2020, it’s been a big, weird year. Kylie Jenner was few years ahead of herself when she said that 2016 was the year for “realising things” because that’s exactly what this year has been. It’s been an absolute upheaval of life as we had come to know it, and it’s given us space and time (oh god, so much free time) to realise some stuff. For me, it’s been a year of embracing and learning how to look after my naturally curly hair, and at the same time helped me rewire my brain about my own perceptions of beauty.

Hi, my name is Courtney and I’ve packed away my hair straightener for the first time in over 15 years.

how to tame natural curls

Ahh April 2020. Five years ago.

I was about 14 when I got my first hair straightener, a prime time for me developing my ideas of what I believed to be cool and desirable. Being a teenager during the golden years of emo and scene fashion (which we’re seeing a resurgence with e-girls and the like), it meant that curly hair was absolutely Not It.

So I learned how to wrangle my unruly curls into submission, armed with two combs, heat protectant spray, and a straightener.

That was my weekly routine up until the start of this year. Washing once a week, blowdrying out my fringe, letting the rest air dry, and then about 45 minutes of laboriously sectioning, spraying, and straightening.

And then the lockdown hit.

Suddenly I didn’t have to go outside as much, I didn’t have to go to events, or socialise all the time – I could just exist for a while without really thinking about much beyond logging on for work of a morning, making sure I was eating, and getting out to exercise. So I took this as a big sign to actually spend time getting to know my hair again.

tame natural curls

Note: DO NOT comb out your hair when it’s dry.

My friend Brooke was doing a similar thing – she too had spent the better part of her teen years and twenties meticulously straightening her curls into scene-appropriate straight strands and was now enlisting the Curly Girl Method (which involved a routine of scrunching curl cream or gel through damp hair, drying with a t-shirt, things like that) to bring her natural coils back to their OG bounce.

It’s not the first time I’ve tried to work out my curls, not by a long shot. But I’ve always said that they’re unruly and bad, so my only option was to straighten it all. A huge lie I told myself, consistently, for most of my life.

So I jumped in on co-washing again – where you wash your hair with a clarifying conditioner instead of the classic shampoo/conditioner routine, keeping all the good oils around to maintain hydration – and this time I stuck with it.

I’ve been using a combo of the co-wash from Evo by combing it through in the shower, and then the brand’s deeper clean rinse once a month with a little bit of conditioner after. It’s helped to keep my curly hair healthy and hydrated, and their inner beauty bounce back.

how to tame natural curls

Evo Co-Wash – $40

Co-washing isn’t for everyone, I get that, but it’s something I’d recommend everyone with curls try out at least once. Have a go, stick with it for a bit, and find what works for you.

Another thing I’ve learned from my hobbled-together curly girl method is about what I do with my hair after a shower. Twisting it up with a t-shirt helps frizz fuck off, then combing some Oribe styling butter or Evo curl balm through with my fingers and scrunching it up again before letting it air dry.

I sleep with it all in a loose ponytail on the top of my head, to stop it from knotting up (like a big curly pineapple top) and sometimes wrap it all up in a silk scarf to protect the curls. It’s making for curls that I actually don’t hate for the first time in a very long time.

Packing away my straightener and blowdryer so they’re not visual temptations? A huge trick I have pulled on myself, and it’s working.

tame natural curls

Look at how long it is, bitch!

Spending time with my natural curls has rewired the way I look at myself, and how curly hair has a glorious beauty to it. I don’t feel unfinished or unkempt when I wear my hair out in all its curly glory in public.

Learning how it curls, what I can do to keep that looking happy until the next wash, and how I can lightly fluff with a wide-toothed comb to give it a little extra bounce has meant that I have this newfound appreciation for myself and my appearance.

Now that we’re almost at the other end of the lockdowns here in Melbourne (fucken… fingers crossed) I pretty much only wear my hair curly now. And that’s not to say I won’t have times when I want to wear it straight, but that’s going to be the exception to the rule now, instead of the other way around.