Want to Have Amazing Curls? Start With Reddit

On Reddit, r/curlyhair is a 250,000-strong online community for curly hair confidence.

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Why you should care

Because this online community helps turn every day into a good (curly) hair day.

OZY's Hair! series checks out the glorious mane as the main event. Stories from the fringe: OZY's Hair! series looks at the politics of locks.

I don’t remember how I first came across r/curlyhair. Maybe I saw a photo where pin-straight strands had become soft, sleek curls. Or perhaps it was seeing heat-damaged hair coaxed back to life with liberal conditioner applications and more than a dollop of patience. It didn’t take long before I was frantically trying to figure out how to achieve something between a Ren faire ringlet and a bouncy Botticelli curl.

But while the transformation photos of this subreddit draw you in — offering hope for a frizz-free future — the real appeal of r/curlyhair lies in the supportive comment threads.

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Beneath interrobanged cries for help from frantic newbies — like “HELP! My hair won’t curl” and “Tips for wavy hair?!” — a 250,000-strong like-minded community of curly hair havers and lovers post reassuring comments loaded with technique-improvement tips and holy grail product suggestions. And some just offer plain ol’ support and compliments, which is quite the novelty for a website where even pictures of cute cats can prompt vitriolic responses from Reddit’s often unwelcoming user base.

“I am blown away by the number of people who respond … with helpful troubleshooting and encouragement,” r/curlyhair moderator Katie (who asked not to reveal her last name and is known as u/minniesnowtah) tells me over email. “I think we’ve collectively managed to cultivate a culture that’s not so common to Reddit overall, as both a kind and helpful place.”

Seeing other curlies’ success in bringing out the best in their hair and having access to resources to attain that has been amazingly powerful.

 Katie (u/minniesnowtah), r/curlyhair moderator

And if helpful comments don’t do the trick, any lingering curly confusion is combated by a well-curated sidebar of tips, tricks and links — including one to a 65-page Google Doc that outlines the Curly Girl Method (or CGM). First popularized by hairstylist Lorraine Massey in the early 2000s with Curly Girl: The Handbook, the CGM broadly eschews heat treatments, silicones and shampoos. Since then, people of all genders — especially on r/curlyhair — have adopted and adapted the method, adding to its abundance of uber-specific terminology like plopping, pineapple-ing and “squish to condish” (which involves squelching copious handfuls of conditioner and water into your hair), as well as questionable-at-first-glance advice about applying palm-size globs of hair gel to freshly washed hair.

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Kelly Melissa, an autistic user who posts as u/WeAreStarless, tells me that the Curly Girl Method is her latest “intense and specific” interest. “I’m in curly communities on Facebook and Instagram too but find that this sub[reddit] is by far the most organized and informative.”

And although the subreddit goes by r/curlyhair, the moderators (or “mods”) make it clear that people with waves, curls, kinks and coils of all kinds are welcome. “In advertising especially, [people with curly hair] are often marketed to as something to ‘fix’,” Katie explains. “Seeing other curlies’ success in bringing out the best in their hair and having access to resources to attain that has been amazingly powerful.”

Even so, r/curlyhair — and other curly-hair-care spaces with majority non-Black communities — hasn’t escaped (justified) criticism for sometimes co-opting the language, techniques and products of the natural hair movement. “We have a long way to go re: inclusion and addressing co-opted terms,” Katie tells me, identifying phrases like “natural hair” and “big chop.” “One solution we have nailed down so far includes simply diversifying the mod team,” adding that “we also don’t want to encroach on the roles of smaller, super important subreddits like r/naturalhair and r/blackhair.”

Like most things in life, r/curlyhair can never be everything for everyone, but at least this is one subreddit actively working to right its wrongs. And as for me? I’m still waiting for those Botticelli curls to materialize. Maybe I need more hair gel.

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