Four months ago, when I first embarked on my quest for curl love and acceptance, there was a single ground rule: Under no circumstances would I straighten my mane of kinky, frizzy hair. By now, my 34th year of life, I’d come to regard the unruly mop as a trademark, a physical manifestation of my twisted inner self.
But even so, I lived in constant fear of becoming Puff the Magic Fuzz Ball. On most mornings, I was optimistic as I set about the task of arranging my hair into fountainlike displays of Botticelli ringlets. By late morning, however, it was apparent: I had failed yet again. By lunchtime, my hair stretched its wingspan frightfully far from my face. Late afternoon found a celestial halo of frizz crowning my head. On particularly bad hair days, my friends and associates compared me to Fraggles and Wookiees. After a disastrous run-in with some chemical relaxer, a blood relative once likened me to Cousin Itt.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Curly entrepreneurs on the coasts have been creating great products for many a year. In New York, the Devachan Salon empire peddles its DevaCurl styling products just as fiercely as its pro-curl evangelism. Meanwhile, as the Twin Cities has become more ethnically diverse, sightings of beautiful corkscrews are more prevalent than ever. In fact, after a lifetime of feeling like the lone curly girl, I’ve started to spot spirals everywhere I look. It seems women are embracing their curls like never before. With this in mind, I started testing products, with an eye toward those that are new to the Twin Cities market or locally produced. In the end, my curls weren’t just softer and better looking—they were better loved than ever before.
Coils by character:
Hair and makeup artist Rhonda Jackson points out that products for curly hair are no longer being marketed along racial lines: “You used to be either L’Oréal or Afro Sheen, but not anymore,” she quips. These days, products are tailored according to texture—and after 15 years in the biz, Jackson has strong opinions about what works best for whom. Here are a few of her favorite styling products:
For fine curls: Oléo-Curl Mist, a frizz-fighting, shine-enhancing lightweight spray, by Kérastase, 100 ml., $34, available at a variety of locally owned salons
For medium curls: Fight frizz without the heavy weigh-down with White Tea Magical Serum, by Scruples, 5 oz., $20, available at a variety of locally owned salons
For thick or coarse curls: Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize with Healthy Hair Butter, by Carol’s Daughter, 4 oz., $10.50, available at Sephora; or enjoy one of Jackson’s all-time faves: Baby Buttercream, by Miss Jessie’s, 8 oz., $32, missjessies.com
For all curly types: Revitalize unwashed, day-old curls with Quenched, a spray serum by Curls LLC, 8 oz., $13, available at Sunny’s Discount Beauty Supply, Mpls.
You Go, Curl: 42nd Street Salon
Two years ago, salon owner Teresa Johnson made a business decision to go after the curly market. So she and one of her stylists, Carolyn Long, simply attended a two-day training with Devachan, the New York curly salon with a cult following. Needless to say, this wasn’t quite the curl-power rally I expected. Still, Johnson fulfills an important niche. As the only salon in Minnesota that offers Devachan’s famous curly cut, 42nd Street reels clients from as far as Des Moines. Curly girls will go far for the right salon because, for them, haircuts often produce drastically short, unshapely results. This happens because stylists usually wet and brush our springy curls, then tug them straight as they snip. But Johnson cut my hair in its natural state: dry, frizzy, defying gravity. She gave more of a sculptural cut. “The one thing about cutting curly hair is it’s not a technical cut—it’s more of a visual cut,” she explained. Curly cuts start at $65. 4805 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-729-4415, e42salon.com