There are a few misconceptions about curly hair that Michelle Breyer would like to clear up.
Like that people who wear their hair curly are lazy or unkempt. Or that everyone with curls really wants straight hair. Or that curly hair is a problem that needs to be fixed (a myth she's even heard from stylists).
And finally, the idea that curly hair goes in and out from season to season.
"Curls - like eye or skin color - are a part of who you are," she says. "They are in 365 days a year."
We recently checked in with Michelle, the president and co-founder of TextureMedia, a web portal which includes NaturallyCurly.com that embraces curly, coiled and wavy-headed females of all backgrounds. Here, she shares how she came to embrace her own curly locks and offers advice on keeping your tresses looking fantastic year-round. Read on:
Tell us the story behind NaturallyCurly.com.
I grew up in a family with a straight-haired mom and sister. My mother didn't know what to do with my hair, so she cut it in a pixie - even in middle school. This was in California, where everyone seemed to have long, silky hair. And it was at a time when the standard of beauty was Christy Brinkley and Farrah Fawcett. I spent an hour each day straightening my hair and then plastering it with hairspray so it would hopefully stay that way.
When I moved to Texas in my 20s, the humidity made it all but impossible to maintain a straight look. A stylist encouraged me to wear it curly. But there were few products specifically for curly hair, and the media seemed to all but ignore texture. The Glamour annual "Hair Issue" rarely showed any curly looks.
I was working as a business reporter at the Austin American-Statesman, and two of my friends had curly hair. We would commiserate on a regular basis about our hair. We were at a brunch in 1998 with friends, and a friend overheard us bitching about our hair. He suggested we start a website or magazine. We had already had had a few mimosas, and this sounded like a fabulous idea.
Over the next few months, we developed the ideas for NaturallyCurly, working to create a site with the information we would want. My neighbor's 13-year old son was our web designer. We launched in September 1998, and people immediately found us - people of all ages and ethnicities from around the world.
Why do you want more women to embrace their curls?
Like blue eyes or other physical traits, curls are a part of who a person is. They are a part of what makes someone unique. And it's beautiful. I know what it's like to spend so much of your life trying to fight something that's such a big part of who you are. At NaturallyCurly, we want people to know they have options. If they want to straighten their hair, we provide tips about how to do it without damage. If they want to wear it curly, we provide the tools - a stylist database, product info, styling videos and articles - to help them make their curls look their best.
Why was it important for you to have a resource for people with curly hair?
I know personally what it's like to grow up hating my curls with no place to turn for advice. With more than 50 percent of our population having curls, coils or waves -(some studies say 60 percent) this information is crucial. Now, it seems crazy to me that 17 years ago, curly hair was all but ignored.
Where should someone with curly hair start when they want to learn how to better care for their locks?
NaturallyCurly is a great place to start. Among the best resources is the stylist database, which has 17 years worth of stylists around the world. Finding a good stylist is essential because you want to find someone who understands how to work with texture.
NaturallyCurly also provides information about products and styling advice as well as opportunities to interact with other curlies who have your texture.
What's a good care routine for someone with natural curls look like?
It starts with getting a good haircut that works with your texture. Then it's important to find the products that work best for you. That product mix will change depending upon the weather and the style you're trying to achieve. The products I recommend include: a good sulfate-free cleanser, a daily conditioner, a leave-in conditioner, and styling product(s) (creams work better for curly and coily hair, and gels and mousses work best for waves). Also, invest in a good microfiber towel.
I recommend cleansing and conditioning the hair - although you shouldn't cleanse every day - and then applying the styling product while your hair is soaking wet. With your head upside down, use the microfiber towel to scrunch your hair upward. This helps the curls and waves "clump." Then either air dry or blow dry with a diffuser.
What are some curly hair no-no's?
- Don't brush your hair when it's dry.
- Don't use a terry cloth towel.
- Don't cut your hair with bangs unless you plan to spend time styling them.
- Don't straighten your hair too often (it can damage hair and harm the curl pattern).
- Don't go to a stylist without a recommendation from another curly. If they take out a razor or don't have a diffuser, run away!
What types of products should those with curly hair look for? What should they avoid?
Definitely look for products with natural oils and butters. Curly hair tends to be dry, so these can nourish and moisturize the hair.
There's a lot of people who think of curly hair in terms of absolutes. There are those who never use products with silicones or sulfates. There are people who find that products with the right kind of silicones can help them achieve the look they want. It's really about educating yourself about different ingredients. It's also about trial and error to figure out the products that work best for your hair.
Why are natural products best for curly hair?
Natural products aren't always best. Products that contain natural ingredients tend to be more moisturizing and higher quality. But there are many ingredients (chemicals) that can be beneficial for hair. Some alcohols are hydrating.
What are some of your favorite DIY haircare remedies?
Here are some classics. To find more, you can go to our recipe section where our community shares their favorite DIY remedies.
1 cup mayonnaise
Directions: Mix the mayonnaise and avocado until you have a paste. Rub it on your hair and cover your head with a plastic cap. Wrap a hot towel around it. Leave it on for 20 minutes and wash. Repeat once a week for better results.
Honey Based Deep Conditioner
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions: Mix honey with olive oil. Heat in microwave oven to melt and apply to wet or dry hair. Cover head with a very warm towel for half an hour while taking a warm, soothing bath. Shampoo off.