Why I Believe in the Power of a Good Curly Haircut

Solange Franklin is a New York-based fashion editor and freelance stylist who knows the power of a good curly cut. “Once you have that, 90 percent of the hard work is done.” Below is everything you want to know about her hair, from routine to dream hairstyle (it involves flowers). And if you’ve caught the hair bug, not to be confused with a hairball, you can read about Sarah’s hair, Amelia’s hair, Erica’s hair, Nell’s hair, Shiona’s hair, Simone’s hair, Arabelle’s hair and Megan’s hair after that.

How often do you wash your hair and when?

Ideally once a week. Realistically, whenever I feel like it or my coils are on the verge of lockage.

What’s your hair approach in the shower? What products do you use?

I’d love to be loyal to specific brands but I’m lazily cycling through different options to see what’s really working for me. Right now:

1. Soak hair
2. Apply maybe ¼ bottle of Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Curl & Shine Conditioner
3. Depending on motivation level, separate hair into quarters or eighths
4. Comb each section, starting from the ends, with Ouidad double-tooth comb
5. Massage scalp
6. Rinse and re-apply dollop of conditioner as leave-in product

What’s your daily routine and how long does it take? Do you do something different for special occasions?

I let the steam from the shower penetrate my hair because it loosens the curl enough that I can reshape and fluff my hair once I’m getting dressed. Maybe three times a week, I’ll put a dollop of conditioner in as a leave-in moisturizer for the ends.

A special occasion is the best motivation for the full comb-through routine, but otherwise I follow the daily: allow the hair to feel dew-covered, pull it to stretch and shape, then dash out the door.

How often do you get it cut?

Once a season.

Tell me about a standout hair-related memory.

I think I was eight when my mom told me I was going in for a trim and secretly told the hairdresser to chop it all off instead. She did the same thing to my older sister; I was naïve to think the household shaming would’ve preempted her from doing it again. She had short hair at the time and wanted us to be fuss-free, too. I’m still bitterly amused by her boldness.

Have you gone through a bunch of hair phases or had the same hair your whole life?

There was the unfortunate pageboy-ish chop. Following that, I vowed never to let anyone cut my hair again, which I think I stuck to until ninth grade. As an athlete, it was hard for me to maintain a cute hairstyle that I liked, so I pretty much always had a ponytail. I did love box braids with extensions. I had a perm, probably from ages 10 to 16, and I’m still in disbelief that I tried to wear a different hairstyle every day in middle school. I’d press it with a hot comb and sometimes set it with rollers but I never developed a talent for hair styling.

Then, at 16, a hairdresser who claimed to be Aaliyah’s stylist told me I didn’t need a perm. He said it would grow faster and I should never let someone give me a middle part. I was shook. And I’ve been natural since then. I kept pressing it until 2011, I think, when a visit to the salon left me with heat damage and my curl pattern was bizarre for so long I promised to never to straighten it again. Since then, I’ve been committed to curly hair.

When do you hate your hair?

Never. That’s not to say in the past I wasn’t utterly confused by it, or didn’t wish for a seemingly simpler answer to the question, “How do I get my best hair?” Once I embraced my hair and went through some trial and error, though, I just accepted that I didn’t need perfectly uniform curls or other ideas we’re sold to dislike ourselves. I do hate that there aren’t more products to accommodate my hair. (I’m down to be an angel investor for an Afro helmet company!)

When do you love it?

Every day. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

What’s the worst hair-related decision you’ve ever made?

For a swim team initiation in high school, the seniors raided the freshmen’s beauty cabinets to humiliate us with tacky glam and costumes. When they showed up at my house, I was sleeping in my older sister’s room instead of my own, so they put her hair product in my hair.

Her hair product happened to be dreadlock cream — my hair started to lock after a few hours. Long story short: I ended up having to cut my hair off again (and this time my mom wasn’t whispering in anyone’s ear). The unkind rumor mill at school churned out the false story that my hair had “fallen out” because of a chemical reaction between a perm and chlorine. It was very traumatic at the time.

Have you ever cut your hair yourself?

I know folks who do it to save money and to feel that they can control something in their lives, but I’ve just never had the confidence. I think it’s a good goal for me to learn how to do a basic trim, though. I get too busy to go to the salon and I don’t prioritize timely cuts!

Have you ever stopped a stranger with great hair and asked them what they did to it?

I was doing a pull at Kiki de Montparnasse in my early assisting day, and this drop-dead gorgeous girl had the most perfect, modern Afro. I shyly but firmly asked her for advice and she said, “You know what. Don’t judge, but this Italian man at Ion Studio really knows what he’s doing.” She wrote his name down on the back of a receipt and I immediately booked an appointment. I couldn’t afford the haircut but I happened to know one of the salon owner’s wives, a casting director, and she generously offered a discount. It was a turning point in my hair story because I realized the power of having a good curly cut. Once you have that, 90 percent of the hard work is done.

What does your hairdresser tell you to do that you routinely ignore?

“Rinse with cold water.” I refuse because I hate being cold.

What misconceptions do people have about your hair?

That it’s difficult to maintain. It annoys me when white people say it, but it breaks my heart when women of color say it. Everyone’s hair is different, but the assumption that it requires painstaking maintenance can be so tied up in internalized hatred that I always take the time to tell black women that a) it gets easier and b) I spent way more time agonizing over my hair to make it straight, or achieve so-called perfect curls. It’s one thing to have trepidation about change, but I hope the messaging we receive about our supposed difficult tresses does not motivate that fear.

Who has your favorite hair in the world and what’s your personal dream hair?

Minnie Riperton with baby’s breath is on my perennial mood board.

Photos by Edith Young. 

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  • Akosua

    love this!

    • Diann Phillips

      Terrible no style

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    Love this. Have been going back and forth about chopping all my hair off (relaxed hair) and starting from scratch and this has me leaning towards doing it.

    • Kimberley Boehm

      I’m sure you’ve heard testimonies from many other about going natural. Here’s another: At the age of 16, I chopped my hair off and went natural. I have been free ever since. I’m almost 58 and now I’m gray-haired, too. Curly hair is the most beautiful hair in the world. Solange has amazing hair.

  • Paige Kay

    Haley, Man Repeller – Can you guys feature an article about a Black, kinky haired woman with WAIST LENGTH hair? That is the goal for many of us (besides having healthy hair, obviously, loving and embracing your hair, and having a good, reliable routine). My natural hair is bigger and longer than the lovely doll interviewed, and finding a good routine to get my hair passed its current mid back length has become a full time job. I’m knees deep in YT videos lol for low porosity hair like mine!

  • Paige Kay

    Also, the paragraph about misconceptions is EXACTLY what I felt about that article a few weeks ago where the American Nigerian girl was lamenting and pretty much hating her natural, God given hair. How discouraging was that??!

    • Gentlywithoutnoise

      Speaking of misconceptions and please correct me if I’m wrong but who’s to say that Solange does not herself have waist length hair?

      • ATT

        Have you seen Solange’s hair….?

      • Paige Kay

        When did I say Solange didn’t have waist length hair? I simply asked Man Repeller to feature a woman who does have waist length hair, and discuss that routine, to help the rest of us out. I’m so confused by your comment lol

        • Gentlywithoutnoise

          Solange Franklin is the woman featured in the article. Who is discussing her routine and I’m just asking because I was confused in your comment as well. As if her hair does not fit the typical image of healthy natural hair down your back?

  • Chelle

    Her note about being an angel investor for an Afro helmet company = gold. I bike from BK to the city almost everyday in the spring/summer and (SORRY MOM) rarely wear a helmet when my hair is natural because they don’t fit over my afro/box braids.

  • s o l a n g e

    • Miciah

      She’s definity goals

  • Kimberley Boehm

    Thank you for this interview. Solange, you have beautiful hair.

  • tamara winawer

    curly girl here…this is so spot on!!! it has taken me 5 (!!!!!) decades to get a perfect curly haircut- and color! i’ve spent my whole curly life in “ok” and grateful for when it isn’t a complete disaster!! straights simply cannot understand…

  • Selena Delgado

    So many years struggling to come to terms with my curly hair have led me with little choice besides getting a Japanese straightening. I’m 39 and STILL need to continuously work through the lifespan of trauma from blatantly racist comments my own Puerto Rican family, friends and colleugues would make; either at myself or my mother (she got, “the bad hair” from her moms side of the family) this article felt really good to read. Although my hair is curly, it was often unkept as a child or improperly styled, as evidenced through photos of my youth. My choices were either perms, relaxers or weekly Dominican blowouts (since the age of 13). To this day, I will never forget the day someone complimented my hair in it’s natural state, I couldn’t accept it and shot back a look as if I were being insulted, but it was genuine. so sad. Now that my 2 inches of new growth are beginning to reveal my curls’ (the truth), her story gives me hope that one day, I feel the same way too.

  • Junglesiren

    Thanks for this. And your ‘fro is poppin’! Only now, in the youth of old age (56), have I learned how to deal with my hair, keep it healthy, and accept how unique it is. It does require an amount of attention and care that it didn’t require when I relaxed it, but now that I have discovered which ingredients work best for me, AND the importance (in my case) of a protective braid-job that keeps it beautiful when it’s in its full-blown Afro, kinky/nappy beauty… I love it! It is the hair that I have wanted for a long time. I am… as they say, happy to be nappy!

  • mlurve

    100% agree on the ignoring the “rinse with cold water” advice. I knowwww it’s better for my hair, skin, etc. but I need my shower to be basically scalding or else I am freezing!

  • i really appreciate you featuring a black woman and talking about hair on here. im a fan.