A year ago, I was back in the salon for about the umpteenth time that month, getting ready for one of a string of weddings and engagement parties I’d been invited to. I was just about to crack open a book when a little girl who couldn’t have been older than 9 came timidly trailing into the salon after her seemingly headstrong mother.
I say headstrong because she had absolutely no problem interrupting my hairstylist to make her demands known in a less than patient tone. “Okay, she’s here for her treatment. She begged and begged but no matter how many times I said no, she wouldn’t stop, so I give up.” I peered through the mirror and saw the little girl beaming with pride and practically jumping up and down from excitement. “Take off your hijab, let her see” the mother barked at her daughter, who obliged, removing her sunshine yellow headscarf to reveal a full head of shiny, albeit admittedly frizzy, waist-length dark brown curls.
The hairstylist picked up a lock of her hair and examined it with disdain before telling her mother that she’d need to come back for her daughter in 4 hours. “We’ll need to do the hair botox treatment instead, it takes longer”. The girl looked up in bewilderment, eyes darting between the stylist and her mother, before asking (in Arabic): “but mama, it will still come out straight, right?” “Yes yes it will now go sit down”, answered her mother impatiently with an audible huff.
The girl skipped towards the white leather couches and tried to sit still next to a stack of glossy magazines, unable to contain her excitement. As the girl’s mother continued to monopolise my hairstylist in a discussion about the cost of her daughter’s permanent hair straightening treatment, my thoughts drifted. I couldn’t help but think how sad it was that she wanted to rid herself of her natural hair texture so badly at such a young age and wondered if she’d been bullied by schoolmates, or perhaps compared to siblings or cousins. I wanted so badly to be able to tell her that curls can be beautiful too and that chemical straighteners would ruin her hair in the long run.
It was only after my hairstylist came back to finish blow-drying my own naturally curly hair that I realised the irony and hypocrisy of my internal dialogue. Needless to say, that was the last time I straightened my hair for a wedding. Fast forward a few months and a lot of research, I got rid of all my heat styling tools for good, got a drastic haircut to rid myself of damaged ends, and started learning how to take care of my curls properly for the first time in 25 years.
Now I won’t say that I’ve become an expert, because I am definitely still learning, but here is a run down of my top tips as well as vegan and cruelty-free products to help care for naturally curly hair.
1. Cut out all silicones and sulphates.
For years I used nothing but Pantene Pro-V’s oil replacement as a leave-in conditioner and styling product because, without it, my hair looked like bird’s nest. Little did I know, it was full of silicones – an ingredient that should be avoided as it isn’t water soluble so it creates a build-up that weighs curls down and diminished definition. Equally undesirable are sulphates; harsh detergents that are found in most all traditional shampoos which strip curly hair of its natural moisture leaving you with dried and frizzy locks. I personally noticed a huge improvement once I started eschewing silicones and sulphates in my haircare routine.
2. Do not, under any circumstances, dry your hair with a normal towel.
Simply put, drying your hair with a conventional towel is like using sandpaper on a newborn’s skin – it’s extremely damaging and contribute to breakage, frizz, and diminished curl definition. Use a microfibre towel or a cotton t-shirt instead, and remember to be gentle, hair is actually more prone to damage when it’s wet.
3. Condition, style, and leave it be.
Detangle your hair gently in the shower using a wide-tooth comb while you condition. When done, don’t wash it all the way out, or even add in a little extra on the ends. This helps restore much-needed moisture and makes styling easier. As for styling, try applying any leave-in products with your hair upside down, and ensure that it is still quite wet. Scrunch out excess water and product using a towel or t-shirt and then let it air-dry without touching it. Trust me.
- Boots wide-tooth comb
- Dessert Essence Coconut Curls Creme
- Boucleme curl defining gel
- Boots curl creme
- Lush RnB hair moisturiser
4. Deep condition regularly.
I deep condition my hair at least once a week, and find that this helps keep it hydrated and looking its best. For an extra boost I’ll leave the treatment in overnight and wash it out following a workout the next day (a word to wise, coconut oil is hard to wipe off machines at the gym, so use a towel).
5. Learn to love your locks.
This one is easier said than done, and I’m sure anyone who’s ever struggled with any kind of hair texture will agree – but I truly believe that adjusting your mindset is half the battle. One of my biggest barriers was believing that curly hair was “formal” enough for special events or “professional” enough for important meetings at work, but truth be told the perception that straight hair is superior in either of those two settings is just that, a perception. Since learning how to care for my curly hair, I’ve received far more compliments on it that I ever used to and it only took a few Pinterest tutorials to figure out that a curly updo is indeed possible and is just as chic as it’s slick straight counterpart.
Before I go, a little note on where to find the products I’ve recommended:
Iherb.com – This website is my go-to for so many natural and non-toxic hair and beauty products, it is a godsend. They deliver worldwide at very reasonable rates and fast too, which is always a plus. Also, the code PAJ598 gets you 5$ off your first order! Boots and Lush stores are of course available in Bahrain as well as most other GCC countries to my knowledge.
Until next time, friends.