Embracing My Naturally Curly Asian Hair

It all started when, while volunteering for a curl cutting class earlier this year, my hairstylist repeatedly, and in the nicest, well-intentioned way possible, kept asking me, “Rosie, are you SURE you’re OK with your hair being frizzy all the time?” It was a harmless question meant to provide clarification to my hairstylist on how I maintained my hair, but it turned out that the person most enlightened by this one simple question was me. Struck by how she described the current state of my hair, I continuously thought about how it even got to where it was that day at that West Hollywood salon. No one had ever commented on my hair being frizzy before. What was I doing wrong?

Fast forward to three months later, I found myself looking at old photos of my college years (2011 – 2014). I had some good moments then, as a matter of fact, I recall receiving multiple compliments on my hair during college! It had been a really long time since anyone complimented my curly hair. Then it hit me. The result of my “frizzy” hair was a combination of two crucial, saddening factors: that I truly didn’t know how to care for my hair and that my current routine was a way to tame its curls, not embrace it.

So what took me so long to decide that I wanted to start loving my naturally curly asian hair and go on a healthy hair transformation journey?

The result of my “frizzy” hair was a combination of two crucial, saddening factors: that I truly didn’t know how to care for my hair and that my current routine was a way to tame its curls, not embrace it.

Embracing My Naturally Curly Asian Hair

I WASN’T BORN WITH CURLY HAIR

True story: I was born with straight hair. In high school, my hair started forming waves then in college my hair became curly. That’s less than half of my life living with hair I didn’t know I was going to have for the rest of my life! Because of this very important fact, I’ve been dealing with an adjustment period and a learning curve to say the least. 10 years later, I’m STILL learning about how to care for my curls today.

Embracing My Naturally Curly Asian Hair

I DIDN’T HAVE A CURLY COMMUNITY TO SUPPORT ME

Learning how to care for my curly hair wasn’t (and still isn’t) easy. Although curly hair isn’t abnormal within my ethnicity (Cambodian), being the only daughter with curly hair in the family makes it difficult for my mother to advise me on how to care for and love it. Truthfully, my mother abhors my hair texture and is constantly asking why I won’t do a straight perm to “tame” it. She claims that my curly hair ages me, but considering she’s gotten a few perms in the ‘80s (and I have photographed proof of this), I think it’s safe to assume that she envies my hair more than she’s willing to admit.

Although I’ve never faltered to my mother’s idea of beauty, or that of my own culture, I don’t think I’ve ever tried to determine the true value of my curly hair because I never found or belonged to a community of people to support what was unique about me.

Embracing My Naturally Curly Asian Hair

I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW…UNTIL NOW

It’s already hard enough to have uncommon hair texture amongst your family members and people within your ethnicity and race. Top that with a lack of resources on how to care for your hair and you get COMPLETE CHAOS. It’s one thing to have curly hair, but it’s another thing to actually live with it. My first encounter of someone who taught me how to care for my curly hair was my beloved hairstylist of eight years. Although she meant well, I now realize that going to a curl expert will make the difference in knowing how to care for your hair.

My then hairstylist would always assume that my hair was dry and brittle because I wasn’t using the right products or that I was using too many heat styling products. Here’s the thing: for the last six years, I was using a shampoo/conditioner with safe ingredients and I didn’t own a heat styling product until two years ago!  I was under the impression that using a product labeled as “moisturizing” would do the job, but after doing a lot of research on what it takes to have healthy curly hair, it turns out that there are quite a few methodologies and product solutions one would have to incorporate to get it right.

That was not something my then hairstylist or my family could teach me, because they weren’t curl experts. We just didn’t know what we didn’t know.

Embracing My Naturally Curly Asian Hair

I hope to find comfort, confidence and celebrate who I truly am and best of all, I hope that I can inspire others to do the same.

In September, I declared that I would change my lifestyle and the attitude I had about my hair. I declared that I would not just say that I “love” it, but that I would show that I love it by unleashing its full potential. I’ve read that it takes up to six weeks for hair to transition from poor chemical usage on the strands and judging by the many progress photos I’ve seen of others logging their hair transformations over up to a year, I know that my journey is barely beginning.

This journey isn’t just about the superficial aspect of hair and looking stellar on the outside. I hope to find comfort, confidence and celebrate who I truly am and best of all, I hope that I can inspire others to do the same.

For the past two months, I’ve been doing tons of research lurking on a bunch of online forums, visiting websites of product brands and discovering other curly haired girls who rock. It’s been really exciting to connect with others and I’m hoping to do more of that. I recorded a video supporting this blog post, view it below by pressing play!