Tired of salons asking you to straighten or smoothen your hair? TNM spoke to four Curly Girl bloggers, who are urging fellow curlies to embrace their tresses.

Curly is beautiful This movement is helping Indian women accept their natural hairFrom left: Anjana, Asha, Divya, Elizabeth
news Lifestyle Thursday, June 28, 2018 - 18:48

It was the year 2014. Divya Madaswamy, who lives in Chennai, was having some particularly bad hair days. And with a birthday party fast approaching, she felt compelled to tame her tresses. “So, I bought a straightener… and ended up burning my hair,” the 30-year-old shares.

The fiasco, while traumatising, put Divya on a journey. She decided to finally embrace her naturally curly hair – she did not want to tame it, but wanted to nourish it, and let it take its natural, healthy form.

Divya Madaswamy

That led her to researching and deciding to follow what is called the ‘Curly Girl’ method. Now, her three-year-old Curlacious Blog, gets hundreds of readers every month.

The Curly Girl method and community

The Curly Girl (CG) method, in its popular form today, was introduced in 2001 by Lorraine Massey in her book ‘Curly Girl: The Handbook’.

The CG method essentially tells you about a number of techniques and ways that you take care of and nourish curly hair. The basic tenets are the use of hair products, which do not have sulphates, silicones or alcohol, conditioner washing or ‘co-washing’ (giving shampoo a miss to cleanse your hair with conditioner), and not using combs and brushes. Variations exist across the world.

The CG community overseas has been up and thriving for over a decade now, but it’s only recently that the movement seems to have come to India.

A simple internet search will lead you to several Indian CG bloggers and forums now, where you will find everything from budget products to transformation journeys. But perhaps the most heartening aspect of this community is people encouraging each other and the sense of relief, acceptance and joy when they find a way to love and accept the way they look.

The bias against curly hair

One such Indian community is a Facebook group called ‘Indian Curl Pride’ which has over 20,000 members. It was started in February 2015 by Asha Barrak from Haryana.

TNM also spoke to Elizabeth Alex, Anjana Muralidharan and Divya – all of whom are CG bloggers. What is common among them all is how the lack of awareness about and acceptance for curly hair set them on the path to discover CG and ultimately share it with others.

For instance, both Asha (36) and Elizabeth (31) had short hair for a good part of their childhood and adolescence, simply because that seemed like the best option to their parents to make it manageable. “I was shamed all my life for having curly hair. I was never chosen for lead roles in plays because princesses could not have hair like mine,” Elizabeth, a Malayali based in Pune recounts.

Elizabeth Alex

It was only when she was 15 that she started growing it out and getting compliments. But it did not take long for people to fetishise her hair either. “People would only talk and ask about my hair. They did not see me as more than that. I’m more than my hair, ask me about the book I’m reading instead,” Elizabeth says.

28-year-old Anjana, meanwhile, did not even know her hair was curly when she was younger. “I just thought I had straight hair that was frizzy. But none of the products and combs I tried seemed to work. In my family also, there were no other practices that went beyond oiling and combing,” she shares.

Anjana Muralidharan

And while things are changing now, the bloggers continue to see cases where women with curly hair are told by salons to opt for smoothening or straightening instead of styling their natural hair. Anjana, who recently moved from Bengaluru to the Netherlands, also says that this is a big opportunity for Indian brands to step up their game and start selling curly hair products – something which she hasn’t seen happening enough in India so far.

Discovering and sharing CG method

It would not be an overstatement to say that many women’s lives have changed after they discovered the CG method.

The bloggers TNM spoke to all discovered CG online and decided to take the plunge at different points of time. But one issue they all faced is that there was a lack of Indian experiences. “For example, it may make more sense for Indian Curly Girls to not give up shampoo altogether because of the pollution and dust here. But there was no one to tell us that,” Asha says. She started her blog Right Ringlets in October 2014.

Asha Barrak

It did not help that the products recommended by the international CG community were not only hard to find but also expensive. There was also the very real struggle of finding Indian products for different budgets. “I think this is where Indian CG bloggers really come in. They try Indian products and let other curlies know about them,” Divya says.

How expensive is it to be a Curly Girl?

Elizabeth, who started the blog Honest Liz, believes that curly hair needs more than the standard shampoo and conditioner. “Unlike straight hair, curly hair needs a stash which includes a shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, hair mask and a gel,” she says.

She adds that it makes more sense to save up, invest and steadily build a stash of quality products, even if they are pricey, so that your hair doesn’t just look good but is nourished.

When Elizabeth started out in May 2017, she too struggled to source good products. So, six months ago, she became a distributor. She supports small businesses run by women in the US and UK and which have made their name as Instagram brands. Elizabeth tries out their products, reviews them on her blog and social media, orders them in bulk, and then sells them to people here.

She says that the average cost of one quality CG stash would cost around Rs 5000-7000 and could last about four months. “But if I do my hair care with these, I don’t have to do anything else for a week and up,” she maintains.

Asha too agrees that styling products for curly hair are more expensive and would require one to shell out around Rs 3000.

However, Anjana and Divya say that it’s possible to follow CG on a budget.

Anjana, who started her blog Curls and Beauty Diary in 2015, recommends first trying the method with the products people already have. Further, there are Indian homemade recipes, especially for hair masks, that people can opt for. “If you do your research right, you can easily get a gel, conditioner and leave-in conditioner within Rs 1000,” she says.

Divya, meanwhile, learnt from following the international CG community that all she needed to do was learn to scrutinize the ingredients in hair products. Anjana points out that by doing this, Indian bloggers offer lots of Indian options, even though they are not marketed towards curly hair. They also make helpful lists such as this and this, which also include options for different budgets.

Changed lives, increased self confidence

The most fulfilling part of this perhaps is the testimonials that these bloggers receive from other women. “In Indian Curl Pride, I have seen people transforming, sharing their before and after photos. It is truly astonishing and lovely,” Asha shares.

Anjana says that the CG routine has given her a sense of liberation she had not experienced before, and she sees that in other women too.

 

Curl Inspiration ~ @curlychicklet, I came across the CG method on Facebook when I was searching for ways to have more definition in my hair. After a lot of trial and error, I've come to understand my curls and what works for them. I have had long hair which I got cut short recently. From my experience of going short from long, in my hair I feel it was easier to get the desired curls when it was longer. Maintaining curly hair seems like a big process but trust me, it is rather quick. To get the gorgeous desired curls, one has to put in some effort. Products used: Shampoo: Biotique shampoo  Conditioner: The Body Shop Moisture Conditioner Leave-in Conditioner:Giovanni Direct Leave-in Conditioner. Thanks Prutha for sharing your story and routine . Feeling inspired?? Check Prutha's curly hair routine in the Proud Curlies section on Right Ringlets website. . . . #rightringlets #curlinspiration #curlinspirations #hairtransition

A post shared by AshaBarrak~IndianCurlyHairBlog (@rightringlets) on

Testimonials shared by women

However, it’s not as though only women have curly hair. Divya says that while only 5-10% of her readers are male, she sees them become enthusiastic after they start seeing results. “You can tell they are hesitant to ask questions. And while they are still scared to style their curly hair, they do want to take care of it,” she observes.

“Some people say it’s ‘just hair’. I disagree – it’s a part of your expression and personality. It affects self-confidence and self-image. And it feels good to do right by your hair,” Elizabeth says.    

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