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Why curly hair is viewed with suspicion

Date

Natasha Hughes

Straight-laced ... Rebekah Brooks tames her mane for court.

Straight-laced ... Rebekah Brooks tames her mane for court.

Rebekah Brooks knew what she was doing when she tamed that wild mane of red hair for her London court appearance over the Murdoch phone hacking drama.

Her signature shock of curls had been labelled in the media as ''distracting'' and ''boho'', apparently signalling she was non-conformist and considered herself above the rules - not a message she was keen to send when facing charges of perverting the course of justice.

Curls have associations - unfortunate in some circumstances (like an international scandal) but more often favourable, according to Australia's leading curl specialist, Kristianna Michaelides.

The girl with the curl ... "Boho" hair deemed to be non-conformist.

The girl with the curl ... "Boho" hair deemed to be non-conformist.

Michaelides would know. A hairdresser and educator, she sports a head of natural tight curls which she has learnt over the years to accept, to manage and exploit and enjoy.

''When I was little, with my two straight-haired sisters, when someone would meet us they'd say 'we can tell who the naughty one is','' says Michaelides. ''Curly-haired people are seen as mischievous, with a sense of humour. I associate curls with creativity. People with curls tend to be at ease with themselves - if they're not fighting their curls, they must be happy within themselves.''

For years curls were there to do battle with. Curly-haired people invariably wanted straight hair out of a very human sense of contrariness and also because there wasn't the information on how to manage curly hair, or the products, available. ''It's a generalisation but most people don't have a concept of how to style their hair. They've never been shown by another curly-haired person or never been inquisitive enough to discover how to do their hair or to embrace their curls,'' says Michaelides, whose email address includes the word ''curls'' not once but thrice.

In the Eighties, the only curls to have were wash'n'wear perms - which behave very differently to natural curls - and the only style was big, thanks to the limited choice of styling product - gel or mousse. Even curly-haired people had perms.

''Now people are working with their natural curl,'' says Jo Smith, owner of Toni&Guy at Georges Melbourne. ''There's definitely an illusion that curly hair is easy, that it's wash and leave it at that, but it takes as much work as straight hair.''

Indeed, Michaelides says her ringlets give her two options - ''wash and get it sorted or wear a hat''.

But there are lots of benefits to curly hair. Grey roots are hidden and disguised much longer because they're lifted from the head. Fine hair looks thicker. And it can be fun in its unpredictability. It's never boring.

''The hair's not the same every day,'' says Smith, who likes to create a louche curl in her baby-fine hair by sleeping in plaits. ''You can change it quite easily. Instead of having to get it cut, you can just change the way you style it so it looks and feels different. Curling tongs and straightening irons can change the curl from fine and frizzy. Tongs can control and define the curl.''

Crucial is a good cut. ''I tell my clients to go to the front desk and look for a curly-haired hairdresser,'' says Nathan Armagnacq, master technical director and salon partner of OscarOscar at Chadstone Melbourne.

''They know how to style it, they know how to wear it - they've had lots of disasters themselves.'' Smith says care must be taken with how curly hair is layered and with the length to avoid ''microphone head''. ''You've got to break it up,'' she says.

Armagnacq believes this is best done with colour. ''Abstract colour works beautifully. Scrunching in a lightener - not balayage as such - to get a sunkissed look helps with texture.'' Colourists need to be familiar with curls, too, as texture determines how the dye is formulated. Coarser hair doesn't take colour as well. And, Armagnacq says: ''People with curly hair tend to be more reserved - they'll stick to one colour or a few highlights. The curl is a statement on its own, really.''

And there's the rub. Curly hair makes a statement when sometimes the only sort of statement that's desired is: ''I belong; I blend in.''

''The downside of curly hair is that you can look 'not done' and not groomed, because of its unpredictability,'' says Smith. ''But hairdressers understand it a lot more and can work with it better than they did, say, 10 or 15 years ago when there was nothing to tame it down. Now there's moisture balancing shampoos and conditioners and you can work with serums and cream-based products, souffles and dry shampoos. Curly hair can look different every day and it can look great every day.''

Michaelides says the best thing about having curly hair is that it has personality. ''On the few occasions I go straight, people don't come up to me. Curly-haired people are really approachable, a little bohemian perhaps. They're interesting. They're people worth knowing.''

Top tips for curly hair:
- Seek a curly-haired stylist and get their recommendation for a good colourist. Curly hair needs capable hands.
- Don't wash your hair every day. It's easier to style when hair is not so clean.
- Use good quality moisturising shampoos and conditioners. Always use product to style.
- Play with curling tongs to achieve different types of curl. They're easy to use at home - just grab the hair and wrap it around.
- Partial perms are now being used creatively - a fringe or a below-ears line of wave, for example. Very Great Gatsby. Victoria Secret curls continue to fascinate.

73 comments

  • I've battled with my curls all my life, but in my early 20s decided to accept them as part of me. I now rarely straighten my hair because I love my curls!

    Leave in conditioner is my secret to having neat looking curls. And finding a hairdresser who knows how to cut curly hair is also a must. Some hairdresser think they can do the same as they'd do to straight and it just doesn't work!

    Commenter
    Curly headed sheila
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    July 03, 2012, 11:38AM
    • Feel privileged. I have a friend with very curly hair and it always looks truly fabulous,extremely curly for a bloke is a bit of a prob though, the only time is was acceptable was the 70's. The afro.
      I don't think Christopher Pyne is ready to set the world on fire again with males curls.
      But I don't understand the obsession with people looking like they've ironed their hair.
      What is that all about?
      I'm envious of curls.

      Commenter
      righteo
      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 11:41PM
  • I used to hate my curly hair when I was younger, but now I love it! You definitely stand out in a sea of straight-haired people. I think I disliked it so much because I didn't know what to do with it, styling and product-wise. My poor mother didn't have a clue- she's got bone straight, fine hair, and she gets a daughter with crazy curls! Hairdressers love straightening my hair, even though I hate it because my hair is quite fine and there's not actually that much of it- the curls hide that! I just don't feel right without my curls :(
    The biggest trouble, aside from finding a hairstyle that looks good and is easy to maintain (wash, quick hand scruch of ends after product and go is all I have time for) is finding the right products. Having fine hair that is curly is hard, as many curl products are aimed at people with thicker, coarser hair that requires more moisture (i.e. those of African descent), and so my hair ends up an oily, limp mess, even with minimal amount of product. Anyone know any good products?

    Commenter
    Curly Sue
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    July 03, 2012, 11:52AM
    • Hi Curly Sue,
      I use Alfaparf Leave in Treatment. Rub it between your hands to take a bit of the oiliness out of it, then run through hair and scrunch to style. I love this stuff!

      I only shampoo my hair once a week, and use a moisturizing shampoo (a macadamia oil one that is all natural). I condition my hair probably every second day.

      At the same time, my hair is pretty thick and a bit coarse so it might not work for you.

      Commenter
      Curly headed sheila
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 12:22PM
    • So true, my hair is the same... I find instead of using styling products, just a very light leave in moisturiser works well to define curls. I use DeLorenzo Satur8 which is the only one I have found that does not weigh my hair down. Pantene Aqua Light is a good budget line for fine curly hair as well. I have yet to find a targeted "curly" range that is right for my hair.

      Commenter
      Strawberry Blonde Curls
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 12:30PM
    • I was recently told by a friend who is a hairdresser that the curly haired girls secret weapon is- Sorbolene!

      I have tried various expensive products over the years and none are as good as regular Sorbolene

      Commenter
      Curly by nature
      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 12:37PM
    • Thanks for these tips ladies. In the last ten years my hair has changed considerably is now a mixture of curl and frizz and I feel like I still don't have it under control. But I will have a go at your suggestions and see how I go.

      How does your hair "wake up" - mine usually looks like I've been caught in a wind tunnel for the last 8 hours. But I'm assuming you do your" leave-in conditioner routine" every morning that you don't wash?

      Like Curly headed sheila (great monika) my hair is also thick and course - and now has crazy grey hairs that seem to have a mind of their own!

      Commenter
      Kate G
      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 12:53PM
    • The best think i have found for my hair is Vivant Revitafoam. After i have towel dried I blow wave my fringe straight, then i put some Revitafoam all through, its like moose but doesn't leave your hair feeling crunchy. It also does not feel like you have any product in your hair.

      On the days i do not wash my hair i spritz a little with a water spray and also put a little Revitafoam in just. It gets rid of that fluffy look and fly aways.

      Commenter
      vj
      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 1:09PM
    • Agree with all the curly comments, and esp hard to find products for fine curly hair. Most have not worked - too heavy, too greasy, too oily.... Goldilocks??! - and generally out of the question anyway (as in, it had better work or else!) as I spend most of my working day outside in often dusty, windy conditions.

      But out of desperation due to complete boredom with my hair (agree it's hard to get a good cut/stye) and looking fuzzy and unkempt, have recently started using an organic brand which is fantastic - Chi Magnified Volume foam (make sure it's the foam, it's lighter) direct from supplier salon in Melb.

      As a no fuss person it's just wash, light comb and v. quick and gentle semi-blow dry (don't wanna look too scruffy), quick work through of foam with fingers. Supposed to do foam bit before hair dryer (yes I know hair dryer can be evil for curly heads) but seems to work better for me other way around. All the best!

      Commenter
      Yep it's curly
      Location
      Melb.
      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 1:26PM
    • Hi Curly Sue,
      I'm in the same boat as you...fine curly hair that can be limp and flat if I use the wrong products or too much. The best thing I have found is the Redken Fresh Curls Shampoo & Conditioner as well as their Fresh Curls Spring Mousse and then to scrunch dry it with a diffuser. The conditioner provides lots of moisture without being heavy and then drying it off quickly with the diffuser helps to give you great body and bounce to your curls so they don't appear flat.

      Good luck!

      Commenter
      Sar78
      Date and time
      July 03, 2012, 2:02PM

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