After more than 15 years of straightening her (naturally curly) hair almost every day, beauty editor Lucy Partington stopped – and the results were actually impressive.
Whenever I tell people that, I’m usually met with a surprised or shocked response, mostly because I straighten it every single day (unless I’m on holiday, in which case I will happily let it dry naturally in the sun) so you’d never actually know by looking at it.
I’ve straightened my hair for years. When I was at secondary school I’d carry around portable Babyliss straighteners (that were powered by a literal gas canister) to use if it became victim to even the slightest gust of wind. I think they only reached about 8°C so while they did little to nothing, it was the act of straightening that, psychologically, made me feel better about how I looked that day.
Making sure my hair was straight became something of an obsession. If even one strand dared to flick out at the wrong angle I’d tie it up, not caring that I’d spent the best part of an hour styling it. Eventually, I gave up and didn’t bother wearing it in anything but a ponytail for a good five or six years.
Then, after a bloody good cut in 2017, I began experimenting a bit more. I learnt how to use curlers (so that meant I would dry, straighten and then curl it…) and I started wearing it down. I stopped caring so much about it being poker straight which, in itself, was a real turning point. I still had bad moods relating to bad hair, but they happened less often.
That was my normal routine until a few weeks ago, when resident curly girl and Stylist’s junior beauty writer, Ava, finally persuaded me (after almost a year of asking/pleading/begging) to let it dry naturally.
It’s not that I necessarily hated my hair curly, it’s just more that a) I didn’t think it really suited me and I wasn’t used to seeing myself look so different, and b) I didn’t have the confidence to go out in public with it; for some reason having curly hair was a real mental block for me and something I couldn’t get over.
The first night I washed my hair using Boucleme’s Hydrating Hair Cleanser, £15, followed by Curl Conditioner, £17. I wasn’t a massive fan from the off though, simply because the cleanser didn’t foam up. I know avoiding sulphates is good and I’m not averse to it but I just don’t think that particular formula was good for my hair. I know Ava swears by it though – as do numerous other people I’ve spoken to – so maybe I’ll give it another go soon.
The next night I switched to Only Curls, using everything in this set of mini products, £30, which includes All Curl Cleanser and All Curl Conditioner. Then, while my hair was still wet, I scrunched in a 10p-sized-dollop of Hydrating Curl Crème, followed by the same amount of Enhancing Curl Gel, and left it to dry. That’s the routine that worked for me and the one that I continue to follow.
For some reason – and despite all the heat styling – my natural curls bounced back pretty easily and quickly. Ava tells me I’m lucky, and I’m actually surprised that my hair looked as good as it did pretty much straight away. I still felt conscious going out in public for the first time, and even now after doing it a few times, I don’t feel quite so polished as I usually do when my hair is straight. Whenever people compliment me or mention it, I just say it’s a journey. A real journey – which it really, really is.
I know it sounds silly but after 15 years of straightening my hair to within an inch of its life, learning to see myself looking so different is really strange and it takes some serious getting used to. But, with time, it’s getting easier and I’m slowly starting to appreciate being able to have the option of being curly or straight.
I still need to finesse my routine, but just using curly hair-specific products, coaxing curls with gel and hydrating cream, and then bringing them back to life with a little bit of water each morning genuinely works wonders and it’s a real turning point.
Maybe one day I’ll drop the straighteners altogether.
Images: Lucy Partington