Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series on curly hair, which will feature top tier celeb hairmasters, plus the best products, tools and accessories for your curls. We have also partnered with Ouidad, “The Queen of Curls,” and her salons for a special promotion for Mamiverse readers. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.
I was born with curtain rod-straight hair. Glossy, gorgeous, and groovy. Then puberty happened, and my once-sleek locks went haywire. Suddenly, I had a Chia Pet sitting on my head.
My kill-the-Chia solution was to wash my Cuban hair at night, wrap it on top of my head with a scrunchie, and then wrap the wet ponytail around a gigantic Bustelo coffee can, secured with several gigantic hair pins.
I slept like that every night. For years.
Because it worked. Sort of. My hair woke up straight. Well, straight-ish. Mostly it was just upset. Here’s what my hair finally told me: “You can no longer fight the power. You are, like it or not, a curly girl. Accept and surrender.”
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So I did. No more Bustelo coffee can. It was, admittedly, uncomfortable, not to mention my college boyfriend found it extremely odd. Fortunately, I live in a world where it’s not only okay to be a curly girl, it’s celebrated. There’s a whole industry devoted to me and my not-so-niche hair texture. I recently explored that industry in depth, going on a virtual curl odyssey so you don’t have to. We begin by checking in with the masters, such as my personal stylist, the amazing Sade Williams at the Ted Gibson Salon in Manhattan.
Here’s a vid of Sade—she’s got short black hair and is wearing a pink V-neck Ted Gibson T-shirt and jeans—along with Ted and the rest of his team backstage at the Lela Rose 2011 fashion show:
A Guyana native, Sade grew up in New York City. She wanted to find a professional home that caters to all hair types and textures. The minute we first met and I saw Sade’s hot pink lipstick and tattoos, I knew my curls and I were home. Curls have personality, curls are not shy. If they could, curls would rock hot pink lipstick and tattoos too.
Anders: Sade, what are the main complaints you hear from your curly clients?
Williams: “My hair is thin, limp, I have hair loss.” Over time, that can happen. Medications, diet, hormones, chemical treatments like over-coloring and retexturizing, mixing and matching too many cheap or harsh products, age, health, having kids—all of those factors can affect the hair. It’s very important to let your stylist know about any of those conditions because everyone’s hair is so different and every curl is unique. Many guests have tighter and prettier curls in the back than in the front, for example. A good stylist can rectify that.
Anders: Do you think women get distracted by every new product out there? I know I do.
Williams: Women do get excited when they see something new. As consumers, we get bamboozled and want to try products we see and look like celebrities. “I want Taylor Swift’s hair. How do I achieve this?” Realistically, I can say, This is how you achieve that, or, Your hair can’t do that. The pro of curly hair is that you can wash it and go, so you have versatility. But the con is finding the right cut and the right products to enhance your particular curl.
Anders: How do you cut curly hair?
Williams: I need to see the natural shape in its curly form and how the curls fall. So I usually cut it while it’s dry. And I cut it straight—you’ll get a really precise haircut that way; when the hair is curly it’s easier to hide mistakes, and we don’t want those—and wet it back down to apply products. I love curly hair that’s big and long.
Anders: Speaking of which, what are the must-have go-to’s for curly girls? Frizz must be Enemy Number One.
Williams: Many people don’t realize that curly hair requires a lot more moisture. It takes longer for the natural scalp oils to travel down the C-shape hair shaft. You have to add in that moisture with a leave-in conditioner. The right products can eliminate and smooth out the frizz.. Now if your hair isn’t falling right with the curls, then that has to do with your haircut.
After washing and conditioning my hair with Ted Gibson Daily Cleanse Shampoo ($24) and Daily Nourish Conditioner ($24), Sade trimmed it (I needed a wash first, trust me).
Afterward, while my hair was still damp, she applied a “cocktail” of L’Oréal Professionnel Mythic Oil ($15.93) mixed with Curl Corset Energizing Aqua-Mousse ($16.70). Then she dried my hair with a diffuser and medium heat, and fine-tuned the already happy, bouncy, frizz-free curls with a Hot Tools ¾” Curling Iron ($25.95 – $36.95).
Results? Glossy, gorgeous, and groovy. I may not be ready for a tat—yet—but bring on the hot pink lipstick, por favor!
L’Oréal Paris Consulting Hair Expert Johnny Lavoy is a star. Partly because he’s good but mainly because he’s cute and has curly hair. And since we all love L’Oreal, I couldn’t resist an interview.
Anders: Johnny, what’s the biggest mistake we curly people make?
Lavoy: Disturbing the curl as it’s drying. The trick to getting a nice, flawless curl is, after shampooing and conditioning, to squeeze the towel, don’t ring it. Once you’ve applied product, let your hair air dry or else diffuse-dry a hundred percent. Also, since curly hair tends to be more dry, avoid alcohol-based products, which can be hard and crunchy. Look for curly-friendly ones that’ll deliver conditioned, soft, touchable curls and promote shine.
Anders: How do you help a curly client who’s always having a bad hair day?
Lavoy: You never have to have a bad hair day. I always encourage my clients to embrace their natural texture and work with it instead of fighting it. Curly hair is an advantage; it’s easier for us to get sleek if we want to than for straight-hair people to get curls. If your stylist doesn’t understand it, it’s not your job to make him or her understand it. A hair stylist’s job is to be able to service anyone who sits in that chair. You want to avoid blunt, triangular, and overly-layered cuts. Depending on the tightness of the curl, you generally want loose, long layers. Look for salons that specialize in it or ask someone whose hair you like who cut it. Word of mouth is really the best way.
Here’s a vid of Johnny in action: