For years, I undervalued my curls—I spent hours straightening them, slicking them back with gel, and wishing them away in favor of the neat, decidedly more composed strands I saw in magazines and on the heads of classmates. I looked into relaxers, straightening treatments, the works—anything to get the glossy, uncomplicated looks that I revered.
But as time went on, I came to accept my curls (love them, even). My aesthetic certainly changed, and perfect barrel curls no longer fit me the way they used to. I wanted to stand out. The bigger my hair, the more compliments I received, and the more I relied on them as an accessory for my budding signature look.
Changes happened in the industry as well. Marc by Marc Jacobs sent brushed-out, super-frizzy styles down the runway, followed closely by Diane von Furstenberg (who’s known for her designs with real women in mind). Natural curls have always been a symbol of empowerment and self-love, but the mainstream is starting to recognize that fact more and more. Why try so hard to change the way you look when what you already have is so beautiful?
For so long, I researched ways to “tame” my curls and banish frizz. I wouldn’t go outside in the rain for fear of what it would do to my hair. But you know what? Those days are over. Think of Beyoncé at the Super Bowl or Solange Knowles at her wedding. Scan through your memory of Blake Lively at Cannes and Lorde at her shows. Those images stick out because these women did not “fix” their frizz, but rather let it run wild. Would Beyoncé’s trademark wind-blown stance be as powerful without her curls flowing freely about? I think not.
I’ve been working with Halli Bivona, a close friend and knowledgeable hairstylist at the John Barrett Salon, for years now. She has been instrumental in helping me accept my natural hair and keep it healthy, and she's taught me how to style it in a way that feels like me. If it wasn’t for her, I’d surely be lost and my curls wouldn’t look nearly as good. I sat down with Bivona to discuss this very topic, and she regaled me with sage advice and expert tricks. Plus, I had a few other veteran hairstylists give their thoughts as well. And now I’m going to pass all that expertise on to you!
Keep reading for all the best products, styling tips, and guidance to working with your frizz rather than banishing it.
Start in the shower.
Bivona advises, “You want to make sure that you use a hydrating shampoo and conditioner (I love Shu Uemura’s Shusu Shampoo, $36, and Conditioner, $44). Let the conditioner sit between five and 15 minutes, because you want frizz, not damage. Finger-comb or use a large-toothed comb on your hair while it's still wet. Then just leave it alone to dry. Try to touch it as little as possible to avoid roughing up the cuticle too much.”
Moisturize, but let your hair do its thing.
Marie Robinson stylist Liana Le says, “Girls with frizzy hair already know their hair will do whatever it wants, especially in these upcoming humid months.” True. On especially warm days, extra effort is often useless for that very reason. But there are a few techniques and products that will help you embrace your biggest hair days. “I recommend putting in moisture balancing creams or serums (like Ouai’s Hair Oil, $28) while your hair is still a little damp.” That way, your hair will stay hydrated, healthy, and happy while you air-dry.
Stay away from the crunchy stuff.
Le explains, “Curly hair is usually dehydrated and needs product to assist in bounce and shape. I like to stay away from the products that make curly hair appear to be stiff or crunchy. I recommend hydrating creams, such as Christophe Robin’s Moisturizing Hair Cream ($43), or even a foam mousse found at your local drug store, like Dove's Style+Care Whipped Cream Mousse ($5). Anything that allows hair to retain elasticity and movement is perfect for you.”
Bivona agrees: “The best products to achieve the perfect balance between volume and smooth are oil-based mousse products (I like Shu Uemura's Kaze Wave Sensual Curl Texturizing Foam, $44). It’s a mousse that will help define curls and encourage volume.” The bigger the better! “Apply the mousse while your hair is still wet, before you comb it out. Hydration is key, however we don't want to weigh hair down. Use a lightweight oil that packs a punch—like camellia and coconut oils. They won’t take the volume out of your fabulous curls.”
Get inspiration from your favorite curly-haired celebrities.
“Blake Lively is a perfect example of someone who rocks the looser, wavy frizz with her long, beachy hair. Jenny Slate embraces her tighter curl look by wearing it shoulder length, which prevents it from getting weighed down,” Le says. Bivona adds, “I'm a huge fan of the way Solange has embraced her natural curls. Her hair is always in that sweet spot of volume and texture.”
Edward Tricomi, Warren-Tricomi co-founder and master stylist, thinks Grace Coddington’s gorgeous, frizzy hair is breathtaking. “It is the ultimate example: It is natural, makes a statement, and totally works for her.” He adds, “Great color enhances curly hair—if it’s really rich and dynamic, it won’t look dry.”
Allow your effortless look to actually be effortless.
“Modern girls make carefree, natural hair look cool,” Le comments. “Your hair is who you are, and loving that part is easier than fighting it. Learn the small tricks, and keep the right products around for quick fixes, which will relieve you from day-to-day stress. Rock who you are and the head of hair you have!”
Bivona discusses the importance of the right cut: “It's all about having a good shape in both your curls and your haircut. If you have a haircut that is not meant for curly hair, it will be that much harder to get that perfect voluminous look. Always let your hair stylist know that you like to wear your hair natural, so they can cut it accordingly.”
So, in the interest of going natural and feeling great about frizz, peep this photograph that was taken sans hair tools and product but with a whole lot of texture and a smile.
For more reasons to embrace your natural texture, read about why I wore hair extensions for nine years (and why I finally stopped).