Hair Woes: Why I Straighten My Hair

BlogHer Original Post

I straighten my hair. Daily. To do this, I have to allow for more time to get ready. I spend more money on product than I do when I let my natural curls do their thing. I actually feel kind of sad some mornings when my curls disappear with the wave of my magic straightening iron. But I do it anyway.

My straightening routine is only saved by the fact that I have an angled bob with the longest portion of my hair barely grazing my chin. It's still lengthier than just letting my curls air dry, spritzing some spray and going.

  • I start in the shower with a good smoothing/straightening shampoo. I've used everything from Pantene's Medium-Thick line to Oscar Blandi Jasmine smoothing shampoo ($$). I almost always follow the shampoo with the matching brand conditioner, unless I have leftover of the previous brand.
  • I towel dry my hair and wrap it up to absorb as much moisture as possible while I get dressed. Then I wave buh-bye to my curls, run a brush through my hair, put a dollop of whatever straightening cream I'm using through my hair -- currently Pantene's newest offering -- and start the drying process.
  • My blow dryer is kind of insane, so even doing my hair in sections takes less than five minutes. I use a big round brush sometimes, but mostly my fingers to pull my hair down straight.
  • After it's dry, I pull up the middle section of my hair and secure it with bobby pins in a funny faux-hawk kind of way. I then use my straightening iron -- this one from Remington -- and straighten the sides and back before attempting the top. I let down the faux-hawk when I'm pleased with the sides and back and attempt to tame the most visible parts of my hair.
  • I usually finish off with a bit of smoothing serum for those pesky frizzies and a quick spray of anti-humidity hairspray to keep the back looking stacked and cute.

From stepping out of the shower to walking out of the bathroom with finished hair, I don't spend more than twenty minutes. It's still longer than it takes me otherwise.

It’s not that I hate my curls. I don’t. In fact, in the summer, I usually just let them have their wild way. If I don’t and I dare to step outside into the humidity, they just spring up anyway. I am aware that they are beautiful. I enjoy the compliments I get. But... and there’s always a but...

My curls were a source of supreme embarrassment for me as a child and pre-teen. My mother has stick straight hair. Straighter than straight. She didn’t know what to do with my very thick, semi-curly, mostly-wavy hair. So she had it permed to help the curls have more definition. Perms were all the rage in the 80’s and 90’s. I remember sitting in a salon chair at age eight or nine, realizing that the smell was awful, but hoping that the end result would be something better than what was currently on my head.

The end result? My mom still didn’t know how to teach me to do my newly permed hair. So she brushed my perm. To say that I was teased is putting it mildly. I was in tears at least once a week for two or three years because of a hair-related comment. I began to hate my hair -- gorgeous, thick, wonderful hair. Poorly styled, yes, but really it was healthy and wonderful. And I hated it.

During my senior year of high school, I finally learned how to do my curls. I went through a nothing-but-curls phase for quite some time, well into college. As I got older, I wanted to get away from my youthful long hair, and went for lengths that were more flattering to my face shape. They were shorter. It took me awhile to figure out how to make my curls work with shorter hair, but I figured it out.

Curly Hair, October 2009And then I stopped wearing it curly in general.

It’s silly really. It was just a comment from a co-worker who happens to have very curly hair. She made a statement about my curls and how her curls were somehow better than mine. I know my co-worker didn’t mean her comment to come out in a nasty way or to drudge up old insecurities, but I stopped wearing curls to work. And then I stopped wearing curls at all, minus our humid beach vacation.

I tried to shrug it off. I wanted to set a good example for my daughter -- who has the most beautiful curls you’ve ever seen. She has already received comments about straightening her hair, and I don’t want her to have my same insecurities. Which probably means I should just suck it up and get over myself. But most every morning, hair towel-dried off and curls flopping around, I make the decision to plug in my straightening iron. I take that extra time in the bathroom and change who I am simply so people might leave me alone. I don’t feel like putting myself out there for potential teasing, for the reminder of who I was and how I wasn’t ever quite who I wanted to be.

I recognize that I am not my hair. Perhaps I should have discussed my hair issues in therapy, but I really had more important things to work on. I know there are those with straight hair that long for versatile curly/wavy hair. All I really want is to forget the teasing.

I’m not the only one who straightens (gorgeous) curly hair.

Fire Wife Katie just posted a long, picture-heavy post showing how she straightens her equally long hair. What gets me is that she starts out her post with a picture of her high school curls and also admits that she didn’t know how to do her hair. I wonder if hair-life would have been different for either of us if someone had taught us? Her first straightening attempt is amusing.

It involved an iron — not a hair iron, but a clothes iron. The result was less than spectacular. My fuzzy hair, stiff and somewhat straight, fluffed out at the ends. It was slightly kinked in places, like a hair sculpture of a pyramid. It was a good attempt, yet still a massive fail. I gave up the straight hair quest and worked on perfecting my ringlets.

Bethany from Rinse Repeat just got a hair cut... er, fix... this week. Not only is it beyond adorable, but she explains how previous hair issues landed her in a hair predicament. Her hair woes started at a young age and once again featured a mother not knowing how to help a curly-headed child.

At age two, springy, course curls erupted all over my little head. My mother, unsure what to do with it all, trimmed it into a dirty blonde halo which floated around my chubby, smiling face. This was endearing until I was six, after which explaining why I, a Caucasian girl in the midwest, had an afro was somewhat difficult. The years which followed were flashes of frizz, mullets and one steady stream of uncontrollable mane.

Kendra from Carpe Diem is kind of freaking out about an upcoming haircut... today. She’s recovering from a bad haircut and is understandably nervous. She is considering side bangs, but recognizes that they may cause some other problems.

I'd have to keep them straightened. All the time. No exceptions. My hair isn't the kind of hair that will be okay with side bangs unless it's straightened. True, straightening side bands takes all of three seconds, but I'll eventually totally fry that little piece of hair. And it might look weird to have ONLY my side bangs straightened, which means I'll ALWAYS have to straighten ALL of my hair. Which definitely takes a lot more than three seconds.

Happy Crappy (best blog name ever) straightened her hair earlier this month. It took 60 minutes. She lists off things she could have done with that wasted time -- made 30 packs of 2 minute ramen! -- before she says something really, really important that I needed to read.

So straightening my hair has robbed me of 1 hour today, which means I’ll only have 23 hours left to do what I actually want to do. (I shudder to think how short my day would be if I had to add make-up to that equation…) Personally it seems like a bit of a waste and I think in future I’ll leave my hair to be whatever it wants to be and rather spend an hour doing something worthwhile. In fact, maybe it’s time we all had a good long look in the mirror and accept our hair the way it is.

If you ask me, it’s our priorities that could do with some straightening.

Of course, I jump to my defense and say that my hair takes, max, 20 minutes to straighten due to its short length. But that’s still 10 packages of 2 minute ramen. I’ll think about it tomorrow morning.

Do you straighten your hair? Why?


Contributing Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer.

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