‘Curls Are a Form of Therapy’: 5 Black Women Reflect on Their Hair

It’s not *just* hair.

by

Natasha Bruno, freelance writer and editor

My relationship with my hair

“I chemically straightened my curls for years and grew way too accustomed to dealing with, and lusting after, a completely different hair type: long and dead straight. I had no clue what my own curl pattern was even going to look like when I finally decided to let it fall freely. The process forced me to educate myself on black hair and required almost a complete overhaul of my previous haircare regimen, especially when it came to products. The whole journey was also much deeper than just my hair. It allowed me to grow tremendously in self-confidence (I now realize that I was just hiding behind a curtain of straight hair for years), and regain a positive, powerful image of what I consider beautiful.”

How I wear it

“I pretty much just wear it in out in an Afro every day, mainly because of how low-maintenance that hairstyle has become for me. I have to thank two amazing hairstylists who have truly helped me understand my unique curl pattern and what works, Janet Jackson and Justin German. Both their expertise in selecting, executing and providing me with key information to help maintain the perfect cut at home has added an incredible amount of ease.”

My must-have products

“I wash with either a shampoo or cleansing conditioner (I’m constantly on the lookout for haircare products that are free of sulfates, parabens and alcohol) and comb it out in the shower with a leave-in conditioner every other day. I avoid heat styling, and let it air dry.”

Ebony Renee Baker, assistant social media editor at FLARE

My relationship with my hair

“I’m half Jamaican and half Filipino so I have thick, curly hair, and it’s been a long journey for me to understand how my hair works. I’ve gone from hating how unruly it can be, to figuring out what my hair needs and how to really appreciate its versatility. Today I love my hair because it’s a representation of a heritage that I am proud of. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t discovered high-heat straightening as early in life as I did. As a result, I sadly no longer have the ringlets I had during my childhood. In the last couple years, I’ve started to embrace my curly hair. In 2015 I cut it to shoulder length and realized that this cut really suits my face shape and hair—whether curly or straight.”

How I wear it

“I either straighten it, have it in a slicked back bun, or wear it natural, with the help of a curling wand (and a ton of product) to enhance my curls. I didn’t wear my hair curly as much before I went short, but the shorter length has given my curls more body and has made my natural hair more manageable.”

My must-have products

“Oh my god, my hair would be nothing without Mixed Chicks’ Leave-in Conditioner. This brand’s products, as per its name, are tailored to the thick and/or curly locks often inherited by multicultural people. The leave-in is this thick, creamy, magical solution that keeps it moisturized day and night, and is a great base for any style I go with.”

Bee Quammie, freelance writer

My relationship with my hair

“One day, I was complaining about how big my hair was. My three-year-old daughter gazed up at my hair, said it was beautiful, and said she wanted big hair just like mine.”

How I wear it

“I change my hair frequently. Right now, it’s in a loose braid-out, but tomorrow it’ll be in cornrows. In a couple of weeks, it might be straightened. Twist-outs and braid-outs are my signature look if I had to pick one, simply because they keep my hair from tangling, and allow me a lot of versatility.”

My must-have products

“I co-wash with Cantu conditioner, and only really shampoo when my hair has a lot of buildup. I use a moisturizing conditioner as a detangler and leave-in conditioner, then I twist my hair with shea butter. I leave the twists in for a day or two, then I undo them and rock an ever-growing twist-out until it’s wash day again. It works because it’s simple and keeps my hair well-hydrated.”

Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Liberal MP

My relationship with my hair

“My hair is such an important part of my identity. Sometimes it cooperates with me, and when it doesn’t, I cut it off (literally). I feel bad when we break up, but she always comes back longer and stronger than before. I am convinced that my mental health and the length of my hair are highly correlated. If I am overwhelmed my anxiety gets the best of me, and my hair is the recipient of the repercussions. This past September, after my body shaming video went viral, I was completed overwhelmed. The positive reaction was great, but it left me feeling a huge sense of responsibility to do something. By the end of the month, I had shaved my hair to about an inch long.”

How I wear it

“My hair is currently very short and curly. The length was in reaction to my anxiety; however, the curls are a form of therapy. It’s so easy to maintain. It also makes a statement about what traditional forms of perceived ‘professional’ hair looks like. Black women are often criticized and shamed for their super curly hair, braids or dreads (or other styles). Why is professionalism defined by straight hair or European standards? I want little Black girls to look at my hair and be cool with it. I want them to look at themselves and be cool with that, too.”

Shanice Atkins-Broome, public relations account coordinator

My relationship with my hair

“The biggest game-changing moment was when I cut off most of my hair. This was in late 2016 and I wanted to go all natural — no more perm. It was the shortest it has EVER been, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so afraid to do something like that in my life. I went from a length below my shoulders to a mini Afro.”

How I wear it

“I know it’s bad but I’m very accustomed to putting my hair in a ponytail, like almost every day! But I do switch it up from time to time and when I do, I love having long, Poetic Justice-style braids. And, usually in the summer time I will cut my hair short, to about shoulder length. It’s my favorite time to let my curls down.”

My must-have products

“Castor oil! It is by far my favourite product and I love mixing it with my other hair products, like a leave-in cream. Castor oil just gets the job done. It helps my edges, doesn’t leave my hair dry… it’s literally everything.”