I’ve been thinking about my beauty goals for 2018 (more deep conditioning, less sleeping in makeup) and realized 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 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.”
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 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 every day. It’s something I’ll always be thankful for, especially when I remember the childhood friends who came from homes where their most basic needs went unmet.
Now, in hindsight, I realize 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.
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 were best. 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 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 it took me most of my 20s to be OK 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, all 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, all promising to prevent it.”
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.”
I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling insecure about anything, I tend to isolate and trick myself into thinking I’m the only person going through the feels. I can recall plenty of times when 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.
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 François, “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.
Originally posted on StyleCaster.