Growing up as a mixed-race child, I never had a sense of what I was going to look like as I got older. Would I develop a dusting of freckles inherited from my white Irish mother, or almond-shaped eyes from my Black Somali father? My appearance ended up being a blend of both, a constellation of European and African physical features that I soon learnt how best to accentuate. My hair, however, remained mysterious to me: I had neither my mum’s auburn waves nor my dad’s Afro texture.
The squealing, infant joy of splashing about in the bath was inevitably undercut by the discomfort of having my hair washed. I would sit miserably in the water while my mother struggled to pass a comb through my matted locks. Well-meaning, she treated my hair as she would her own, blow-drying it and brushing it out into a halo of unmanageable frizz. That was what my hair would always look like. Or so I thought.
It was by luck that I discovered, at the age of 12, that I had curly hair. One day, in the summer holidays, I rushed out, wet-haired, into the garden to enjoy the morning sun. Under the heat of its rays, my hair began springing up into bouncing, uniform ringlets. So, this was what had been hiding for all these years? Besides a brief stint of succumbing to the adolescent peer pressure of straightening it, I have air-dried my hair ever since.
Nowadays, my approach to hair is still a muddle of trial and error because, in my experience, salons don’t always know how to look after corkscrew coils. I am frequently met with bemusement by hairdressers asking my advice on how best to cut my hair.
At-home trims were a last resort for many during lockdown, but my sister was cutting my hair before the pandemic. I rely on the counsel of my mixed-race friends: they are the ones who add me to curly-hair advice groups and teach me about ‘scrunching’ (holding handfuls of post-shower hair at the scalp to encourage curl definition).
Most of all, they have shown me that my hair is something to cherish, not fight against – a little patience and a dollop of leave-in conditioner go a long way.
Below, see Bazaar's edit of the very best products for curly hair:
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