Fashion Friday :: from curly to straight (and back again)

So I tried something this week that I’ve never done before – I flat-ironed my very curly, very thick hair. And it worked. And I liked it.

A lot of curly girls know their way around heating appliances quite well; I am not one of them. I’ve never used a flat iron and I’ve had a blowout precisely once, about fifteen years ago when a hair stylist friend asked me to let him try it. It took forever and then curled right back up before the night was done. In sixth grade, tired of being teased about my unruly red hair, I let my mom and my aunt chemically straighten my hair. It was an unmitigated disaster – the chemicals damaged my hair, which hung straight but also limp and gave my classmates new reasons to tease me. What’s more, the curls came back within a week. In my late teens, I finally accepted my curls, and in my twenties I finally discovered how to wear them (number one rule: no more short layers, including bangs!) and what products to use (number one rule: the right conditioner is key). I quit wanting what I didn’t have, I learned to love what I did have and to treat it right, and I honestly never really considered trying to straighten my hair in any way – blowouts, flat irons, or chemicals. My curl type is “3B,” which is to say that I have corkscrew type curls and my hair is curlier the shorter it is. I typically wear it in long layers:


I’ve been doing all sorts of playful things, appearance-wise, lately, including experimenting with new hairstyles. My new desire to try some new things does not at all imply some sort of rejection of my natural curls. I am still and always Team Curly! But sometimes, it’s just fun to do something different.

When I had the urge to look into flat-ironing curly hair, I went to YouTube and found this fantastic video – her hair is much curlier than mine (3C? 4A?) and it seemed like if she could do it, I should be able to. So I set out to acquire all the proper tools and products. I bought this flat iron, which I think is the one she recommends in the video (her link was dead, but she mentioned the name in the video):

I got the Conair Infiniti Pro Tourmaline Ceramic 1″ Straightener (only $22 and it has ceramic plates – also comes with a bonus bottle of Argan Oil).

Next I consulted my hair and makeup guru, Heather:


Then I set off for Sally’s Beauty Supply to see to gather some products. They didn’t have the Moroccan Oil Heather highly recommends, so I decided just to use the Argan Oil that came with the iron for this time. They also didn’t have the heat-resistant spray mentioned in the video, nor the finishing spray Heather told me about. So I got what the women at Sally’s recommended, Beyond The Zone Turn Up The Heat Protection Spray (which I ended up really liking).

I got home and got to work. I’m about to show you photos, but please no judging on my bathroom mirror. Ugh! I didn’t realize when I did this quite how dirty it was – the camera seems to pick up every speck – and I certainly would’ve cleaned it had I realized I’d be showing it to all of you! Anyway, here we go. I started with clean, dry hair, with my usual leave-in conditioner and one of my usual gels (I rotate through a few), dried under a hood dryer.

(honestly not loving how my hair was looking that day)

(honestly not loving how my hair was looking that day)

I sprayed the heat-protection spray everywhere and started sectioning it the way the girl in the video does:



Then I sectioned it further and got to work, putting a little argan oil on each section and using the Tangle Tamer Max (mentioned in the video) to get each section smooth and following the tangle tamer down each section with the flat iron. This part was pretty foreign to me, as not only am I not accustomed to using flat iron, I also don’t ever use any kind of brush or comb on my hair – I just use my fingers to detangle in the shower and then leave the hair undisturbed after putting gel in it.

Anyway, it worked:

first section, straightened

first section, straightened

It went faster than I expected it to, and before long, half my head was done:

20140314-120141.jpgThere’s a pretty big discrepancy in length, between the straight side and the curly side, but of course the curly side was also still up in a pony tail.

I kept going, and before long I was done:

20140314-120146.jpgHonestly, I was shocked that it worked. I am so used to having hair that does exactly what it wants that I really did not expect to have this much control over it.

20140314-120152.jpgIt took about 50 minutes to do all of it, and that included lots of consulting the video, texting up-to-the-minute progress to Heather, and being interrupted by a son who was, on the one hand, fascinated by what I was doing, and, on the other, terrified that something was going to go wrong. But nothing went wrong, and I was very happy with how it turned out.

the next day

the next day

I’m actually kind of surprised at how much I like the end result. I expected that either it would turn out poorly or that it would turn out right but that I wouldn’t like how it looked on me. I thought I would try it for a day and then go right back to curly.

But here I am four days later, and I feel like my hair is still looking pretty good:

20140314-120212.jpgIgnore that one piece that’s out of place, please! That’s one thing I’m not used to with straight hair – it’s actually possible to have your hair mostly “in place.” With my usual style, I just kind of let it be where it wants to be.

A few things that have surprised me:

  • how fast this was
  • how easy it was
  • how long it has stayed straight
  • how easy it has been to maintain
  • how much I like it

I’ll be washing it this weekend and going back to curly, but I’ll definitely be giving this a go again. It’s been fun to try something new, and to actually be pleased with the result. I still have some things to learn – like how to get the roots on the back of my head done, and how to properly treat my hair each day its straight (brush or comb? wrap and cover at night?), and how to treat the ends. I am interested in any tips anyone who has done this wants to offer.

Wow. Who knew I could write so much about straightening my hair? Some day I may write about my curly hair routine, and then you’ll really be surprised with how much verbiage I can use. Apparently, hair is a thing I can go on and on about.


Fashion Friday :: curly hair updos

Can we file “hair” under “fashion”? I don’t know. But today I am, because this is what I want to talk about for Fashion Friday.

I have long, layered, very thick, very curly (3B, if you know curly hair categories) hair. For the first ten years of my life, it was only slightly wavy. For the next ten years of my life, I fought with it. Somewhere in my twenties, I began to make an uneasy truce with it. And finally, in my late twenties, I embraced it. I never brush it, I never straighten it, I never do a blow-out. I just (mostly) let it do what it wants. I get a good cut, use great styling products, and try to treat it well, but otherwise, I don’t do much to it or with it. I like having a low-maintenance routine, and I can live with the fact that my hair doesn’t really look “professional” (the way some people think of “professional” at least – sleek, crisp, controlled – i.e., STRAIGHT).

almost always a little bit messy

almost always a little bit messy

But lately, I’ve been finding that I’d like to experiment with my look a little bit. I basically have always just worn my hair down, even at my wedding. My only variations ever is the very, very occasional ponytail. At home, I almost always pull it back in a clip, but it is not really a good look for me for wearing out and about.

This time last year, I went to my stylist for a haircut. She knew I was getting ready to go out for a Christmas event, so she offered to put my hair into an updo for free. I had never, ever had an updo before (like I said above, not even for my wedding); I gave it a go.

feeling fancy

feeling fancy

I really liked it!

When I took it down that night (which made me sad!), I was staggered by the number of bobby pins it took. I think there were like 60! I had watched my stylist carefully as she worked, but I remained unconvinced that I could try this at home. So I didn’t.

But then it was time for Halloween this year, and I wanted to go as Lucy Ricardo, from I Love Lucy. This called for an updo!
In the warm, dry house while the fam is out trick-or-treating - Lucy, you got some 'splaining to do! #halloween #selfie #ilovelucy #lucilleball #redhead #costume
I basically just kept piling hair up in the back and pinning it with bobby pins, while trying to keep the front loose.

a little bit messy

a little bit messy

I think keeping the front loose is really important for me to feel comfortable wearing my hair up. I have a rather large noggin and my full hair seems to help balance it out a little bit.

But I still don’t feel I have the hang of this. For the Lucy costume, I seriously just pulled up hair and pinned kind of blindly (I don’t have a mirror system in my bathroom where I can see the back of my hair without a handheld mirror). I think it looked okay, but nothing like what my hair stylist managed.

Still, I’m interested to try this more, and I’d love to know any advice, tips, examples, etc., that any of you have for updos. So here are some of my questions:
– Do you ever pin your own hair up? Especially if you have thick curly hair, what are your tips for making this work?
– Where do you wear this style? Are there casual-style updos that you would be comfortable wearing out for work or for casual events?
– Are there websites and/or tutorials that any of you have seen that you would recommend? I have of course been looking up things on Pinterest and elsewhere, and have found some good-looking stuff. Most of it is aimed a people whose hair isn’t really as thick or curly as mine, but some of it is for us curlygirls, which I appreciate. But I’m always interested in links that people can actually vouch for as being helpful. So hit me with your best stuff!
– And beyond updos, what other styles – besides just down – do you think look good for curly hair?

Okay, so it may seem like I have now written an awful lot about my hair, but trust me when I say I could write/say so much more. I will spare you … for now.