Why I Finally Stopped Trying to Tame My Naturally Frizzy Hair

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Nikki Brown
Photo: STYLECASTER/Nikki Brown

I’ve been thinking about my beauty goals for 2018 (more deep conditioning, less sleeping in makeup), and realized that there’s one thing I’m thoroughly sick of seeing and doing: “taming” my hair. When did we become so obsessed with anything labeled “anti-frizz?” I’m amazed at how much we’re willing to do for the sake of smooth-looking hair, even if we preach all that “I love myself unapologetically” stuff.

As a beauty editor, I’m bombarded with frizz-taming products on a weekly basis. But even outside of my work, I’ve started to realize that the whole “anti-frizz” mentality has plagued me since I was a kid—and if it affected me, it must have affected plenty of other girls and women.

My earliest hair memories involve three very specific products: a soft bristle brush, Luster’s Pink Lotion and L.A. Looks Gel (extreme hold); probably because that’s all I ever used. My mother, who grew up in a traditional Italian household, was hardly a natural hair expert. But with limited skills and the help of black women in our neighborhood, she mastered the braid and bangs combo my sisters and I wore until we could manage on our own.

I’m amazed at how much we’re willing to do for the sake of smooth-looking hair.

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Every day my sisters and I lined up in front of our bedroom vanity and stood there, as one by one, our mom slicked our hair back and brushed the front over and over and over until it was straight and shiny. Outside of school picture days and Easter, this was our tried-and-true routine. It worked and I never complained because my mother prided herself on making sure we were well-groomed for school everyday. It’s something I’ll always be thankful for, especially when I remember the childhood friends who didn’t come from homes where their most basic needs went unmet.

Now, in hindsight, I realize that this idea of my hair “needing” to be tamed every day is sort of messed up and hard to escape. It’s common knowledge that advertising and other product-driven images can have a major effect on how we see ourselves, especially as it pertains to appearance. So, this is not me saying my mother is to blame for the sometimes unhealthy relationship I have with my hair, but I do believe she absorbed some not-so-healthy hair beliefs and habits that trickled down to me.

In hindsight, I realize that the idea of my hair needing to be tamed every day is messed up and hard to escape.

Nikki Brown

STYLECASTER/Nikki Brown

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On one hand, my mom was influenced by the Eurocentric beauty standards she grew up adhering to—ones that told her straight, smooth hair and lighter skin was best. Yet on the other hand, she was exposed to a whole other set of ideals—black beauty standards—that were different in terms of day-to-day care, but still overshadowed and shaped by the idea that long, straight hair was better than the big and curly kind. Back in the ’90s, it seemed all of the little girls on my block had a Just For Me relaxer or a fresh doobie (straightened hair) from the salon.

It’s no wonder that it took me most of my twenties to be okay with something as simple and natural as frizz; I rejected it in every way possible for most of my life. And it certainly doesn’t help that a large chunk of the hair industry is dedicated to getting rid of it, too.

Search for the term “frizz” on Sephora’s website and over 250 products pop up, promising to tame, get rid of, or prevent your hair from doing its own thing. Google “anti-frizz” and you’ll find countless expert articles about how to fight it or why it’s the absolute worst beauty disaster a woman could ever face. Oh, the drama! Perhaps this is easy for someone with naturally straight hair to accept, but what about women like me whose strands have texture and a lot more volume?

Search for ‘frizz’ on Sephora and over 250 products pop up, promising to prevent it.

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According to celebrity hairstylist and brand founder Vernon François, this widely accepted assumption that frizz is bad goes completely against the natural biology of our strands, but for some reason, we’ve done everything to assimilate.

“The reality is, so many people for so long have been told that their hair’s true texture isn’t good enough and that they need to suppress or get rid of frizz to have a better relationship with it,” he says. “‘Frizz’ is often used as a negative word, but it’s the makeup of most hair textures; it can give your hair personality, movement, body, and volume.”

There’s really nothing else to say. The truth is simple—frizz is OK!—but how exactly do we go against the flow and learn to see it as a natural part of our hair? Besides a little correction and a lot of patience, there are three things you can do to feel more confident about letting your flyaways flourish in the New Year.

Frizz is hardly a barrier to great hairstyles—in fact, it may just enhance them.

Find Inspiration

I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling insecure about anything, I tend to isolate and trick myself into thinking that I’m the only person going through the feels. I can recall plenty of times where I’d literally go through an entire jar of Ampro gel trying to slick my hair into a “perfect style” and even cancel plans if I didn’t feel presentable enough. Yes, it’s as sad as it sounds.

What’s really made a difference in my personal hair journey is seeking out images of women who have my texture, instead of putting unnecessary pressure on myself to “fix” my hair. I’m constantly scrolling through the Instagram feeds of frizz-friendly stylists like @vernonfrancois and others like the  @thecutlife and @protectivestyles for inspiration. Spend a few minutes perusing their photos and you’ll see that frizz is hardly a barrier to great hairstyles. In fact, it may just enhance them.

Treat Your Hair and Work Less

If you’re a self-professed product junkie like me, then the idea of doing less to your hair is downright scary. I’m not saying that you should throw out all of your must-haves and walk out the door without looking in a mirror. The mere thought of that gives me major anxiety. But doing your hair should never feel like a chore. If your current routine feels that way, then it’s time to slow down and make adjustments.

Instead of driving yourself crazy trying to completely alter your hair’s natural appearance, familiarize yourself with products and habits that will enhance what’s already there. And treat it kindly, too, because a healthy scalp and strands are the key to overall hair greatness. Maybe that means a weekly deep condition, or perhaps you’ll decide to lay off the blow-outs. The beauty of your hair journey is that it’s yours and yours alone, so what works for the next person may not for you. Trust the shift and eventually, you may even enjoy it.

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Embrace Versatility

In the context of societal beauty standards, there’s nothing normal about “liking” frizzy hair. So it may take time for you (and me) to see it as beautiful or no big deal. But the truth is, it really isn’t a big deal! We’ve been leaning in the opposite direction for too long, and according to Francois, “the idea of a clean, finished look is not everyone’s reality.”

“All hair types can create beautiful movement, textures and shapes, it’s part of your true identity. I think having the power to recognize your hair’s versatility and your identity is a much better goal for humans, versus suppressing it to fit an ideal or someone else’s validation.”

I couldn’t agree more. This resolution may seem small, but learning to value our frizz and all that comes with it might make your 2018 a little less stressful and a lot more authentically beautiful. Give it a try.

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