5 Women on Why They Stopped “Taming” Their Hair
02.22.18

From a young age, most girls are acutely aware of the difference between “good” hair and “problem” hair. One ripples and bounces across TV screens during shampoo commercials; the other is spelled out on the bottles like a diagnosis: frizzy, dry, coarse, kinky, or — my favorite — unmanageable, as if the worst thing hair could do is defy your grooming attempts.

This impossibly narrow beauty ideal has all kinds of consequences for those who don’t fall within it, from bullying and alienation all the way to racial discrimination. This means it doesn’t just cost girls and women money or time, it can cost them a sense of inherent belonging or self-acceptance.

The silver lining of being force-fed dumb rules is the freedom to be gained by breaking them. The natural hair movement, which has done so much valuable work in eschewing and reshaping beauty conventions set with one type of (white) woman in mind, is one example of what shattering those rules can look and feel like.

There’s no shame in enjoying spending time on your hair, or reveling in the manipulation of it, but there remains something undeniably meaningful and subversive about skipping that process in favor of wild, frizzy or generally “unkempt” hair. To celebrate the literal and figurative beauty of that defiance, I asked five women who don’t tame their fluff to tell me how it feels to let it fly free.


Jasmine Burgos

Jasmine is a journalism student at Hunter College and a fashion intern living in Long Island.

How would you describe your natural hair? When did you start wearing it like this?

BIG, bouncy and wild! Since I was little, my hair has always taken over my face. Sometimes I can’t even see or I’m accidentally invading someone’s personal space. It’s great. I began to consistently wear my hair naturally by my freshman year of college.

Did you used to try to “tame” your hair?

My childhood consisted of hair relaxers and regular trips to the Dominican hair salon. You wouldn’t see me without sleek, straight hair. I remember all of the countless hours spent under the hairdryer ’til my ears burned and, to top it all off, the constant tugging away at my roots with a scalding blow dryer. But I endured every minute of it because, at the time, this was what girls with “difficult” or “time-consuming” hair did. It was my normal. I eventually grew to be obsessed with the process because the end product was beautiful.

Growing up, you’re taught that beauty is pain. I felt beautiful with my straight hair — it was softer, longer and a whole lot easier to take care of. If my hair wasn’t straightened, it was twisted up into a bun. Eventually, straightening my hair became inconvenient because I enjoyed exercise and I hated having to be careful with not sweating “too much,” or being super anxious to leave the house when it was raining or humid. It was an exhausting way to live. Once I began attending school in New York City, where it was much more diverse than my hometown, I began to care less about looking perfect, looking like everyone else, and looking like someone everyone else wanted me to be. I began to present myself comfortably and naturally, and that started with my hair and makeup. So far, it has been the most liberating decision of my life.

What’s your hair routine like now?

On wash days — typically Sundays — I wash with shampoo, detangle with a deep conditioner, let the deep conditioner absorb into my strands while I wash off the rest of my body, then rinse it out and end with a leave-in conditioner. Most of my washing/conditioning products are by Shea Moisture. I don’t rinse off most of the conditioner. If I want extra shape, I’ll add DevaCurl shaping gel or Cantu styling cream. I add all products while my hair is still wet, then I prefer to let it air dry if I can. Once it’s mostly dry, I’ll use the blow dryer on a cooler setting to get my volume up.

All other days of the week I refresh my curls by wetting them and reapplying conditioner to ensure they’re being moisturized every day.

What’s the most common comment or question you get in regards to your hair, and how do you respond?

Where do I begin!?

Is it yours? Is it real? Is that a wig? How do you, like, get it to do that? Do you curl it every morning? (This one is especially funny because I barely have time to apply makeup every day let alone tirelessly curl every single strand on my big head.) How do you even deal? Have you tried straightening it? And the biggest one of all: Can I touch it?

I realize that those who ask these kinds of questions just aren’t as exposed to black hair or big hair or any sort of different hair for that matter, so I can’t really blame them. I try to educate those genuinely curious. But for those who are clearly just trying to make me feel uncomfortable, I smile and show them that I’m proud of my kinks by simply saying, “Yes, it’s all mine and no, you may not touch.”

How does your hair make you feel?

Powerful. Funky. Unique. Audacious.


Katie Stockton

Katie is a Clinical Information Manager living in Staten Island.

How would you describe your natural hair? When did you start wearing it like this?

Fluffy, curly, yearning to spread its wings and become trapped in the car door as I close it. Aside from a few forays into bangs and some sporadic straightening with my mom’s CHI flat iron (which I never gave back, sorry Mom), my hair has been the same since high school.

Did you used to try to “tame” your hair?

I went through a couple phases of hair suppression. When I was younger, it was all about detangling and keeping it contained in a ponytail. If I ever complained about my hair being too hard to brush, my dad would offer to chop it all off with his pocket knife. I did not take this lightly because once at a softball game he cut a fat wad of gum out of my teammate’s hair after her fed-up parent gave him permission.

When I got a bit older, my mom tried to teach me how to blow dry it, which I never had much success with and wasted a lot of John Frieda Frizz-Ease in the process. Then the CHI came into our lives and I’d spend an hour or more making it super straight. Like, lifelessly-plastered-to-my-head straight. People paid me attention and were very complimentary whenever I wore my hair straightened, but in retrospect, I don’t think it was worth the time and effort. And it’d start to puff back up in any amount of humidity or sweat. Especially my baby hairs and cowlick.

I started consistently wearing my hair as is out of laziness and burgeoning self-acceptance.

What’s your hair routine like now?

I wash my hair every three days or so. I’ll brush out all the knots and shed hairs right before I get in the shower, then shampoo, comb through my conditioner with a wide tooth comb, clip it up, do my other hygiene activities, then rinse out thoroughly. I’m currently using the Acure Organics clarifying shampoo and OGX coconut milk conditioner. My go-tos used to be the Acure Organics moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, but I haven’t tried them since they reformulated.

The most important part of my routine is the air-drying. Right out of the shower, I very gently wrap my hair up in a classic bathleisure towel situation. I use one that is highly absorbent — NOT terry cloth — and waffle-textured. After that sits for 20 minutes or so, if I have the time, I’ll do the same thing again with a dry Turkish bath towel.

Once I’m tired of that/need to leave my house, I’ll take it down to finish air drying unrestricted. No touching, unless to flip it to the opposite side to encourage volume up top. If the ends look too dull or sad, or if I feel like smelling great, I’ll use some Stark Skincare hair oil. But I don’t rake it through! Just press it in.

What’s the most common comment or question you get in regards to your hair, and how do you respond?

“It’s so long!” is a frequent one, and it does not earn more than a one-word response from me. I feel like when people say this, they’re going for the most innocuous comment possible, which makes me afraid they are secretly thinking mean things.

Strangers and acquaintances also love to touch my hair without asking. Their eyes glisten and their hands shoot out while they tell me how much they love my hair. Thanks so much! But please don’t touch me without my approval!

How does your hair make you feel?

Sometimes like I have a bug on me. But it’s only a stray hair.


Beatriz Williams

Beatriz is an artist, grad student and future therapist living in Manhattan, New York.

How would you describe your natural hair? When did you start wearing it like this?

My natural hair is wild and alive. It has a mind of its own and I’m OK with that. I started wearing my hair as big as it is now a few years ago, after I graduated college and moved to New York City.

Did you used to try to “tame” your hair?

Up until a few years ago, “taming” my hair was always a part of my life. I remember trying out different products when I was younger including moose, gel, leave-in-conditioner… whatever would give me the least amount of frizz possible. Frizz was the enemy. Perfect, shapely, bouncy curls were the goal. Wearing my hair “big” now is definitely something I have grown into. Sometimes I actually make my hair frizzy on purpose and brush it out just to get an even fuller effect. My hair has become part of my identity. It reminds me every day how proud I am of my Latin/African roots. Because of this, I wear it big to make a statement.

What’s your hair routine like now?

I wash my hair maybe once or twice a week and put conditioner in it after I get out of the shower. I let it air-dry and shake my head from side to side, and up and down to help it dry with the most possible volume. Then I just let it do its thing.

What’s the most common comment or question you get in regards to your hair, and how do you respond?

A lot of people tell me that they like my hair and ask what products I use. I also have gotten that my hair looks like a pillow and they want to take a nap on it. I usually just say thanks and laugh it off. Some people do ask me if they can touch it and I tend to say yes more often than not.

How does your hair make you feel?

My hair gives me superpowers.


Sandy Sanchez

Sandy is a copywriter living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

How would you describe your natural hair? When did you start wearing it like this?

My natural hair is black, frizzy, a mix of very wavy waves and tight springy curls (especially in the bottom layer of my hair), with lots of baby hairs. The top layer, near my roots, sometimes has its flat days. I’d consider my hair a mixture of 2C and 3A, I think? It depends on the curl you pick out of my hair. I started wearing it naturally in 2013. Aside from my childhood years, of course.

Did you used to try to “tame” your hair?

I was a very curly-headed baby. My mom always told me that strangers would ask her if they could touch my hair. Once I hit around second grade, I started becoming self-conscious of my curly hair. I’d wear my hair in a tight, low ponytail every single day to keep it low-key and out of the way. I did this up until seventh grade. This was around the time side bangs and sleek straight hair was “in.” I still think about that scene where Mia in Princess Diaries gets a makeover and has her frizzy hair straightened out and she suddenly becomes “beautiful.” That scene would end up impacting me for years to come. I straightened my hair every single day starting in 2006 up until 2013 once I discovered the straightener, because I thought that beauty meant no curls and no frizz.

The straightener was my savior but my frizz always won the battle. I’d try so hard to have straight hair and by the end of the day, I could see the curls starting to come in again. It was a cycle of me hating my hair, straightening it, still being frizzy, seeing the curls coming back, getting mad, and then straightening it some more.

One day in 2012, I decided to wear my hair curly to school because I was getting sick of having to straighten it. I was absolutely terrified and I ended up getting so many questions. How come you’ve never worn your hair curly before? Did you curl your hair today? Omg, you look so different. I was still hesitant to wear it curly but then finally in 2013, the year I started college, I began to wear it natural every single day and I grew to love it more and more every day. For the first time ever, I didn’t care if I was a ball of frizz and regretted all the years I tried to hide it. Plus, I felt more like myself than I ever had in my entire life.

What’s your hair routine like now?

My hair routine is extremely low maintenance and I love it. I usually wash my hair one-to-two times a week because I’ve trained it throughout the years to not need to be washed so often. I comb my hair dry before washing it, so I only brush it one-to-two times a week as well. I’m not super loyal to any hair brand but right now I’m using the Pantene Curl Perfection and I’m loving it. Every once in awhile I use the OGX Coconut Curls Curling Hair Butter. Products always claim they’re going to “defrizz you,” but they never do and now I really don’t care if they do. I like to shower at night because then I can fall asleep on my wet hair, let it dry overnight, and wake up with tight, fluffy curls that are all over the place. It’s my way of “styling” it with my pillow overnight.

What’s the most common comment or question you get in regards to your hair, and how do you respond?

People are so sweet when it comes to their compliments and it makes me happy! Most of the time people say they wish they had curly hair, too. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable with their frizz, I like to tell them to just embrace it. A little frizz never hurt anyone! Another common comment about my hair I get is that “the frizz works on me,” so I guess that’s a compliment? Once in a while, I’ll get, “Do you ever get tired of the curls and straighten your hair?” To which I respond with: No, not really. Another question I get is “Can you let me straighten your hair one day? It’d be so fun.”

How does your hair make you feel?

It makes me feel so comfortable and cozy! My hair kind of feels like a part of my identity. I love that I don’t have to worry about how it looks. I don’t care if there are flyaways or frizz or a weird part sticking up in the back. I love waking up in the morning and leaving my apartment with my bedhead because sometimes, those are my best hair days. It’s also funny because, when you have big, frizzy hair, your friends can spot you from anywhere.

Hair is a pretty recognizable and signature part of you and, in a way, a form of self-expression, so I’m glad it makes me happy now! The fluffier, the better. I love meeting other fellow frizzy, curly-haired people because everyone has such unique curls and they’re all various shapes and sizes with different frizz levels and each curl is just so special and adorable.


Stacy Collado

Stacy works in a fashion showroom and is also a working model and dancer living in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

How would you describe your natural hair? When did you start wearing it like this?

Dry, frizzy, unkempt. I started wearing it like this when I decided those words didn’t have to mean “bad,” which actually wasn’t until… a year ago, maybe, out of the 23 I have been alive for.

Did you used to try to “tame” your hair?

My background is Dominican, so although it’s extremely common for people of my heritage to have naturally poofy/curly hair, it’s also customary in the culture to use various products and heating methods to tame it. I remember being really young, visiting relatives in the Dominican Republic, and sitting in someone’s living room while they put a hair-relaxing treatment on my head. Smooth and straight was the beauty ideal even among women who could never truly achieve that genetically. Now I know that those treatments were just chemically frying my hair and that it didn’t look good, just damaged.

What’s your hair routine like now?

For me, the trick is to rarely shampoo because it majorly dries out the frizz, and I love to condition so I do that daily. I don’t know if that’s a good thing to do or not. I air-dry, never wear product, and kind of just let my freak flag fly on the regular. I’m interested in dabbling in product these days, but I have yet to find the perfect recipe and I am really into letting it be.

What’s the most common comment or question you get in regards to your hair, and how do you respond?

My goodness, there are so many. “Do you ever straighten it?” followed by, “Does it take forever?” I just take it as an opportunity to go into a tangent along the lines of: “Yes, I spent many years of my life straightening and using all the frizz serums ever invented and realized unruly hair can be sexy AND professional AND just fine the way it is.”

How does your hair make you feel?

Like myself, which I think is probably the most important and most badass thing to be!

Photos by Emily Malan; follow her on Instagram @emilymalan.

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