The Cult of Curls

A million years ago when I first started trying no poo it was all about being a bit of a hippy and frankly it all failed. But I never really let go of the idea that shampoo was turning me into a fraggle.

I’ve always had incredibly thick & wavy hair and equally not wholly known what to do with it. Even my good hair days were an example of why curling tongs are probably best left for professionals  (also, I’ve been honing the unhinged academic look for some time)

Curling iron & frizz. But, I was celebrating my brain not my hair that day

Most days, my style was best described as “shut up, I can either keep the kids alive & expand my brain OR look like a princess. Not both”.

I love how this photo hides the fact I had just set light to the microwave!

Even so, my long & generally colourful hair was my trade mark. I spent my 20s with it flying free and frizzy or woven into coloured dreadlocks (welcome to early 2000’s punk / nu metal culture).

At their tamest, my dreads were brown & red. My favourites were the black & blue set.

Then I met with dysautonomia and my hair & I parted ways. Literally. No amount of bleach, or braiding, or spiking ever made it thinner, but 6 months of being unable to digest solid food and it came out in clumps. I was never brave enough to rock the skinhead look so I turned to the orthodox Jewish community groups who taught me how to wrap my head in a Tichel and I acquired a whole host of beautiful scarves to adorn my now tufty head.

Two years down the line and solid food is back, albeit not all the time, alongside a constant massive dose of vitamin D and what once was thick & wavy has grown back thicker & curly!

What am I meant to do with this?! (2 months into CG, but unaware silicone had snuck into my conditioner – chemistry lessons kids : pay attention)

So, at a loss of what to do with hair that seemed to be growing out instead of down I rediscovered the no poo thing, this time through the Curly Girl Method. I’ve gone full circle & now jumped down the rabbit hole of curly hair…

This time, instead of baking soda & ACV (apple cider vinegar), I’m opting for “low poo” which means no products containing silicone, washing once per week max, leave in conditioners, and alcohol free gel “casts”. With this method I don’t smell like a chip & my hair is in amazing condition. I’ve also learnt a whole new vocabulary:

Squish to Condish 

The act of conditioning once, then scrunching the ends of your curls with a second conditioner application that you may or may not rinse out. I do, but those with really porous hair may not.

Plopping

I know it’s no poo, but ew! Actually, this is the theory that drying curly hair with a normal towel damages the curl & encourages frizz. Instead, plop your head onto tshirt material or similar to allow the curls to dry whilst coiled close of the head. Some people plop for 20 minutes, whilst others (including me) plop all night.

This is where having worn tichels for months has come in handy as I’m a dab hand at a secure turban! 

Just remember that post-plop the curls won’t be bone dry so you need to give them time to reach full crunch before scrunching.

Curl Activator 

I use Cantu Cream activator, or ahem… ummm… personal lubricant. (That’s a whole other blog post, but trust me it works wonders). It’s basically an extra moisturiser for your curls that encourages them to coil into their natural pattern and stops frizz. Stick it on your newly washed hair before any gel.

Praying Hands

A technique for applying curl cream or gel with flat hands instead of scrunching or raking it through. You also rub hands together first to spread out the goop & put it on more evenly.

Scrunch Out The Crunch #SOTC

So, after you’ve low poo washed your hair, added curl activator, added gel with praying hands, then plopped and diffused / air dried, it’s time to scrunch out the crunch.

Remember in the 80s & 90s when we all had spiral perms and wet look gel? Well as much as we thought we looked the dogs dangley bits, we didn’t. To get rid of that late 80s Minogue look, you need to SOTC.

Kylie wasn’t scrunching out the crunch …

Once your curls have dried to crispy perfection (not a trace of damp left), the gel will have created a “cast”. Now is the time to use your hands, or preferably a tshirt to scrunch each section and break down the gel cast to reveal soft & defined curls.

So, 7 months into low poo and 4 months into using the Curly Girl Method what does my natural hair look like?

When I say natural, the colour isn't included! Although I'm a redhead in my soul.

It looks like I have curls! And “bad” hair days aren’t really a thing anymore.

This works so well with my general health because I have no more fighting with hairbrushes, only need the energy to wash it once each week, and I don’t have to be physically that functional I’m. The morning. Getting ready consists of: take off my scarf, spray a bit of water/conditioner mix into my hair, scrunch it, bobby clip the front & off I go.

You can read more about the official Curly Girl Method here. (Not an advert, but as it’s not my method, you should hear from the originator!).

Hair Today…

I have so much to write about & my loooong blog about last weekend away with people really is underway. But I’ve been meaning to tackle something for a while now.

I’ve spent the past 20 years + being defined by my hair. For the past 6 years, I’ve been a trademark red going from a subtle mahogany to outright fuck me post box red. I prefer the latter. Before then, there was a phase of pink & green combo (I was even on Google earth with that!), and my wonderful long dreads during university.

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Red hair has definitely been my defining feature, even going back some years. (It also dawned on me that I pout a lot at cameras, and was clearly raised on MySpace)

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My earlier dabbling with funky hair produced some finer moments of colour (National Trust excursions got some excellent looks. Especially as I was also making my own clothes back then).

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And the money that was spent collectively on eBay by me and Mrs Gypsytree buying plait in dreads doesn’t even bare thinking about (Although, to give them credit, Mrs Gypsytree still wears them because she’s irritatingly unaged).

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And now? Well, now to go with my standard dry & sort of brittle hair, I have a killer combo of the EDS making it more brittle and Gabapentin just making it fall out. There. In black & white. My defining feature is making a messy exit and I need to deal with it in a way I feel comfortable, and I want to get used to that way before its too noticeable…. ooh I don’t know, like asking for your wheelchair caster to be fixed because it’s not running smoothly & the reason for that is because there’s hair wound around the bearing plate. I mean seriously, wtf?

I’m not wholly sure what to make of this new development. I feel like it’s a bit vain to be fretting over my hair when I ought to be more concerned that my shoulder won’t stay in, or that my health insurance haven’t quite got around to sorting out the heart valve tests… none of this phases me, but going bald… won’t my brain get cold?

My choices are : to leave it and just go with it, but I feel self conscious as I seem to be shedding more than the cat which is gross; wear a wig, which I’m not wholly sure would look right although later on down the line I might, but I still have too much length in my real hair for that to work and bugger me how expensive??!?!; or finally, wear a headscarf.

I have a decent collection of scarves anyway that I use to keep modest at work (read hide cleavage) and also hide my neckbrace, so I did some research about different ways of wrapping your hair. I was keen to look as if I still have hair under there but didn’t want to opt for the hijab style covering (not for any anti-religious purposes, but more because I want my hair covered, not my neck). Eventually, I found Wrapunzel and their use of and tutorials on how to tie a tichel which is an orthodox Jewish head covering for married women (That’s now 3 religions I’ve encountered that encourage women to cover their hair). It appealed because of the elegant way the scarves were used, but also because of the focus on having a bun at the back which can be padded to make you look like you have more hair. It also needed to be easy enough for me to do without yanking my shoulder out again (like my over excited Uno! move on Saturday… That’s not what they meant by Uno Extreme apparently ), or simple enough for Mr Geek to wrap for me after he’s brushed it & stuck it in a sock bun as is our new routine.

This weekend was my first real venture out, and because of the positive. response from my lovely Mongooses, I’ve carried on and worn my coordinating tichels at school all week, including to a parents evening!  I feel much more confident with my hair wrapped. In fact, people have commented that I look healthier this week. This could of course be the result of having spent the weekend in the company of amazing friends where I let go of all stress & bad stuff, but hiding my ever snapping locks in beautiful fabric can’t be hindering it.

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Ok, so mainly I’m wearing the black one right now as it’s less conspicuous and having a bit of hair peeking out the front has warded off the majority of questions. Aside from the one young lady who yelled ‘do you have cancer?’ across the classroom. We had a chat about tact and dignity after that, but allowances can be made for being a bit of a knob when you’re 12.

There are definite upsides – any loose hair stays in the scarf, not on the floor; I can look healthier by adding colour; it actually protects my hair from breaking by supporting it; I can use coconut oil on my hair and I don’t look all lank and greasy;  I don’t have to dye it mad colours, just choose a new scarf…

… of which there are a few more coming. I’ve ordered a set of plain coloured hijab scarves and under caps which help keep the tichel in place. Amazon is a treasure trove of stuff sometimes.

So, watch this space. I even have a zebra scarf…

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Have you tried wrapping your hair? What style do you prefer? Do you have any tips?