Reclaiming Curly Hair

Arely Ocampo Bartolo and T Lopez

Curly hair—something that has been frowned upon by countless people since we can first remember. It was something that was always a “problem” that had to be fixed, and most sadly, something that we would do everything in order to avoid having unless it was “proper” and perfectly styled—that is, until we decided to reclaim curly hair. 


As a little kid, you see characters on shows like iCarly or Hannah Montana and you want to copy them and look just like them because at the time they are your biggest role models. Unfortunately for me, most of my role models had pin-straight hair with not a single curl in sight. 

It didn’t help that a majority of the YouTubers at the time also preached about straight hair and different heat tools to make straight hair seem like the best thing ever. 

All of this led to an eight-year-old Arely buying every possible “hair straightening” product in hopes of destroying her luscious curls. Shampoo, conditioner, hard bristle brushes all purporting to give you pin-straight hair made me feel like I’d be closer to looking like my role models. 

And it stayed like that until I turned 18. I went to trim my hair, and my stylist said that the reason why a lot of my hair was dry and damaged was because of the damage these straightening products had done to my once super curly hair. 

I did what I dreaded most. I cut about four inches of my hair, and that was the minimum to try and get my hair to a place where it looked decent. 

After that, I knew it was time for a change. Thanks to birthday and Christmas money, I was able to secure a whole new set of hair care products. 

And while my hair may not be where I’d hope, it’s getting there. The thing that made me so insecure before is now something I’m desperately trying to regain. While I may still be figuring out how to take care of curly hair, there’s one thing I know for sure—I’m reclaiming my curly hair.  


Wet it, brush it, tie it, and hope it stays out of my eyes. 

That was my hair routine until I was 13 years old. Then it became wet it, brush it, straighten the bangs, hairspray the bangs, and pray it looked fine until I was 15 years old. 

No one in my family had curly hair, so my parents did whatever they could with my thigh-length hair growing up. For a long time, it led to a lot of insecurity. 

Why wasn’t my hair like the other girls in my school? Why did mine feel like a bird’s nest? Why was it so frizzy? Why couldn’t it just be straight?

My hair became my worst enemy for many years. Even with a cute outfit and makeup, I still felt odd with my frizzy and untamed hair flying around. The fact my hair underwent tons of treatments, thinning, layers, trimming, and hair dye didn’t help either. Of course, after years of feeling insecure, I decided to take matters into my own hands. 

At the start of the pandemic, I decided that I’d spend my two weeks of free vacation (that aged well, didn’t it?) taking complete care of myself. I started watching curly hair care videos talking about the best products, routines, and options. 

The big chop, the curly girl method, curly girl approved products, buy DevaCurl, don’t buy DevaCurl, plop, diffuse.

As any person learning how to do their hair for the first time would be, I was overwhelmed. Was I using the right product? What are all these hair textures? How do I know which texture is mine? What are good dupes for the expensive stuff?

Eventually, I managed to catch up to speed. I decided to do the boldest thing I’d ever done because every video told me to do it when starting a curly hair journey.

I cut my hair.

Now you may be thinking, that’s not too bad. It was bad. The left side was longer than the other and I cut way more than I should’ve. I got it fixed after a lecture from my parents, but I felt new. I was reclaiming my hair for my own expression.

By trial and error, I finally found the products that work well for me. I’m still finding what works best for me, but I have a general idea now. My hair has gone from looking like the dry California grass to soft curls. Albeit it’s still frizzy, at least you can see my curls. 

It’s been a long process, but I’m happy with what I see in the mirror. It’s crazy seeing the change my hair has gone through in two short years—who knows how it’ll look in another few years as I learn more?

To all people out there who notice their hair is frizzy and unmanageable, maybe you have curly hair. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, and with the help of the internet, you’ll also be able to revive your curls.