling it will get VERY frizzy so Janine taught me to use a wide-tooth comb like so. You can also use a wet brush but not a regular brush as that will amplify the frizz. I know that most of you curly hair’d ladies know how specific the process is but I’m just now learning it and boy is it specific.

STEP 5: APPLY CURL CREAM

Enhance – Moisturizing Curl Cream

To help support the curls, use Curl Cream which enhances and controls natural curls. Use 2-4 pumps, rub on your hands like lotion and then with a clawing motion apply throughout your hair to the ends. With a curl-enhancing product like this, you don’t need it on your roots, just where your curls start. This product you shouldn’t use every day but more so every other day and ONLY on very wet hair.

STEP 6: LET AIR DRY

That’s it? I just let it dry? So I sat there for 3 hours while Ryann got a perm (coming at you soon) and waited to see what would happen.

STEP 7: ONCE DRY, SHAKE IT OUT AND USE FINGERS TO MASSAGE ROOTS TO GIVE MORE VOLUME

CHECK OUT THOSE CURLS!!! GAH! Can you believe it?

I mean, the difference is actually wild. Clearly, the right products and technique does wonders.

THE ELEVATED SCULPTED LOOK

Now before I left Janine wanted to teach me how to do the “sculpted look” which is basically just bigger curls by using a brush to control the ringlets. This is higher maintenance but boy did I love the look.

REPEAT STEPS 1-5

Steps 1-5 are the same, remember the product and process is just so important.

STEP 6: SEPARATE INTO SECTIONS

Here’s where it gets more complicated, but it’s still very doable. You have to put it into sections and just work with one strand at a time.

STEP 7: APPLY THE SCULPTING TECHNIQUE

The sculpting technique is huge on TikTok, guys. What you do is feed strands of hair through the brush so it twirls and also perfectly detangles it. (This is step is probably better explained on camera, so definitely check out the video below (just wait for the ad to play).

Here’s me trying it out which took me a second to figure out. SO fun. It is a very involved process as you have to go strand by strand but the result is so pretty (as you’ll see ;)).

It’s like training your curls to create this unbelievable shape – which curly hair can do easily (whereas straight hair can’t).

Now Janine helped me in the back, where it is harder to do, but just takes some practice. At the front, I sculpted it away from my face (parted in the middle) because I love that look.

STEP 7: LET AIR DRY

Preorder My New Book🙂

The key is to not touch the sculpted curls AT ALL. This part was killing me. You must just sit and wait for them to air dry so I picked up a gripping new thriller.

My hair takes a long time to dry (especially underneath) so I think this was an hour under the heat lamp or 2 hours normal.

STEP 8: SHAKE OUT THE CURLS

I was excited and nervous to see how it would look (we did this look first, with the everyday look after).

I LOVED IT and more importantly, I couldn’t believe this was mine and ZERO styling beyond the sculpting and then using my fingers to comb it out (i.e. no product after, no curling irons – nothing). And the best part is that both hairdos get better every day – just like a blowout day 2 is better than day 1.

Day 2, 3, and 4 I just used the conditioning spritz and it controlled the frizz and it didn’t make it curlier – just less frizzy which I was happy about. I actually loved the sculpted look more but it was more work.

SO, WHICH ONE DO I LIKE MORE?

I honestly love both – I think technically the sculpted is my preference but it’s not that much better to sacrifice the time. This does make me want to go blonder though 🙂 Since I learned this, I wore it curly for the first 10 days but we were in Palm Springs and it was dry out there so it looked AWESOME. My main/only issue with it is that it takes a while for my hair to air dry so that if I have a 9 am Zoom I have to shower at 6:30 am for it to dry and loosened up by then. By 2 pm it looks awesome if I’ve done it right. So much respect for Janine for spending the years and likely a lot of money in research and development on this project.

Complete Curly Kit

Thank you, Janine!!!! All of us naturally curly-haired ladies are better because of you. Janine is giving us 10% off if you purchase the products through any of the links in this post (the price is already marked down). I seriously love every product and use the leave-in conditioner almost every day.

Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

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Susan
6 months ago

Your hair looks great, Emily! (And I remember Janine from Sheer Genius!) I think it’s great that your embracing your natural hair and not drying it!

Jennifer
6 months ago
Reply to  Susan

Yes! She was the best on that show! I’ve been following her since, saw her perm on refinery21 awhile back. Makes me want to get a perm so bad!!

6 months ago

I had no idea!!!! I am also a secret curly later in life middle aged mom in a damp climate, haha. I have a slightly different hair texture than you I think, but I wanted to share that you can also potentially get nice air dried waves with different product.

Try Oribe Supershine Moisture Cream on towel dried hair, but use more than the package says. (They also have a “light” formulation which may be more Em friendly?) I find this to be by far my prettiest smooth non-frizzy but natural waves-not-curls product, with the bonus that you can and should be OK with touching it. Also you can always try drying with a diffuser to cut down on all the wetness waiting game! I’d do it on days with the curl cream, not just the spray

wally
6 months ago

Yes, when I get my hair cut and they want to enhance the curls, they twist my hair and use a diffuser to dry it (often literally placing the hair right on the diffuser). At home, I sometimes just put my hair in two twists (as though I have two pigtails but they are twisted) and let air dry, which gives me larger curls.

Suzanne
6 months ago
Reply to  wally

I’ve done the twist method, too. I’ve actually slept on it and had it turn out okay. My hair isn’t as curly, though.

Jessica
6 months ago

As someone with much curlier hair than Em, Oribe’s Supershine Moisture Cream is my 100% most favourite product – because SHINE (I also love the scent)!! Curly hair often looks less shiny for all sorts of reasons but specifically because it isn’t “flat”. Oribe was famous for working with textured hair & humidity since he was Cuban. It is however a very expensive line. I recently started using High Dive Moisture & Shine Creme from R&Co which is quite similar, (and also smells great) and is about half the price.

Karen
6 months ago

Ha, “so my options are A. Never leave the house…”
Looks great. Can’t wait to see Ryann’s perm!

I’m newer to sweaty workouts and I can’t figure out how people do not wash their hair after. Does a rinse and condition really do enough?

Susan
6 months ago
Reply to  Karen

Yes it does. Truly. Sweat and salt are water soluble. I’ve never had a problem and my partner would tell me if I smelled. Haha!

Karen
6 months ago
Reply to  Karen

Oh yes, just think about it. Your hair is still clean, just your scalp gets dirty from a workout. Scrubbing your scalp cleans it and distributes the natural oils. Once you get out of shampooing so often, your scalp calms down and doesn’t have to produce all that oil that you washed away too frequently. So you won’t need to shampoo as often because your scalp has adjusted to not needing to replenish the oils that weee once stripped away too frequently.

6 months ago
Reply to  Karen

Yes but the “wait” freaks me out! I asked Jamie Beck how long it took for her hair to get to that point where she could wash it once a week and she said about 6 months ! Ack!

Katie
6 months ago
Reply to  monica lee

I will say that it absolutely depends on your shampoo as to how long you can go between washes. I used the Organix brand for years and loved the scents, then upgraded to the Aveda Light Moisture line, as my hair was a bit dry and broken, and pretty immediately went from washing every 2ish days to once a week! I think the difference is that the Organix would clean the hell out of my hair, leaving it slippery and silky on the first day, while the Aveda would just clean it, leaving it feeling like clean hair and it would gradually get dirty from there. My hair is not curly, however.

Also, I was gifted a new blow dryer that has a ‘high ion’ setting which makes my hair super silky slippery but then it gets limp and oily very quickly. The high ion setting is not suited to my hair type, IMHO, but your experience may differ!

I would take stock of your products and tools and maybe borrow something from a friend to see how it might change your hair.

KJ
6 months ago
Reply to  Karen

I went 6 months, working out every single day, with just a rinse and conditioner. I asked and nobody said it smelled and it looked just fine. (Now I shampoo once a week because it makes me happier.)

Tracy
6 months ago

Your hair looks great and I’d like to give this a try. Any advice on how to revive the curls after sleeping on them, or should I just plan to re wet my hair and go through the air dry process again. Wet hair on a work Zoom meeting isn’t a great look…lol

wally
6 months ago
Reply to  Tracy

Zoom is my biggest impediment to air drying! Pre-pandemic, I had multiple days a week when I worked from home and meetings were on the phone, so I could wash my hair and let it air dry. I only wash once a week, but I also usually only have one day when I can let it fully air dry (bc no zoom meetings and no plans to go anywhere – my hair takes a LONG time to dry).

StephanieZ
6 months ago
Reply to  Tracy

try using a silk pillowcase or a silk bonnet. It will cut down a lot on frizz.

Suzanne
6 months ago
Reply to  StephanieZ

Silk pillowcase is so effective in maintaining a hairstyle.

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  Tracy

I use a spray bottle a LITTLE, on mist, then turn my head upside down and gently scrunch.
It should only be enough spray to slightly dampen, not wet, your hair.
Then let air dry, do stuff that doesn’t involve bending over too much while it dries.

Karen
6 months ago
Reply to  Tracy

I pull my hair up into a loose very high ponytail, a “pineapple” with a bobble hair tie or silky scrunchie before I go to bed. My curls don’t get squashed and there’s no bump to keep me from sleeping In the morning I take it out, give my roots a little shake, and I’m usually good to go.

Jessica
6 months ago
Reply to  Tracy

If you are using a good hair product on wet hair, you should just be able to give the hair a bit of a shake or manipulate a few curls with your hands. You can also give it a fine spritz with some water or a frizz tamer. The right product for hair depends so much on how thick or fine your strands are, how coarse they are, and how much you have. I need a heavier product because I have a lot of thick coarse strands. My sister has a much tighter curl but hers are fewer and finer, and what I use doesn’t work for her.

tarynkay
6 months ago

It’s beautiful! I think you should go darker rather than lighter, though. What color is it naturally? Go with that.

Emma
6 months ago
Reply to  tarynkay

Yeah, if Emily is worried about heat damage then taking a break (at least temporarily) from bleaching would also help her hair recover.

Lynn
6 months ago
Reply to  tarynkay

Yes! Emily, you are so pretty and a warmer color would make you glow. Go toward your natural color!

Erin Dae
6 months ago

Beautiful! Fellow curly girl over here. Fought it for years but once I went natural I have never gone back other than a blowout here and there for “special occasions” or if I have a ton of time on my hands and want to do something different. I have worn mine pretty short the last decade or so but during COVID I didn’t get a haircut. It has officially been 2 years since a haircut and it has been fun to do things like ponytails and braids. Plus, I don’t color my hair so it really shows off the natural variation of blonde, brown, red, and yes gray swirled throughout. I’m trying to embrace that too! I was surprised when you said at the end you want to go blonder. I was actually thinking in the whole post that the more honey-colored hair you have now looks so much better on you than the lighter blonde from before. Plus, less bleaching = healthier hair! Glad you have found products that work for you. It is definitely a process. Regarding the sculpting technique, if you like that better you could always sculpt just the front parts that frame your face and… Read more »

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  Erin Dae

Yessssss, everyone thinks I’ve had highlights!! Curls blend variation of to es into pretty highlight, including presky grays…they seriously look like highlights!

Molly
6 months ago

Do you do anything at night to preserve the curls? I wake up with progressively more and more tangles until I have a full-on rat’s nest in my head by day 3-4. I know I should wrap my head but I’m too lazy.

mouseface
6 months ago
Reply to  Molly

I do a French braid, any braid will do. Some people do a ” pineapple”. Or you can wear a cap. Basically you want to use a protective style.. When Im organized I use a satin pillowcase too.

kiki
6 months ago
Reply to  mouseface

Yes! the pineapple! When I want to wear my hair curly, i shower at night and sleep with it in the pineapple and then when I take it down in the morning, it’s nearly perfect! I usually have to do a bit of touch up with a curler, but I have more wavy than truly curly hair so I’m battling flatness not frizz.

Jessica
6 months ago
Reply to  Molly

Silk or satin pillowcase! Also, sleep with it in a high pony.

Amy
6 months ago

I hate product that leaves curls crunchy in any way, after air drying. I have had very good results with Aveda Be Curly cream on wet hair and diffuser dry about 1/2 way. Scrunch as you go and the hair is very soft yet the curls are controlled, nice shine, and light/bouncy. It’s also easy to shower at night, comb wet hair, add a bit of smoothing cream, blow dry just a bit to take the wet edge off, then pin your hair in a loose bun/braid overnight and it will dry to give you those smooth waves you like without having to heat damage or straighten your hair. Gentle on your hair and still gets you the look you liked before.

StephanieZ
6 months ago
Reply to  Amy

so the crunchiness in a lot of curl products are meant to be scrunched out. Its a called a cast… and you scrunch a lot to bust the cast up, but it helps keep your curls tight and hopefully frizz free. That being said I don’t love products that create a super heavy cast either.

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  StephanieZ

Yes, I never knew and had to figure it out as I went.

Liz
6 months ago
Reply to  Amy

SOTC – Scrunch out the crunch!

mouseface
6 months ago

Glad you love your curls.. they look cute ! I wanted add for curls the CUT is so important. The right layers cut by someone who KNOWS make all the difference .. there are special curly salons, but you don’t need to just go to them … If you’re curly or wavy get on instagram and find someone with the pixs that prove they understand your hair texture. After 2 years of growing out my layers and my grey I just got a super cool shag which is amazing! Basically Jimmy Page… and the greys sparkle like highlights.. I was in shell shock at first, now I love it ….The multilayered product classic curly routine is a bit too product heavy for me I end up feeling sticky, my haircut is wash and go, I just add curl defining cream and Im done. And Personally I am not very afraid of looking like I am trying to to be young, Im 53, thrift/ punk/ grunge is my birthright LOL, If you keep a DGAF attitude you can wear ANYthing or ANY haircut you choose. I have toned it down a bit- now I might wear one wacky vintage thing per… Read more »

mouseface
6 months ago
Reply to  mouseface

FYI R + Co Rurntable Curl Defining Cream = game changer.

Heidi
6 months ago

It looks FANTASTIC! I’m naturally curly and totally embraced my curls again about 5 years ago. It’s hard the first year or so to get used to not relying on heat styling. But the healthier your hair gets the better and better it looks. Now I wash mine about once every 7-10 days (and I workout, ski, walk the dog, etc). Wash day takes a long time and I do diffuse my hair. I also pull it up at night and sleep on a silk pillowcase. But then the rest of the days I literally quickly refresh or do nothing and I LOVE IT. I never avoid weather or worry about my hair now because it’s always its own form of curly crazy. The process of embracing my hair has been surprisingly deep in terms of the first step of complete self acceptance.

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  Heidi

Beautiful comment 😊

Anna
6 months ago

Been curly my whole life- combo of 3A and 3B curl type. The best thing about curly hair is that everyone is different. Your routine would never work for me. I cannot comb or brush my hair but I finger comb the product through. I only wash and condition my hair once a week, which takes about an hour and add all product in the shower. I wet plop and dry plop, pin and diffuse to set my hair. I cannot use a creme on my hair. I wear a bonnet and sleep on a silk pillowcase to protect my curl at night. I work out every single day with my hair up- I shake it out when finished, apply some more gel to the wet areas and let air dry. I protect my hair in the shower with a cap and then release it when ready to go about my day and add some gel to control any frizz. I have my hair professionally cut dry by a curl specialist every 11 weeks. I live in the Midwest where there is humidity and rain and snow and dry air- sometimes all in one day lol. Curly hair doesn’t have… Read more »

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  Anna

Tell me, please, how/why a dry cut is better for curly hair???!!???

Anna
6 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Conventional wet cuts stretch curls and curls can behave unpredictably when drying and a lot of times wet cuts can create “shelves” (or at least that is what I call them in my hair- it looks layered while wet but when dry it can look like a chunk of hair is missing because the curl is tighter in that area). A dry cut allows for the stylist to see how the curl lays and pick and choose which curls to cut which helps to ensure that they fall neatly on top of one another. My stylist says you have to pay respect to each individual curl by addressing it where it lives. I always liked that 🙂

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  Anna

Thanks, Anna! 😊xx

Katie
6 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

I have 2B and 2C waves, so it might be different for curlier hair, but dry cuts allow my stylist to see my natural curl pattern and make cut and product recommendations accordingly. I go in with my hair shampooed and prepped according to her instructions—a dry cut for curls is a specific service she offers. I’m still working out my routine, but I’ve been wet plopping like Anna mentioned and use a gel (not cream) and have already noticed a huge improvement.

mouseface
6 months ago
Reply to  Katie

Yeah curly hair is SO individual.. you have to find the cut and routine that works for you. Reddit has great threads on curly hair with progress shots and affordable routines… Most every wavy/curly person has had the dreaded shelf, mushroom, or a just plain frumpy meh haircut ..IMHOP curly /wavy hair can be the most fashion forward / beautiful/ sexiest thing out there. Long gorgeous rippling curls are just amazing. Personally speaking my wavy/curly hair is very close to Emily’s texture and I need lots of rock and roll layers help it to look its best ….like way more than one might think, cause the perfect haircut for me is the long Jimmy Page/ Farrah shag. I think a Jayne Matthews type cut and styling would work really well on Emily… I just got mine done by someone brilliant who studied the Jayne Matthews method .. It is the best version of my hair I have ever seen. ( PS Using a diffuser on a dryer to dry waves and curls with volume is a good Jayne Matthews trick to boost volume/help with dry times.)

StephanieZ
6 months ago

I’ve got ringlet curly hair and have worn it curly for 20 years at least. I never use a brush. EVER! I finger brush my hair when putting in conditioner during the shower. When I’m putting in curl cream, I use prayer hands and scrunch. I find if I finger comb once out of the shower my curls separate more. Give that a try…. your curls may clump bigger if you don’t use a comb.

Julie S
6 months ago
Reply to  StephanieZ

Yes I meant to say this too- just finger comb out tangles/loose hair in the shower with lots of conditioner, not with a comb after as that separates and straightens things more than you’d realize.

Jessica
6 months ago
Reply to  StephanieZ

I would describe my hair the same way & do the same thing.

Kara
6 months ago
Reply to  StephanieZ

Agreed, this was the one part of the process that surprised me, because I feel like the standard rule of curl care is to only finger brush your hair in the shower as you condition.

mouseface
6 months ago
Reply to  StephanieZ

But my wavy / curly hair gets so SNARLY and TANGLY if I don’t comb it??If its not a wash day I usually brush it while dry, it puffs, then shower humidity curls it? Do you have tangle problems? (my hair may be less thick and curly than yours… it gets weighted down by product)

Tracy
6 months ago

I have embraced my natural curls in the past 5 years-going full on curly about 3 years ago (hello 4 kids/twins!). The lead time air drying requires is definitely a consideration, especially with morning commitments! Going to a stylist who specializes in curls is so important. I like your sculpted look, for days when its worth it to invest more time- I only have one look, and sometimes it looks good and sometimes theres no way to recover except washing it the next day hahahaha.

patty
6 months ago

You mentioned using a brush to shape the curls. Please note: it’s the handle of the brush that you wrap the hair around. Signed, someone who spends way too much time on Tik Tok.

6 months ago
Reply to  patty

OMG! Brilliant! Thanks for watching TIK Tok and spreading the word 😆

Julie S
6 months ago

I’m having so many feelings here! My hair as a child was barely-wavy, then with puberty I developed ringlets the diameter of a nickel which I loved once I figured out what was going on up there. I never wanted straight hair – I’m kind of thin and sharp featured, and feel I look too harsh with smooth hair. After the birth of my 2nd child I lost the ringlets, and now 5 years later it’s basically wavy and only curls somewhat when I go to bed with it damp (so gravity doesn’t pull out the curl – my hair is baby fine). I miss my curls!! I forgot about the sculpting thing – used to do that in high school, will try again soon… scrunch and air dry is my usual routine. Emily, you might try becoming a night shower-er and seeing what air dry overnight does for you.

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  Julie S

Julie … maybe try adding a little mouse and then drying it with a diffuser, upside down??

Jessica
6 months ago

Looks great! I’m taking my 9 y.o. girl to her first pro haircut in YEARS to a curly hair salon next week! This info is helpful for our new journey to embrace her curly hair.

Julie T
6 months ago

It looks great! Can you also tell us about your super cute jean shorts? And maybe even your stylist’s shirt if you feel like asking 🙂 I love cute denim!

Kj
6 months ago
Reply to  Julie T

I think the top is the Frame Gillian Puff Sleeve in chambray. https://editorialist.com/p/gillian-puffsleeve-chambray-top/. And the shorts are Ulla Johnson Theta https://ullajohnson.com/products/theta-short-oasis

Martha Moore
6 months ago

Emily, your hair looks beautiful!
I have the lovely challenge of curly in front and straight in back, which is why my hair is up in a bun every single day. If anyone’s in the same boat and has figured out an approach beyond cutting it short (which I liked but found pretty high maintenance–salon every six weeks before the cowlicks got too ornery), please share!

Julia Sugarbaker
6 months ago
Reply to  Martha Moore

Same! I have asked so many stylists how to deal with this issue. The answer always involves regular heat styling, which is pretty devastating for my very fine hair

Jessica
6 months ago

Oh also: must finish reading all the other comments, but isn’t a silk head wrap and/or silk pillow a pretty key step, too?

Gabrielle
6 months ago

I would love to layer in the euro-centricity and gender dynamics of seeing straight/wavy hair as prettier. Why is straight hair better? It doesn’t take long to realize that it’s both an expression of a) controlling women’s bodies (misogyny) and b) elevating white beauty standards as the norm (white supremacy). I’m glad you found a routine that works for you, but I think this conger is much deeper than that.

Emma
6 months ago
Reply to  Gabrielle

Agreed! We talk about embracing natural hair a lot for women of color, who are often wrongly deemed unprofessional or even unattractive with their natural hair texture. Everyone should feel comfortable as their natural self.

anna
6 months ago
Reply to  Gabrielle

I can tell you’d be fun at a party

gabrielle
6 months ago
Reply to  anna

I actually really am! I felt comfortable introducing this challenge because a) I know that the team has made a huge effort to be more inclusive across the entire business, which I think is really lovely and genuine and b) the article is framed up as a desire to accept one’s self, not just “I finally figured out how to style my tricky curly hair.” If it had been the latter I wouldn’t have felt it was appropriate to introduce misogyny and race as a part of the conversation because you are totally right— buzzkill! I also think it’s easy not to realize that some of what we feel is innocent (ie straight hair is prettier) is actually an example of systemic racism and/or misogyny at play. I hope you have a beautiful day.

Meg
6 months ago
Reply to  gabrielle

Gabrielle, you are so right about the racist and misogynist ideas embedded in women’s beauty standards, and it sounds like you’d be absolutely lovely at a party. 😉 I prefer party guests with whom I can have thoughtful, nuanced discussions about important ideas.

(For what it’s worth, Emily, I think your hair on your “bad day” actually looks fine. And since I know you are interested in living more sustainably, which I really appreciate, you might want to look at plastic-free or refillable products. I have curly hair and use a bar shampoo.)

Jessica
6 months ago
Reply to  Gabrielle

100%

Lane
6 months ago
Reply to  Gabrielle

Women with straight hair want curly hair and women with curly hair want straight hair. The truth is most of us don’t like our own hair. It’s a case of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Somehow others have better hair than ours. Beautiful hair takes time. It takes products, styling, and time to figure it out. It’s the price women pay because we might look unattractive or unprofessional if we don’t. (Very sad, and very true. But we are all judged by it by men and women). I know many women with dark curly hair. They keep coloring the hair to cover up gray and they keep wearing their curls. I have slightly wavy hair, freeze, that gets greasy a day after washing it. I blow dry it with some mouse on a round brush for a soft straight look if I go out.It just works best for my square face or at least that’s how I see myself in my own head. If I don’t go out, I just wear it in a bun. Looks unattractive, but doesn’t take any time to do it. Yes I agree with your point A. I have… Read more »

Emma
6 months ago
Reply to  Lane

I mean, yeah, the grass is always greener, but one side of the grass has been consistently told (either implicitly or explicitly) that their grass is unprofessional, unpolished and even unattractive. It’s not a coincidence that this side of the fence includes the natural hair textures of Black people.

Vivienne
6 months ago
Reply to  Gabrielle

That’s interesting bc I think the straight/curly thing is due in part to the grass being greener on the other side. Straight haired girls like me curl our hair, while my curly haired friends like to straighten theirs!

michaela
6 months ago
Reply to  Gabrielle

This is so real, though. I (a white woman) used to always feel that I had to straighten my curly hair to go to the office or it wasn’t “professional” looking. I only recently realized that notion has deep roots in the way black women’s hair has been policed and white beauty standards have been enforced in the workplace.

Lane
6 months ago
Reply to  michaela

This is all surprising to me. I didn’t grow up in the US so I wasn’t aware of how deep this might be here. In the 80s and 90s most women I knew had short hair and perms. So curly hair was definitively desired. Now there’s more variability in terms of length, and fewer perms. In the US, women are more likely to have longer hair. Anyway, I hope more and more women will be comfortable doing whatever they want to their hair.

Lynn
6 months ago
Reply to  Gabrielle

Interestingly, I have found most guys to say curly hair is the most attractive. Why would they control toward straight? There have also been a lot of big trends toward curls (from 80s perms to the last decade of beach wave). I actually look around with my stick straight hair and wonder why I am the only who doesn’t curl it! I have actually tried to convince people that straight hair can be pretty, too, but no one seems to buy it! What’s the evidence it’s from misogyny or white supremacy?

mouseface
6 months ago
Reply to  Gabrielle

Love you brought this up! And for those of you in the comments who don’t see the politics in Eurocentric beauty standards.. google it, there is a lot out there . It’s a huge part of the conversation around these issues…

kelsey
6 months ago

Yay! I’m so glad you’re embracing your curls! I related to much of what you said as a mom myself who is nearing 40 and in the past three years have learned how to take care of my curly hair (I follow the curly girl method). I have low porosity hair and must use a lot more conditioner than you, without silicones and alcohols that these products have, without brushing, without shampoo, etc., but I’m so glad you’ve found what works for you! It can take a lot of experimenting! I sleep with my hair in a ponytail on a silk/satin pillowcase and spray with water the next day and go. Wash day is my least favorite because, like you, mine takes three hours to dry and I dislike having wet hair, but thankfully I only have to wash once a week and it makes the rest of the week TOTALLY WORTH IT. One other thing I think you’d really love is going to a color analyst and see what colors (clothing, makeup, hair) look best on you. That way you never have to guess about your hair color! Look up House of Colour! I’m not a consultant or trying… Read more »

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago

OOOH I’ve been waiting for this post since you mentioned it!🤗 Yaaay!!! You look gorgeous with curly hair! And … trend alert … have you noticed people are getting perms now??? Besides Ryann (can’t wait to see!). Emily, I love your ‘blonde’ with regrowth and the curls! I hope you DON’T make the mistake you made before and go more blonde … it wrecked your hair!!! From moving to the mountain house to now, your hair is much more like when you had Charlie. Beautiful! Love that you’re embracing your authentic look more. I reckon it’s a step in the right direction.💗xx I had verrrry thick, yet very fine, verrrry straight hair all my life and used cheap shampoo and conditioner and literally did nothing to it, just wear a towel on my wet hair for a while and air dry. I could go to bed with it wet, wake up and look like I’d styled it! For real … til chemo … two years in a row. My specialist said he’d heard of it happening (permanently affecting the hair roots), but had never seen it before IRL. He said “Irrefutable, there it is!”🤣 #All.of.a.sudden.i.had.ringlets! 🤣🤣 (EHD, you guys have… Read more »

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

LOL… people I know do too.🤣🤣

Tarynkay
6 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

I agree about the grey highlights! I do not have curly hair. It is a little wavy, that’s all. But I have started going grey, which I have done nothing about due to general laziness/overwhelm. Anyhow, one day when we were outside, my 6 year old told me he loved my “beautiful sparkly silver hair.” I love 6 year olds. This made me feel entirely differently and far more positive about it, especially contrasted with my mom’s reaction (“wow… you have a LOT of grey!”)

So I’m embracing it! Grey hair is a crown of glory!

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  Tarynkay

Yaaay! Love that your son influenced you to be your authentic self! 😊

CHRISTA
6 months ago

Very cute!

Lynnette
6 months ago

I have think wavy hair that would take the entire day to air dry so I got an at-home hood dryer – it’s amazing! Takes about 30 minutes to dry my hair and I get to spend that time reading and relaxing while my hair does it thing. Highly recommend!

Jessica
6 months ago
Reply to  Lynnette

omg, my hair literally takes the whole day, like at least 8 hrs, and this is an amazing idea that I have no room in my house for!!!

Elia
6 months ago
Reply to  Lynnette

Yes, a hood dryer is the way to go! I have thick curly hair that would take all day to air dry. I spend maybe 15-20 minutes under the hood dryer and I do my makeup at the same time.

Sara M
6 months ago

Love hearing you articulate the inner work of accepting your curly hair. After all these years, I had no idea you are a curly girl. It looks beautiful! The pressure to have our hair a certain way to fit the mold of attractive is so passé. I’m just craving real-ness and with this we get a little more of the real you, something the world desperately needs from each of us!

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  Sara M

Yesssss!!
I l9ve the increasing number of “cool”/famous older women who stopped dying their hair during Covid and aren’t going back!

Marian
6 months ago

Atoya Bass in Portland (well, Beaverton) is the curly QUEEN. Highly highly recommend her for curly cuts (very different experience than cutting straight hair) and education. She can also show you how to blow dry it so you’re done in 20 minutes instead of waiting for it to air dry. I have waist-length curly hair so it would take me all day for it to air dry. She showed me how to use a diffuser for when I want it to dry quickly. I also bought one of those $70 hood dryers which I use to dry my hair while I work 🙂

Learning to style and care for your curly hair is a lifetime process! But I haven’t dried my hair in 10 years and it’s incredible how much time it saves and how much more I feel like myself.

Lexie
6 months ago

This is a major case of “everyone wants what they don’t have”!!!!!!!!! I have stick straight, fine hair and I would kill for curly hair!!!!

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  Lexie

Perm

anon
6 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

But the perms never look like naturally curly hair. they always look like someone slapped a poodle’s hair on your head when you have straight fine hair and get it permed. 🙁 so many times I expressly said I wanted giant large waves or at least ringlets and ended up with a tightly curled poodle-do 🙁

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  anon

A ROOT PERM gives a lift and texture without the poodle effect … I had one aeons ago.

anon
6 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Don’t want to say how long ago high school was… but that last poodle perm was the last time I got a perm. 🙂 Like others have said, embrace what you’ve got! 🙂 My fine straight hair won’t hold a curl (rollers, hot rollers, curling iron) unless it’s a poodle perm so I just live with the straight fine (i.e. flat) look. With enough hair spray I can have an “up do” for a special occasion for a few hours, but otherwise it’s straight and flat or pony tail or braids. and that’s OK. 🙂

It’s too bad we all think we need whatever we don’t have.

6 months ago

Love the look! I’m getting the shampoo and conditioner to try on my curly locks.

Jessie
6 months ago

Your hair looks gorgeous curly! And I really love your color as it is in these pictures. So glad you are embracing what God/nature gave you. Your hair will thank you too, as it continues to get stronger and healthier without all the heat styling. I think you look extra sparkly and vibrant in these pics : )

6 months ago

My hairdresser told me that if the hair near your roots is straight, your curls and frizz are due to hair dye.
In my case it was true. I changed to another hair dye, chaeper and unbranded in a cheaper hair salon, not so good in theory, and the curls and frizz were gone. Now my hair is greasier after dying but looks younger.

Nora
6 months ago

Ahh, this is so exciting – I could talk all day about styling curly hair (I realized mine was curly in college and mostly have worn it that way since), so I’ll try to control myself 😉 Had no idea you had curly hair, and it looks great on you! Really nice curl pattern and it suits you. A lot of what you mentioned in terms of routine and steps aligns with what works on my end too. The Curl Cult products seem to be working well for you; a couple of other cream/serums that I’ve liked (but this is very individual) are Davines Curl Building Serum and Devacurl styling cream…I’ve heard good things about Briogeo Curl Charisma cream too. I’ve found using a leave-in conditioner beforehand also plumps up curls (like R+Co Waterfall), by the way, and I’m with the others in the comments who only finger comb hair in the shower once there’s lots of conditioner on it to avoid pulling out the curl. For me, for boosting curl and volume, I also find plopping helpful (i.e. https://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/curl-products/to-plop-or-not-to-plop), and then I either air dry, or when I want more volume or want dry hair sooner, dry with a… Read more »

Vivienne
6 months ago

I have a wavy-haired 14 yr old daughter who is trying to get her hair to express its inner curliness. Now I am not a hair/makeup person, but I bet a lot of you here are! Can anyone tell me if this method would help bring out her latent curls? She has thick hair, and when she was little, her hair had natural sausage curls. Now her hair seems mostly straight except in humidity (when her hair curls around her face & neck) & when she really tries to get the curls going via product & a diffuser. I’m just not good at this because I have straight hair. Any advice or direction would be helpful.

Jessica
6 months ago
Reply to  Vivienne

I totally recommend reading the comments here as there is a lot of good advice. The haircut is pretty key particularly since she has thick hair which if cut for all one length can really weigh down any curl action.

Andrea
6 months ago
Reply to  Vivienne

Try watching “Manes by Mell” videos on YouTube. She is a hairdresser with curly hair & focuses on education. She has several with her cousins who have wavy hair. Also lots of great wavy haired women on Instagram too. It’s a lot of trial & error. Definitely worth looking into getting her an appointment with a curl specialist in your area. It can be expensive, but they do a lot of eduction & worth the price at least one time.

Lesley
6 months ago

Very pretty. But UGH, when will we get good hair products WITHOUT the toxic fragrance?

Nicolle
6 months ago
Reply to  Lesley

And the PEGs, the polysorbates, the phenoxyethanol…

Alice
6 months ago
Reply to  Lesley

Ah, I was wondering if there would be a comment like this. I saw “Parfum” in the list of ingredients, sighed, and tried to be grateful for money saved.

Jorge
6 months ago
Reply to  Lesley

The curl cult products Em uses in this post are all vegan, and sulfate and paraben free!!!

Krista
6 months ago
Reply to  Lesley

Check out Innersense products. They are very clean, not heavily fragranced (some have a very light natural fragrance that doesn’t cling to hair when it dries). They are expensive, but for me, worth it.

Pam
6 months ago

Love seeing more curly hair! I would add one more thing that really helps keep the curls and cut down on frizz: a bonnet! I am a white lady and I did not think to try one of these until recently. I bought a Grace Eleyae slap cap and wear it every night. Covering my hair in something silky (doesn’t have to be real silk) makes all the difference for my fine curls! Black women know curly hair, and this is a must!

Jen
6 months ago

Your natural hair is so pretty!

Dena
6 months ago

Your curly hair is so beautiful!!!! Your hair looks great a little less blonde!

michaela
6 months ago

So exciting when someone embraces their place in the curly hair club! I am finally learning to accept my natural curls after a lifetime of constant straightening. I moved to the wet side of the PNW years ago, but it wasn’t until last summer when I finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort to keep fighting the humidity and sweat of the summer for mediocre-looking, straight but frizzy hair. Plus, my hair was so damaged that it never looked great, anyway! I’m starting to love my curls and have found they really give me a lot of freedom, apart from the bit of styling and waiting I have to do on wash days. But I hear you, it’s HARD when curly hair is still considered a “before” picture. I grew up with so much media that showed that girls who looked like me (curly hair, glasses) were in need of a makeover. I relate to what you wrote so much because part of my motivation to accept my curls was thinking that someday, I might have a little girl with gorgeous curly hair, and I wouldn’t want her to feel like it was something to change. Definitely looking into the… Read more »

Jenn
6 months ago

One low-maintenance tip for air drying faster, Emily, is to just use a hair dryer with diffuser for even just a couple minutes on your wet hair. It’ll speed the air drying way up. Might add a biiit of frizz but IMO can be worth it for the time savings! Work in small sections and try to keep the diffuser still (don’t wave it around a ton) to keep frizz at a minimum.

I have super similar hair as you and am so glad to see you embracing the natural curls! I’m in my 20s and IMO they look way cooler on you than the straight hair 🙂

Elia
6 months ago

First, let me underscore how awesome it is that you are embracing your curls! I think you look fabulous! Second, let me point out that embracing your curly hair is a journey. It’s not a one and done thing. You will continue to learn and refine your technique over time. Luckily there are more products and resources than ever, plus an amazing curly hair community! Third, I think it is really sad that when you (by you, I mean everyone) think(s) of curly hair, you think “middle aged mom” because curls are fabulous! It’s been too long that straight hair has been held up as the ideal hair type when there are so many beautiful textures that should be celebrated (not to knock straight hair, it’s beautiful too). I think it starts by changing the way we speak about curly hair. Let’s stop describing it as frizzy, wild, and unruly. It is not something that needs to be tamed or controlled. All of those words have negative connotations. Let’s speak about curly hair with positivity! It may need more moisture or better products but it is not a naughty animal! Finally, I wanted to reiterate your point of embracing your… Read more »

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  Elia

Elia, this is a really thoughtful, eloquent comment. Thank you. 😊

P M
6 months ago
Reply to  Elia

Princesses Merida from the Disney movie Brave has curly red hair. If you haven’t already, maybe you could watch it together. 🙂

Victoria
6 months ago

Yay! I’ve been going curly for at least five years now and love that option. I always need gel after cream and am surprised you don’t since it looks like your hair is fine like mine – I need cream and gel. After the gel is totally dry you scrunch it out so it’s not crunchy but soft. Some more layers in your hair will make your curls pop more. The longer you continue this routine the curlier your hair will become as it “recovers.” I hope you love it, it’s super cute! I’m also waiting for you to try brunette – it’s on trend, have you heard? Warm, rich, brown.

Deb
6 months ago
Reply to  Victoria

Curious what cream and gel you use. My hair sounds similar to yours. Thanks!

Meredith
6 months ago

Woooo curly girls! I actually stopped using shampoo many years ago – scrubbing my roots with conditioner achieves the same deal without drying me out. Also, I HIGHLY suggest those microfiber towel turbans – they absorb so much water gently, so I apply my product right out of the shower, gently wrap up, and just leave it on while I get dressed, maybe while I eat breakfast. Cuts down on drying time by a LOT.
Also for inexpensive and easy products, the internet taught me that Cantu leave-in conditioner and some Aunt Jessie’s Multicultural Curl Cream were all I ever need. The internet was correct. Both are in every grocery store and drugstore I can find! A nice option that doesn’t require special ordering.

Elle
6 months ago
Reply to  Meredith

Best advice, Meredith, I have a 12″ microfiber towel, so small yet so so mighty it is just the thing for pressing out the moisture right when I step out of the shower. I put my products on in the shower (cuz, drips) and use praying hands then scrunch away until my head is covered. Someone just recommended wet plopping (plain old showercap) while getting breakfast or doing makeup, to help with volume (it helps the product set up better, maybe?), then take that off and diffuse. Another curly influencer says she gets better hold with the diffuser vs air drying and it has GOT to be more comfortable in the winter to not have a wet head for very long! Second on the Cantu and Aunt Jessie’s products, I also use Shea Moisture Curl Care. Also the hair mask from Trader Joe’s is pretty good once in awhile, for adding moisture to dried out strands.

JDub
6 months ago
Reply to  Meredith

I love the Cantu products. I have fine very curly hair, and Cantu Kids line is perfect for me. No nasty ingredients, no horrible perfume scent, just easy-to-use light styling products. And the price can’t be beaten. Sometimes I’ll add in some Curlsmith or Aveda styling, but honestly, I don’t “need” these additional products.

Jacqui
6 months ago

This was SUPER helpful–we have the same hair, Emily!! I never knew!!

elle
6 months ago

Love the curly hair! It’s funny to me that you were/are afraid curly hints middle-aged — I always thought curly hair was more the norm for younger women — NOT middle age women. Both curly levels look great on you. Was also surprised you wanted to go blonder; I think darker is much nicer with your complexion and eyes. Like other commenters, I am partial to more natural looking hair with interesting gradations of color.

Nicolle
6 months ago

Soooo curious about the sculpting method on longer hair. Any tips? Also, what brush does Janine recommend for that technique?

Andrea
6 months ago
Reply to  Nicolle

It looks like a Denman brush. You can find them on Amazon & at Target.

Kate
6 months ago

Thank you so much for posting this, and being so candid about your feelings about wearing your hair straight vs. curly. I have very similar hair to you and blowing out my hair makes me *feel* so much prettier, although I wish it didn’t. This is good inspiration to give it another, more intentional, try–thank you <3

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Do it, Kate!👍

anon
6 months ago

The one thing I didn’t see in the story or the comments I managed to read (too many to get through) is how important it is to do the final rinse of your hair with cool water – even for those of us with straight hair. It closes up the cuticle of the hair.

🥰 Rusty
6 months ago
Reply to  anon

Aaaah, yes, even for straight hair.

Lashley
6 months ago

Love the full air dry on you! Would you ever be able to one of the air dry methods after dinner, then not have to worry about styling much in the AM? If you’re ever missing that va-va-voom at the root, low-temp diffusing or even using sectioning clips at the root while you air dry can help. I also have curly/wavy hair, but live in a super dry climate, so I’m also always experimenting with how to embrace it!

A.B.
6 months ago

Darker lowlights will show off curls more! This was a great post.

6 months ago

Wait? What? Shoulder length blonde hair is now a middle aged mom look! Krap! I just cut 2 inches off mine to shoulder length. I am just happy I have hair that grows. Lordy, I can’t keep up.

J
6 months ago

I feel invisible enough as it is since I let my hair go white but honestly, to see this “It’s part of a larger conversation that most people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s find themselves in” in a blog I have followed since its inception is just depressing. People over 60 have the same issue too, particularly in this ageist, looks obsessed society.

KJ
6 months ago
Reply to  J

I am 63 y/o. I have never died my hair. I got my first gray hair at 18. Gray at a young age meant a lot of hair dressers asking if I wanted to dye my hair. A lot of strangers “aging” me. Thank goodness I had the sense to ignore them all. My gray is beautiful. My gray is the envy of a lot of people. Gray is being embraced. And, best of all, my new bob really highlights the different grays.

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