Hairy is Awesome

When I was a teenager, I taught tennis during the summer to elementary school kids. One particularly scorching afternoon, I thought I had made a breakthrough in explaining the concept of “following-through” with the racquet to my group of tired and thirsty kiddos. I was delighted with myself at how articulate I was being and the passion in my delivery, and I was impressed at how attentive the little ones were being. They didn’t look up at the sky at a passing plane, or drop their rackets to chase a dragonfly, or say I was going to be in trouble with their mom if I let them get heat stroke. “This is it,” I thought to myself. “You are so good with kids! You may have just found your calling!”

When I was done lecturing, I asked them if they had any questions. A little girl with the most perfect blonde ringlets (whom at the wee age of seven already intimidated me) raised her hand. “You have a lot of hair on your face!” The other kids burst out laughing and I immediately reached up in horror to hide my face. “I AM A MAMMAL! You will be hairy too, one day! Just you wait!” My message was lost on their perfect little hairless faces.

Instead of continuing to shriek at the children, I opted to shield my humiliation and laugh along with them. After work, I immediately sped to CVS, marched to the hair removal aisle, and purchased my first Sally Hansen depilatory cream (a cream that claims to remove unwanted hair). I went home, locked myself in the bathroom, and proceeded to severely burn the skin on my upper lip. I had a glaring red burn mark for weeks and had to wear special sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat to protect it. But at least I wasn’t hairy anymore.

p.s. This is NOT the takeaway message of this article.

This was the first of many hair-related incidents throughout my teenage and young adult years. I’ve been waxed, plucked, electrolysized, laser beamed, Brazilian blown-out, and topped it all off by accidentally singing my bangs into the consistency of a cotton ball in attempt to straighten my hair after a summer fling with Sun-In. For those of you unfamiliar with Sun-In, it’s basically dousing your hair in peroxide, looking like Lifeguard Barbie for two weeks, and then having all your hair turn orange.

After holding my lifeless, incinerated hair in my hands, I decided I was DONE with all of it. I chopped off all my hair in the fall of 2008 — first into an adorable bob, and then shorter into an inverted bob, and then into a faux hawk. Admittedly, I looked amazing. But deep down I knew I had done it because I was overwhelmed and depressed and wanted to hide.

Why I am Writing this Article

Grooming shouldn’t be about hiding. Whereas I used to straighten and flatten and coerce my hair into the shape I wanted it to be, I’ve found ways to wear my hair that reflect how it really is — kinda big, sometimes dirty, and mostly imperfect. YES, I straighten and curl it from time to time. YES, I get highlights around my face. And YES, I get the hair on my upper lip handled by a professional. I’m not saying that hair freedom means doing absolutely nothing or never picking up a tweezer again. What I’m saying is that there’s a possible balance between doing some things because they make you feel like the best version of yourself, but also accepting that we are mammals, and that means being hairy. And in fact, hairy is awesome.

Seriously, though. Being a hairy gal tends to correlate with having lots of hair on your head, which is now something that makes me feel beautiful, not burdened. I have not verified this with science, but I have a hypothesis that hairier girls may even have a bit more testosterone than average. How I choose to interpret that is we are thick-haired, assertive women with a short fuse and a high sex drive. My lived experience corroborates this claim.

Now at age 30, after a lot of self-work in recovery and going through the extremely unflattering process of growing out short hair, I have learned a ton about hair and how to take care of it. In this article, I’m going to share this knowledge with you.

So if you’re hairy, high five! If you’re not, I still secretly hate you for your exceptionally smooth skin and length of time between shaves! Either way, I hope there’s something in this article for everyone.

Before you think you need to do ANYTHING differently, read this:

Your hair, however it is right now, is perfect. Kind of a weird way to start a hair tutorial, but I mean it. I want to you know that you don’t have to pick up ANY hot tool or sleep with ANY uncomfortable gizmos in your hair to make it look good. If you can wear your hair with minimal effort, you win. It might not look as glamorous as possible, but the hair you were born with is what looks best on you. My mom said this to me one time while I was struggling to straighten my hair in her humid bathroom. In my mind, I told her to buzz off. But she was right.

Now, onto the good stuff.

Products I Like:

Hair Oil

Salon Brand: My go-to hair oil is Oi Oil by Davines. It’s made with “breathable silicones,” as opposed to other hair oils that contain silicones that indeed smooth, but can weigh your hair down. It smells incredible. They just came out with an Oi hand lotion in the signature scent and if I wasn’t broke I’d buy it immediately. I use a few pumps on the lengths of my hair when air-drying or blow-drying. I like this oil even more than the sexier Kerastase Elixir Ultime, but that could just be me.

Drug Store Brand: Oi Oil is expensive. I firmly believe that more expensive isn’t synonymous with better, so I’m going to include a more budget-friendly, yet equally effective option, It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product. I’ve only used this a few times for air-drying, but it was lightweight and allowed my hair to dry with natural movement sans frizz. I especially liked it because it serves as a detangler and heat protectant all in one. Less products = more room for my boyfriend to actually be able to store his things in my medicine cabinet when he comes to visit.

Coconut Oil: In my fantasy, I wash my hair with coconut oil and it comes out lustrous and revived, just like the DIY tutorials I watch late at night on YouTube. This has happened once in the ten times I’ve tried it. Unfortunately, my hair has often come out feeling heavy and dirty. HOWEVER, I believe in the benefits of coconut oil, it seems to work for a lot of people, and it’s a very inexpensive alternative to a hair mask, so I’m including it.

Two things I will emphasize is that, on the day of my coconut oil miracle, I literally washed my hair five times in a row to get the oil out. Also, my hairdresser recommends not applying the oil directly to your scalp. I loaded it onto my scalp because I was also trying to combat scalp dryness, so just make sure you have the time to wash your hair a lot that day if you’re using it for a similar purpose.

Hairspray

Salon Brand: By far my most favorite hairspray is Bumble and Bumble. They make three different holds: extremely light (the blue can), medium hold (the purple can), and firm hold (the red can). I wanted the light hold to work for me SO BADLY. Its description is everything I’d want in a hairspray experience, a barely-there, invisible feeling. It didn’t hold my hair at all, so I upgraded to the purple can and did some research on how to use hair spray correctly. I was putting way too much in and spraying too close to my hair. When it says hold 10–12 inches away from your head, they mean it.

Drug Store Brand: TRESemme has saved me many a time when traveling and not wanting to lug my products around in a suitcase. I have only tried their firm hold, anti-humidity hairspray. The smell is strong, but pleasant, and it is priced in accordance to what I think hair products should cost in a fair and just world.

Styling Tips:

Air-Drying: I have been waiting for the day when I could hair-dry my hair and still feel like I could “go-out.” As in get all dressed up, feel a little fancy, but not feel like I need to curl or straighten my hair to look put together. I think this day has finally come because of two realizations. First, perfect hair is boring. Two, damp buns are everything. Depending on how heavy your hair is, twisting hair into a bun and letting it stay there for about an hour is an easy way to end up with beachy waves. I have looked up hundreds of Pinterest tutorials on how to get air-dried waves, but thus far nothing beats the damp bun and then taking it out to let the hair finish air-drying. My friend’s MO is a high damp top knot on her head — another thing I want to work for me SO BADLY because it looks cute as it dries. But my hair seems to perform better while drying in a low to medium bun.

Alternatively, drive somewhere with damp hair and the windows down. I’m serious, it works.

Curling (With Heat): Pinterest did change my life when I discovered the pony-tail curling method. This is the only way I ever curl my hair and takes a fraction of the time as a full-fledged curling session.

1) Gather hair into a high pony-tail.

2) Divide pony tail into sections. Again, I have a ton of hair, so what works best for me is dividing the pony-tail into quadrants and then curling about 1-inch sections within each quadrant. If I don’t divide my hair I end up not being able to see what I’m doing. But this is not a necessary step.

3) Right side: For the hair in these quadrants, hold the curling wand or iron upside down in your left hand. Then, using your right hand, wrap each 1-inch section around the wand/iron. You can use bigger or smaller sections depending on your hair, your available time, and the size of curl you want. When I don’t have a lot of time or want looser waves, I’ll use larger sections.

Left side: For the hair in these quadrants, hold the wand/iron upside down in your right hand and use your left hand to wrap the hair. You can experiment with what direction in which to wrap your hair. My preference is to wrap with the hair going away from my face.

4) You’ll end up with a pony-tail full of ribbon curls. Take out the pony tail, shake your head, hit it with hairspray, and sashay out the door.

Curling (Without Heat): I discovered this method a few months ago and have only had the opportunity to try it a few times, but I think it’s gold.

Note: I did this on dry hair. I think the ideal way would be to have dry hair and then mist your hair with water so that it can dry in a curl shape.

1) Gather hair into a high pony tail.

2) Take about 1-inch sections of hair and wrap them around two-three fingers, depending on the size of curl you want. Using less fingers as your base on which to wrap the hair will result in tighter curls.

3) Once you have created a curl shape, secure hair to your head with a bobby pin.

4) Do this with all the hair in your pony tail.

5) Spray bun with hair spray.

You end up with a regal looking bun, which I thought looked pretty enough to wear during the day. I kept my hair in this bun for about three hours before taking it down.

Here is what the bun looked like:

Here is the finished product.

Blow-Outs: I love a good blow-out. However, it hurts my upper back and shoulders to keep my arms raised for so long, and it takes me a long time to get all my hair dry. But here is what I do on the occasion I’m feeling blah and need a fresh blow-out to get my mind right.

1) Divide hair into sections (I do about 4).

2) Blow dry sections using a round brush. The smaller the brush, the tighter the curl effect will be.

3) When each section is almost dry, roll the hair all the way up into the brush and LEAVE IT THERE. Think of the round brush as serving the function of a hot roller.

4) As you go to remove the brush, out, simultaneously twist the brush again and again so you are causing the hair to curl onto itself. The result is a bouncy, smooth curl.

The first couple times I tried this was a disaster. My round brush got tangled up in my hair and I ended up having to rip it out of my head. If all this seems unimaginably complicated, stick with simply leaving the rolled hair in the round brush for a minute or two before taking it down.

A Hairdresser Your Adore

I absoutely love my hair lady. This is a woman who came to the rescue when I was an idiot and singed my baby-hairs with a cigarette. A great hair-dresser is someone who will try to fix your dumb mistakes, but then also tell you to get your shit together and quit smoking. If for no other reason, it’s terrible for your hair.

Find a hairdresser who makes you feel listened to, takes time to answer your questions, and whom you trust. Then follow her/him to the ends of the earth.

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Emily Warren

I write about joyful moments and lessons learned from challenging life experiences.