Embrace your curls

There is an old picture of me on a beach vacation with my wild undone mane blowing in the wind.

When I posted it to social media, no one commented on the blue of the water or the brightness of the sun. All comments were about the giant halo of frizz surrounding my face.

Some friends even called me Mufasa (the patriarch from “he Lion King).

I’m sure everyone with naturally curly hair can relate. Whether it’s mildly wavy or positively kinky, most of us curly girls have spent a great deal of time trying to force our hair to behave.

  • We blow dry.
  • We flat iron.
  • We use chemical straighteners and frizz-ease formulas.

When it gets too bad, out come the hats. All hail the messy bun.

It’s estimated a majority 65% of women around the world have naturally curly hair, so where did this mindset that “straight is more pretty” come from?

Growing up, I remember my mother cursing trying to detangle my rat’s nest and my father insisting that it all be chopped off. The lead role in our Grade 2 production of Cinderella went to the girl with long, straight, blond hair.

For those of African descent or other cultures prone to tight curls, this whole issue is a minefield of history and emotion I can’t even begin to properly explain.

Chris Rock did an amazing and hilarious documentary in 2009 called Good Hair about the $9 billion a year business aimed at straightening African American women’s hair. I highly recommend watching it.

For some reason in the middle of this summer, the daily fight to straighten my hair just went out of me. There had to be a better way.

A few quick Google searches led me to CGM. It stands for the “curly girl method,” introduced by hairstylist Lorraine Massey in 2001.

While those with corkscrew locks have found ways to manage their hair since the beginning of time, Massey was the first to espouse a particular regime that includes saying no to shampoos, brushing, and heat styling.

After seeing incredible before and after photos from those using the CGM, I quickly went down the rabbit hole viewing tutorials and blogs about the method.

And then to the local drugstore to find conditioners and gel without sulphates, silicones and alcohol. I even got Massey’s book, Curly Girl: the Handbook, at the library.

There is so much information.

  • Websites
  • YouTube channels
  • Facebook support groups

It almost seems a bit cultish. But there is no denying the results.

After a few weeks of experimenting with the CGM I started to see gentle waves emerge from the frizz, and then decided to do a big chop to get rid of unhealthy ends and heaviness.

Some CGM purists insist you only get your hair cut by a certified curl specialist, while others have had success with their regular hairdressers. But they agree that the traditional method of pulling wet hair straight and then shearing isn’t meant for curly girls.

Kinky hair should be cut dry so the curl pattern can be taken into account.

With six inches gone, my hair now has so much more bounce and softness. I’m officially retiring my straightening wand.

There’s no need to chronicle the detailed CGM regime here; you can find all that and more at naturallycurly.com.

If you are considering going au natural with your curls, here are the top tips I’ve learned over the past month.

  • Practice patience. If you’ve been heat styling for a long time, it’s going to take a while for your hair to recover and get used to a new routine. Don’t expect shiny ringlets immediately. Some say the awkward transition period can take months.
  • Experiment. We all have our tried and true products and techniques for how we’ve styled our hair thus far. Now you’re ditching all those and starting fresh. You’ll discover some things work great and others not. Try something different each wash day and soon you’ll have new go-to products and routines.
  • It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Many inexpensive drugstore brands are very popular among the CGM crowd, especially good old Dippity Do Sport gel.
  • Don’t be intimated by the lingo. You’ll hear bizarre terminology like “plopping” and “no-poo” and “squish to condish” but you’ll pick it up quickly.
  • Videos help. It’s hard to imagine how to “finger coil” until you see someone actually demonstrating it. I especially like the videos done by Curly Susie on YouTube. Not to mention her Nova Scotia accent is fun to listen to.
  • Find inspiration on social media. Join the Canadian Curlies group on Facebook and #curlygirlmethod on Instagram.

I’m looking forward to seeing more curls around town.


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About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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