An open letter of apology to all curly hair clients we have unintentionally betrayed.
Curlfriends, we’re sorry. We’re so sorry. We’re your hairstylists, your confidants, your beauty mentors, your friends. We know you. You’ve sat in our chairs throughout your life. You see us in winter, spring, summer, and fall, in the sunshine, snowstorms, and everything in between (#MAINE). You’ve trusted us during your highs: curl-discoveries, curl journeys, new relationships, enduring relationships, curl-friendships, engagements, newfound independence, pregnancies, weddings, promotions, career-changes, relocations, vacations, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, confidence building, milestones, and achievements. You’ve sought us out in life’s many hardships, and we’ve been honored to walk alongside you through various challenges. We know how you like your coffee. We can part your hair perfectly. We’ve scrubbed your scalp. And we must admit, though never intentionally, we’ve lied to you. We’ve misled you. We’ve brought you down a path that was not the best for you or your curls.
We’ve been curl specialists for a few years now; collectively we’ve been officially doing hair for decades and unofficially for what feels like forever! Before the Curly Girl Method, before squish to condish, and – gasp – before the Curl Boutique (oh, the humanity!), we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We taught you what we were taught: curls must be tamed – mistreated, manipulated, and mishandled. Until recently, curly hair was directly associated with unprofessionalism, unkemptness and honestly, craziness. What the hell?! Times sure have changed, and we’re here to say, “We’re sorry for our mistakes and we’re committed to spending the rest of our days spreading the good word of the curly hair movement.”
Do you want the Farrah Fawcett?
Debbi still vividly remembers her first experience as a client seeking the help of a professional hairdresser. She was 11 years old and experiencing ~all the angst~ your average preteen does. She hated her glasses, her perceived awkwardness, her ever-changing body. But most of all, ABOVE ALL, she *hated* her curly hair, which had always been a deep-rooted source of insecurity. She’d stare longingly at all the other girls her age that were “pretty” and “popular”, with their beautiful, shiny, and, of course, straight hair. They all seemed so self-assured and confident while Debbi’s fuzzy, frizzy, tangled triangle-head appeared disheveled and in some way offensive. She brushed it, slathered it with hot oil, and slept with it wet, pulled so tightly back that at first glance it might even appear straight… for at least a moment. She tried anything she could think of to change her hair and force it into “behaving.” She even tried taping her hair to her skin (#relateable). As every curly knows, none of these things worked.
Debbi’s mom was aware of the war that was being waged against the curls. In an attempt to be helpful, she announced she’d scheduled an appointment with a well-known stylist for Debbi and her best friend Missy. Debbi was elated! Before they knew it, they were on there way to the salon chatting excitedly the whole way, daydreaming of their flawless, post-appointment locks. Charlie’s Angels was all the rage at the time; there wasn’t a girl on the planet that didn’t want the iconic Farah Fawcett style – the feathering, the layers, the blonde! Right then and there they both decided they’d ask for the Farrah Fawcett.
They arrived at the salon. The stylist took one look at Missy with her blue eyes and I-live-on-the-beach wavey blonde hair, and then at Debbi, with the aforementioned triangle, and promised both girls the Farrah was achievable. Missy went first. Debbi watched eagerly – and, a little enviously – as Missy was slowly and surely transformed into an exact replica of Farrah. She couldn’t wait for her turn. Surely this was the exact moment her hair woes would be all swept away and she could finally join the ranks of the Hair Hall of Fame girls at school.
When the time came, Debbi enthusiastically flopped into the chair, ready for her transformation. The stylist ran his fingers through Debbi’s frizz. She felt a wave of shame and embarrassment wash over her. Even as a small child she felt as if she should apologize that her hair didn’t look like Missy’s. She sheepishly asked, “Do you think it will look the same as my friends when you’re done?” The stylist lied. He had to. He didn’t know better. “Of course!” he reassured her as he took her to the sink, preparing to wash and then cut her hair – WET.
Debbi watched anxiously as the stylist finished her cut and began to diffuse. Her hair was getting shorter and shorter by the second, her precious curls coiling innocently as tears welled up in her eyes. There was a pit in her stomach. She looked nothing like Farrah. She looked like a poodle. Her curls formed a perfect round ball around her head. She felt like running out of the salon and all the way home where she could wet it down and start fresh. It took all the strength in her tiny, 11-year-old body to not openly weep in the chair.
The stylist walked them out and of course, Debbi thanked him, though they both knew this was not the outcome anyone wanted, nor what was promised. Her mom paid for the service before driving Missy and Debbi home, all the while Missy flipping her feathered layers and playing with her luxurious, smooth strands. Debbi wet her hair down the minute they were through the door, and what was worse, she vowed never to trust another hairstylist again – ever.
We want to do better.
Fast forward 10 years and Debbi was now the hairstylist. When curlies sat in her chair, she made the same promises, using the same ill-informed (but well-intentioned) techniques and treatments for curly clients that she did for her “straightys.” Historically speaking, curly hair has not had a defined place in cosmetology and beauty education. What was taught for straight hair was intended to be used for all hair, and we’ve of course since learned that with hair, one size will never fit all.
Until recently, in beauty school, hair was hair. We were taught to wet hair and hold it tightly between our fingers while we cut it. Only when covering styling methods was curly hair addressed, and even then, it was meant to be managed with a round-brush and blow-drier, not hydration or flour sack towels. In fact, Debbi became renowned and even prided herself on her blow-out skills; she could transform the tightest curls into smooth, straight, flowing locks – the kind of hair she had always dreamed about. Every curly that sat in her chair was viewed as a new challenge to tackle. Curls were beaten into submission. They were unruly and inherently problematic. With proper products and lots of heat, any curl could be taught to “behave.” Forget the fact that curlies could never swim, sweat, or live their life in all weather. Such was the life of a straight-haired wannabe.
This all changed forever when, in 2007, Debbi sat in the audience at the International Beauty Show in New York City and watched the magical Lorraine Massey. Not only did she see beautiful, confident, empowered curlies in attendance, but she also witnessed them being celebrated. It was life-altering, to say the least. Debbi wondered to herself, could her curls ever look so healthy, so shiny, so full of personality? That very day she bought the Curly Girl Handbook and never looked back. She’s planted, cultivated, and spread a deep passion for helping fellow curlies accept – and more importantly, love – the hair that grows out of their head. She is sincerely committed to gaining back the trust that was lost when we used to accept the idea of beauty meaning everyone looking the same. Curlies have been burned (quite literally) by hairstylists for too long!
Our promises to you.
As curly hair specialists, here are the things we promise we’ll never say or do again:
Your hair would look so good if you let me straighten it.” In our past lives, we bought into the lie. The lie that beauty equals conformity. For far too long, white European hair has been the standard in our industry. No more. We’re taking control and writing a new story: natural, healthy curly hair is our definition of beauty.
“You have so much hair – let’s just thin it out a little bit.” Throughout beauty school, our instructors taught us that the moment we saw thick hair, it was time to break out the thinning shears. At hair shows, they’d get fancy, putting an “artistic flair” to this offense by calling it “texturizing.” Sneaky! Whatever you want to call it, thinning curly hair destroys the integrity of the beautiful, natural curl pattern. You won’t see us with our thinning shears ever again.
“Wow! I’ve never cut hair this curly.” At least we were honest (?!?!). The mannequins that cosmetology students practice on have long, silky human hair (usually Asian or Indian), or worse, permed hair. In fact, if the hair was permed, students usually were then instructed to blow the perm out! Curly hair has never been part of the equation.
“Wow! I’ve never cut hair this curly.” We’re cringing! We now know that you NEVER brush curly hair – wet or dry. Brushing your curls causes damaging breakage. It will also separate your curls, discouraging them to clump and shape. Before the curly hair movement, we never knew how to detangle curls properly, which is always wet, using your fingers or a comb.
“It’s best if we straighten your hair and then cut it – it will come out better this way.” Our intentions were really in the right place here. On our quest to give our curly clients the most technically accurate cut, we thought we needed to be able to comb through it. This seemed like the most reasonable way to be able to achieve the look our clients desired.
On behalf of Debbi, the Curl Boutique team, and stylists everywhere that are guilty of committing these curly hair sins before knowing better: we are sorry. We unintentionally damaged your curls and your self-esteem. We now walk forward committed to never harming our curly tribe again. We’ll spend the rest of our lives making things right with the curly hair community, and it starts with forgiving us (and each other). We love you and your curls ♡