rochelleoliver.jpgI have curly hair, big, natural, untamable hair.

Some might call it kinky and others have called it nappy. My mother tells me to relax it, and my dad tells me to comb it. For a curly haired girl, these trials and tribulations are just tricks of the trade – or so I thought until Aug. 9, when two blonde ladies stroked their hands down the sides of my hair and told me to moisturize it.

“You’re so close,” said Shari Harbinger, director and curl educator of Deva Concepts, a company that sells hair-care products. The team toured South Florida to teach women how to work with their curls.

“You don’t even know how close you are,” Harbinger said while grasping my hair in her hands.

I felt like breaking into tears. I, along with a dozen frizzy-haired ladies stood in the GBS Beauty Salon in Coral Gables seeking more
than pretty hair: We wanted a life-changing experience.

Curly hair has a way of being difficult. Teaching my hair to sit and stay has proven harder than teaching my three-year-old dog Marley – who is very mischievous and sneaky – to obey.

So when I was invited for a complimentary cut and conditioning by Lorraine Massey, the lion tamer of frizz and fros, I happily accepted, but not without hesitation.

I mean, seriously, what could a white woman teach me about my natural black hair? Boy, was I wrong.

While I waited for my time in the chair, behind several other frizz heads, I spoke with Harbinger to discuss curl misnomers.

“Curly hair is finer. It’s more fragile and the structure is flatter than straight hair,” Harbinger said. To add complexity to the strands, curly hair has more pores than straight hair.

Picture watering a potted plant with too many holes at its base. It requires more water, since most of it drains out. Hair, like roots, searches for nourishment when there isn’t enough locally, hence frizz.

“Frizz is hair that needs moisture,” Harbinger said.

It all started to make sense.

Pores and texture are just part of the story.

Massey and Harbinger preach three things curly-haired girls must stop doing immediately:

1) Stop using lather shampoo, which contains sodium laurel sulfate – a drying agent.

2) Stop moisturizing with artificial products. These product might work momentarily, but not for the long haul.

“You’ve been thinking you’ve been moisturizing, but in fact you’ve been coating and topically – for the moment – improving the condition of the hair, but not repairing the hair,” Harbinger said. “It’s like the fix of the moment, and that goes away and you’re still left searching and hoping and not having your needs addressed.”

Instead, use products with natural botanicals, which is what Deva Curl products contain.

3) Stop drying your hair with a towel. The nubs tear apart the curls. Instead, use a smooth surface like a paper towel or a T-shirt.

I was a culprit for all of the above. And a note especially interesting was that African- American hair is finer than European hair, and therefore absorbs less moisture at once. Think of a Big Gulp straw versus a cocktail straw: Only a certain amount of liquid can be consumed at a time. Because of this, black hair appears thicker and fuller because it’s often dehydrated.

I was enlightened, but I acted like a baby when my hair was being cut. I swore they weren’t going to do it right. Customers even yelled out: “Get this girl a glass of wine.”

No one got me any wine, and the stylist didn’t mess up my hair. Another Deva claim to fame is their dry cut, which is exactly as it sounds. The curly hair is spritzed to recreate the natural curl of the hair. It’s then trimmed, a mere quarter inch, maybe even less.

I was then taken through a wash process where No-poo, a natural non-lather cleanser, and One Conditioner was applied.

Afterward, I was slumped over my knees and let my hair fall over towards the floor. I was taught to scrunch my hair dry with a paper towel.

After that, I used the same scrunching technique to apply gel and the conditioner to my hair. To finish, I slowly rose to an upright position while rotating my neck so that my hair gently fell into place.

All that was left to do was dry, which can be done via air dry or under a dryer.

Lorraine Massey and Shari Harbinger proved me wrong in every way. No longer am I the frizzy haired girl with unruly hair. I’m now a curl Deva, too.

Photo by Khary Bruyning. Rochelle Oliver