Erica is a writer, editor, wife, and mom. She has always found employment with an English degree and she excels at nurturing children and animals but struggles to keep houseplants alive. Erica currently writes at

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Naturally Curly Hair Dilemma

In case you don’t know, I have curly hair.  Lots of people do, but many curly-haired people disguise themselves by using straightening products.  Nine times out of ten, TV makeover shows “improve” the “terrible style” person’s curly hair by making it straight.

It’s true that straight-haired people want curl and curly-haired people want straight.  What I wouldn’t give to run a brush through my hair mid-day and not turn my head into Helena Bonham Carter — nay, Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrang in Azkaban Prison.

I had about two heads worth of hair – maybe three – on my head in high school, pre-layering.  NO LAYERS!  This picture (below, not above) is from my freshman year of high school.  Blunt haircut, about a grapefruit sized ball of mousse and a ton of Aussie hairspray.  My hair was about to eat my head.  It mutated at will.

Since then I’ve gone mid-length, long, short, long, short, and now mid-length again.  My curls relaxed a little after having kids (different hormones, seemingly more oil) and there aren’t many more options unless I go straight.  And really, at this point, straight hair only works for me for one day.  More than that and I start to get a little wonky.  After coming to terms with my curl around age twenty, straight hair makes me feel like I lost my mojo.

Hm, just realized that I’m wearing purple in all of these photos.  That’s a mint julep and a lobster in my hands, in case you’re wondering. I like purple and good eats.

So what’s my new style? I’m looking at these ladies.  But not necessarily their facial expressions, because the lip biter seems kind of tense or hungry.

Any curly hair sympathizers out there?  Any straight-haired people who want to moan about not being able to hold a curl?  Well go brush your hair.  I hear it feels wonderful on your scalp, but I wouldn’t know.


More hair-raising articles on Today’s Mama…

To Ma’ Boys: How I Met Your Father … including more terrible school pictures

How to Make Your Own Hair Detangler

Things I Tried

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Comments (27)

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  2. Michelle Turner 01/30/2012 at 2:36 pm

    I have curly hair and my biracial son also has curly hair. I use Mixed Chicks on his hair and LOVE, LOVE it…I use it on my hair when I am out of my product and it works fine for me as well. However, my product of choice is the Ouidad Styling Gel, the best thing I have EVER found for my curls. They have a website that has lots of curly hair advice. I also only wash twice a week, once with conditioner only and once with a TINY bit of shampoo and then conditioner. The conditioner is also Ouidad brand. I’m telling you they have great stuff!

  3. Shannon 01/30/2012 at 12:56 pm

    I discovered an amazing product about a year ago. The line is called Mixed Chicks (designed for biracial hair). I bought it to use in my daughter’s hair (my husband is African American and I am Caucasian, plus I have curly hair). When I was buying the products (shampoo, conditioner and leave-in conditioner) the woman suggested I try it on my hair. I thought it might be too heavy because most ethnic hair products contain oils, but it wasn’t. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. I use the leave-in conditioner as a styling product. It defines my curls but does not make them crunchy or frizzy. You should try it!

  4. Erin Oltmanns 01/27/2012 at 7:30 pm

    My hair is stick straight…won’t hold curl AT ALL…and I would trade hair with you in a hot second.

  5. Erica Fehrman 01/26/2012 at 2:12 pm

    Here’s some more styling advice, from my stylist who is a male with very curly Middle Eastern hair. He used to have it really long (almost to his waist), so he’s got some experience with this 🙂

    He says to RE-WET your hair after you shower and towel off. Use a spray bottle to wet it, then pick it through, then scrunch it and apply a spray gel (we use Chi Volume Booster Spray). Scrunch some more, and then dry with a diffuser with your head upside down. The key is to keep the roots off the scalp until dry. Don’t move the diffuser around or touch the hair a bunch. Voile!

  6. Michelle Powell 01/26/2012 at 7:33 am

    I too have naturally curly hair, and have learned how to “deal with it”. Here are a few tips I have learned:

    – NO brush! Only use a pick comb.
    – Use a really good conditioner, and only wash your hair once or twice a week at most. It will seem weird at first, but your hair will adjust.
    – When I get out of the shower, I immediately comb it with a pick comb, then run gel through it.
    – Immediately after I put the gel in, I twist little strands into ringlets. This will help get that more even curl, and reduce frizz.
    – DO NOT blow dry! Let your hair dry naturally!!! THEN, when it’s completely dry, you can flip your head over upside down, and use a diffuser on your blowdryer. This will help pump up the curls, and add body and volume.
    – Flip your head back up, and watch your curls come to life! 🙂
    – After all these steps, and your hair is dry, THEN add frizz free oil, or curl lotion. I use this and love it:,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.,cf.osb&biw=1440&bih=799&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=5389578807819798820&sa=X&ei=_WMhT9vFL8GeiQLxltTZBw&ved=0CDEQ8wIwAA

  7. CoolPlaygroundMommy 01/26/2012 at 7:17 am

    Aww! I love this funny post. Both my girls have naturally curly hair. It’s very new to me, so we’ve been experimenting with styling products and hair cuts.

    • Erica Fehrman 01/26/2012 at 1:46 pm

      Your girls are super cute! I hope they embrace their curls earlier than I did 🙂

  8. Carina Wytiaz 01/26/2012 at 2:40 am

    Yay! Curly hair post!

    It’s super awkward being the oldest child and being the only one with curly hair in the family. Cut to a picture of me brushing my hair out for ten years. LAWSY.

    Things changed for me after two things happened:
    1. I threw away the hairbursh. Poof. Gone
    2. I cut it short.

    I found an amazing stylist and between the two of us, we make it work.

    I have a few things I do to keep my curls in top shape. 1. Pat hair dry out of the shower and use spray gel 2. Use a smoothing shampoo and conditioner 3. leave my hair alone 4. Use duck clips to encourage lift at the roots.

  9. val 01/25/2012 at 8:52 pm

    SO I don’t have curly hair BUT my 4 year old does and her hair is really just starting to really come in. Her hair is crazy. Any product suggestions?

    • Carina Wytiaz 01/26/2012 at 2:43 am

      I wouldn’t spend too much on fancy products (although there are a lot of them out there) but I would find a good spray gel. I use the Garnier Fructis brand, but just about any will do.

      Comb her hair while she’s in the tub and give it one more rinse before she comes out. Don’t rub her head with a towel. Let it air dry.

  10. Heather 01/25/2012 at 8:30 pm

    Have you seen the list of curly hair problems on

    It is always great to find others that understand the joys and pains of curly hair! I have learned to embrace my curls but not the frizz that goes along with it.

    My hair is the opposite of yours and has become even more curly after having kids. To make matters even worse I had a lot of postpartum hair loss which is now regrowing. So on top of my normal frizz I also have all these short pieces sticking up all over the place. It is not a pretty sight 🙁

    • Erica Fehrman 01/26/2012 at 1:49 pm

      How come none of the “what to expect” books mention that you’ll have baldness and hair spikes after having a baby? At least your new hair will be long by summertime!

  11. Maryann Proctor 01/25/2012 at 5:15 pm

    I have been fighting this all my life, I was in high school when long straight hair was in style and they used to iron it to make it straighter.
    My way of dealing with it was short and the shorter the better. Using hot rollers and later on the curling iron helped.
    I had a lady tell me the other day she wishes she had back all the money she has spent on perms. She wasn’t pleased that I wasn’t thrilled with having hair that dictates it’s own directions no matter what I do. I guess either side of the road has it’s own joys and challenges and we are just left to learn to live with it.

  12. Christine 01/25/2012 at 4:14 pm

    I so sympathize! But not really “me” my 11 yo. We struggle every day to get her hair into some kind of “style” only to have her walk in the door after school looking like shes been electrocuted! Just to untangle her hair in the morning takes a half hour. Thankfully she’s a pretty good sport about it! We have tried, I swear- hundreds of products and those curls are just wild as ever! We just tell her that her hair matches her personality! 😉

    • Erica Fehrman 01/26/2012 at 1:53 pm

      That’s sweet. I remember having to swim for PE class in the middle of the day. No time to “do” my hair and the rest of the day I was walking around with a fro. Other than finding a good stylist for your daughter (not everyone can cut curls) and products you like, you can experiment with braids and up-do’s. At least those styles hold better with curls and will keep her hair out of her face during an active school day 🙂

  13. Jennifer D. 01/25/2012 at 3:34 pm

    My hair was curly when I was born, stick straight through all my school years, and then went curly again in college. Go figure. I love my hair most of the time. I wash it at night, let it air dry, and then spray it with water in the morning to encourage the curl. My problem has been finding someone who can cut it. I had a frightful cut one time where the woman straightened it and used a razor. I didn’t know what she was doing until it was too late. I now keep it medium length and layered. Too long and it weighs my curl down and I look horrible with short hair. 🙂 I never, ever straighten it. Curly hair is who I am. A little wild and crazy 😉
    Having said that I love the first picture and the one of Christy Turlington. Those are cute hairstyles!

  14. Korey Lindberg 01/25/2012 at 3:11 pm

    Curly haired girls UNITE!!! I’ve had curly hair since I hit puberty (super awkward crazy hair so nice for a pre-teen girl!) and slowly but surly found what works for me. I used to use 3 different products on top of each other to get my hair as close to perfect as possible. About 4 years ago I found out about TIGI Curls Rock (they’ve now changed it to curlesque or something like that…but at least they still make it!)

    Also, like you, I’ve tried my hair at all different lengths. Super short, super long, layered, I even ***gasp**** straightened it for a “hairstyle” every day for about a year. UGH! I’m currently growing it out in order to chop it off for locks of love but am in SERIOUS need of a new style. Just a little bit more length and I’ll be good to go!

    My advice for all the curly girls out there “Embrace your curls!!!”

  15. Lisa 01/25/2012 at 2:36 pm

    Curly hair is the bomb, and so super versatile. I think you can totally rock the straight bangs look on the bottom left. It’s like the best of both worlds!

    • Erica Fehrman 01/26/2012 at 2:05 pm

      Thanks for weighing in! I think that is a cute haircut, too.

  16. Jessica 01/25/2012 at 2:33 pm

    So know what you are going through. I told my girlfriends at dinner the other night that I am doomed to have the same hair for the rest of my life. Even when I do go for what I think is a totally different hairstyle, I get home, redo it myself (because no one I have been to has ever dried my hair the way I like it, or even to me remotely looks normal and not frizzy.) And it looks THE EXACT SAME! Just a little shorter maybe.
    I even went to a “curly hair expert” here in SLC, and paid her a ton of money for a not so different cut and a lesson on curly hair. All of which I knew. but I did pick up one tip. Use an old cotton t-shirt to dry your hair when you get out of the shower. More absorbent and doesn’t make your hair frizzy.
    I refuse to do my hair straight for the same reason as you, but I also don’t like the way I like with straight hair. I too wish I could run a brush through my hair, or not cringe or say no when my five year old wants to brush my hair. My husband gave up years ago trying to run his fingers through it.
    I could go on and on. But I have embraced my curls about 99%. The other 1% is so sick of trying to find a fun different curly cut, and having the underneath going straight and in knots at the end of the day.

  17. Deb Poole 01/25/2012 at 2:10 pm

    I can totally sympathize! I have, over time, come to love my curls…..I have found it’s crucial to find a stylist who is experienced in working with curls. Find a salon that trains their stylists regularly on the latest produsts, tools and techniques. If you really desire straight try a Brazilizn Blowout – it tames the wildest of curls into a mane of glossy smoothness!

  18. Christina Smith 01/25/2012 at 1:59 pm

    I’ve got naturally curly hair too. When I was young my mom would butcher it with brushing and trying to use the curling iron on it for big events. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s and all the hair serums started coming out. Now there are products that help my hair more than hurt it.
    And I never brush it even if I’m gonna go to the trouble of straightening it for a special time. Air drying is the only answer for curly hair to make good curls.
    I feel your pain.

  19. Jennifer Stuart 01/25/2012 at 1:56 pm

    I love the Bellatrix picture. If anything, my hair has gotten CURLIER over the years and with pregnancies. Cutting it short is death. I have to grow it out long to compensate for the corkscrews. I accept it, but I don’t like it. Sometimes I don’t mind it – but the real problem is that once you start having a bad hair day – there’s no going back. I can’t brush it, spray it, tease it – nothing. Maybe a shower might “reset” the friz and reapplication of the 3 different products I use in it. My favorite which by the way is TIGI Curls Rock. I would die without that stuff. If you haven’t tried it – I highly recommend you give it a try.

    • Jessica 01/25/2012 at 2:36 pm


      but the real problem is that once you start having a bad hair day – there’s no going back. I can’t brush it, spray it, tease it – nothing. Maybe a shower might “reset” the friz and reapplication of the 3 different products I use in it

  20. The Atomic mom 01/25/2012 at 1:45 pm

    You couldn’t have said it better. I had super curly hair as a young child, and it relaxed as I got older. Then in my 20s it came bounding back. Now — after having kids one side is Beletrix curly and the other is flat as a pancake. I want it all to be curly again.

  21. Alison Kallstrom 01/25/2012 at 8:26 am

    I can sympathize! I am a curly haired girl who would sometimes like to have straight hair. All my stylists always tell me how lucky I am, but I can’t help but want to have hair that lays flat some days!