My journey to embracing my natural texture and natural curl pattern has not been an easy or a short road. I vividly remember spending many days looking in the mirror and cursing myself for having this wild and uncontrollable hair.
I was different. I was different from my friends, I was different from the girls in the magazines, and I was even different from my own family. I felt like an outsider. I got through my adolescence blending in, but never really fitting in. My frizz always seemed to be the elephant in the room when it came to sleepovers with my friends or even picture day at school. It was always just there and nobody really knew what to do with it.
I longed to look like the straight-haired Barbies that I grew up playing with. My mother, who has straight hair, cared for my curls the best she could. But times were different, and there was little to no education available on how to care for textured curly hair or what hydrating hair products you would need. So my hair was always neatly braided, but never free and wild. Growing up I was told my hair needed to be controlled at all times. This caused me to have a deep resentment towards my natural texture and curls. My hair was a constant stressor and an ever-present reminder that I was different.
As I became older, I grew tired of the childlike braided hairstyles, and I was ready for a change. I learned there was a magical thing called a flat iron; it was the styling tool I could use to make my sleek straight hair dreams a reality.
As we all know you can’t tell a teenager anything. My wise mother encouraged me to love my curl pattern as it was and not to try to change myself. But of course, at the ripe age of 13, I knew better than her.
I disregarded my mother’s advice and began straightening my hair.
At first, the results were phenomenal, and my hair was everything I ever hoped it to be. With heat styling and a blow dryer (and definitely no heat protectant), I had long, straight, and shiny hair that everybody complimented.
I could brush my hair and wear it down, just like all of my friends. I felt like I was almost one of them now. I wish I could end my story here and say it was happily ever after, but that is far from the truth.
As the years went on, the dream Barbie hair that I desperately sought became less like a dream and more like a nightmare. My hair slowly started to thin, develop breakage, and accumulate more and more heat damage by the day.
My curls became waves, I assumed this was normal and my hair was just changing. I was clueless to my hair needs and the damage I was doing to my hair shafts in trying to get that blowout look. But I continued to straighten my hair and even tried chemical treatments like keratin treatments to tame my frizzy mane.
When I started college I was still in denial about my hair’s health. Time went on, and my hair became frizzier, thinner, and shorter. My self-confidence took a nosedive. Not only did I hate my curls, I now hated my hair straight as well. Sections of my hair were breaking off and it was becoming very obvious. I couldn’t even stand to look at my hair in the mirror.
My rock bottom moment was in 2016 during a hair consultation. The hairstylist requested pictures of my hair in its natural curly state. I made my hair look the best I could and sent over the photos even though I was embarrassed by the condition of my ringlets.
His reply is what hit home for me; he asked if I could send new pictures of my hair when it was curly. I knew my hair couldn’t curl anymore or look any better. I caused so much damage to my hair texture that my curls were almost nonexistent, not even a curly hair expert could tell my hair was naturally curly.
That was the moment I knew I had to make a change. I no longer could hide from my true self. I had to accept my hair for all it was. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
The damaged hair growing out of my head, the split ends, the loss of natural oils all were the result of not loving myself and trying to change who I was to appease others and outdated beauty standards.
I knew I could only go up from there. My hair was controlling me. It stopped me from doing the things I loved and most importantly it prevented me from embracing my authentic, unaltered self.
At the start of my journey I didn’t know much about hair care or natural curly hair in general, but I knew I could no longer use that as an excuse. For the first time, I spent hours upon hours researching the topic to understand how to better care for my hair and what would make for a healthy hair routine, from moisturizing and shampooing with the right styling products to a deep conditioner and what's known as the "curly girl method.” I knew there had to be a better way of doing things. Deep down I knew my curls were aching to be set free; I just had to give myself the proper tools and education to do it.
One month later I was sitting in a salon chair instructing the stylist to “give it the big chop.” I was done letting my hair control me, I needed a fresh start, and this haircut would give me just that.
I walked out of the salon with the shortest hair I’ve ever had in my life. But I felt more empowered than ever before, and that feeling was so satisfying. I was wholly committed to bringing my hair and self-image back to life. From that day on I stayed consistent with my personal goals. I educated and empowered myself to take back control of my hair and my life.
I had many setbacks on my road to curlier, healthy hair, and I am still learning new things daily, from protective styles and leave-in conditioner to all the uses of coconut oil and how to scrunch. But I persevered through the frizzy wash-and-gos, negative comments from others, and the growing pains of maturing into my new self, because I never want to feel less than again. I tuned out the negativity and solely focused on letting my hair type become what it was born to be... and that is big, beautiful, and free!
The key to embracing one's natural hair and texture is to love it at every step of the styling journey and to recognize what it will become, and not just what it is now. Many did not see the potential in my hair, but I knew that with enough self-love and confidence my natural hair couldn’t be anything but beautiful.
I hope to inspire others to start and or continue on their path to self-love and acceptance through natural hair care. I genuinely believe all hair is beautiful and deserves to be treated so. We must challenge mainstream beauty standards and let our voices be heard. Natural curls and textured and kinky hair are not trends. It is here to stay! I am excited not only for my generation but for the younger generations to come. I hope we can make enough change so they will not have to experience the hardships many of us endured on the road to embrace our authentic selves.
Angie Hughes from Curl Culture