September 10, 2017

My Curl Journey at a Glance

My decision to kick my flat iron for good and embrace my curls at the ripe old age of 38 can basically be summarized in one photo:

That's my daughter Kennedy, who had just turned two when the photo above was taken. 

She was the catalyst for All. Of. This. 

After telling her since the day she was born that she has the most gorgeous head of curls I've ever seen, it dawned on me one day that she would never believe me if I continued to make it my life's mission to straighten the bejesus out of my own curly hair. 

So, in November of 2015, I vowed to never straighten my hair again.

And the journey that followed has changed my life. The collage below details the "cliff notes" version of what I've gone through:

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: This experience has simultaneously been the most difficult yet most rewarding thing I've ever done.

Here's a closer look at why:

July 2014—Although it had been well over 10 years since I had chemically straightened my near waist-length hair, I was majorly obsessed with flat ironing the hell out of it. I was 37 years old and had no idea what my natural curls looked like. If someone had held a gun to my head and told me to style my curls, I would have opted for the bullet because I would have had no earthly idea of what to do. 

March 2015—My hair was still chemical-free and I was still conducting 4-hour blow-outs on the regular in order to keep it bone straight. Here, I had just given myself my first ever self-trim (while my kids were in their playroom watching Paw Patrol and inhaling fruit snacks) after watching a tutorial on YouTube. I was pretty proud of myself. Going curly was the farthest thing from my mind.

May 2015—Here's the thing: After years and years of flat ironing my hair to the tune of 450 degrees, my strands had long been fried, but, still, I look at the photo above, and, to this day, it's like a dagger to the heart because this point in time is where I arguably did the most damage to my hair: In addition to blow drying and flat ironing my hair, I was also curling my hair with a 2-inch barrel curling iron (also heated to 400+ degrees) to create those soft waves pictured above. I styled my hair like this for the entire summer of 2015, and I swear to God, each and every time I got done doing my hair, the entire west end of our home reeked of burning hair. Ewww. Don't get it twisted: My hair was long, but it was still extremely damaged. 

November 3, 2015—Man, is this photo bittersweet: It is the last photo taken of me with straight hair. My son Scotty, my daughter Kennedy, and I had met friends at a local cider mill, and as we enjoyed a hayride through the apple orchard, I knew that I had already made the decision to never straighten my hair again and that tomorrow when I washed my hair, I was going to be a curly girl like Kennedy. I told her that we would then be twins. Boys, was I in for a rude awakening...

November 4, 2015—When the kids went to bed, I jumped in the shower, washed and conditioned my hair, and when I stepped in front of the mirror, this—THIS!—is what it looked like: Dry, frizzy roots with wavy, brittle ends. I was devastated. It was a far cry from my daughter's gorgeous curls. Turned out, years of flat ironing had irreversibly damaged my hair. There was no bringing my curls back. I would either have to cut all my hair off—aka "big chop"—or slowly cut off my hair over time while transitioning to head full of healthy curls.  I chose the latter.

December 2015—Please, please, please don't be fooled by the smile on my face and the half-way decent appearance of curls in this photo. I had basically been reduced to wearing my hair half-up/half-down because my roots where so frizzy and, basically, confused: Although my hair grows relatively fast, I hadn't yet accumulated enough growth to make a full curl; meanwhile, my ends were so damaged that they were breaking and snapping like twigs. In fact, there were pieces in the back of my head that were stick-straight.😞

May 2016—Although my head was shedding like dog fur, I still couldn't bring myself to voluntarily cut my hair off. I was seeing considerable growth, but my roots were still devoid of any definition, so I cropped the top of my head out of this photo. Overall, I was still pretty depressed about my hair, but I was six months in, and there was no turning back now.

Labor Day Weekend 2016—I'm finally, finally starting to see some progress! I had had my first real haircut by a local Deva-trained hair stylist by the name of Melissa Stites (who is FABULOUS, by the way!). Unlike straight hair, it is best for curls to be cut when the hair is dry as opposed to wet. Think about it: When curly hair is wet, it appears a lot longer; but it shrinks as it dries. The problem arises when you cut curly hair when it's wet...and then when it dries, it looks completely unlike you thought it would. On the other hand, when curly hair is cut dry, you are infinitely more likely to create the shape and cut you really want. (Still, I wouldn't recommend attempting a dry cut on your own. In fact, I wouldn't go to just any hair stylist—ONLY go to stylists who have experience in cutting curly hair dry. Click here to use the search finder I used to find Melissa. This database contains a plethora of qualified stylists who specialize in cutting and caring for curly hair.)

September 2016—This photo gives me "all the feels," as they say. It was taken at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, right after the Lions wives and girlfriends dinner to kick off the new season. Now, don't get me wrong, my ends are borderline straight and I still had a long way to go. But I've also got about 6 inches of new growth in this pic and I'm starting to feel like I'm getting somewhere.

November 18, 2016—You may have to squint to see it, but my hair had grown quite a bit from mid-September to when the photo above was taken in mid-November. And, UGHHHHH, I was so ready for my next trim with Melissa that would be the next day! Look at those thinning ends. They had to go! But, on the bright side, my roots were growing thicker and thicker by the day.

November 19, 2016—This was the absolute shortest my hair has ever been. EVER. I was a bundle of nerves as Melissa snipped my ends, but I couldn't fight it. It had to be done for the sake of the progress I was working so hard to achieve. But when all was said and done, I loved the shape, I felt oddly liberated, and this marked the first time since I had embarked on this journey that I felt good about my hair.

Thanksgiving Day (November 24) 2016—It was a couple days shy of a full week since I had had my last trim, and, I swear, my hair was just getting better and better. My hair wasn't growing any faster, but I was seeing a noticeable change with regard to my hair's length because the breakage had basically stopped once the majority of my damaged ends had been cut off. Looking back, this was precisely the point where things started to turn around for me.

February 2017—Look. At. The. Progress. Here. Compare my ends in this photo with my ends in the photo above. It's freakin' night and day! Confession: During a fit of rage one night in early January 2017, I had cut much of what remained of my dead ends. And it felt so damn good to do so. Right before this photo was taken, I had just been diagnosed with a viral infection and my throat was killing me. But I remember being so geeked that this selfie turned out that my pain was pacified, albeit briefly.

May 2017—I was absolutely loving my hair at this point. What had remained of my dead, damaged ends had been cut one month prior on April 1—my 40th birthday—when I had visited Melissa again for yet another trim. At this point, in May 2017, I could safely say that I was done transitioning. What you are looking at here is the growth I had accumulated from November 2015 until May 2017. When stretched, my hair actually reached to just below my collarbone here. 

June 2017—This is one of my absolute favorite photos to date. I mean, good vibes all the way around: I'm on Belmar Beach at the Jersey Shore with my family on a beautiful summer's afternoon. It had been well over a week since I had washed my hair, and that combined with all the salt water and moisture in the hair seemed to give my hair life. 

June 2017—What a difference a year makes. Please take a moment to scroll back up to the photo captioned May 2016. What I have directly above is a completely different head of hair. And, best of all, it's hair that has never been straightened (read: fried to all hell!) with a flat iron. And that, my friends, is what I am most proud of.💚

In case you haven't seen it, here's my welcome video on YouTube:

Thank you so very much for spending some time here today. And I hope you found the information above to be inspiring, or at the very least informative. 

In the coming weeks, I'll delve deeper into the products I use on my and Kennedy's hair (and why), as well as the tactics I now consider game changers.

One more thing I want you to know: 

If you enjoyed what you read here and want to learn more about my experience in greater detail, then download my e-book, Mommie Straightest, which you can find here.

Thank you so much for spending some time here!

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