Why We Learned to Hate Our Curls
It ain't always easy having naturally curly hair. Growing up, many of us remember countless hours of covering up our natural curls with harmful hot treatments, excessive brushing, and headwear, thanks to a stigma around curly hair and negative stereotypes. Why do we put our God-given, beautiful, bouncy curls through so much? Here’s why we learned to hate our curls, and how we grew to fall in love with them again.
The Anti-Curl Movement
Many Latina women with curly hair were raised in a society that frowned on their natural look. The phrase pelo malo, or “bad hair,” has long been associated with well-defined curls and kinky hair, so much so that there’s even an award-winning movie with that title about the subject. Why all the shade? The answer goes back, quite literally, to our roots.
The Straight Hair Paradigm
If you constantly hear that straight hair is the nicest, shiniest, and most civilized way to appear, after a while you’re going to start believing it. The idea that curly hair is less appealing than straight hair among Latinas stems from the influence of Western beauty standards that stretches all the way back to colonial times.
Beginning in 1492 and lasting into the 1800s, Spanish explorers settled large parts of South America and beyond. They imposed ideals from their own cultures on indigenous people when they conquered new lands. One phrase they would use, the opposite of pelo malo, was pelo lacio, which roughly translates as “smooth and ideal.” This would be used to describe people from indigenous cultures who had hair that was more similar to the colonialists. To this day, we wield flat irons and other heat styling products, schedule routine keratin treatments with the hair stylist, and otherwise modify our hair care routine in the pursuit of pelo lacio.
Of course, we Latinos are not the only culture to be affected by the straight hair ideal. The politics of hair affects people of color around the world, and today is one of the common ties that bind Latinos and African Americans in the U.S.
Curly Hair is Unprofessional
It only takes one job interview -- the worst kind of job interview -- to know that curly hair is considered unprofessional for many employers. An insightful study conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business found a bias against Black women with natural hairstyles in job recruitment compared with Black women with straightened hair and White women with curly or straight hair. Unfortunately, curly hair is still seen by some members of the workforce as unprofessional, unkempt, even wild. The CROWN Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair,” is one way that lawmakers in the United States are trying to prohibit discrimination based on hair style and hair texture in the workplace and public schools, designed to protect people who rock braids, locs, twists, and knots. When you need laws to defend your natural curl pattern, you can understand why we've learned to hate our curls over the years.
You Have to See It to Believe It
From social media to Hollywood, representation has long been a problem. Growing up, many Latinas would watch television shows imported from the United States or even shows made in their country that adhere to Western beauty standards and not feature any curly girls. You couldn’t escape even during commercial breaks, where shampoo companies showcased smooth and silky hair as a standard. If you can’t see it growing up, how do you know that your natural curls should be on display for the world to see?
Are You Even Related?
It’s a fact of life that kids don’t always look like their parents. This is because some genes are more dominant while others are more recessive. Sometimes, genes work together or even have the ability to switch other genes off, which can lead to a child having curly hair even if his or her parents don’t. This can often lead to the dreaded “Is this your daughter?” encounters that seem, on the surface, harmless. Often, young people are desperate to fit in with family and peers. To be considered different from those we love because of curly hair can cause some kids to turn against their natural curls and reach for the heating tools.
How We’re Reclaiming Our Curls
Old habits die hard, but society’s acceptance of curly hair has definitely turned a corner. Instead of chastising people for letting their curls loose on the world, the curly girl movement celebrates natural hair and all its beauty. There's even a curly girl method, a hair care routine focusing on the right products for curls and designed to avoid heat damage, harsh hair care products, and other things that are kryptonite to curly hair.
Believe it or not, one reason for this change could be related to the COVID pandemic. People were spending more time at home, often working remotely, and didn’t feel the societal pressure to adapt hair to suit other people’s standards. As people began to return to work, they took their newfound hair freedom with them.
At Lu, we're all about the curly hair revolution! We developed the Freedom shampoo, conditioner and styling cream to give volume, bounce, and life to your natural curls. Made with a clean, nourishing formula, it delivers hydration, locks in moisture, and definition for all any curly hair type, from loose waves to tight coils, while adding body to flat or thin hair.
How to Care for Your Curls
If you've spent years of your life trying to tame your natural curls, you’ve probably done some damage to your hair and scalp. Heating tools can spark an unwanted chemical reaction in your hair, which leads to damage and dullness. Instead of reaching for the curling iron, straightener or hair dryer, use natural products for the same great results. Repair damaged hair with the gold standard for hair nourishment, LU’s Rescue Collection. By focusing on the root cause of hair damage from chemical dyes and straightening treatments, heat irons and the environment, this collection focuses on recovering your hair and will even help fight hair loss.
How do you feel about your curls? Let us know in the comments!