Captain’s Blog: Self-care…through hair?

by The Collected Mutineer

I never thought I would be writing about hair for a blog that centers around all things nerdy, but here we are.

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Here at The Collective, we’ve been talking a lot about finding inspiration and motivation in this crazy world, and one of the things that I have recently decided to do for myself is to practice better self-care. This means a lot of things, from taking care of my mental health to eating better and sleeping more. But recently, my new self-care routine took a turn that I wasn’t expecting in the slightest—embracing my natural hair.

Disclaimer: I should mention that when I say natural hair, I don’t mean afro-textured hair (aka the type 4 hair that is kinky-coily, and to my knowledge is most commonly associated with the term “natural”). I am a white Hispanic woman who ended up inheriting type 3 hair from my dad’s side of the family, and as such, I can only speak from my own experiences. There are dozens of types of wavy/curly hair from every part of the globe, and I’ve been discovering tons of great resources online for everyone’s unique hair type. I am by no means an expert in any way, even on my own curls, as I am still finding out what works for me. 

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So where did this all start? It’s a long story, so settle in. I never liked my curly hair. Ever. When I was a kid, my mom kept it short. She thought it was cute, and I guess in retrospect it was. But she didn’t know how to take care of naturally curly hair (she perms hers) and so my hair was often big and frizzy and just…a mess. All the girls around me had beautiful silky hair, and I desperately wanted to look like them. It didn’t help that I idolized Disney princesses like Jasmine and Pocahontas, who had those impossibly perfect black locks. I begged my mom to let me grow my hair longer, because I was convinced that longer hair was heavier hair, and weight meant that it would pull the curls out, right?

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While having heavier hair did pull out some of the curl, I still didn’t know anything about caring for hair like mine. It was still unruly, frizzy, and an overall nightmare. As I moved into adolescence and my teen years, I copied what my friends were doing. I began using a straightener every day, and even did a relaxing treatment. The damage began to build up tremendously, and even though my hair looked nice sometimes, it was experiencing split ends and breakage.

Fast forward to college, when one of my friends challenged me to stop using heat on my hair. I took her up on it, and started diffusing my hair on wash day with cold air. The curls didn’t seem quite as awful this way, so once a week I left my dorm room with a head full of 3b-3c hair. But that was one day out of seven…the other six days, I braided my hair each night and brushed it each day, which flattens and disrupts one’s curl pattern. Despite this, my hair was becoming healthier without constant heat, so things seemed to be looking up. Eventually, all the damaged hair grew out and was cut off. I thought I was on my way to hairvana. Because heat was the only thing I was doing incorrectly, right?

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Somehow, I convinced myself that using heat occasionally, say…only on my bangs was fine. Before I knew it, I was back in my old patterns. I became obsessed with using a large curling iron to create huge spiral curls. I was getting so many compliments on my hair, so I thought that I had to be doing something right. But I still wasn’t completely happy. My hair was brittle a lot of the time, and I had a lot of fall-out each time I brushed it. But sometime in 2013, I discovered that there were products designed especially for curly hair. I had signed up for Birchbox, and they sent me a sample size of the Lavish CURLS Moisturizer.  I got hooked pretty quickly on using it on wash day. Later, I found the Camille Rose Curl Love Moisture Milk. Both these products worked great on my hair, but I was still dealing with breakage, dryness, and other issues. I didn’t know how to make my hair the way I wanted it, while also having it be healthy.

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Then, just a few weeks ago, inspiration struck in the form of YouTube videos. Somehow, I stumbled across a series of videos about caring for curly hair. They all kept mentioning something that sounded vaguely familiar—the Curly Girl Method. Where had I heard that before? It was a few days before I remembered one Christmas in the early 2000s, when straight hair was the predominant hairstyle all around me. My aunt had bought me a book as a present, something about how to embrace your natural curls by not washing or brushing your hair. Of course, that’s not exactly what the book says, but I was in no state of mind to accept the idea that some people actively wanted curly hair. I skimmed the book and promptly ditched it. But here were those ideas again, nearly twenty years later, about avoiding sulfate-ridden shampoos and being careful about when and how to comb one’s hair. The videos talked about other things too, like hair porosity, which products to use, and how to sleep without disrupting your curls.

This time, the ideas stuck with me. I thought about it for a few days before deciding to give it a try. And to my great surprise, I’ve been feeling more confident about my hair than I have in years. I spent so long actively hating what was growing out of my head, and trying everything I could to make it look like other people’s hair, that I had no idea how good it would feel to let it be natural. I have a long journey ahead of myself, learning how to accept and enjoy my hair, but I’m taking this lesson into other parts of my life. Self-care isn’t just about doing things that make you feel good in the moment. It’s about making choices that have an impact on your future.

Want some curly inspo? Here are some of the videos that encouraged me to try something new.