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The Girlfriend’s Guide To Curly Hair After 40

For some of us, no amount of flat ironing will beat our curls into submission.

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I inherited a lot of things from my father: his quick wit, his impatience in traffic and his cleft chin. I also inherited a family trait going back generations that my father passed on to me as well: kinky, frizzy, curly hair.

And I’m talking curly, people.

Women tell me all the time that they are jealous of my curly locks, that they pay huge sums of money to have their hair permanently affixed into ringlet curls with chemicals. They tell me they wish they had my volume and they wish they had the joy of never having the same hair twice.

And, while I politely smile outwardly and accept their compliments, secretly I’m rolling my eyes for infinity.

Ladies, here’s the thing: No one actually wants curly hair. In fact, I’d venture to say that women stopped wanting curly hair when jacked-to-Jesus hair went out of fashion as the grunge phase took over. And, given my completely unscientific poll of the cafe from which I type (read: a quick look around the joint to confirm), straight, flat-ironed hair is the gold standard for women.

Unfortunately, for some of us, no amount of flat ironing will beat our curls into submission and we are forced to tame our tresses on the daily. Luckily for you, I have close to 40 years of experience with my curly hair, and I’m about to share some products with you that will change your life.

  1. Hair primer (yes, just like paint primer)

As any curly girl will tell you, curly hair is not just “wash and go.” Far from it, actually. Curly hair takes time and patience to style and that means starting the minute you step out of the shower. Hair primer works three ways: It detangles, defines and refreshes your hair. And, considering how much heat we expose our curls to between diffusing and curling irons, you’ll thank me when you see how soft your curls feel when you use this before you add the hair spackle.

  1. A heated styling brush

When my hairdresser introduced me to a heated styling brush about 10 years ago, I almost cried. Seriously. I know it sounds ridiculous, but you curly girls will back me up: Our curls never look smooth and perfectly rounded when we’ve finished drying our hair. In fact, most days, my hair looks like an explosion at a mattress factory when I’m finished diffusing my hair. This little magic wand smooths out the flyaways and creates the illusion of perfectly rounded curls. And total bonus: It gets hot in like 30 seconds.

  1. Anti-humidity spray that you didn’t purchase from a drugstore

OK, hear me out: I know that sometimes it can feel like you are paying a king’s ransom for hair products in a salon. I get it, I do. But, there are places you can cut corners to make way for the products that will really make your curls look amazing. And, sometimes, that means not buying that “beach waves” product that you and I both know will just make you look like you have a pile of dried seaweed on your head. Save your pennies for a really good antihumidity product from your salon. I love it and could not survive a hot, steamy summer without a bottle in my arsenal.

  1. A really good brush that you barely use (yes, really)

One of the reasons curly hair can become so unruly is overbrushing before styling. My hairstylist made me promise I’d brush my curls exactly once a day: right after towel drying. And that’s it. No more brushing, no matter how much you want to. And, she made me promise to buy a really good brush (one that didn’t come from the dollar bin at Target). I bought one, and I love it — mostly because it feels amazing on my scalp. Be careful, though: Copper bristles get HOT if you use a brush with a hair dryer. Learn from me.  

  1. A hairstylist who actually knows how to cut curly hair

Yes, you might need to break up with your hairstylist after reading this. No, I’m not sorry. Curly girls, hear me: You are fighting a losing battle if you are starting with a cut that isn’t right for your curly locks. Curly hair requires layering and special trimming techniques that can help minimize volume and frizz. I hate to break it to you, but you are wasting your money if you are seeing a stylist who hasn’t taken classes on how to keep curls looking good. And, it’s OK — just show her this list and she’ll agree it’s time to part ways.

So, to the straight-haired women of the world, listen up: The next one who tells me that having curly hair is easy is gonna get a spritz of antihumidity spray right to the eye. Just saying.