“Where there’s a wave, there’s a curl,” says Lorraine Massey. And she should know. Not only did she start a group of hair salons that cater to curly heads, but she was the author of the original Curly Girl handbook that began a “curly revolution” among my friends (not to mention the rest of the country!).
What’s the big deal about curly hair? It is much different than straight hair—drier, more porous, more fragile, in need of more moisture, and much more subject to atmospheric conditions if not properly cared for.
Over 65% of women have naturally curly or wavy hair. But not all of them know how to care for it. We’ve been trained to scrub our scalps with harsh shampoos, blow-dry and brush out all our curls (which “takes 30 minutes to do and 20 seconds to un-do if it’s humid or raining,” reminds Lorraine), and generally beat our curls into straightened submission. In the end, we’re left with over-dry, frizzy “big hair” that we either cut off or keep pulled back in a pony tail or bun. (I know—that was me, six and a half years ago!)
Lorraine encourages curly girls to “surrender their weapons of mass hair destruction, like blow-fryers, flat irons, detergent-filled shampoos, and straighteners,” and learn to properly care for their curls. The simple, economical, and natural routine includes carefully cleansing the scalp with a sulfate-free cleanser, moisturizing the curls with a botanical conditioner, gently scrunch-drying with a microfiber cloth or t-shirt (never terry cloth towels!), and styling with an alcohol free gel.
In the ten years since the original Curly Girl book came out, Lorraine has gathered even more curly know-how, which she shares in the curlier-than-ever version of the Curly Girl: The Handbook released in 2011. I learned a lot of new tips and facts in its pages. Did you know that hair is 97% protein, thus the protein intake in your diet directly affects your hair’s health? The illustration of a hair’s cuticles using pine cones was easy to understand (“smooth = moist cuticle, open = dry, frizzed cuticle”). And for the first time I realized why curly hair is never as glossy as straight hair (its shape doesn’t reflect the light as well!).
I also noticed a lot of things that hadn’t been in the first edition of the book, but that I’d learned along the way about my own curls. Lorraine’s “jet-set” method of putting in extra gel for travel and not shaking out her curls until she arrived is exactly what I do—and I well remember the days of cranking up my car heater to dry my curls on the way to work! The expanded information on not only choosing a hair stylist but cutting your own curls proved very helpful for this girl who’s always taking the scissors to her curls, too.
It was great to see real, everyday curly girl models gracing the pages of Curly Girl instead of just curly celebrity types. Another thing I really appreciated is that even though Lorraine now owns her own DevaCurl product line, she didn’t push it in the book. She still shared with curly girls the good and bad ingredients to watch for, as well as a plethora of “recipes” for homemade hair care (including lots of new ones I can’t wait to try—like a ginger rinse!). There’s even a chapter for curly guys that my husband had to check out (the fact that chemical-filled shampoo can cause hair loss has not yet convinced him to throw out his shampoo bottles, though).
I’d rather have seen the publisher keep the historical timeline of curls through the ages from the first edition of the book, over bringing back the curly astrology. And there are a few stories I wish they’d have left out—moms might want to edit a page or two before sharing the book with their younger girls. (Most potentially offensive elements can be avoided by skipping the introduction, appendixes, and “curl confessions”, as well as chapter 16 in the second edition.) But the updated information in the book, along with the new how-to DVD, makes it a great addition to any curly girl’s library—even if she already has the first edition!
Yet as I read the updated edition of Curly Girl, gleaning all that Lorraine has learned about curls in the past ten years, I couldn’t help but think about some of the lessons in beauty that I have learned in the six and a half years since I read her first book. Lessons that have come from the Creator of beauty, and the ultimate Handbook on not only beauty, but life. I’ve learned that no matter how gorgeous my curls are, a smile is still my best beauty aid. I’ve learned that it’s selfish to be self-conscious—even about my curls!
But the most important lesson I’ve learned runs even more contrary to one of Lorraine’s biggest rules: do not disturb or touch your curls, especially while they are drying. You see, I’ve learned that for married curly girls, well-loved curls are happier than perfectly placed curls. When my husband comes up behind me at my desk and starts running his fingers through my curls that were drying in perfect place, I don’t want to wince thinking about the case of the frizzes I might get. When I thank him for the head massage with a smile and a kiss instead of a comment about the wild hair I’m going to have, I’m loving him more than I love my curls. And in loving my husband, being beautiful for him, I bring glory to the One Who created me with curly hair. And that—even though it didn’t make it into Curly Girl: The Handbook—is the best way to celebrate my curls!